Kindergarten Anxiety

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Starting school for the first time can be one of the most exciting and happiest days of a young child’s life. But the reality is for many young children, the beginning of school can be filled with  high stress and anxiety.  As a mother and kindergarten teacher I encountered both extremes in my children and in my students. While some were more than eager to begin others were not as enthusiastic about the sudden changes that the new school year brought upon their little lives. For these children, school symbolized a negative detachment from their parent or caregiver. In my observation many of the children with anxiety to kindergarten had parents who also felt anxious about their child attending school for the first time. Little ones are more perceptive than we realize and pick up on our emotions quite easily. Therefore, it is important as parents and teachers to address these feelings with the children in a positive manner before the first day of school so that the child is prepared for the changes that lie ahead.  Preschool teachers can work kindergarten readiness into their summer curriculum and kindergarten teachers can gradually introduce students to the school by offering select classes for the first few weeks if the school permits.  The BC Children’s Hospital offers these tips for transitioning young children into kindergarten and what to look for if you suspect your child is experiencing anxiety around attending school.

Tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Introduce children to the school year routine one to two weeks before school starts
  • Plan for transitions – getting to school, returning to school after breaks
  • Provide regular routines – morning, school, homework, bedtime
  • Hold realistic expectations that are right for your child’s age
  • Help your child identify his or her feelings – nervous, intimidated, shy
  • Ask your child if they have ideas or solutions for a particular concern
  • Show yourself identifying your own feelings, problem solving and being brave
  • Remain calm when your child is anxious
  • Help your child shift their focus to the positive aspects of school
  • Praise and reward even their small accomplishments

Consider seeking more help if your child:

  • Attempts to remain at home or with a caregiver
  • Refuses to attend school on certain days (field trips)
  • Refuses to eat in public
  • Refuses to use public bathrooms
  • Constantly worries
  • Continually seeks comfort and reassurance
  • Shows extreme shyness, avoiding social situations or events
  • Raises physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching breath)
  • Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively.

Lava Lamps

GROOVY

Remember the groovy days? ..or maybe you are too young to actually remember them but still appreciate that era in time. Anyway, here is a fantastic and easy science activity to do with preschoolers or even school age kids for that matter!  This project would work well for a class demonstration. I did this with my kids at home and they totally loved this project. I guarantee that kids (and adults too!) will go crazy for this activity! Extra fun tip: Do this activity dressed up in Groovy clothing and end the session with a dance party complete with music from the 60’s and 70’s!

To make a lava lamp all you need is:

Clear container  ( can use glass jars or empty pop bottles)

Water

Food colouring

Cooking Oil

Alka Seltzer tablets

Directions:  Fill the container 3/4 full of cooking oil. Fill the rest of the way with water. Add a few drops of food colouring. Let the children drop in the alka seltzer tablets to watch the lamps sizzle! For added effect turn off the lights and put a flashlight behind the jar!

Peace!

 

 

Magical Fairy Houses

Children love to explore nature. By doing so a whole wonderful world of imagination and creativity can begin to develop and grow. Here is a  fun way to incorporate your nature walks with a little bit of imagination!  Collect pebbles, sticks, seashells, moss..anything that a fairy might use to decorate his or her house with!  We purchased affordable dollar store bird houses and painted them up first.  Once the paint had dried we were able to glue on the nature items as well as gems, sequins, feathers  and buttons. For very young children using stickers is easier for tiny fingers to manipulate. We found jeweled stickers in the scrapbook area of the dollar store that worked perfectly for this craft. To get the imagination sparks flying, read a few fairy stories before going on your nature walk. This will ignite the fire to get the children excited about their project and get them to look at nature in a whole new way!  Who knows..they  might even see a fairy or two hiding in the trees waiting for their houses to be built!   If you are interested in purchasing some Fairy Books here is link to my dear friend Mary Murphy’s children’s page. Well worth checking out!  http://www.marymurphy.ca/the-childrens-page/

After the houses are all set up in the garden, sprinkle a little “fairy dust” (glitter!) when children are sleeping to show that the fairies have been there and watch the excitement begin!  This craft is suitable for all ages and can also be used as a great birthday party, summer camp or classroom activity for both boys and girls!

Counting Fish!

Here’s a new take on the old Dr. Seuss story of One Fish Two Fish.  My daughter Moriah came up with this idea and my preschool class LOVED it!  To accomplish this adorable felt story you will need a felt Dr. Suess hat which can be either sewn or purchased. If you are like me and wish to skip the sewing bit, you can purchase the felt hat for a reasonable price at most Party City locations. Sewing instructions for the crafty can be found here: http://mamalusco.blogspot.ca/2011/03/dr-seuss-day-cat-in-hat-tutorial.html
We cut out various shapes and colours of felt to represent the fish in the story. For the circle time we told the story by placing the fish on the hat. Because the hat is made of felt, the fish stick! The kids loved this and wanted to do it over and over. For a variation, we took turns letting them place the fish on the hat themselves which is a great way to reward happy listeners in the circle!  Here is our finished product! Simple, fun and one felt story kids will want to do over and over!

 

Ice Painting

Looking for a cool art project to do on a hot summer day? Then why not try painting with ice! Simply fill up various ice cube trays with water tinted with food colouring and freeze. Once frozen children can “paint” on water colour paper for a “cool” effect. As the ice melts , the paint begins to form various patterns. Sprinkle on glitter or salts for a textured effect. Tip: If the ice is too cold for little fingers to grasp then have them use tongs to paint with.

Music and Movement

musicMusic paired with creative movement engages the young mind and allows the young child an opportunity to develop early literacy skills.  Music and movement benefits a child’s development in so many ways. It builds social skills, helps children express emotions, enhances self awareness, develops large motor skills, and improves balance and coordination. Here are some fun ideas for integrating music and movement into your classroom or home.

Musical Hoola Hoops- Instead of musical chairs, use hoola hoops! Children dance around the hoola hoops and when the music stops they jump in the middle. (I have also used this game with teens and they had a blast!)

Musical Hugs- Children dance around until the music stops. When the music stops they find a friend to hug.

Mario Lava- Place carpet squares around the room. Play the Mario theme song while children jump from one carpet square to another.

Fireworks-Place large bubble wrap sheets on the floor and let the children dance on them to various styles of music. Perfect game for Canada Day, Fourth of July or Chinese New Year!

Name Game- Another variation of musical chairs: Place children’s names around room. When the music stops they find their name. Great game to teach letter recognition.

 

 

Miss Mitra’s Play-dough Recipe

Here is my tried and tested play-dough recipe. I have tried almost every recipe under the sun and this one has been by far the best recipe ever! I have used this for many years and continue to use this for my children at home as well as the children’s programs I coordinate.  To add variety to this basic recipe you can add colours and scents, sparkles and more! In the centre which I work in we create the play-dough to match up with the theme of the week. Such as for “Super Hero Week” we made blue and red play-dough with silver sparkles. We added in some grape jello (1 small dry packet per batch) to make it smell good. The children loved it!

Miss Mitra’s Play Dough Recipe:

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice section)
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
food coloring

Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will become difficult to stir and form a “clump”.  Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food coloring during kneading process. Note: This play-dough will last forever if sealed properly.

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It’s a Minecraft Birthday Party!

So many possibilities for a Minecraft themed party!  The great thing about a Minecraft theme is that is can be used for a boy or girl, teen or child.  This was a big year for birthdays in our house. My oldest son turned 18 on the 18th and my youngest turned seven on the seventh so we combined the two boys birthdays and did a Minecraft theme. Hope these pics give you some inspiration for your own Mincraft party!!

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Last Minute Valentines

With Valentine’s Day just a few short weeks away I thought it would be fun to repost these cute ideas for quick and easy Valentine’s Day cards.

Short on time and cash? No problem!  Here are some quick and inexpensive valentines for you and your child to make. These make perfect classroom valentines or just a special valentine for a special little someone in your life. Image

We made these King and Queen Valentines by cutting out crown shapes and letting the children glue on hearts and jewels. Two holes were punched in the side for the lollipop.

ImageThese simple cards were made by placing a box of smarties and reeses pieces on a piece of card stock. For the smarties, we cut out a pocket shape of blue card stock and taped onto the smartie box to look like it was coming out of a pants pocket. So cute!

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Another simple candy card to make is the lifesaver card pictured above. Simply cut out a strip of card stock and fold to make an envelope. Place candy and saying inside, fold and tie with a ribbon. Children love these! Another variation could be to use tootsie rolls , gum or other candy for the cards. Get creative and make up silly sayings to go with the candy you are using!

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If you prefer not to use candy you can opt for the following valentines. Image

Wrap mini packages of microwavable popcorn in red paper.  Add caption and hearts for a cute classroom valentine. Or dress up a package of nuts for a special treat with the caption “I’m nuts for you!”  Just make sure there are no nut allergies before handing out these.

Hope that these ideas have inspired you to get creative and remember it isn’t the gift, it is the thought that counts! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Joy!

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Joy!

Finding Joy during the holidays is sometimes a daunting task for young children. Every day activities are magnified as their senses are on overload from all of the excitement surrounding the holidays. Not that this in itself is negative , the problem arises when children become too over stimulated and are unable to cope with the day to day tasks such as brushing their teeth or following simple directions that they normally would not have any trouble with.  As mothers and teachers we can choose to let our children’s behaviour get the better of us or we can remind ourselves that a cranky child is usually on overload and remember to tone down the holiday festivities if it seems to be too much for the little ones to handle at this time.  Too much of anything can have a negative effect on us all. For example, I love chocolate, but too much chocolate can make me sick..so I have to really watch that I don’t over eat around the holidays. The same can go for children. Too many gifts, lights, parties, shopping trips, etc can have a negative effect on a child. I remember one Christmas in particular when my middle daughter was two years old. She had so many Christmas presents to open from both sides of relatives that by the time she got to the last few she started crying and saying “ No more Christmas!”    I think at that moment we all realized that we had lost the Joy of the season by buying into the commercialism of the holiday. So the question is: How to keep Joy in the holidays for the young child?  Balance and moderation are the key!  Little ones can only sit through so many Christmas events. So pick and choose the few that you want to participate in. Gift giving does not have to be extravagant.  In my many years of working with young children I have found that they are usually just as excited about the box and wrapping paper as they are the gift itself.  Educational and home- made gifts are always appreciated and so much more meaningful that the latest fads.  Also playing soft music during the holidays tends to work as a subconscious calming tool. Another wonderful element in finding Joy during this busy time is to stop and take time to read and cuddle with your child. This will allow them an opportunity to calm down and focus on the story rather than the chaos going on in the world around them.  For those children that need to be more active taking quiet walks together works wonders as well as having a time to allow them to explore and create their own holiday cards and gifts.  Christmas can be such a wonderful time for children as long as we take the initiative to keep the Joy alive by spending quality time with them during this busy season.