The Straight Skinny on Successful Drop-off – All You Need To Know

Michael Reisman, M.Ed.
Director, HCYMCA Early Childhood Education

BacktoSchool.jpg

And just like that September is upon us.  Summer is waning and school is beginning.  With that come the new schools, new classrooms, new teachers, new grades, new backpacks/lunchboxes and new schedules.  Maybe you are reading this as the parent of a seasoned Kindergartener or elementary schooler.  Maybe you are a first time parent dropping your baby off at the HCYMCA Child Learning Center for the first time.  Likely you are somewhere in between, and your family is adjusting to the annual round of NEW.  It can be overwhelming and challenging at drop-off time, especially if you are unprepared or unsuspecting of the challenge of separation at the classroom door.  At the Hunterdon County YMCA Child Learning Center and Milford Preschool, we pride ourselves in our pursuit of child understanding during challenging times.  We are ready and equipped to help you and your child successfully maneuver into each day with a healthy, predictable routine.  Here are some valuable points of advice to consider as you wade through the waters:

·      Create a night time and morning routine all about “getting ready” for school.  Talk about the fun stuff they are “gonna get to do at school!”  Play, friends, snack, stories and lunch are reliable key words to work into the conversation.  Read stories at bedtime that acknowledge the questions of the first day of school.  Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Misses Mama  and Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand  help ease the transition and normalize the process of separation.

·      Develop a Goodbye Ritual for the preschool/childcare drop-off mornings.  This ritual should begin at the home, maybe with breakfast, and, for older preschoolers, include empowering responsibilities like putting the lunchbox in the backpack and setting it by the door.  Feeding the dog/cat/iguana (if applicable) or watering the house plants are also examples of feel-good jobs that children can do.  Empowering and entrusting builds confidence, which is what you want your child to have to successfully drop-off.  Make sure your ritual carries you through the separation.  Secret handshakes, high-fives and hug/kiss routines work great.  Say goodbye, and “I will see you when…” so the last thing they hear from you is your plan to return.  Don’t sneak out when they turn their heads.  Being sneaky teaches sneaky and betrays the trust you are trying to build.

·      No matter what age your child once you say goodbye, go.  Don’t look back, linger, or try to sneak peeks.  This potentially adds insult to injury when you are trying to get out the door.  Productive options include crying in the admin office, crying in your car, requesting a supportive escort out of the building, requesting email photos and phone calls to let you know your little one is adjusting.  At the HCYMCA preschools you are welcome to call and check up on your child whenever you’d like.  We are always happy to check on them.

·      Acknowledge your feelings of apprehension or anxiety as your own, distinct from your child.  He or she will pick up on those feelings and translate them as information to heed.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, guilty or nervous about your child’s drop-off, you are welcome to talk those feelings out with school leadership.  But when you are with your child, especially during separation, you must exude confidence and positivity.  You chose your preschool center for a number of reasons, and you must remember and rely on those reasons to push you through the separation in a manner that gives your child the best opportunity to be successful.  Feel your fears, acknowledge theirs, but don’t make yours theirs.

·      Please allow your child to cry when they are upset.  As a parent, I understand how heartbreaking (or sometimes even embarrassing) it can be seeing your child really let it out at drop-off.  But saying, “Stop crying,” “Don’t cry,” or “You are fine/okay.  You don’t need to cry,” shows disregard for their very legitimate feelings.  It also shames them, which is counter to what you are trying to accomplish when you order them not to cry.  Transitions and changes are hard for children, but they are essential learning experiences, and crying is a healthy expression of attachment to you.  Why would you every want to undermine that?  You can simply say, “I am sorry you are so sad.  I love you and will be back at the end of the day.”  Then turn and go.  Your child’s teachers are experienced, educated caregivers who know how to help children cope with goodbye.

And on that note, here’s legendary New York Giant, Rosy Grier to back me up 

Congratulations on making it through another summer.
Michael Reisman

Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  mreisman@hcymca.org  908-483-4623

For information regarding Round Valley Child Learning Center Programs call 908-236-0055, ext. 4605.  For the YMCA Milford Preschool, 908-995-8107

The Children of Summer

Michael Reisman, M.Ed.
Director, HCYMCA Early Childhood Education

As we creep up on the front door of July, many families are beginning to adjust to new routines and breaks in old routines.  Some manifest in weeks away, time at camp, weekends down the shore, or active days at home with mom or dad.  Whatever your summer plan, the HCYMCA early childhood leaders urge all to keep summer safety close in mind: safe sun and water education.

At our HCYMCA Early Childhood Camps (and all other HCYMCA summer programs) we require parents and guardians to provide sunscreen from home as well as written permission for teachers and counselors to help children apply it.  We erect shade tents and pop-ups in our outdoor play areas in addition to offering water play for fun cooling off.   The World Health Organization provides a concise page of sun protection tips at this link: http://www.who.int/uv/sun_protection/en/.

Whether you are at the beach on LBI or visiting your local swimming hole, families need to be aware of children in the water at all times.  The values to set for your family are to keep eyes on the water, swim where there are lifeguards, and learn to swim.  What better place to do that than the Y?  That’s why the HCY Child Learning Center encourages all its Pre-Kampers to sign up for weekly swim lessons as part of Pre-Kamp enrollment.  Learning to swim significantly decreases the likelihood of drowning.  If you are reading this, you are on the HCYMCA web-page, where you can find lots of information on our instructional swim programs and their importance to water health and safety - Learn More

Finally, take advantage of what nature has to offer this time of year, and provide opportunities for your children to explore gardens, meadows, woods, tide pools, sea life and wildlife (safe wildlife).  Our world is chock full of authentic learning opportunities that your child will never, ever forget.  I am inspired by the late Rachel Carson, who wrote:

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement…A lizard beguiles endlessly...In the sand dwell secret things like ghost crabs, which live in little pits at the edge of the sea…Up on the sand dunes, stinging hot, it seems like the very edge of the world…The quiet woods path, carpeted in silvery green, feels deep and springy on a rainy day.”

In her piece Help Your Child to Wonder (Companion, July, 1956), Rachel Carson, famous for her environmental treatise Silent Spring, wrote about her experiences exploring nature on the coast of Maine with her four-year-old nephew Roger.  Through his senses, she rediscovers the wonders of nature.  Through her companionship on their journeys, he learns the natural science of plants and shallow sea life.  I encourage you to check it out here: https://training.fws.gov/history/Documents/carsonwonder.pdf

I am reminded of my very favorite NJ summertime activity: sunrise on the beach.  Maybe this year will be the year I bring my young family.  See you in September!

Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  mreisman@hcymca.org  908-483-4623

For information regarding Round Valley Child Learning Center Programs call 908-236-0055, ext. 4605.  For the YMCA Milford Preschool, 908-995-8107

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Michael Reisman, M.Ed.
Director, HCYMCA Early Childhood Education

Today, April 28, marks the final day of a week of action the Hunterdon County YMCA has been involved in, supporting Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month.  Coincidentally, this week has also been the Week of the Young Child.  Preschools and early learning centers across the US have drawn attention to the work, creativity and importance of young children, not only personally to our lives, but socially and economically to the future of society and democracy.

What does that mean in terms of our daily lives and interactions with children?  Certainly you understand the permanent and devastating effect physical, sexual and emotional abuse has on a human being.  The fact that these crimes have a ripple effect, reaching the whole of our society is not news to you.  It is the obligation of every early childhood professional to understand and address the warning signs of such abuse. But it is also our obligation to go above and beyond and to model and demonstrate that children are human beings, with a set of automatic, inalienable rights distinct to them, the most vulnerable members of our society.

We are the Hunterdon County YMCA Early Childhood Community, part of the greater YMCA Community, in Hunterdon County and elsewhere.  We are also part of an international early childhood community.  We are concerned about preventing abuse.  We are committed to fulfilling the basic health and safety needs of all children in and out of our care (as mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect).  But that is merely where our work begins, quite far from where it ends. 

In 1990, the United Nations authored the Convention for the Rights of the Child, with the goal of creating “a legally-binding international agreement setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities.”  It is a thorough document that I invite you to peruse here (OHCRC).  Countries and organizations all over the world have ratified this agreement*, which goes far beyond the basic physical, health and safety needs of the children in our care.  Check it out.  It covers abuse, neglect, trafficking, rights to parenthood AND due process.

I call your attention to Article 13, which speaks to a very particular human right:

The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.

Could our work be any more open-ended?  The list of possibilities that comes to mind is literally endless and certainly includes drawing, painting, singing, dancing, talking, hugging and experimenting.  But what about:

·       Crying during rest time

·       Standing up and walking around during circle time

·       Mixing all the paint colors to make brown every time

·       Applying said paint to one’s face

·       Putting math center toys in the sand/water table

I site these “alternative” examples because many folks in the field (and in the home) are fully supportive of children’s choices until they push back against the adult agenda.  And, speaking generally of course, this agenda grows out of societal pressure to “prepare” children for the academic and institutional challenges to come.  Who can blame teachers and parents for wanting their children to get ahead or go one step beyond what is considered developmentally appropriate for their age?  As the parent of a first grade boy, I can totally relate.  I want him to succeed now, and later.  But as an early childhood leader I must control that emotional impulse.  He is six years old, still couched in the early childhood years.  He still has the right to his childhood. 

At work I must encourage our teachers to find the healthy balance between the needs of the group, the desires of parents, and the rights of the child; and to error towards the rights of the child. Early childhood is the time for curiosity, exploration, trial-and-error and cause-and-effect.  The early childhood classroom is the haven for this, especially designed for this, and without it we would not be able to attain scientific method, discovery, critical thinking and math, respectively.  Can you envision how the former list informs the latter?  It is the same as crawling leads to standing leads to waking.

So as we embark on the very merry month of May, the early childhood professionals who work at the HCYMCA Child Learning Center and Milford YMCA Preschool will continue to diligently attend potential warning signs of abuse among the children in our care.  But that is only the base line, for we see ourselves as fulfillers of the mandate to ensure that children have a safe and loving place to explore and discover their world, each other and themselves.

*Three countries in the world have yet to ratify the UN convention:  Somalia, South Sudan and the United States.  For more information on that, click here.

Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  mreisman@hcymca.org  908-483-4623

For information regarding Round Valley Child Learning Center Programs call 908-236-0055, ext. 4605.  For the YMCA Milford Preschool, 908-995-8107

The Power of Reflection in the Early Childhood Classroom

A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience.
Jack Mezirow

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.
Mark Van Doren

Educational research has long supported the use of intentional reflective activities and practices in school-age classrooms to best support the internalization of new skills and information by students.  It is easy to imagine the middle or high school classroom discussing books and articles in order to harness critical thinking for the purposes of deeper meaning and understanding of themes.  But how can we accomplish similar goals with our youngest students?  In the early childhood classroom children are not quite reading.  Some are not yet talking!  How can we provoke the reflective learning process with these young students?

The answer is simple and I bet, as a parent or adult close to the life of a child, you already do it.  What happens when the young children in your life see photos of themselves and people they know?  Quite simply, most young children, even infants, engage.  And so do you, right?  Let’s face it, even as adults, we secretly love seeing ourselves in photographs.  Take one look at your social media pages and you will see for yourself how much you and your friends “like” pictures of each other.  As a matter of fact, next time you peruse these images, as you are thumbing by and pause to examine one, take a moment to reflect on your own thought process.  Are you remembering an event?  An emotion?  Does the photo trigger a memory assumedly unrelated? 

Children experience a similar reflective process when they see photos of themselves and each other.  When the photos are from school activities, such as construction in the block area, shapes at the math table, or a field trip, memories of these events are triggered, including memories of learning content.  Because memory is personal and involves known players (friends), critical reflection is activated. This allows the child to form a meaningful relationship with the learning content depicted in photographs.

In the Child Learning Center classrooms at the Round Valley Branch of the Hunterdon County YMCA, we are intentionally engaging the reflective process. Child-safe display boards have recently been mounted at child’s eye level in the classrooms.  Teachers can capture photographs of children in learning action and print them in color on site.  These photos are then mounted around the classroom on the display boards.  The boards are strategically located near the learning centers where children do their work.  Therefore, the photos mounted on the boards reflect the work happening in the immediate environment, reinforcing the learning experience for even the youngest child.

Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  mreisman@hcymca.org  908-483-4623

For information regarding Round Valley Child Learning Center Programs call 908-236-0055, ext. 4605. 
For the YMCA Milford Preschool, 908-995-8107

March is Read Across America Month

"Reading to your kids may help keep them from throwing fits," writes Jenny Merkin (Psychology Today; February, 2011). "In a study, researchers measured toddlers’ spoken vocabulary and self-regulation, or ability to control behavior and emotions. They found that vocabulary at 24 months serves as a very strong predictor of self-regulation at the three-year mark, especially for boys.

"Researchers…suspect that when kids can voice their thoughts, they take charge of their situation instead of growing frustrated. Kids may use words as mental tools to figure things out or to calm themselves down.”

"Boys probably benefit more because they are extra-vulnerable to self-control problems to begin with; the boost from thinking and communicating is especially dramatic."

Well, isn’t this the greatest three paragraphs you’ve ever laid eyes on!?  Dispensing with temper tantrums is as easy as 1-2-Read!

It proves what early childhood experts have been saying and writing for years:  What’s good for kids is good for everyone, including moms and dads.  March is Read Across America Month. At the YMCA Milford Preschool and Round Valley Child Learning Center we are always reading and encouraging literacy activities, and we have exciting plans for the entire month of March! 

Throughout the month of March, if you view the HCYMCA’s new Early Childhood Education Facebook page, you will see lots of photos and descriptions of the Round Valley Child Learning Center and YMCA Milford Preschool students busy with books!  If you have a child enrolled at one of our schools, or are a member of the community who enjoys reading at home, send me a photo of you and your child sharing in the joy of books or post it to our timeline! 

Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  mreisman@hcymca.org  908-483-4623

For information regarding Round Valley Child Learning Center Programs call 908-236-0055, ext. 4605.  For the YMCA Milford Preschool, 908-995-8107

Welcome to the new Hunterdon County YMCA Early Childhood Education Corner!

My name is Michael Reisman, and I am proud to commit my early childhood leadership service to the Hunterdon County Y.  I will be using this “blog” format to share useful information about our programs, curriculum, child development and helpful tips for parenting.  As an early childhood professional and parent of a six-year-old boy, I have experienced where the knowledge overlaps, and where it does not.  I have found that embracing multiple perspectives on both roles makes for a rich understanding of the science and values.

Originally from New Jersey, I studied Philosophy and Journalism at Rutgers University. After graduating, I moved to the Pacific Northwest where I discovered early childhood education while working for Head Start as a substitute teacher’s assistant.  In 2005 I took my first full time teaching position at Small Faces Child Development Center in Seattle where I taught Pre-Kindergarten for five years. 

During that time I returned to school to learn the skills and practices of the early childhood teacher. I attended North Seattle Community College under the mentorship of Tom Drummond (ret.), and went on to the University of Washington (Seattle) where in 2011 I earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Educational Psychology and Early Childhood/Family Studies.  I directed a small private early learning center in Seattle for two years before I moved back to New Jersey in 2012 with my wife, Laura, and our son Holden.  Since returning to New Jersey I have served as Director of the Early Childhood Services Department for the JCC in West Orange, as well as Director of Operations for a private childcare organization with six schools throughout Northern New Jersey and New York State.

I’ve always wanted to work in a Y-based early childhood education program.  When the position in Hunterdon County opened up I jumped at the chance.  Values-based early childhood programs make for better quality experiences for young children and their families.

A career focus of my own has always been “Making Learning Visible.”  From the walls of our classrooms to social media, strong early childhood programs communicate the curriculum-in-action and accomplishments via photographic documentation of children at work.  Since the work of children is “play,” it is very important for early childhood professionals to demonstrate how learning takes place during this work.  When our community can see this work plainly, and share it throughout, we begin to speak a common language about early learning and child development, better preparing everyone for what the future holds for our children.  This blog will serve as only one place where we shall be making learning visible.

I am here a month now, continuing to learn about our co-workers, children and families.  Developing new collegial partnerships with Karin Smith, Director of the Child Learning Center, and Sharon Klamik, Director of the Milford Preschool has instilled in me confidence in our school leadership.  Staff at both sites are focused on child health, safety and learning. 

The YMCA has a strong history of providing quality child care and preschool for over 40 years in Hunterdon County. The YMCA Child Learning Center offers full day child care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers at the Round Valley Branch located at 1410 Route 22 West in Annandale. The Center provides a framework for individual and group learning experiences encouraging children to grow and develop at their own pace.  The Milford YMCA Preschool offers half-day preschool at the Milford Presbyterian Church, offering well-planned, learning rich experiences for your young child in a supportive and nurturing environment. 

Talk soon.
Michael Reisman

 

 


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