March is Reading Month

As we wind down March is Reading Month , we would like to share what we have been doing at Foundations to support literacy. Founded to celebrate the birthday of the favorite author of millions of children, Dr. Seuss, National Reading Month is aimed at giving kids chance to improve their reading skills and make reading a daily habit.

Why is Early Literacy Important? Children introduced to reading early:

  • read earlier and excel in school compared to children who are not exposed to language and books at a young age (American Academy of Pediatrics).
  • reading, rhyming, singing, and talking — beginning from birth — profoundly influence literacy and language development, the foundations for all other learning (www.healthychildren.org).
  • enter kindergarten with an advantage that carries with them throughout their school years

This week was a busy week filled with literacy activities. Today, the amazing storyteller Linda Pershin Raynor made reading aloud come to life! Read-alouds are powerful because they serve so many instructional purposes—to motivate, encourage, excite, develop comprehension, assist children in making connections, and serve as a model of what fluent reading sounds like. Exciting read-alouds, as Linda gave us today, help children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about.

On Tuesday, volunteers from Target Reads! visited each classroom. Books were read during story-time, snack-time, and even during lunch.

Language, literacy, and communication is an important part of our preschooler’s day, every day. Children also experienced interactive felt board stories, letters in the sensory bin, mailing stories to friends in the classroom, and tons of Dr. Seuss themed activities.

Parents can continue to support literacy at home by reading at least 20 minutes a day, talk daily about home and school, singing and dancing, and putting on plays!

A free service available to parents to support literacy at home is TALK, Text to Learn for Kindergarten. TALK sends biweekly text messages suggesting activities
that parents and caregivers can easily incorporate into daily interactions with their children. The service also notifies parents of free educational activities in their area. TALK is available to parents and caregivers of children ages 5 and under across Washtenaw County. Parents can sign up by texting TALK to 77453 or visiting www.texttolearn.com.

With the assurance that your preschooler is on the road to reading, here is to embracing March is National Reading Month and building on these important foundational skills beyond March 31st.

Family Wellness

Family Wellness is very important to us at Foundations Preschool. In addition to our food program, we also include food exploration, gardening, physical fitness and other wellness activities in to our daily curriculum. To support family wellness, we will be sharing  ideas each month on our blog and through a newsletter to families. This month we are featuring quick, affordable, easy homemade dinners and some indoor activities to keep everyone moving during these COLD days.  We hope you enjoy!

Quick, Delicious Dinners for under $5
(that even picky eaters will enjoy!)

Easy Ravioli Bake
1 jar Favorite Pasta Sauce
1 package frozen ravioli (Meijer or Aldi brands are both good)
2 cups shredded cheese (mozzarella usually, but any cheese will do!)

Spread 3/4 cup of the pasta sauce in baking dish. Arrange half of the frozen ravioli in single layer over sauce; top with half of the remaining pasta sauce and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers once, starting with ravioli. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered 15 to 20 minutes longer or until bubbly and hot in center. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

This is a great meal to precook, and heat up for later. It also works  in a slow-cooker with a timer; dump every thing in before you leave for work and set it for 4 hours on low.  If you have more time, brown some beef or sausage and mix that in too.  Serve with cut up vegetables and fruit for a well-balanced meal.

Taco Sloppy Joes
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 packet taco seasoning
1 cup chunky salsa 1/4-1/2 cup water
Buns, for Serving
(use hot dog buns to control the mess and for fun!)

Brown ground beef, chopped onion, and any other veggie add-ins in a large skillet over medium high heat. Drain grease and add the taco seasoning and salsa.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 5 more minutes until mixture has thickened and is heated through. Add up to 1/2 cup of water to achieve desired consistency. Serve over hamburgers buns or in hot dog buns and add desired toppings such as shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, avocado, guacamole, or sour cream. Serve with a Fruit Salad .

You can even sneak veggies and/or beans in to the sauce (peppers and black beans) if you wish!

Indoor Activities with Balloons

Winter is at its deepest and keeping preschoolers active inside can be a challenge!!

Balloon Games, They never fail. They always make a fun activity with minimum preparation. Here are a few favorites to burn off energy and have fun! 

Balloon Hockey
Balloons from the dollar store
A long cardboard tube for each child playing; the one shown is from wrapping paper
A piece of cardboard for each tube that is approximately
8 by 6 inches, or however big you think it needs to be
Tape – packing tape is shown
Large boxes, baskets, or anything that will act as the goal(s)

To make the hockey stick, cut two slits, approximately 3 inches long, down the sides of the paper tube. Slide the piece of cardboard in to the slit. Put a couple of strips of packing tape along the bottom of the cardboard to make it a bit more sturdy. Use a goal or two depending on how many are playing.

Play keep it up
This one is a classic – but it’s a classic for a reason.  It is wonderful fun and full of exercise and hand-eye-coordination too.  Pop  the balloon into the air and run around trying to keep it from touching the ground.  Add music in for even more fun!

Balloon Tennis
Use plastic spoons , paint stirrers, or large popsicle sticks and use painter’s
tape to attach to paper plates. The game is simple. Hit the ball back and forth. Make up your own rules as you go. You can also use these
to play keep it up.

Balloon Speed Bag
Tie a string on the balloon and hang it from the ceiling.  Tie it high and they jump to hit it. Lower it to head level, and have them bump it off their heads or use it as a speed bag. Lower the balloon to waist level and have the kids practice kicking it. 

The Importance of Bedtime

For toddlers and preschoolers, bedtime is often the most challenging part of the day. It means another transition and separation from parents, at the same time everyone in the household is frazzled! Setting up a calm, loving, and predictable bedtime routine is one of the best ways to make sure that your child (and you) gets enough sleep.

The benefits of adequate sleep for children are many. Well-rested kids:

  • Go to sleep faster-An overtired child can be an overactive child due to increased cortisol levels. Sleep begets sleep.
  • Behave better-Sleep deprived children are more likely to have intense temper tantrums and have difficulty getting along with peers.
  • Have increased attention and learning-One study showed that 2/3 of kids deprived of sleep met the clinical diagnosis for ADHD. If being deprived of sleep leads to a drop in attention, children may miss out on learning and on opportunities to be creative. And if they are easily irritated and frustrated because their bodies and brains are tired, they may not learn as much either.

Adding or changing a bedtime routine can be hard, but involving your child in the process can make it go more smoothly. Nancy Buck, a developmental psychologist, suggests finding a relaxed time, such as Saturday morning, to talk about upcoming changes in a non-blaming way. For example, “Bedtime is consistently unpleasant and seems to regularly turn into an argument. Let’s see if we can create a plan to solve this ongoing problem.”

This gives your child an opportunity to choose quiet activities they would enjoy to wind down, whether it be stories or coloring or a bath every night. Once the ideal bedtime routine is in place, be consistent but somewhat flexible; if one night your child would like a puzzle before bed then change it up! As long as the essential elements of a bedtime routine stay in place, children are more likely to get adequate sleep.

Many Families Use Checklists

The following illustrates some steps in beneficial routines. Yours can be anything that works for you and your child:

  • Leave at least an hour for quiet-play and the bedtime routine. Roughhousing, running, playing tickling games, and even watching TV shows or videos make peaceful transition to sleep especially difficult.
  • Offer a small low-sugar protein snack one hour before bed such as turkey and cheese or plain yogurt with berries. The protein really does help your child fall asleep and stay asleep!
  • Turn down the heat and lights to promote relaxation, maybe even play soft music.
  • Use the bathroom, brush teeth, and change in to PJs while singing songs or talking about your day.
  • Read stories, listen to an audiobook or a sleep story-together. When parents are emotionally available at night their child will feel more secure and go to sleep easier and faster.

What works for your family? Share in the Comments!

References:

  1. Wendy A Hall, Elizabeth Nethery. What does Sleep Hygiene have to offer Children’s Sleep Problems? Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.prrv.2018.10.005
  2. Impact of Sleep Extension and Restriction on Children’s Emotional Lability and Impulsivity; Reut Gruber, Jamie Cassoff, Sonia Frenette, Sabrina Wiebe, Julie Carrier
  3. Dr. Laura Markham, The Importance of Bedtime Routines
  4. How to Develop a Bedtime Routine, Parents Magazine Online
  5. West, Kim (2009) The Sleep Lady®’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy