Helping Ease Separation Anxiety

School is starting and many kids are exploring new adventures, it’s a good time to talk about separation anxiety. What is it? Everyone experiences a nervousness when they start something new. A little anxiety is normal. But sometimes children experience a greater anxiety about a new adventure. There are many ways we can help children overcome their fears about doing something they haven’t done before.

Parents:

Before you separate from your child for the first time, make sure they are well rested and have had something to eat. Everyone has a harder time dealing with life when they are hungry, thirsty, or too tired.

Talk about what’s going to happen for a few weeks before it happens. You are going to school. I am going to go to work. After I am done working I will pick you up from school. Mommy will be back. Mommy loves you.

Practice separation. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods at first and then build your way up to a full day.

Have a ritual for saying goodbye. Whether it’s a kiss or hug or whatever, do it the same way every time. Tell them you are leaving and that you are coming back. Do NOT stall, or hang around not wanting to leave. This makes it much harder for your child.

Don’t give in. Make sure your child knows they will be fine, and leave. This is the hardest thing for parents to do, but if you give in and come back, it will make your child have a harder time adjusting because they will think if they are unhappy, you will come back every time. Also, children feed off of parent’s emotions, so remember if you are nervous, they can feel it and will be nervous too.

Remember that you have a job to do and you are leaving your child in the best care you can find for them. You are allowed to work and provide for your family without guilt. Leave that guilt at the curb. You are allowed to go to dinner with your husband or go to the spa as well. It’s okay to take care of yourself. It will make you a better parent in the long run. Don’t feel guilty about it. You are human too!

Make sure to tell the truth. Never sneak out when your child is playing. It will break the trust they have with you. Tell them what you are doing and then do it.

Providers:

If you are providing childcare for a child who is having a tough time separating, there are several things you can do to help them transition better.

I have a policy of having two interviews with each family before the child starts care here. One at their house and one at mine. If parents are not interested in doing that, I’m not interested in keeping their children. It gives me, the parents, and the child another opportunity to get to know each other. Going to their home helps the child feel secure when they see me at their home where they know it’s safe. If Mom and Dad let Ms. Christina come over and play here, she must be safe for me. In addition, while at the child’s home, I try to meet their pets, and play with their favorite toy with them. Then if they are upset at drop off I can say, how is your dog dizzy, or where is your elephant that you keep on your bed? It really helps the child and nervous parents cope.

Another thing you can do is let the child bring a familiar comfort item from home. A blankie, stuffed animal, or other item they use at home with which to comfort themselves will help make them feel secure at your home as well.

Having a picture of mom and dad at your house is helpful as well. They can look at them when they miss them and know they are coming back.

Make sure to give the child extra attention as they transition. They may need some extra hugs to comfort them. In contrast, make sure not to pick them up or touch them if they don’t want you to. They will tell you when they are ready for your comfort.

Be patient and remember how scary it is to leave the comfort of home and go to a strange place without the people you love. If you give it time, they will love your home and you as well. Some kids take longer than others to trust. Also, different ages of children are in different stages of separation anxiety as well. Don’t forget a child who is 10 months to about 2 will be much more leery than a younger infant or an older child. It’s a natural part of their development, so make adjustments for that as well.

Getting to know someone new is hard for everyone at first. I even feel nervous when getting to know a new child as well. Give it time and the friendship always grows. Usually faster than you think it will!

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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 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!

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.

music and movement instruments

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.

music and movement, preschool

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.  I love 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.

music with kids

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?

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.

I Reached for the Stars…

In 1998, the state of Oklahoma implemented the Stars Program for rating quality. One star was for providers who meet minimum license requirements, one star plus was working toward a higher quality level, two star was better quality, and three star was the best. As a new childcare provider I thought this was a GREAT idea and was on board immediately to get the highest rating.

In order to reach the two star level, you have to have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or a Certificate of Mastery in early childhood education, as well as numerous other qualifications. To reach three star level you have to have all of the two star requirements plus be nationally accredited. All of the requirements are great. They include goal setting, parent conferences and meetings, parent involvement activities, additional hours of yearly training required, and things of that nature. I feel like all of those things make me a better provider.

I learned so much through the process of getting my CDA and I know it made me a much better provider and mother. I would recommend every provider do it. It was hard to work 55-60 hour weeks and still go to class for 10 hours a week and then have projects and homework after that. At times I thought it would kill me. My husband continually complained about the extra work, so I quit several times. It took me two years to finish the year long program because I didn’t stick with it. When I was taking my last two classes, he started complaining and I said, this is why I never finish this, now I’m almost done, be quiet! What’s crazy about that is he is my biggest supporter in everything and he is always on board with whatever I come up with as a goal or dream. We got through it and I felt like it was such an accomplishment.

Next I set out to get nationally accredited. Oklahoma had a mentoring program and someone came out once a month and watched me with the kids, taking notes. I was given advice, books to read, and support on whatever areas I would need to improve. After a year of observations, I applied for a grant to get supplies I needed to meet the requirements. I was awarded money for impact material for outside and edging to hold it in, and multicultural dolls and supplies. (Believe it or not there are strict requirements on what can be accepted as multicultural and the only dolls available that meet it are super expensive). After I dotted all my I’s and crossed all my t’s I was awarded national accreditation. I was so excited.

After 10 years of being three star and accredited, I was beginning to tire of all of the paperwork involved. In Oklahoma, there is a massive amount of paperwork involved in just being a licensed provider. Every year the state adds more requirements and more paperwork to the load and continually more and more providers quit (or more likely provide care illegally instead). As the load increased, I began to get disheartened with the process.

For the first nine years I was accredited, the fee was $495 every three years. That is A LOT of money for a childcare provider whose profit margin is laughable. I got a scholarship one year, did a fundraiser one year, and one year paid for it by saving up for two years before it was due. Then I got a notice from the accrediting agency. The price would increase to $600 every three years PLUS a yearly renewal fee of $150 on year two and year three. The fees went from $495 to $900!

A provider who wants to get accredited must have FBI fingerprinting done for a federal background check in addition to our state background checks already required. Guess when you can get those? Monday through Friday 8-4. A provider must also have a TB skin test. Guess when you can get those? Monday through Friday 9-4. I work Monday through Friday 7:15-5:30 so I have to take days off to get those things. Guess what happens when I take days off? I don’t get paid. A provider must also PAY for all of those things. Fingerprints are $53, TB skin tests are $27, copies of your last three years of training cost money, postage to mail a box full of paperwork costs money, fees, fees, fees. Time off and time stressing out about mountains of paperwork and requirements I could be spending to just BE with my kids. Laughing with them, talking to them, and loving them. Spending my evenings getting rejuvenated so I can run and dance and play with them in the days. I felt the process had become more about money than quality. Anyone can put on a show while they are being observed, even if the observation date is a surprise.

I felt like the state had taken us on a journey to the wilderness and then left us out there. When the stars program was being promoted to us, we were told it would be advertised, and the whole state would be informed about what it was. That never happened. We reached for the stars and when we got them, we were left hanging from them. Most parents have never heard of the stars program or have no idea what they mean.

Over the year the grant program was shut down, scholarships discontinued, and raises for DHS subsidy for starred providers did not reflect the amount of work and expense they required. One year the three star raise was 75 cents per day. For paying $500 to get certified, I was receiving 50 cents more per day than a two star provider. That spoke volumes to me about how the state felt about quality. They eventually fixed that a couple of years later, but it was such a slap in the face at the time.

I had a long talk with myself and then with my husband. I wanted to spend my time being fun instead of grouchy and drowning in paperwork. It was really tough for me to give up my rating because I thought the program was such a great idea, but I knew I would be the same me without the stars behind my name. So I decided after 12 years of being three star, to let my stars go and quit the program. I would celebrate my gifts and not worry about what the state ratings said about me.

Sometimes the popular decision or what looks right to everyone else is not what’s right for you. I’m finding that in several areas of my personal life right now, but I can see God makes everything work together for the good of those who love Him! That scripture is very real in my life right now as God is working on me in another area. I never tire of trusting Him, HE’s a great and amazing God!

I have not regretted for one minute letting my three star go. For me, it has been the best choice. In childcare word of mouth is your best tool for success, and I do my best to meet the needs of my families, so they naturally talk to their friends about it.

What steps can you take today to simplify your life? Less is more, you won’t regret it. Have a super day!

Metamorphosis!

A few weeks ago we found these cute little fellas on the dill.  So we brought them in and continued to feed them fresh dill every day.  After a few days, they each formed a chrysalis.

A few weeks ago we found these cute little fellas on the dill. So we brought them in and continued to feed them fresh dill every day. After a few days, they each formed a chrysalis.

A couple of weeks later, one of the butterflies came out of the chrysalis.

A couple of weeks later, one of the butterflies came out of the chrysalis.

At first they pump their wings to dry them.  We let our butterfly open all the way up and then took him outside to release.

At first they pump their wings to dry them. We let our butterfly open all the way up and then took him outside to release.

It was a beautiful black swallowtail.

It was a beautiful black swallowtail.

The kids loved watching the little guy get ready to fly for the first time.

The kids loved watching the little guy get ready to fly for the first time.

Metamorphosis is one of the many amazing things the kids have discovered in the garden. We plant a row of dill and fennel with parsley and flowers to attract caterpillars to watch. It’s an amazing science lesson.

Find a garden and look for some magic, I know you will find some. 🙂

Guest Post-Mandy Blocker

Today’s guest post is from a friend who has helped me in many ways along my journey of learning. She has some great points about the importance of gardening with kids. Thank you Mandy! Check it out!

Hello bloggers!
My name is Mandy Blocker. Super excited Christina asked me to do a guest post on her “Little Sprouts Learning” page! My “real job” here in Muskogee is serving the county as the Agriculture/4-H Educator at the OSU Cooperative Extension Office… where I have the privilege of handling numerous calls on gardening, livestock, pests, you name it! My job is different every day, which is what makes it FUN!
With all that being said, my post today will be about the importance of teaching our children about gardening and how to grow their own food! Miss Christina is SUPER enthusiastic and one of her main objectives is to teach her kiddos the importance of eating well at a young age. She makes learning fun and exciting, which is KEY!
During their early development, kids are curious and love to learn… well, I guess I should say, when they want to! I have had a little experience working with students in the greenhouse and garden setting. Most students will find this time very relaxing and soothing. A child who spends time in the garden can experience the satisfaction that comes from taking care of something over time, while observing what seems like NEVER ENDING “ups and downs” of gardening! Learning to adapt to change and overcome certain obstacles is critical at a young age, and these skills will help them as they enter the real world or workforce after schooling is done!
When they transition into the public school system, many students will have the possibility to participate in their school wide gardens. Muskogee is known for its Health and Wellness Initiative. Lots of different entities have programs where people come to the schools and teach children about nutrition and a lot of area elementary schools now have their own gardens! That is super exciting! Big or small, having a place for the students to plant, water, feed and watch their plants grow is very rewarding. It gives them a sense of achievement and empowers them at a young age to be proactive about health and wellness.
If you are a childcare provider and need assistance in starting this project at your facility, I highly encourage you to do your research and plan it out! Contact others who have done this and also feel free to contact your local cooperative extension office. We have guides that can help you with the designing and facilitating of these gardens

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. Eighty 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.