The Magical Season of ROUTINE???

On December 1, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

The Magical Season of ROUTINE???

One of the best teaching strategies and behavior modification tricks is a solid and consistent routine. Nothing makes a child feel more comfortable and at ease with the space they are in than knowing what comes next and what to expect as their day unfolds.

As you look ahead to this holiday season you can already see the distortions and changes that present themselves to your everyday routine.  If you are looking for ways to make this season enjoyable and your children healthy and happy, give a great deal of attention to routine. The hype of the season is all around us, but our regular routines can still be embedded in our crazy schedules.

If relatives are arriving on different days, try to make something visible to help count so your children have a number of days to get themselves ready for the change. Tell them where everyone is going to sleep and where everyone is going to sit at the dinner table. These little hints may seem silly to you, but believe me it will make an amazing difference to your children.

If your child’s daycare schedule is going to change, let them know about that in advance. Let them know that Grandma and Grandpa or Aunt Sally want them to stay home so they can have more time with them. These opportunities at verbalizing what is happening helps your child to see the future as you do. Remember that our children don’t look ahead. They totally live in the moment and don’t worry about tomorrow. By verbalizing what is going to happen ahead of time, it gives your child a chance to ask the questions that are making them nervous or unsure.

Another tactic that really helps during the holiday season is to help your child to find ways to help or practice giving in some way. This can help to take the focus off themselves and help them to see another side of the holiday season. If the whole season is just about what they want from Santa, you will have trouble on your hands. Focus on helping each other with family chores and creating opportunities for everyone to help. Create a gift wrapping center of scraps and tape and let them color pictures and wrap them up and put them under the tree. If they have their own center they will leave yours alone and feel so helpful at the same time.

If possible, try to keep bedtime routines as much the same as possible. This can be such a wonderful time, but not if you have tired and cranky children.

These are just a few hints that if put in place will hardly seem noticeable to anyone but yourself and they can make a world of difference to your children. Have a wonderful holiday and enjoy every day with your great kids!!!


Reflections on Being Thankful

On October 30, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

At different times of our lives we have pivotal moments that bring us to a different level of thinking and understanding.  The loss of my Mother this past month has brought me to that place.

My mother was a gift to the world, to me, to our family, and to all who came in contact with her.  She was selfless, loving, funny in a very quiet way, and so wise in so many ways.  I could never have asked for a better Mother for me or for a better Grandmother for my children.  Today as I reflect on her life the one thing that stands out so much is that I always knew who she was as a person and how she would respond to every situation.  She was always, in all situations, true to herself and what she believed in.

As I think of all of you, young moms and dads, working so hard to make it through the tough times of raising children, pursuing careers, and navigating your busy worlds; I want to tell you to stay as true to who you are as you can because that will be what your children remember and why they will love and respect you.

We often hear that children do not care about the labels in their clothes, the car that they ride in, the houses they live in, or anything material at all.  I so believe this.  Just spend one day walking through a park, jumping into a pile of leaves, laying on your backs and trying to name the shapes of clouds and I will tell you that you are doing it right.  Nothing makes our children happier than spending time with Mom or Dad and just having fun.  You do not need one dime in your pocket to have a truly wonderful day with your children, and this is exactly what they will remember as they grow.

When my children were small my mother held them in her arms and talked and talked to them.  As they grew she taught them to play cards, do puzzles, eat homemade chocolate chip cookies, and go for walks around the block.  She calmly and quietly made them feel as if they were the most important person in the world.  As they entered their teens, they would still want to spend weekends at Grandpa and Grandma’s house to play cards, talk and get a rest from their own hectic teenage lives.  She was a teacher and mentor in their lives just by being herself.

So during this month of Thanksgiving, give thanks for who you are as a person, a parent, and provider for your young family and remember that just being the best “you” is the greatest gift you can give your children. 

I will give thanks that my children were lucky enough to share their lives with my mother, and glad that I had her in my life for almost 91 wonderful years.


Just Playing

On October 1, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

As we get into full swing with our new school year, I am often asked by parents why the children play so much. What do you teach them? How do they learn? We follow Piaget’s play based theory of Education. I have written many columns detailing the strengths of this style of teaching, but I’m not sure that I have ever heard it said any better than in this poem.


Just Playing

When I am building in the block center

Please don’t say I’m “Just Playing.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play,

 about balance and shapes.

Who knows, I may be an architect someday.

When I am getting all dressed up,

 Setting the table, caring for the babies,

Don’t get the idea I’m “Just Playing”.

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

  I’m expressing myself and being creative.

I may be an artist or an inventor someday.

When you see me sitting in a chair

“Reading” to an imaginary audience

Please don’t laugh and think I’m “Just Playing.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I may be a teacher someday.

When you see me combing the bushes for bugs,

Or packing my pockets with choice things I find,

Don’t pass it off as “Just Play.”

For you see, I’m learning as I play.

I may be a scientist someday.

When you see me engrossed in a puzzle or some

“plaything” at my school,

Please don’t feel that time is wasted in “Play.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to solve problems and concentrate.

I may be in business someday.

When you see me cooking or tasting foods,

Please don’t think that because I enjoy it, it is “Just Play.”

For you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to follow directions and see differences,

I may be a cook someday.

When you see me learning to skip, hop, run, and move my body,

Please don’t say I’m “Just Playing”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning how my body works.

I may be a doctor, nurse, or athlete someday.

When you ask me what I’ve done at school today,

And I say, I “Just Played”.


New Starts, New Words, New Results

On September 1, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny


September in the world of daycare is a  new start. This is the month that we move a lot of our little people  into new classrooms and everyone feels a renewed energy as we excitedly look forward to a new year. 


With new classrooms we can begin to think about practices that were highly successful last year and which processes we would like to revamp, retool, or change. I think it’s a great process for all of us that work with children as teachers or parents to stop and think about what practices that we use are working and which processes just lead us to frustration. 


The first step in making some of these changes is to zero in on what part of our teaching or parenting is not bringing us the result we want. So think about something that is not working. Step back and look at the situation with a clear unemotional eye and brainstorm a different approach to an age old problem. 


In almost all situations, if you can turn a confrontational encounter into a quick game, success is on its way. Here are a few solutions to simple problems that might give you some ideas.


You’re in a hurry and your little one won’t come to you. Quickly create a game. Say to your child, “Chase me” and run by them. Most children will quickly jump in and off you go out the door.


Your child is shouting or yelling, (having a lot of fun by the way), in a place where you need them to be quiet. Quickly become an animal that needs to hide and begin to talk to them and ask them to help you. Presto, you have a co-conspirator in your quest for quiet. 

Can’t get out of the grocery store without a fight or tantrum. Start early before you get to the check out stand and create a counting game and have them help you count something, how many people are in the lines or how many sacks do you think you’ll need? Anything that keeps their mind off getting things and rather onto ways to help you.   


At home you can create songs that help you transition from one activity to another. These songs can be made up on the spot and if you can sing Row, Row , Row Your Boat you have a tune to use. “Who can clean their plate, clean their plate, clean their plate? Who can clean their plate and have a happy meal?”  It doesn’t have to be fancy. . . .  just fun. You will be surprised how a little silliness can change the whole atmosphere of a previous problematic situation. 


The more you use these little games and silly songs the sooner the children begin to expect fun as they go about their day, rather than expecting a battle. If you don’t push “with orders”, they won’t push back. You just might find yourselves laughing your way through what used to be a battle zone. 


Consistency in Parenting

On August 3, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

“You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” These are the words that my 3 year old Granddaughter has brought home from her new daycare.  She tells it to her 2 year old brother when he is having a meltdown. 

What do you think a child hears when a teacher uses this phrase? I think they hear that nothing is ever exactly like you would want it to be and you will have to get used to dealing with life’s little lessons. What a learning process for our little ones! Self-control is a trial and error process that has a different timeline for each child.

My daughter often asks the daycare teachers if they have to put up with sassiness or stubbornness from her daughter. They say, “Carter? Never!”  And my daughter says, “Then she saves it all for us at home, I guess.” We often hear that children do things for us at school that they won’t do at home. The structured day at school often lends itself to more of a consistent reaction between the teacher and child. When we are teaching our only focus is the children and the activity that we are currently working on whether that is an educational skill, an emotional skill or a daily task such as meals or naps. Children soon find that the negative reactions such as crying or whining are largely ignored while the positive skills are rewarded by attention and praise. Children will generally learn to respond to the most consistent response. 

I’m sure that in your own homes one parent has better luck with bedtime routines and one may have better luck with eating routines. However this works out, consistency is usually the most predominant factor.

Even if you are very consistent in your parenting, children are tenacious and are always looking for a way to break through that consistency. They may test you when they know you are busy cooking dinner, trying to complete a household task or in a public place. If they win the battle they will use that technique over and over again.  Remember, they are quick learners.

My daughter is a very consistent parent, but often feels that it takes all the strength she has to win the little daily battles so that consistency stays in place. Let me give you a classic example.  Hudson, the 2 year old wanted yogurt, and my daughter asked him to use his words.  Grandma and Grandpa were in the room and Grandma wanted to give in and give him what he wanted because he was lying on the floor crying. She simply wanted the crying to go away by giving him what he wanted.  He is used to getting this response from his Grandma, (not me!!!), and so he will continue to go on and on if that’s what it takes to get what he wants. My daughter stuck to her guns and said that if he wanted the yogurt he could use his words. Grandma and Grandpa left for home and within 5 seconds Hudson stood up and using a normal tone of voice said, “yogurt please.”  He knew that his mother would not give in and he would have to use the words that she knew he could use to get the yogurt. This classic example runs through the world of parent and child relationships each and every day.

So believe in the power of consistency and once in a while tell your children, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. You might even be able to laugh about it together and turn a tough situation into a funny one.

Have fun!


Fourth of July and Indepedence

On June 30, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

Happy 4th of July!  Can you believe that it is here already? We are really excited about all the school age children we have this summer. It is the largest group we have ever had.

When I stop and think about the meaning of the 4th of July and the word “independence” so many thoughts enter my mind.

When I think about the children that we work with, I get excited about how the skills that we teach create a greater sense of independence for each of these children.  Confidence and self-esteem lead children to a greater level of independence just because of the choices that they make. 

For parents, I think that independence is sometimes a very scary thing.  How do we teach our children the skills they need to be successful and then have the courage to let them use these skills to act independently? Taking baby steps toward independence is so important. In the center, we take little steps as we give the children more and more independence in the center. For example, the 3’s must only leave the classroom with a teacher. The 4’s can leave, to use the bathroom for instance, by bringing a pass to the front desk. The 5’s and school agers have even more independence to run errands and help the teachers by taking messages to the front desk. Each step, for a child, is a small step to being comfortable and confident with their new freedom.

At home you can take some simple tasks that require some independence and create small steps to reach these goals. Even requiring a child to complete a chore outside or in another room is a step to independence. Letting them struggle increases their success over time as well. 

In our busy world it is so easy to forget the skills and abilities that our children have already learned. It is so much easier to step in and do the task for them because it is easier and quicker. To help our children become independent, help them by letting them stretch their wings whenever possible. Feel like you are not doing that enough? Check out the website, “Free Range Kids.”  It is filled with ideas from Moms creating independence within their children.

And my final thought on this Independence Day is to remember all of the servicemen both at home and abroad and the families that are living without a husband, wife, son or daughter. It’s a great time to reach out to someone and include them in your family celebration.

Have a great three day weekend and BE SAFE!!!


“My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, You’re tearing up the grass.” “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply, “we’re raising boys.” – Harmon Killebrew

What a wonderful statement by this father! He really understood what’s important in this world. If you look at most of the successful people in this world they will always attribute their success to a strong relationship with their father or mother. As you think of your own memories of your Father, I’ll bet the best ones were of time spent together and not anything that he bought for you. 

Here are some other quotes that say so well what Fathers are all about. 

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland.

 I guess there is no greater teacher than those of us that have been lucky enough to watch our fathers live the lives that they were teaching us to live. I had a real task master for a father, but even though I had to work very hard, I was watching him work harder than I was. This toughness that he instilled in me has been a great gift to me in my life, and a strong contributor to my success. 

“Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow.” – Reed Markham

That is really the toughest part of good parenting. We have to find a way to take our greatest parenting day and do it over and over again.

But the one thing I would like to say to all of you Dads is “WAY TO GO!!!!” You are out there doing it each and every day and making a real difference in the lives of your children who will become our future world. Enjoy this month and especially Father’s Day.  You deserve it.


Happy Mother’s Day!

On May 4, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

We are looking forward to our spring program where we take a moment in time to honor Mothers, as well as all the people who have an influence on the growth and caring of your children.

My mother always said that the hardest job you will have and the one you might be least prepared for is that of being a Mother.  Even though you may feel overwhelmed as the parent of an infant or preschooler, I will tell you that the job never really feels done even when they are grown and gone.  But on a good note the rewarding times continue as well.

I really want to take a moment to honor working Mothers and the impact you make on the world in so many ways.  Not only do you provide a nurturing environment for your children, but you help them to build the confidence to go out and face the world.

Sometimes it seems easy to buckle under the pressures of responsibilities and time in this busy world we live in, but as mothers we all know that our job is to grow “tough kids” with a strong set of values and a resilient self-esteem so that their path in this world is just a little bit easier.  I honor that strength in all of you.

I don’t know how many of you take advantage of all the parenting support groups that are available today, but I think they can offer many financial and time consuming benefits for the working Mom. There are a number of groups on facebook that are made up of groups that have a common thread.  My daughter is currently using a garage sale group in which she did all her Christmas shopping and is buying most of her children’s clothes.  The mother’s in this group just meet on their lunch hours to make exchanges, saving everyone a great deal of time.  The other group she uses is a support group where you toss out a question from everything to which pediatrician to use to who cleans your carpets.  A great and quick resource for all the things that need to get done.  Having a tough day?  Toss out an idea and see how many people are ready to give you that little extra boost you need.  As my daughter is getting ready to end her maternity leave she has set a number of goals to get herself back in shape.  The other night she was 300 steps away from hitting her 10,000 steps and she posted a question, “Should I just call it a day and not worry about the last 300 steps?”  Four people responded instantly saying, “Get out of bed and get it done!”  She did and feels much better for having stuck to her goals.

So hang in there you wonderful Moms and lean on others around you when the going gets tough.  Every tough parenting decision you make today pays multiple dividends in the years to come.




Intention and Visualization

On March 12, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

Both intention and visualization are key words in the accomplishment of any goal.  When I attend seminars or read books on goal setting and success principles, I always receive the information in a number of ways.

First of all I receive the information and decide if and how I can incorporate it into my life to help myself reach the goals that I am currently working on.  Then I look at my profession and try to apply what I am reading or hearing into the creation of the curriculum and atmosphere that will have an effect on the children in my care.

So, as both teachers and parents, we have the same goals.  We are trying to create young people who have a good sense of self, the ability to make positive choices and the confidence to face new activities and challenges.

Given the equation of E + R = O . . . Events + Response = Outcome, let’s try to apply it to our parenting or teaching.  The event would be the behavior of the child.  Your response to this behavior will create the outcome.  It will not only create the outcome for this individual event, but quite possibly it will affect future behavior as well.  As we take a look at responses, we have to realize how many different elements exist in every response.  Some include the quickness of the response, the intensity, the tone, and the volume.  Does it include any physical action, (i.e. hugs, smiles, frowns)?  Is it the same response as the child experienced the last time?  So back to the equation, given a certain event or action, will it result in a consistent response to give us the positive outcome we are trying to create?

Your reaction might be, “Of course not, there are too many variables!”  And I would have to agree.  But if I add in the words intention and visualization I might get a different set of results.  If we are clear as to our initial goals of what type of person we are trying to help our children become, and we are always visualizing the most positive actions, our responses will be much more consistent, much more likely to create that  outcome we are striving for.

So through setting an intention that is very specific to the outcome we are striving toward, we can set our responses to achieve that visualized outcome.

To create a change in behavior we need about 30 days.  So choose the behavior that seems the most important to your child’s growth at this time and then set your intention about the change you really want to see, visualize the final outcome and keep those responses as consistent as possible. 


The Gift of Sleep

On January 30, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

As we head into February our thoughts go to the gifts and surprises that we will give to our loved ones.  You’ll probably be thinking about how you can surprise your little ones with special treats.  I know that we are getting ready for lots of fun making hearts and sending Valentines here at the daycare.

But I would like you to consider a different type of gift.  The gift that I would like you to give your children is earlier and more consistent bedtimes.    

According to Dr. Marc Weissbluth, “Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm.  Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brains’ battery.  Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time.  Then you are at your personal best.” 

I have watched many young families that have followed Dr. Weissbluth’s advice in his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,  with great success.   Young children should be getting 11-13 hours of sleep per night.  Throughout Dr. Weissbluth’s book he emphasizes a number of components to healthy sleep habits for children. 

One of the most important factors is catching the right time for each child.  If a child is fussy at bedtime we might think he/she is not ready for bed.  The opposite might actually be true.  Dr. Weissbluth advises trying 15 minutes earlier each night until the optimum time is reached.

Another important factor is to keep the bedtime routine consistent, relaxed, and fun for the child. A bath, quiet reading and the same routine as you leave the room are all important.

 My daughter has followed this book from the very beginning and her children get more than 12 hours of sleep every night and even her 18month old lets her know when he’s ready for bed. The routine is followed and as they leave the room, the child is ready to lie down and peacefully begin his/her great night of brain recharging.

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