Tag Archive for children

What Portion Sizes Should I Be Feeding My Young Child?

How much food does a young child need? Will my child starve?

How much does my child need to eat? It’s so hard to know what is enough and we worry our kids are not getting the nourishment they need. Many times we think kids aren’t eating “anything” when in fact, they are eating the appropriate portion sizes for their age.

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Are Kids Fifty Million Times Worse for Parents?

Are Kids Fifty Million Times Worse for Parents?

Are kids fifty million times worse for parents than anyone else? What Can You Do About It? Why is it that a child can be perfectly fine and then their mom or dad walks in and they go nutso in seconds flat? If you are a teacher, childcare provider or a parent, you have seen them phenomenon over and over again. It baffles parents and providers worldwide.

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10 Ways to Handle a Strong-Willed Child

10 Ways to Handle a Strong-Willed Child

Moms and Dads, there is nothing more frustrating than a child with a strong will. How do I know this? Well, I’ll tell you a secret…I was a strong-willed child. Not only that, I raised one. I have kept over 80 children in my 22-year career as a childcare provider. I have seen strong-willed children. I have loved strong-willed children.

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What is Open Ended Play?

Open Ended Play Leads to Success for Children

What is open ended play and why does it matter? Open ended play is any activity that allows children to create unlimited scenarios on their own. If you give a child a stick or a cardboard box, they can create a variety of activities on their own that allow them to express themselves.

What are some resources for open ended play? A variety of art supplies could be used, boxes, sticks, rocks, sand, water, anything that doesn’t have to be used in a prescribed way such as a toy with one certain purpose. It could be most anything. All types of play are important for the child’s development, but open ended play offers some very important benefits.

Open ended play fosters creativity. With music and art no longer being seen as academic in schools, and the fast paced curriculum taught in schools, open ended play is sadly becoming a thing of the past. This is detrimental to children’s development.

Open Ended Play Leads to Success for Children

Think about the teacher who makes all of the children create art that looks just the same. Are the children learning from that project? They are learning the teacher doesn’t think they are talented or smart. Open ended play builds self-esteem and problem solving skills in children as well as allows them to share their feelings, and sometimes even provides them a way to ask for help. Children need to be creative. Self-expression helps children cope with their feelings and a tuned in teacher can learn about what the child is thinking and feeling through it.

Open Ended Play Leads to Success for Children
Creativity fosters mental growth in children by giving them the chance to try out new ideas and solve problems. Open ended activities celebrate uniqueness and diversity in each child and helps us focus on each child as an individual. Using their imagination is important for children to allow them to invent, grow, take chances, experiment, make mistakes in a safe environment and have fun. It develops life skills, innovation, and gives children a sense of achievement. Developmentally inappropriate practice at an early age such as flash cards and drills is even linked to mental illnesses. I want my children to have the very best chance for success and I know that comes from lots and lots of PLAY!

Creativity is one of the top factors in career success. Employers see it as an employable benefit. Everyone has the ability to be creative. It’s important we give children the opportunity to express themselves and be creative in every day play. So throw out some open ended supplies and let your children teach you today!

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Music and Movement is FUN!

What’s the big deal about encouraging the kids to sing and dance?  Rich environments produce rich brains and every experience we present to the kids we provide care for is another way to enrich their learning.  But is music and movement really important to development?

music and movement time

Obviously it helps develop motor skills, develops a positive attitude toward physical activity, and is just plain fun, but there are deeper reasons to expose young children to music and movement opportunities.  I totally geek out when it comes to brain development in young children.  I am in awe of the mold-ability of children’s brains at the age I teach in my home preschool.  Sometimes I get a little sciency when it comes to this subject, but I am totally enamored with the power we hold in our hands as we teach!

Brain development


Music and Movement

Listening to music and playing music games helps children use both sides of their brain at the same time.  It stimulates the frontal lobe, which develops language and motor skills.  The rhythm of music reinforces language.  Since the brain goes through a major growth spurt between ages 2-6, music and movement is of utmost importance in the toddler and preschool years.

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Endorphins

Movement causes the brain to produce endorphins, our feel good chemicals.  These chemicals increase energy levels and the ability to learn.  In addition, movement increases oxygen in the blood which sends more oxygen to the brain helping in thought processes.

music and movement dancing

Music and movement activities include cross lateral movement, or crossing the midline of the body.  Think of making big scissors with your hands in front of your body or giving yourself a hug.  This movement is incredibly important in brain development.  When children’s arms or legs cross the midsection of the body, both sides of the brain work together which strengthens brain connections exponentially.  This stimulates critical thinking, and problem solving, as well as math and reading skills.  Music and movement is full of opportunities for producing stronger brain connections.

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Benefits for everyone.

Children of any age as well as adults receive benefits from music and movement activities. Singing songs and doing finger plays and rhymes with kids are great ways to get them interested in the rhythm of music.  Exposing children to all kinds of music gives them an appreciation for a variety of rhythms and tones and increases their learning as well. 

Every week we have music day where I play music on cds and let the kids dance with instruments and dancing ribbons and scarves.  It’s truly the highlight of our week.  We use disco music, oldies rock songs, kid’s songs, show tunes, and soundtracks from movies to get in the mood.  The kids get to choose what they want to dance to, but I will tell you that disco is king here. 

I don’t know how the children I get all seem to come here loving disco, but it has NOTHING to do with me.  Finger plays are good for stimulating development as well.  Letting your kids make homemade instruments or dancing props is a great way to get their interest going.

music and movement joy

There are innumerable games, songs, rhymes, finger plays and chants available online to beef up your repertoire.  We usually learn one new song, rhyme, or finger play every two weeks or so.  When we have our daily music time, we usually do that activity along with two others the kids choose, so we focus on really learning the new one well.  How ever you choose to add music and movement into your day doesn’t matter, just do something to increase the kids’ exposure to it and you are on the right track.

Music is the life of my soul. 

I love most kinds of music.  Loud music, quiet music, elevator music, I don’t care.  I just love it all.  Music can soothe my broken heart, bring me into the throne room of God to worship Him, wake me up, get my heart beating, connect me to others, calm me, put me to sleep, and many other things.  There’s magic in the melodies and harmonies that are created by the artists who make songs.  I think people NEED music.

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The lives we touch are ours to change.  We make a difference every single day.  Whether you work with kids or adults, or whoever, be the best you that you can be.  Do something new today that will change a life for the better.

Share some music memories you have:

People-Plant Relationships, What’s the Connection?

People-plant relationships, what’s up with that? Do plants really affect humans?

I wrote this genius article for a certain gardening magazine and was rejected with a stinging reply. Now that I’ve dusted myself off and gotten over the looking-downiness of their rejection, I decided to post it here so people can enjoy the wonderfulness of this great information. 🙂 What do you think?

Could Gardening Change the World?


Those of us who garden know gardening has untold benefits, but what about people who have never tried it? How can we teach them gardening is the great life changer it is? I saw a report on ABC News about the benefits of gardening with prisoners. The prisoners shared feeling a sense of peace in the garden that gave them a short respite from the harsh prison environment. They were able to reconnect with their feelings in the garden as they connected with the natural world. The prisoners also commented on connecting spiritually with the garden. Most prisons with garden programs report a return rate in the single digits, much lower than the national average. Some even state that not one of their garden graduates returned. So if someone who has repeatedly committed crimes is changed in a way that they no longer do, our world is a better place because of gardening. As I listened to this amazing report of how gardening was making the world a better place through rehabilitating prisoners, I thought about my kids. I know that behaviors that lead to prison time can begin as behavioral disorders in children. I was curious if introducing children to the garden could deter some of them from a life time of poor choices that have the potential of leading to crime, and incarceration.
I have been a family child care provider for over 19 years. What can gardening do for children with behavioral disorders? After some study into the benefits of gardening, I discovered many benefits of which I had not previously been aware. I was stunned. According to kidsgardening.org, gardening significantly increases science achievement scores in students, social skills, behavior, attitudes about the environment, and appreciation for nature. Gardening also improves life skills, interest in eating fruits and vegetables, and nutrition knowledge. In addition, gardening contributes to communication of knowledge and emotions, and has a positive impact on student achievement and behavior. So gardening with my kids could totally change their paths in life. It could help them be smarter, get better grades, build better relationships, and take care of their bodies and this earth in a more effective way?
What behavioral disorders effect children? There are many, and the symptoms include lack of patience, lack of concentration, poor impulse control, poor problem solving skills, and the inability to be calm or to calm themselves or relax. In addition, there are many that cause explosive behaviors, mood swings, stealing, lying, and destroying property. So, if working in the garden can help kids feel appreciation and respect for plants and the environment, and it can help them focus as well as relax and feel peaceful and be able to delay gratification for some time, could gardening be an answer to problems that we have with children and managing their behavior? Many behavioral disorders result in low self-esteem and self-worth which can cause the behaviors to repeat themselves and increase in severity. If gardening can increase one’s self-esteem, couldn’t it stop the downward cycle in a person’s life that comes from behavioral disorders? These behaviors if not properly dealt with can lead to impulses in adulthood that cause criminal behaviors. Could something as simple and pure as working in the garden be an answer for making the world a better place? We could be on to something. If we can improve social skills and change attitudes and behaviors with this simple activity, it is certainly worth some time and effort to find out. Focusing on something positive is a great way to curb impulses for negative behavior as well. I know when I introduce new toys to the kids at my daycare, they are focused and engaged with those toys, and many negative behaviors are decreased during that time.
I dug a little deeper into the subject of garden benefits for children and I found that children learn much from growing things according to betterhealth.gov. They learn nutrition, creativity, cooperation, physical activity, reasoning, discovery, love of nature, self-confidence, understanding, and responsibility. I don’t know about you, but I think that those are some pretty awesome benefits for making this world a better place. I know that the problems I see us facing today have a lot to do with the lack of responsibility that people take for their own actions. Studies show that good nutrition can help manage behavior as well. Some people believe that some mental illnesses are caused by nutrition deficiencies of one kind or another. If this is the case, gardening can help correct that as well. And children who grow their own food are more aware of the nutritional value of foods and are more likely to eat the things they need to have a well-rounded nutritional intake.
As I was learning about these mental and physical health benefits, I was just beginning to garden with my kids. I was learning the skills I needed to grow sustainably with my group of young children in a chemical free garden environment. Teaching them the skills for a lifetime of growing practices that could not only help them feed themselves and their families, but heal our earth. I have been learning and teaching my kids that growing food chemical free is important for our world, but just as important for the kids who are working with their hands in the soil here and eating the produce that we grow. If we were spraying chemicals on everything, the kids would be exposed to the dangers of those things and could be even more at risk than if we weren’t gardening at all.
My kids LOVE being in the garden. “Gardening is funner than video games”, “the garden is pretty and smells good”, and “the garden is awesome” are some of the things I have heard the kids say about being in the garden. I have one child who, every time we head outside to play, asks me if he can go in the garden. Every day I tell him he can go in the garden whenever he wants to. And then every day he walks through the rows of the garden with his face toward the sky and his arms out, lightly brushing against the plants as he goes by. Then he sighs a big heavy sigh and runs off to play. You can’t tell me he is not having a reaction in that magical place.
I have learned there is an amazing sense of peace for me in the garden as I struggle with an anxiety disorder myself. I want to share that feeling and teach others how to experience it themselves. The garden calms me, it soothes me, and it makes me feel part of something bigger and more important than myself. It brings me close to nature and give me exercise and sunlight that I need for good physical and mental health. The garden gives me an appreciation for nature and all the things God has created. It bring me closer to Him. It distracts me from my worries and problems in a very productive way. My anxiety level has decreased exponentially since I started learning to grow food. I want to give that experience to my children because I know it changes their world as well.
There are many studies about the effects of stress and anxiety and the effect the garden has on people’s management of it. Healthyplace.com and stress.com note several. There is a sense of satisfaction to watch something that you planted grow into something you can eat. Fresh air and physical activity reduce stress, and release aggression. The physical activity in the garden helps your mind and body by increasing your fitness and helping to reduce excess weight. Another benefit is the satisfaction of caring for the needs of dependent plant. The plant needs the grower in order to survive. Being needed is an essential element for humans. We need to be needed. Sunlight increases the body’s vitamin D. Fresh air is good for your health. Feeling more removed from daily stresses is increased when we are outdoors in nature. And the garden is a place of great beauty as well. The beauty and amazingness of the art you can create in the garden along with God’s creations are a great stress reducer. Using that gorgeous space for thinking, relaxing, and meditation is a great way to improve mental health. Additional benefits of gardening include increased decision making abilities, self-control, self-esteem, hope for the future and confidence. I know from personal experience gardening does bring calm in this chaotic world. Whose life would not be made better by this? Even the most confident, happy person you know could enjoy more of these feelings. I just can’t see any way gardening could not improve someone’s life. Even if it’s just a small container growing radishes or lettuce, growing something can change your world. And I know reviving this dying art form is one of the most important missions for my life. There are a multitude of ways to garden, things that can be grown, soil mixes, methodologies, opinions, and the list goes on and on, but there is one thing that really matters, and that is getting people to grow SOMETHING. I believe in my heart if we spread this message and get some seeds or plants into the hands of the very young, so they can grow up and lead the world by teaching them to plant something, gardening really can change the world. When God wants something done in this world, He sends a child, and then He waits.

Finding a Jewel-What to Look for…

For all of you who are parents, finding a daycare that is a perfect fit is not always easy. Quality childcare is not a guarantee, it’s a rare jewel, precious. Even if a childcare facility is top of the line, it may not be the best place for your family.

There are many types of childcare that are good. Is education top priority to you or would you rather have a passionate provider who deeply loves your child? Do you want someone who will treat your child like their own or someone who will care for your child in ways you would like them to be cared for? Some providers are open to suggestions, while others think they already know the best way to do things.

I have provided care for many parents who could not be happier with Little Sprouts, and I have also had multiple families who I could not please no matter how hard I tried. They were constantly dissatisfied with something. I think in those cases, our goals just did not line up. I cannot change myself or my beliefs to please people. I do try hard to provide the best quality care I possibly can, but I am not perfect, nor are my parents.


Childcare is personal. Each day I open my home to my families and allow them into my world. If you have another career, can you imagine having 5-7 families come into your home every day? Exposing your family to them and all of your possessions? Letting them see your clutter, and your dust? It’s an intimate relationship and it’s important the people I provide care for are people I trust. On the other side, it’s personal to families. They are not bringing their favorite watch or pillow here for me to care for, they are bringing me their CHILDREN. Human beings that are the very essence of them, the most precious thing in their lives. They have to trust me as well. It’s an extremely important relationship.

One provider may be great at encouraging parents while another may be wonderful at putting children at ease or teaching kids to write their names. Some providers may do lots of crafts with the kids and another may be a great at making the kids smile. We are each unique and we each have our own special skills and talents to offer. Even if someone is an amazing provider, they may not be the right provider for you. We all have flaws because we are human. You have to make sure the flaws your provider has are something you can live with. For me, safety is of utmost importance, I am organized, and crazy passionate about the development of my kids. But I have been told over and over again people do not appreciate my language. I don’t sit around dropping the “f” bomb or swearing around the kids, but I do think the word butt is funny and I might say something else parents may not like. That is me. To me those are not bad words. I don’t lie about it. If that’s a deal breaker, I can understand. I make sure to be honest and transparent about my short comings. Make sure you find the right fit for you and your child so your childcare days can be a positive experience for all of you.

What are some things parents can do to make sure they have the best situation possible?

The most important thing to remember is use your mommy vibe. It’s like spidey sense. It tells you if a situation is good or bad. If you get a bad feeling, run, don’t walk to the next option. Trust your instincts and listen to your heart. God gives moms intuition for a reason. Don’t doubt yourself.

What are some signs to look for when visiting a potential childcare setting?
Are they licensed? This is not always an indicator of quality, but you need to know if they are or not. A license comes with some protection because the provider is being monitored and required to have lifesaving training an unlicensed provider may or may not have. Here in Oklahoma, you can look on okdhs.org and see what your potential provider has been written up for if they are licensed.

Look around and check the childcare area for safety. If you see plug covers or bottles of cleaner lying around, you may want to check elsewhere.

Is there room for the kids to play and explore?

Are there quiet places for kids to retreat to if they are overwhelmed by the group? Is there something soft to sit on?

Does the environment smell like cigarette smoke? Do they have pets? Is your child allergic?

Are they trained in CPR and first aid?

Do they have references you can check? Ask. CHECK THEM! If your provider already cares for your friend’s children, ask questions about them. Get to know what others think about the provider so you can be more comfortable leaving your child.

Will they be cared for by the same person each day and for the entire day or is there staff change of some kind? Parents should be allowed to know who is directly caring for their child at all times.

Is there an open door policy? Can you visit at any time? Can you go in any area of the facility if you want to? If there are restrictions on when you can visit, that might be a red flag.

What is their discipline policy? How do they handle potty training?

Will your child receive one on one interaction and attention?

What is the provider’s temperament? Is that a temperament your child will respond well to?

What is the daily schedule? Do they follow it strictly?

Is the provider respectful of children? Respect for parents is important as well.

Children should be encouraged to be independent. Childcare is preparation for school and life. They need self-help skills, confidence and independence to be successful when they move forward.

What are the provider’s values and religious beliefs? Will those be shared with the children? My parents know God is the most important thing in my life. I have had many children over the years whose parents did not believe the way I do and they handled it in their own ways, but I was honest about my beliefs.

Take time for the interview or interviews. The time you spend in the facility before you start using the care is vital for your own peace of mind. Don’t rush it.
Make sure you have a backup plan in case you need it. Vacations, illnesses, and building problems do happen.

What days is the facility closed?

Pick up early or visit on your lunch break to see what the kids are doing when it’s not regular pick up time. This will help you see a greater piece of the children’s day. Be respectful. If you visit during nap time, be quiet. If you visit during lunch, don’t expect the provider’s full attention, they are busy.

Communication is key to making a provider/family relationship the best it can be. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, give suggestions, or make requests. If all parties are open with each other, the childcare situation will be the best it can be.

Remember to trust your instincts. You know what your child and your family need.

Babies are Born to Learn

When children are born, they are naturally curious and processing information about the world through sensory stimulation. During the first three years of life, a baby has incredible growth in all areas. There is so much we can do as parents and caregivers to get children off to a great start of lifelong learning.

A baby’s genes serve as the main structure for their ability to learn, but there is so much we can do to help them improve. During the first years, a baby’s brain produces massive numbers of connections that will after the age of three begin to be pruned if they are not used. It is easier to form learning connections during this “plastic” or growing time in the brain. That’s why early childhood experiences are of utmost importance.

Positive experiences have a huge effect on children’s chances for happiness, achievement, and success. The more they are nurtured, held, and stimulated in the first three years, the better their brains will function for their entire lives. Not only academic learning is affected, but trust, problem solving, resilience and other emotional process are as well. Fifty percent of a child’s learning about the world is achieved by age 3.


Each person has billions of brain cells. Each cell has dendrites, or extensions like tree branches. They give and receive impulses to other brain cells which travel along pathways called synapses. These pathways send information from one cell to the other to form knowledge or brain power. Everything babies learn such as speaking, moving, feeling safe, recognizing objects, etc. travel along those pathways.

Pathways grow because of stimulation and nurturing. Repetition and routine are important to strengthen the connections between the cells. As an experience is repeated, it sculpts the brain. For instance, every time you nurture a crying baby, you are sending the message of safety and love and establishing trust. Nothing is more important to brain development than relationships.

So what can we do as caregivers to give young children the best chance at success? Spending time with infants and young children, talk to them, sing to them, play games, read to them. All of these activities build a foundation for children’s language. Encourage them to crawl, walk, climb, draw, hop, ride bikes, jump, skip, and dress themselves. In addition, it is vitally important not to rush children into learning skills their brains are not yet ready to learn. Not only does pushing children to learn things early cause undue stress that is damaging, but the connections that are formed will not stay because the child’s brain is not ready to receive those impulses yet.

Young children also need the proper amount of healthy fats in their diet so that the brain can function at its highest capacity. Breast milk is the perfect food to provide that to children. Healthy fats in natural food will give children the best chance of learning success they can have. Limiting unhealthy fats such as are in fried and processed foods is imperative for developing brains. Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and natural oils present in foods such as fish help to protect the processes of the brain and help it reach its fullest potential.

Creating little geniuses or super brains should not be our goal as caregivers. Our goal should be to provide a safe and loving environment where children know that their needs will be met. When children can trust, they are free to learn at their personal pace. Our goal should be to provide a safe, structured and loving environment with plenty of stimulation for young brains to learn.

There is Value in Family Childcare!

So many times over the past 19 years, I have heard people talk about childcare centers being a better environment for kids than family childcare homes. The general consensus is that centers “teach” the kids more than homes do, the environment is higher quality, and that home daycare is not as regulated as childcare centers. That is simply not the case.

Think about how the family unit was designed. A mom has multiple children of varying ages. And those children learn many skills as they grow. In a family the younger kids teach the older kids how to nurture and care. Mom nurtures the child, but the older siblings do as well. Older children also learn patience and empathy from being with their younger siblings. Younger kids learn social, emotional, physical, and mental skills from their older siblings. In a childcare center, children are herded into rooms divided by age. This allows children to lose one of the most valuable parts of the family design.

Home daycare has smaller groups of children in care. The teacher to child ratio is lower giving more opportunities for one on one attention for each child. Nurturing and individualized care are vital for the emotional development of children. Home daycare provides more personalized care. Home daycare providers are more likely to share with you how your child’s day was and what is going on with them at daycare. The home provider is more likely to truly love and care about your kids.


What will happen if your home provider is ill? I generally work sick because I know that my parents depend on me to be reliable. There are a few instances when I cannot, but over the course of 19 years, it has been about 5 days. I am pretty reliable. At a center with more kids, children are exposed to more illnesses which causes parents to have to miss more time from work caring for a sick child.

People assume that centers are more highly regulated, but in the state of Oklahoma, home daycares are regulated heavily and required to have ample training as well. We have the same number of visits from DHS as centers do and are held to very high standards.

Centers have more employee turnover than homes. Children have to transition from one provider at the beginning of the day to another toward the end. Employees can quit leaving children attached and missing their provider. In a home setting, the same person will be with your child day in and day out from the beginning of the day through the end. Homes offer a child a comfortable familiar kind of place to learn and grow rather than a hard school type environment.

Many people think that centers provide more structure, teaching, and opportunities for children. I run a very structured family child care home and teach my children a myriad of amazing things to prepare them for their academic future.

I have grown weary of people thinking that home daycare is just a bunch of women who sit on the couch and watch TV all day while the children play. At Little Sprouts that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love and care deeply about each of my children. I continually research ways to meet the needs of each child based on their individual needs and interests. I create my own style of curriculum based on many years of experience, training, and education so my kids can have the highest quality education that I can provide. I love what I do and care deeply about it because I know that I am changing the future.

Even DHS feels that center care has greater value than home care. Subsidy reimbursement for child care centers is paid at a higher rate than it is for homes. This speaks volumes about how our society views the value of what home providers do. This is difficult for me to comprehend when I know what I put into a day’s work compared to a center that offers little individuality. I know there is an enormous range of quality in home providers as well as centers. There may be centers that have values closer to mine than I think, and I am well aware that there are home providers who do less than their best work with kids.

In Oklahoma we have a quality star rating system that is supposed to indicate the value of the care a center or home provides, but after years in the system, there is no conclusion that I could come to other than the system is mainly based on money. Providers pay huge fees for certifications and they are observed. On the one day out of 3-5 years that a provider is observed, they can paint any picture they want to of how they provide care and then go back to being something else after an observer gets the snap shot they need to form an opinion. After 15 years of being in the stars program, I quit because it doesn’t indicate quality, it doesn’t make me a better provider, and it takes funds and untold time away from what I have available to provide the best quality care I’m capable of. The paperwork load alone is INCREDIBLE. So I have taken a stand and decided to forego the formalities of a broken system and just provide the best care I can.

I don’t want to be the most expensive child care in town because I believe that quality childcare should be available to all families. Parents shouldn’t have to be rich to get the best, all kids deserve my best. I set my rates in the medium level and give my job my 100% every day. I hope I can inspire other providers, whether in homes or centers to do the same because children are our future and they deserve the very best we can give them!

I know that home daycare has the potential to be the very best environment for kids. I hope I can inspire others to make sure their home daycare is the best they can make it. I also hope that I can teach society a few things about the values of what we do.

Letting Children Lead

Letting children lead others is a great way to increase skill levels and build self esteem. In a typical family, as God designed it, children are born at intervals and not all at once, like a litter of kittens. I often wonder what benefits are lost in a single age classroom such as are found in the typical daycare center or school classroom. That is one of the unique benefits of family childcare. It is arranged like a typical family in its original design with children from multiple ages interacting with one another.

Giving children the opportunity to lead and follow one another is a great way to build social skills as well as patience, tolerance, and nurturing. Children can learn a lot from each other. So why not let them teach?

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In planning the activities for this summer, I asked the older children to help choose subject matter they were interested in. They wrote down activities they wanted to do and then together, we came up with an idea. Why can’t they teach? Knowing it is difficult in a child care setting to keep older children engaged, I thought it was a great idea. After they chose activities, they were able to choose some they would like to teach.

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As the summer began, some children showed natural leadership abilities and were able to engage the younger children with no assistance, while others needed help getting their attention. I took on the roll of facilitator helping them decide what they needed to be successful and get started if they had trouble. As they began to learn how to interest their audience in the activities they were presenting, I noticed several things.

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The younger children were very eager to have the attention and focus of the older children they look up to. They were interested in what the children were teaching. But what I didn’t anticipate was the major effect it had on the older children.

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I encourage summer reading by having a summer reading program modeled after the one at the library. I give medals at the end of summer for participation and we have plenty of positive interactions involving reading. At the beginning of summer, I asked the older kids who would like to read to the younger kids. Crickets…..chirp chirp chirp. The first time I asked the oldest child to read books to the kids at story time. He agreed, and then wanted to read to them every day. As the other older children saw the interaction between him and the younger kids, they wanted to read to them. As the days passed, I saw a noticeable increase in self-esteem and confidence in their reading I had never seen before. Now they all want to read to the younger kids, even the one who is just learning to read.

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As the summer has progressed, I have seen increased confidence in the older kids as they have learned to teach the younger kids. They have come up with additional science experiments to do with the group. They have begun to offer the younger kids first turns at things, share more, and think of solutions to more problems on their own. The fighting and tattling has significantly decreased, and instead they are problem solving. No one is being bossy or pushy, they are working together to find solutions that they were not before. And I can see each of the kids in both age groups gaining confidence as the days go by.

Children can be great leaders and it’s wonderful to give them to chance to build their skills and get experience in a safe environment. These skills will help improve their relationships with their peers when school resumes in the fall as well. And for now we are having a great summer…