Celebrating Valentine’s Day

On February 1, 2017, in Mothering Heights, by penny

Valentine’s Day is a teacher favorite around the building because a majority of the celebration happens right in our classrooms. We all focus on loving each other and our kids! It is so fun to celebrate love and caring! We encourage teachers to get creative and spend a week or two celebrating Valentine’s Day, and it really is fun to see what types of things they come up with. It can be as simple as getting a box of conversation hearts and sorting them by color or as in depth as pink, purple, and red colored rice for a sensory tub. We would like to pass along some of the activities that we love in hopes that you may be inspired to incorporate them in your own celebrations.

Any age child could create a piece of art or write a letter to mail to a loved one. The process of writing letters or sending mail is not an experience many of our kids have now a days, so it is a great opportunity to teach them. At the center, we will have kids color a picture and participate in preparing the envelope and then all walk over to the mail box together. It is then so exciting to hear reports of who received their mail! We also will create little mail boxes in our classes so students can deliver mail to each other which they find quite exciting.

Another favorite is to put conversation hearts in different types of liquids (vinegar, oil, water, salt water etc.) and see which will dissolve first. We always ask kids to make a prediction and ask them why they think that. Although they don’t necessarily know why, it is great practice for them to be able to voice their opinion. This is a fun experiment to check back on every 10 or so minutes to see how the candies are progressing.

An older kid favorite is free art with stickers, heart cut outs, paper, scissors, glue sticks, ribbon etc. If kids are at the writing stage, a list of Valentine type words can be provided for copying or an adult can write messages for them.

This theme can cover all subjects and doesn’t have to be extravagant, but also provides for many opportunities to celebrate the important meaning behind the holiday. We hope that you enjoy this time with your children as much as we do!


Staff Appreciation

On February 1, 2017, in Mothering Heights, by penny

During the holidays, we strive to look for any opportunity possible to praise, celebrate and thank our staff. We had a wonderful Christmas party where we got to get dressed up and let loose a little, enjoyed spoiling each other with Secret Santa gifts, and each opened an Advent gift. Sadly, we had to cancel the Christmas program, which we usually use as a chance to brag about our teachers as you enjoy their hard work to prepare their classes so I would like to do it here.

We will start with “the Debbies” as we like to call them. Not only do these ladies open and close our doors every day, but they provide us all with laughter and support and utilize their many years of experience to provide great care to all of our kids.

In the baby room we have Denae and Courtney. This is our most important class as these infants require the most care which they provide all while making parents feel comfortable and confident with leaving their baby in someone else’s care. Not only do these ladies love your babies, but they provide a calm, positive, and consistent environment.

Speaking of calm of environments, have you seen Jan interacting with the wobbs? The nurturing care as they learn basic signs and songs and start developing their language is just what a wobbler needs.

That toddler room can get a little chaotic and takes a special kind of person to thrive in that environment. We have Reanna with the younger ones, who we really utilize in so many ways including grocery shopping and van runs. She is very creative and playful with her little group. On the other side, we have Abby and Chela who are a little bit crazy (in a good way of course!) They are both so animated in their play with the todds. Abby brings great creativity and drive to provide engaging activities to her kids while Chela can be seen acting at the horse kids are riding or snuggling someone who needs a little extra attention.

Deby is joined by Kierra in preschool who provides care you would expect from a seasoned veteran! She has a great future ahead of her working with kids and we look forward to watching her grow.

Jr. K is now anchored by Hanna, our sweet, loving, hard-working girl who can do it all! You can find her grocery shopping, driving vans, in any classroom and even in the office filing. She was so thrilled to have her own class and we are lucky to have her.

Kindergarten and school-age are loved by McKenzie and Robin. This is a dynamic group as their ages range from four to eleven. Luckily, we have a teacher in McKenzie who is energetic and can play tag or basketball with a group while Robin continues to surprise us with her creativity. This group has a lot of fun!

Jessi provides us great consistency and flexibility in the kitchen and cooks with a lot of love and pride. Keeping our kids fed and happy makes everyone’s job easier.

Although we’ve been missing Shirley recently, she will be back with us soon and we can’t wait. Talk about a jack of all trades, she cleans, drives vans, takes photos, does grocery/supply shopping, and loves all of our kids like they are her own. You can often hear her affectionately being called Grandma.

A couple of our new comers include Deena and Shaila. They both bring littles ones with them to work and we look forward to seeing how they all grow and blend in with our family. They both offer positivity and flexibility and are enjoying getting to know all the kids and teachers.

Shayna and Stacey are substitutes who end up saving us quite a bit. Shayna has been with us for years and can do anything! Stacey can usually be found in preschool and not only makes us laugh, but has built some great relationships with the kids she cares for.

While Joy’s role with us has changed in the past year, she has taken her new role and really excelled. She is another teacher who can go into any classroom as a head teacher or teacher assistant and has a calm consistent demeanor that puts kids at ease.

None of us would have this opportunity if it weren’t for Penny. While she has taken a step back and it isn’t spending as much time in the center, when she’s here she provides positivity and makes herself available to share and guide based on her years of experience.

This group of teachers we have love your kids with all they have and come to work each day ready to provide the best care they can. We can’t thank them enough!


A Season to Give Thanks

On October 31, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by penny

I know that we all think of the month of November and Thanksgiving quickly comes to mind, but do we really spend time thinking of all that we really have to be thankful for?

You might say, “Think of things to be thankful for? Between work, household chores, and coping with small children, I don’t even have time to think.” I can certainly identify with the hectic pace that young families have to keep up with, but I’d like you to take a moment to look at thankfulness in another way.

For years I have supported Camp Ukandu, a one week summer camp for children who are living with cancer, and their siblings. My college roommate, her brothers and sisters, and many of their own children work as counselors and support staff at this camp. The beautiful thing about this camp is that for one week these children get to have fun and do activities where no one looks at them as “different.” They don’t have to explain why they don’t have any hair or have a prosthetic leg. Everyone is fighting the same fight. When you hear these young people and their parents talk at yearly events, you get a small glimpse of a world that you may or may not have been touched by. You realize the struggle of not only supporting your child in their journey but also possibly having to say good bye to them long before you should. The feeling of thankfulness that pours over me in this setting not only includes being thankful that my children have all lived into adulthood, but that all my grandchildren are healthy as well.

Due to budget cuts, the American Cancer Society has withdrawn their support for camps of this type. Camp Ukandu has had to restructure their financial support to cope with this loss of funds. If this cause has moved you in any way, there is an easy way to become involved. If you shop on Amazon, you can sign in each time at www.amazonsmile.com.  At this point you can name a charity that you would like to support. Each and every time that you sign in to Amazonsmile.com a portion of the money you spend will be directed to Camp Ukandu. It’s easy and doesn’t change your cost in any way. 

When I give to charities it is very important to know where all of my dollars are going. I will tell you that the counselors, camp staff, nurses and doctors involved in Camp Ukandu all volunteer their time.

I know we all lead busy lives; and I know all the small difficulties that come with parenting a preschooler, but seeing and hearing about these families really puts our own daily struggles into perspective. The next time your toddler throws themselves on the floor in the supermarket, or wets their pants during the challenge of potty training, stop and think of where you could be. These noisy, headstrong, messy children of ours are HEALTHY!! I know where my thoughts of Thanksgiving will be this month.



On August 3, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by penny

If there is one thing that all of us seem to struggle with it is change. There is something about the comfortable feeling that comes with consistency that just seems to make life easier.

Change is the reason that we work so hard to establish a consistent routine for the children that we care for. They draw comfort from knowing that after free play the toys are picked up and then we go to the bathroom before we go outside to play, etc. They like to know what happens next in their lives. Think about your daily schedule. You might be someone who makes a list to start each day, or maybe you just start each day with a general idea of what your schedule or tasks will be. But our children just follow us as we tell them what is happening next. By giving them a general sense of what their day might bring, we help to lower their anxiety about what lies ahead.

To help you empathize with the mind of your children, just think about the last time you had to change jobs or move into a new house or apartment. That is the type of anxiety that our children feel most of the time.

On the flip side, some parents tell their children so much about what changes are coming, (i.e. leaving for vacations, grandparent visits) that the child’s anxiety raises to a higher level than usual. One rule of thumb that always seems to be effective with children is to let them lead the way with their own questions. Try to only give them the amount of information that they seem interested in. This is going to vary a great deal from child to child, so the challenge will be, how well do we know our children and how much information is the right amount.

Routine is probably the best tool to help your child feel comfortable about their day. But when faced with changes in their schedules or their lives, remember to ease them into it by giving them as much information as they seem to need.


Independence – What does it mean for our children?

On July 8, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by penny

As we celebrate the independence of our country on the 4th of July, we should also take a look at how important the word “independence” is to the emotional growth of our children.

There are so many aspects to look at when we are deciding how to help our children grow and develop. When it comes to independence we are often torn between wanting to coddle them and know that they need us one day, to wanting them to be independent and help us on the next day.

Since all growth is intertwined, it is important to realize that emotional growth is tied to all other areas of growth. Independence or emotional growth is often tied to overcoming fear.

Method 1: Modeling Independence

Show your child that you are independent. Share with them something that is difficult for you. Show them how you didn’t give up. 

Method 2: Helping Independence Grow.

Pay attention as your children play and notice when they have figured something out on their own. Ask for their input on small tasks. Let them know their opinion matters. “Thank you for putting the silverware on the table. That really helps with our dinner.” Be sure that the child is responsible for their own stuff. If they can get it out to play with it, they can put it back.

Method 3: Providing and Loosening Boundaries.

Encourage your child to play by themselves. Bring out a toy that’s not always used and let them enjoy it all by themselves. When your child says they are bored ask them to show you how they are going to solve it. Hand them a towel and say, “What could you do with this?” Extend boundaries gradually.  Maybe you currently ask your child to play next to you. Maybe the next step would be to let them play in their room by themselves.

Independence for this country was a long, hard fought battle. Look at independence for your child as a smoother process offering your child a little space to grow.


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

On May 31, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by penny

“My Father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.”  - Clarence Budington Kelland

We all try to teach our children the things that we think are most important in life. Our universal parenting goal is and always has been, teaching our children the things that we feel would make them happier and more successful in life. But one of the most important things in this process is to be sure that our words match our actions. We can all talk until we’re blue in the face, but our children will mimic our actions before they do anything else.

I hope all of you fathers know just how special and important you are to all of your children. I hope that the bond that you have with your father is one of the things you pass on to your child.

Remember that to your children you are invincible and can do no wrong.  So be sure that the example you set is the picture that you want them to follow because they will accept anything you say or do as gospel.

So take some time off to go to the park or the zoo. Hold your child’s hand as often as you can. And when they ask you to read the same story over and over again, be glad that you are the one they ask. 

Enjoy this special day, but remember, to your children you are the special one in their lives every day of the year.




Mother’s Day

On May 2, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by penny

Happy Mother’s Day! We are looking forward to our Mother’s Day Tea where we take a moment in time to honor Mothers, as well as all the people who have an influence on the growth and care 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.

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.



What You Hear May Not Be What You Think

On March 1, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by penny

How often do your children ask you a question and after you spend a great deal of time explaining it to them they give you a puzzled look and walk away? Probably one of the most dangerous things we do is listen to our children as though the meaning behind their words comes from an adult place of understanding. Our children of today are very, very, verbal. They experience so much input in our audio world and they use these words they learn based on what experiences they have had. Rarely are they asking the question with the same thinking that you possess.

A classic example – A little preschooler comes home and tells his mother that a thousand “months” ago an asteroid came down and made the dinosaurs “stink.” And they still “stink” today. So in this example, the little boy heard a story and used his experiences to create his story. We talk about the days of the month a lot, but we don’t talk about years very often. The idea of something becoming extinct would probably be a new idea and so he used the word “stink” because that works in his vocabulary.

We can teach letters and words and read stories, but children really need to have a lot of experiences so when they are confronted by new information they have a reference point to receive and understand it.

My Granddaughter asks a lot of questions, and when my daughter gives her an answer it often upsets her. They recently lost their old dog and so they went out and bought the book called The Rainbow Bridge.  In this book all the animals live in a field and wait for their human owner to pass away and then they walk across the rainbow bridge together and enter heaven. So Carter asked, “Is Toby in Heaven?” My daughter told her, “No he’s waiting for us, so when we die he’ll go across the bridge with us.”  And then Carter got really upset, “We’re going to die? When? Are we going together?  Is it happening soon?” My daughter was surprised by how upset Carter had gotten and wasn’t sure how to back pedal her way out of it. 

This is such a classic example of giving our children too much information without really realizing that we’re doing it. She told me the story and said I’m not sure what to do when she asks so many questions. My advice to her was to always answer their question with another question. When you do this it gives you a better understanding of what they really wanted to know. If your child comes up with a feasible answer to their own question, you can just say, “That sounds good,” or “That makes sense.” In this way the young child has an idea to work with, feels good that they came up with an answer, and hasn’t been given information that they really weren’t looking for in the first place.


Social and Emotional Learning

On February 1, 2016, in Mothering Heights, by penny

I know that as parents it’s easy to get excited when your young child begins to surprise you with all the information that they are learning at school.  They begin to sing songs on the way home, or point out letters on the signs they see along the road.  This is exciting!  We all want to know that our children are showing signs of progress in their learning.

As exciting as this rote learning is though, there is a type of learning that I feel is the most important and something that we pay a great deal of attention to here at Learning Tree.  This is the area of Social and Emotional Learning, often referred to as emotional intelligence.  I feel that it is so important to the overall development of the child. Having a child that knows how to manage his or her emotions, make responsible decisions, and resolve conflicts non-violently, is like pushing them to the head of the class when it comes to learning all of the other information presented to them.

As parents there are a number of strategies that can be used at home to help nurture and emotionally intelligent child.

Be a good listener:  Listening is a “core competency skill” and needs to be used by both the parent and the child.  Sometimes as parents we rush our child through what they are saying or fill in the blanks or finish their sentences.  This teaches the child to not listen in their own learning situations.  Try to be patient and let the child express their complete thought no matter how slow or broken up it might be.

Model the behavior you seek:  Children learn a great deal about relationships from observing the behavior of their parents.  As parents we should always consider the impact of our actions on our kids.

Nurture your child’s self-esteem:  Children with a good self-esteem are happier and do better in school.   A good strategy for fostering self-esteem includes giving your child responsibilities and showing your appreciation for a job well done.

Respect differences:  Always resist the urge to compare your child to friends or siblings. Instead, honor your child’s accomplishments and support him or her in their challenges.

Raising an emotionally intelligent child is like moving them to the head of the class.


On December 31, 2015, in Mothering Heights, by penny

Here we are again. That time of year where everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions. But for me it isn’t the resolutions that are important, but rather the intention connected to the resolution. Resolutions remind me of that list you make every day only to find that you never finish it. So this year instead of making that list of resolutions knowing that it is only a matter of time before I won’t complete them, I am going to concentrate on the intentions for my life.

What is an intention? An intention is the thought process that leads you to your best behavior at any moment. Rather than making a resolution to lose weight, I will start every day with the intention to create a healthy body through my eating. 

As a business person my best intention is to wake up each day and choose three things that I can do to improve my business. A new day, a new intention. No failure, only a setting of the mind to have your very best day. No matter what happens, I will set the intention in my mind again the next day.

As a parent you can set intentions to pay more attention to one aspect of your parenting. Just one. Today. Not a resolution to always be patient, never lose your temper, etc. just the intention to notice your behavior in one aspect of your parenting, today.

The setting of daily intentions certainly helps you have a more positive mindset for the day, and if done daily will multiply in so many ways in your life.

I think that setting long term intentions regarding our children can actually help us be more consistent in our parenting. We all know how tenacious our children are and how they can wear us down through their ability to beg us for something for so long that we finally give up. But if our intention is to create a strong character in our child, this intention can win the war and help us to be tough when necessary so our children can grow through life’s tough lessons.

Steven Covey, in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, talks about having a flight plan.  Setting your daily intention is like having a flight plan. In this way we can stay on course and weather the small battles that might keep us from parenting our children to their greatest growth.

Having parenting intentions, or a flight plan, can help us remember that the future skills our children possess are far more important than creating a momentary feeling of good.

Have fun setting intentions that always lead us to better more mindful daily behavior. I hope you use it in your parenting and I hope you enjoy the positive results.