Tag Archive for learning

The Importance of Reading to Kids

Reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do for their development. It has so many benefits for children. The more you read and the earlier you start, the better for children’s learning.

children reading, the key to learning

Sometimes it’s hard as a daycare provider or a parent to find the time to read to your children every day. It’s super important to MAKE that time. Your children will be better off for it and in turn our future will be as well. Click here to check out my favorite children’s books. 


preschool lesson plans, reading with kids

Spending time reading with your child creates bonding with them.

Do you have a favorite reading memory as a child? Mine is when my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Nelson would read to us at circle reading time every day. She read us the Ralph books and the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. Recently, she celebrated her 100th birthday. Click here to see more about it. Bonding through reading helps kids to learn to build healthy relationships. Healthy relationships are the foundation for success. It also helps them learn and understand interactions with others. This even further helps with building healthy relationships. It helps improve social skills which are the foundation to school success.

Reading to your child helps their brain develop.

There are pathways in your brain that are formed through experiences upon which future learning follows. If those pathways aren’t built, future information cannot travel on them. Reading helps build these pathways. The more you read to your child, the more pathways are built. The earlier you begin, the more pathways are built. Children learn 50% of what they will learn in their entire lifetime by the age of 3, these are critical times to build on. Reading is a great way to build them. Cognitive skills are greatly improved by reading.

Reading helps children develop creativity.

Books take people on adventures to faraway lands. They teach life lessons. Reading helps us imagine or even travel through time. Reading to your kids early will give them amazing ways of looking at things. It will help them develop a sense of wonder.

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Reading books to kids helps them develop literacy skills and language.

Children who are read to have higher vocabularies and develop earlier speech than they would if not read to. Vocabulary is linked to IQ and other types of intelligence.

Reading opens the door to a promising future.

The lack of strong reading skills gives kids many challenges in life. Studies show children who aren’t reading at grade level by third grade have a higher rate of continued struggle with reading as adults, are more likely to drop out of school in later grades, face unemployment and even jail later on.

The root of many problems for people who fail to succeed is social issues. Many of them are rooted in lack of education. Reading can stimulate a child’s readiness for education. Literacy boosts economics, keeps families together, and reduces poverty. Reading is even shown to help reduce gender inequality for women in the work place.

All further learning is affected by a child’s ability to read. Reading to children can stimulate the desire to read, the understanding that words have meaning, and the comprehension of what is being read and how to read themselves.

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Reading helps with language skills and helps children communicate.

It is vital for success in school and college. It also is vital for success in the work place.

Reading is fundamental to so many other forms of learning. It’s necessary to cook a recipe, read a prescription label, operate equipment and so many other things that are vital for life. It’s the basis of everything else around us. Click here to read more about the importance of reading. 

Grab a book and put a child in your lap for a story today. You will be making a huge investment in the future.

Click on any of these images to get some wonderful books for your kids.  

Don’t forget to pin for later.

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Any post on this blog may contain affiliate links which pay me a very small commission for items you purchase using the links but costs you nothing extra. I can help defray a small percentage of the cost of producing the blog to share information with you.

25 Benefits of Active Outside Play

You won’t believe what my kids are learning through simple outside play. Being outdoors has positive effects for physical and mental health in all ages of people. We need more time outside!

outside play, learning

Look at this picture of my kids playing outside, and let’s talk about all the things that are being learned here. There is so much learning going on, and these are all things we are pressured for our kids to learn, things they are tested on, things they are drilled in school. These kids are getting all of these benefits without feeling pressure or anxiety, they are HAVING FUN!


Get the kids outside.

Let’s start with the two kids in the front on the teeter totter, what are they learning? Teeter tottering teaches kids how to balance their weight against another child’s weight which is a math skill. It also teaches them balance in their physical bodies as well as multiple other physical development skills they need. In addition, the back and forth motion the kids experience as they go up and down fires synapses in their brains which form brain connections for them that lay the foundation for further learning such as reading, math, and science.

Okay, now let’s look at the next group of children on the swings, what are they learning? They are developing large motor skills like the two kids on the teeter totter, as well as learning balance. They are learning how to make the swing go back and forth which is simple physics. They are learning gravity. They are learning coordination. Their brains are firing synapses that will form pathways for later information to travel on as well. Physical activity teaches children SO much!

Now let’s check out the kids at the back table. They are scooping gravel and filling the top of the table with it. What could be learned from scooping gravel? They are developing fine and gross motor skills as they scoop up gravel and pack it into their prescribed areas on the table. They are learning math skills such as volume and measurements. They are using their imaginations and building critical thinking and problem solving skills as a group. They are also learning social skills. The scope of what is happening in this picture is immeasurable and what I have mentioned here only scratches the surface.

These kids are having a great time, doing healthy things, and their brains are exploding with learning and pathway formation for future learning. This is a miracle to watch every day. They are developing balance, muscles, control, coordination, critical thinking, problem solving, math, science, colors, language, social skills, and the list goes on and on. And guess what? They are LOVING what they are doing!

Active play makes kids smarter! It just does. Where did we come up with the idea that learning is supposed to be miserable? Learning is supposed to be fun! Let them play!

Let them play, inside and OUTSIDE. There are so many extra benefits to active play outside. When the kids are super crazy active outside it saves wear and tear on my house and furniture. My house is small and if they are flipping and running inside the house, someone always gets hurt. Outside there is room to run and play actively without risk of slamming into a wall or a piece of furniture.

kids playing and learning outside

There are other great benefits to being outside. There is so much more to explore and learn about outside. There is sensory stimulation from the breeze, grass, trees, animals, bugs, rocks, dirt, and so many other things that are full of learning opportunities. There is so much to see and do. There is so much to find out. Check out the amazing benefits of gardening outside with kids. Click here to read about it or here to watch a video on the benefits of getting kids in the garden.

kids learning outside

Outside there is plenty of fresh air and sunshine which gives kids vitamin D, a vital nutrient for health. There is also immunity boosting power in the outdoors. There are mental health benefits from soil touching the skin. I don’t know how it works but somehow, the beneficial microbes that naturally occur in the soil, make the chemicals in our bodies work more like they are supposed to and helps keep our mental health on track. Also, getting dirty outside may actually strengthen a child’s immunity and overall health. Talk about wow! Click here to learn more about it.

 

In the past twenty years, we have become and inside society. The average child in the US spends as few as 30 minutes of outdoor play each day and more than seven hours in front of an electronic screen. EVERY. DAY. What’s even worse, some children get even less time for active play, as little as 15 minutes.

learning outside with free play

Active play is vital for children’s academic success. Kids cannot learn if they are not moving. Why? Children are unable to blow off steam without playground time. Behavior problems arise in children who don’t get enough recess. In addition, children must engage in active play for optimal brain function. Physical activity sharpens their minds. Extra homework does not help children advance in school, the brain-body connection is stronger than we realize. Children who are allowed to run for more than an hour a day, have increased cognitive skills including focus and multitasking.

People were made to move, but today most of us are sedentary. We were created to work to get food or travel, and historically had to perform physical tasks for our own survival. Movement, or lack thereof, is shaping children’s brains.

Physical activity boosts overall health, strengthens muscles (the heart is one of those muscles) improves brain function and thinking skills. We must exercise our bodies in order to exercise our intellectual potential.

Regular participation in physical activity helps cognitive skills because of increased blood and oxygen to the brain. Increased growth factors that help create nerve cells and keep our brain synapses plastic, (or flexible) which strengthens interconnections and protects them from damage. Physical activity, also increases endorphins and norepinephrine which improves our mood and reduces stress.

Numerous studies have been done on children, adults, and animals and they all come up with these same results, we need to move and we need to get OUTSIDE!

Click here to learn more.

Play is important in the lives of every person, young or old. We should spend time every day doing something we enjoy and the more of it that is done outside the better. The benefits that help children develop, help us adults to function better as well. We get positive mental health benefits, enhanced mood, better ability to concentrate and focus on the tasks we have at hand, and a plethora of other benefits for our bodies, minds, and spirits.

Get outside and get moving today, you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when your lungs and pores are full of fresh air!

Next week is EARTH DAY! Here are some great Earth Day activities to get you playing outside from Ever Change Productions: 12 Outdoor Activities to Celebrate Earth Day

 

How to LIVE Your PASSION!-and a celebration of 20 years of doing just that!

 

I am very fortunate to have found my passion and what I am supposed to do with my life at a very early age. I started doing daycare at the age of 24 and I have never wavered from knowing that I know it’s what I’m supposed to do with my life. The majority of people flounder around looking for their purpose in life and trying to find what they are meant to do. When you are not doing something you love and care about, burnout is always on the horizon. Do you dread Mondays? Do you hate getting up each day when you think about what faces you at your job? We are not meant to live that way. You should look forward to your work, at least some of the time.

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How do you go about figuring it out? Well, first of all, I believe we were not just meant to do one thing only. There could be many variations of what we were meant for that could all fit into God’s plan. I also think when you are reaching for your goals in life, you need to focus on an area of meaning and try to make what you spend your time doing, further that goal. In addition, many times we are meant to do certain things for a season and then meant to do something else at another time. And, I don’t think our calling is always our main 9-5 job. It could be something you participate in outside of work.

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When I was a girl, I wanted to be, well, first, Wonder Woman. I would put on my skates and go down in the basement in my bathing suit (as a third grader, I thought that’s what Lynda Carter was wearing in the show) and put on my homemade bullet deflecting bracelets and tiara, get my little gold belt from my fairy costume mom made me for Halloween for my lasso of truth, and skate around pretending to be her catching all the bad guys.

I also had a passion for writing. My first grade teacher encouraged me to pursue that dream because I was good at it. I lost touch with it when it was discouraged later, but I always loved writing.

Later in my growing up years, when my career goals as a super hero fell through, I wanted to run a big company and be a strong, powerful, woman CEO. I wanted to make lots of money and have lots of power. So I went to business school to learn all I could about business.

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Your life will not go as planned, no one’s does! You don’t just map out all your goals and just check them off one by one, you have to take a path to get there. It’s never a straight one. Have you heard the expression life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans? It is true. I never dreamed in a million years that I would work with children, but here I am having done it for 20 years!

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When I think back on my life, dreams, and passions, I can see every single thing I have been through in my life has prepared me for where I am today. Think about the course of your life and see if you can see it too. I believe God brings us on a path that is best for us, but not always what we expect. Being a childcare provider IS a lot like being a super hero. There is so much expected of this position and not a lot of resources to get you there. Believe me, to do this job, you HAVE to be born to do it. It takes a unique individual to work very long hours for very little profit, balance a family with a business in the same space, open your home to complete strangers and trust them there, run the business side with professionalism and the daycare side with heart, and be rigorously dependable. You also have to support parents and guide them while being their partner in caring for their child, and be able to give the kids what they need for success as well.

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Going to business school was immensely helpful to owning my own business from everything to accounting principles to typing and computer skills. This job involves A LOT of paperwork! The computer is an invaluable tool for that.

celebrating 20 years of childcare

 

Video produced by Ever Change Productions. To check them out, click here.
If you are struggling to find your meaning in life, how do you find YOUR calling?

Step 1-Think about your passions.

What do you LOVE doing? What did you always love as a child that you have given up enjoying now? When you look forward to something, what is it? If it’s traveling, why? What about it do you love? If it’s gardening, is there a way you could turn that into more of a full time part of your life? Do you love being with children? Could you incorporate that into a career? Do you love helping people? There are so many jobs where you can do that. Do you love to create things? Organize? What do you wish you were spending your time on? What do you long to do? What makes you feel complete or relaxes you?

Step 2-Think about what steps you would need to get there.

Do you need to take some classes or get a higher degree to reach your goals? Do you just need to spend more of your free time doing what you love on the side? Do you need to adjust your lifestyle and pay off your debt so you can take a lower paying job? Don’t worry about the big picture and fret about how far away you are from your goals, focus on the tiny steps you need to take to get there, what can you do TODAY to change your future?

Step 3-Take the first step.

Put the first step into action, have faith in yourself and the dreams God placed in your heart and trust Him to help you get there. Pray about what needs to happen. Trust Him to lead you on the path you need to take and let Him ignite the passion for it even more in you.

I have been living my purpose for the past 20 years. It has nothing to do with any of my career goals as a child, but I could not have found a more perfect fit for my life. I love giving kids a great place to be. Growing their self-esteem and helping them succeed is so satisfying to me. Is there anything better than catching the eye of a child and watching their face light up and that big smile come over them as they realize you SEE them? Not to me. No, I don’t love cleaning up poopy diapers and barf, and I don’t love when parents pick up late or forget to pay, but I DO love being someone a child can trust as they learn to care for themselves and encouraging them along the way that they can do it. I also love giving parents a chance to work without worry and being a person they can trust and count on.

Today is my 20th anniversary in childcare. A couple of weeks ago we had a party to celebrate it. I invited all 75 of my past kids and their families to come and spend some time remembering things we had done. Many didn’t come, of course. People are busy and have lives to live, but the ones that came were a blessing and I really enjoyed seeing them. I have learned so much over the past 20 years about myself, children, relationships, and people. People always say, you teach the kids so much and give them so much, but I always say, they’re the ones that teach and give to me. My heart is blessed when I pour it into children. My life is changed. My soul is complete.

Here are a few things we did to celebrate and the reasons why we did them. It was a very special day. I hope you enjoy taking a peek into our celebration, and I hope you can take steps toward living the life you were meant to live. If you are there, GREAT! If you need to get there, take one step today in the right direction. We were meant to flourish in our life not just survive every day!

20 years of childcare celebration

We had a greeting table set up with seeds to take home the kids had harvested from our garden last year, some pens for the parents, and Easter eggs for the kids to take home. Those were a nod to one of the favorite family activities we have annually. If you want to check out our garden story, click here.

Over to the left, you can see the poster from our 10 year anniversary party along side our new growth chart for the second ten years. I have a chart in my closet that I have measured all the children on and even teenagers and young adults ask to measure first thing when they come in my house to visit. It’s a lifetime memory for a lot of them. Since our first one was full and overflowing onto the door in the closet, I bought this new one and we broke it in at the party. The kid’s faces lit up when they saw it there.

20 year childcare celebration

childcare celebration 20 years

We had yummy snacks and some fun door prizes to give away. People won lunch boxes, loaves of homemade bread, and packages of cookies from the cookie bar. I have several “world famous” cookie recipes that have been favorites over the years, so I baked some of each of them up for the occasion. To see the recipe for Monster cookies, click here.

gingerbread at childcare celebration

gingerbread

reliving old memories in childcare passion for loving kids

Decorating gingerbread is another parent involvement activity we do annually. Parents come and hang out with their kids and spend time getting to know each other and being creative. Many kids tell me years later how much fun this was and it’s one of my daughter’s favorites. That’s her at 22 in the last gingerbread picture. We’ve been doing this since she was 4. To see more about our gingerbread parties, click here.

memory table, passion for your job

scrapbooks childcare reunion, finding your passion

The memory book table was a favorite among the parents and the kids. We recreated a few of our old photos with the kids now. I had a scrapbook for the first 10 years and one for the second as well as yearly cookbooks we’ve made, garden journals and newspaper clippings. To check out what the cookbooks are all about, click here. I also had the photos from the scrapbooks printed up so families could take a copy of whatever photo they loved.

childcare celebration refreshments

childcare reunion refreshments

kids who still come to childcare

kids who are not so little anymore

Yummy snacks were enjoyed by everyone and people had a great time catching up or meeting other families.

childcare trivia game

The Little Sprouts trivia game was a big hit, here is a family working hard to win. The prize was 20 flowers made of dollar bills for 20 years of fun and learning. We had a tie, so each person got 10 flowers to keep. Some of the answers were a real hoot, but I think everyone had fun trying to figure them out.

So for 20 years, 75 kids, 36 families served, I have been growing and learning along side these kids. I am blessed beyond measure. I am grateful to have been a part of each memory we celebrated. I don’t know what I did to deserve this life, but I do know I am unique, special, and loved. I was born for this. I couldn’t be happier to be staring down the chance at more years like these. My gifts, my talents and my passions are being developed even still as I celebrate my life. I am praying that YOU would find your passion if you aren’t already living it too.

These are a few of the kids who came to the party, some of them had already left when we got a group shot, but there are so many blessings in these faces. I’m amazed every day that I have the privilege of doing this job.

How to Live Your PASSION!

I am blessed!

 

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Tips for Gardening with Very Young Kids

Tips for gardening with Very young Kids


 

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At Little Sprouts, I have provided care for kids ages 1-11, and teaching school age kids planting and harvesting is a little simpler than teaching younger kids. Of course, their motor skills are more developed as well as their critical thinking skills, so there is more logic involved. But even an infant can learn in and enjoy the garden!


One time we were planting a tray of broccoli in succession, which means we wanted to harvest it at different times so we had our seed tray set up and every two weeks we put in a row of seeds. We had some seedlings that were two weeks old and some that were four weeks old and we were putting in row number three. I had a new child that week and when it was their turn, they saw the rows of baby broccoli plants, and instantly started grabbing the tops and pulling out the largest seedlings one at a time, pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! The shock and horror! We had been babying those things for months and now they were all laying on the table.

What can we do when tragedy strikes? What would they learn if I would have freaked out on the outside like I was on the inside? I’m sure they would not have gotten a positive image of gardening. I did react, I’m only human. But then I rallied and told them we want the seedlings to stay in the dirt. I put them all back in the tray as carefully as I could and then we talked about how careful we have to be. We proceeded with that child’s turn to plant seeds. Crisis mostly averted. And we went on to plant many things together after that. By the way, all of the seedlings recovered just fine to my surprise, and we learned something.

Another time, a few days after we planted our okra seeds outside, I found two little sweeties at the okra bed poking their little fingers in the ground all over the dirt. These two have done this many times, and I’ve asked them many times not to, so it’s hard to stay patient. They had poked about 30 or so holes in the bed while the other kids and I were picking weeds in another spot. I told them when you plant seeds, and the baby seedlings are trying to come up through the soil, they are very fragile and if you poke them, it will hurt them and we won’t get to eat okra. They stopped and a week or so later when all of our okra was up and the section where their finger holes were had nothing growing, I showed them how it made the plants go away. They understood it better and have not done it since.

Another time, we were picking some very ripe radishes that grew up huge while my family and I were on vacation. On the edge of the radish bed, we have a row of onions. This is the first time we’ve had any success growing onions and the bulbs are visible on the top. We are so excited, but they are not ready yet. Each person was taking turns getting a big old radish when I turn around and see someone with an onion in their hand. Look I got a radish! (Ah, that’s the onion I just told you not to pick when you asked me two seconds ago.) Oh sweetie, that’s an onion, see, smell it, let’s find you a radish to pick. It’s a process of learning things cannot be perfect.  My suggestions is to plant extra so mistakes can be made and you can still have something to eat. Even for the bigger kids it’s tough to leave the plants alone long enough to get a harvest. It’s hard for any of us to wait!

Realize that a lot of the time in your gardening, you and the kids might look like an episode with Lucy and Ethel, but with 7 of them and 1 of us, we can’t make sure everyone is doing the best things for the garden every second. I don’t think any child should be made to garden if they are not interested. So for our situation, we got a couple of sets of big plastic animals and moved a table and chairs into the garden, so the kids who don’t want to garden have something to play with besides baby plants. That helped a lot. I do want them to be able to play in the dirt and experience the garden in many ways, not just my way.

children's garden

I have a few tips that have helped me to help the kids be successful.

I taught the kids what their knuckles were and what they do for our fingers. I tell them to plant a seed one knuckle keep or two knuckles or whatever is appropriate for that seed according to the package. The older kids of course are bigger, so I tell them a different number, but when we are all planting, it works well. Even the littlest one year olds do well with the knuckle instructions.

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With the littlest kids, try to let them plant the larger seeds. When I let them plant carrots and lettuce, it’s pretty much all in one spot, but that’s okay. If you want a better harvest, you can mix them with sand and let them sprinkle them out of a salt shaker or something like that. But if you give them larger seeds such as corn, beans, or squash, it’s easier for them to get them close to the right place. A good method that worked for us this year was an older child or I would place the seeds all over the bed where we wanted the plants to grow and then we invited all the younger kids over to help us push them in one or two knuckles deep, whatever the seed calls for. We found when planting a lot of seeds, as we did this year because our garden is pretty big now, it is very effective.

gardening with very young kids

Don’t be discouraged, because over time, the kids do get better at knowing what a good thing is and what is not so good to do in the garden. Planting some super quick growing stuff helps the kids not lose interest in the garden. For instance not many kids like to eat radishes, a few do, but they are not a favorite, but they grow from seed to ready to eat in about 25 days. There is more instant gratification in something you get to taste sooner. Also, radishes can be planted as early as February in Oklahoma, much earlier than a lot of things. They can see radishes coming up out of the ground while they are still waiting to see anything happen with the carrots or green beans. Radishes are pretty fool proof as well. Throw the seeds, and you’ll get radishes. They move each other if they need more room, no need to thin them and every seed seems to grow no matter how you plant them.

I gave some seeds to my kids to take home and one little girl spilled her radishes in the car so mom threw them out on the driveway while she was cleaning her seat out. Earlier this week she sent me a message that they had radishes growing in their gravel driveway. Radishes will survive! Squash grows fast in the garden and okra does once it gets hot, so those are great to plant with the kids as well.

gardening with kids

Make sure when you are gardening with the kids to keep it fun. They will want to garden if they see that you want to. Also, make sure to have your stuff organized before the kids come so you will have more chances for success. Don’t get them all out there and then think of where you keep your seeds.

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Have a plan, work in small bits at a time, and don’t try to take on too big of a garden to start with. See how it goes before you add more. Remember you have to be willing to work the garden in your time off to help them. Kids love to plant and harvest, but picking weeds, not so much. A lot of the building and maintenance of the garden will be up to you when the kids are gone. Make sure you can see your garden spot from your play area so you can pick weeds a little longer after the kids get bored. They can run off and swing or slide and you can work a little longer and still watch them.

gardening with children

Have fun in the learning process. I am VERY type A and when we were first growing, I wanted all the rows straight and each seed to sprout and everything to be perfect. That isn’t going to happen. So enjoy the chaos, and the garden will teach you many things if you let it!

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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.

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…