Strengthening Families – A Strengths-Based Approach to Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

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

April is Child Abuse Prevention & Awareness month. At YMCAs across the country, April 16-20 will mark the annual Five Days of Action to call attention to child sexual abuse and its ongoing prevention.  As a central participant to this work, the early childhood programs of the Y plan to share a variety of resources and information on the topic.  We will have tips for parents, a social media campaign acknowledging action, and we will also be sharing with the community some of the unique organizational policies in place at the Y to make sure we do all we can to prevent all forms of abuse in our centers and schools.

That is why I thought the timing to be perfect to introduce what I believe will be a recurring theme in my early childhood blog – the strengths-based approach.  Be it a strengths-based approach to developing leadership at the office, or a strengths-based approach to child-learning, the research supporting growth and development in human capacity via positives (strengths) rather than negatives (deficits) is mounting.  In this article I will touch on the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework, a strengths-based approach to supporting families in the community.

Strengthening Families™ is a research-based program developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy for the purpose of building upon family strengths to further child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.  The Milford YMCA Preschool and HCYMCA Child Learning Center have been involved in Strengthening Families™ through our enrollment in the Grow NJ Kids Quality Ratings Program, facilitated by the professionals at NORWESCAP in Flemington.  As a result, in addition to our Y training as cause-driven leaders, we are trained to bring the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors into our work with families on a daily basis.


In terms of the prevention of child abuse and neglect, Strengthening Families™ takes the unique approach that there are conditions within our power as parents and early childhood educators that can be affected to reverse possible paths that lead to abuse.  One of those conditions is stress.  When parents/primary caregivers are under challenging amounts of stress, the likelihood increases that the developmental, nutritional or even health/safety needs of the child(ren) could fall by the wayside, or even go unaddressed completely for periods of time.  When childcare agencies such as the HCYMCA Child Learning Center are attuned to the needs and immediate circumstances of our enrolled families, we are able to pick up on the conditions that make them vulnerable, and provide added support.  This may come in the form of a referral for a child development evaluation, additional childcare scholarship opportunities, or community resources to families who may not know what additional support is out there.  But most importantly, we are trained to listen and work with families based on what they already do well.  Just as we work with children based on where they are “at” developmentally, we work with whole families from the perspective of prior successes.  What is already working at home?  Who makes up your support system?  What have you already accomplished?  It is more than being empathetic, it is about reflecting opportunity and possibility back to someone who may be forgetting that he or she is, at core, a great parent and person.  In other words, as a strengths-based initiative, Strengthening Families™ is intended to, rather than fill deficient gaps, provide support so you, as a parent, can continue to do what you do well, and continue to better yourself and your family.

 As a Strengthening Families™ program, our Milford YMCA Preschool and HCYMCA Child Learning Center are partners in establishing what are called the Protective Factors:

·       Parental Resilience – ability to manage adversity/unexpected challenge or trauma

·       Social Connections – positive relationships

·       Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development – understanding of strategies that support appropriate physical, cognitive, language, social, and emotional development

·       Concrete Support in Times of Need – access to concrete (actual) resources and services that address needs in order to minimize stress

·       Social and Emotional Competence of Children – interactions between adults and children that help children develop clear communication, emotional recognition, and positive relationships

As the foundation for the local, state-wide and national Strengthening Families™ initiative, these Protective Factors are a framework for change to allow children to be safe and thrive.  For more information please visit the following sites, which served as a resource for this article, or come chat with us in our offices at our schools.  Karin Smith, Sharon Klamik and I are always ready to sit down and listen.


Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  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 Truth About Why Kids Lie

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

I’d like to share a story from my past that has changed the way I look at children. The names have been changed. 

Ashley and Michelle were close four-year-old friends, both in and out of preschool.  For a time, their moms were friends as well.  One day, Ashley’s mom called quite upset, saying Ashley had reported that Michelle was being mean. Obviously I was as concerned as Ashley’s mom, and assured her I’d look into it. I immediately asked the classroom teacher for her perspective.  The teacher had not noticed any problems, and in fact, stated that the girls played together quite often. She also offered to pay close attention going forward in case the issue began to present itself.  When I relayed the teacher’s response to Ashley’s mom, she was skeptical, warning that if Ashley continued to come home reporting her friend’s mean behavior, she would be calling again to “have you move her to a different class.”

I also asked the teacher to photograph the girls at play throughout the day, writing down what they said to each other.  Four-year-old children LOVE dramatic play, specifically domestic role-playing, and these two were no exception.  Sometimes in play scenarios, children take the opportunity to experiment with power.  The appeal of being “mommy” or “daddy” or “policeman/woman,” is to experiment in the role of authority.  They get to be the boss. Sometimes children can go a little too far and be haphazardly unkind during this play. I wanted the teacher to specifically watch for that behavior and document what she observed. 

Curiously, she did not observe any of this behavior. The girls were getting along amicably; not quite besties, but not mean or hurtful. However, a few days later Ashley’s mom reported another incident and now accused Michelle of “bullying”.  I explained what the teacher reported, and that she had provided documentation showing the girls playing and getting along.  Ashley’s mom was outraged, “Are you calling my daughter a liar, Michael?  Are you saying that when she comes home from school crying that Michelle is mean to her and she does not want to go to school, that my four-year old is lying to me?”

I felt caught between a rock and a hard place and I ultimately acquiesced, moving Ashley to another classroom.  As I said, this was some years ago, and I know better now.  While that move solved the immediate problem, it also created a list of unintended consequences that lingered for months.

As I continued to inquire into the stories and the relationships, I learned that Ashley’s mom and Michelle’s mom had a falling out prior to the children’s issues. As a result, the relationship between the two girls was a hot button for Ashley’s mom. For all intents and purposes, Ashley WAS lying, but not to hurt her friend and not because she was a “bad” child. 

When Ashley came home and said Michelle was being mean, and because her mom had a strained relationship with Michelle’s mom, Ashley’s mom demonstrably reacted and Ashley had her full attention. Ashley quickly learned that “If I say this about Michelle, mom will pay LOTS of attention to me.”  For young children, the number one priority is parental attention.  For busy families, that comes at a premium.  We’re all busy, and it’s easy to forget how important our attention is to our children. As parents, we need to be mindful of the simple fact that our children want our attention, one on one, no matter what. 

Children will experiment with power, push the envelope, press the boundaries, even tell a lie.  I wish I had understood earlier the reasons behind Ashley’s behavior. Instead of moving her, I could have addressed the real issue. Ashley’s mom was a loving parent and we could’ve worked together to find a resolution that truly met Ashley’s needs. If you have a child at the Hunterdon County YMCA Child Learning Center or Milford Preschool, you can trust your teachers and directors to be honest with you, to help you navigate the oft-troubled waters of modern family life.  Reality is different for everyone, and every life is a challenge.  We want to help you find what’s best for your child and your family.  We are on YOUR team.  Because in the end, we are the YMCA, for healthy living, youth development and social responsibility, above all else. 

Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  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

HCYMCA Child Learning Center’s Annual Open House Celebrates NEW Infant-Waddler Program Innovations with Special Workshop

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

It is during the first five years of a child’s life that he or she will grow and develop most rapidly.  These are the most important five years in every child’s life, and the most vulnerable.  That is why the Hunterdon County YMCA Child Learning Center in Annandale has upgraded, expanded and enriched its Infant-Waddler indoor and outdoor spaces.  In partnership with Grow NJ Kids, the Child Learning Center has expanded the Infant Classroom to include soft, easy-clean flooring, soft blocks, furniture, and cause-effect toys that stimulate cognitive, large and small motor development.  The Tadpoles smartphone app keeps our families connected to the program throughout the day, allowing for morning drop-off notes, real-time photo-sends from the teachers, and end-of-day digital reports summarizing activities, naps, diaper changes and meals.  We also have a space set aside with glider-chairs for parents to spend time with their babies in the classroom, as well as breastfeed on-site whenever they’d like.  Better spaces, better materials, better communication = better care.

To celebrate, on Saturday, January 6th as part of the Hunterdon County YMCA’s Try-The Y Week, the Child Learning Center will host our own Open House and Parenting Workshop.  Jean Jamele, Director of Parenting and Childbirth Education at Hunterdon Medical Center for the past 30 years will lead a discussion from 11am-12pm on Sleep, Separation and Solids (foods). Click here to learn more.

“Since I am passionate about women’s and children’s health, I consider it a blessing to be able to serve the community in this role”, Jean stated. “Parenting is ever-changing, but parenting topics tend to run commonly, such as breastfeeding, sleep health, returning to work, introducing solid foods and toddler eating habits.”  Jean has found that through leading parenting peer-groups to discuss concerns and curiosities, such as the Babysteps program she developed through the Medical Center, villages of support grow around families, and collective parenting wisdom emerges. Jean says, “It is a joy to assist parents as they develop wisdom and their children grow through the phases of development.” 

Jean Jamele.jpg

Jean Jamele, MSN, RN, NE-BC, IBCLC, ICCE specializes in education, with certifications in lactation consultation, childbirth education, and child passenger safety.  She will lead the discussion Sleep, Separation and Solids beginning at 11am on Saturday, January 6 at the Child Learning Center Open House at the Round Valley Branch of the Hunterdon County YMCA.  The Child Learning Center Open House includes tours of the Center and registration/enrollment specials. Arts/crafts activities for all ages will be available in our classrooms stating at 10am.  The event, which is free and open to all,  runs in conjunction with the Open House at the Round Valley Branch of the YMCA, located at 1410 Highway 22 in Annandale.  More information can be found at, or contact the Child Learning Center directly at 908-236-0055 ext. 4605.

Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  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


Inclusion in the Early Childhood Classroom

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

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. – John Lennon


At the YMCA we are about Youth Development®, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.  Each department, together and apart, is charged to bring all three values into our work with youth and adults, children and families.  At the HCYMCA Child Learning Center in Annandale and the YMCA Preschool in Milford, it is easy to locate Healthy Living and Youth Development® anywhere you turn.  We are participants in Healthy U, trained in the Coordinated Approach to Child Health, and we do all we can to provide a healthy amount of playground opportunities and fresh air for all children.  Certainly what is even more obvious: Youth Development.  It is our entire raison d’etre, from curriculum planning through observation and documentation.  But finding Social Responsibility requires a longer look.  Not because it is hard to find, but because not everyone knows what to look for.  Since last year’s annual Tri-State YMCA Social Responsibility Conference, I have been asking myself, where and how are we exercising Social Responsibility in our early childhood classrooms?

This inquiry revealed to me our work and commitment towards Inclusion in our classrooms.  Specifically what we can learn, children and adults alike, from being inclusive and recognizing the individual child’s style, perspective, and yen for learning. 

The Y defines inclusion as, “The full engagement and development of all Y stakeholders (staff, participants, members, policy volunteers, program volunteers, partners, communities, vendors, etc.).”  It’s very clean, I know, and requires some unpacking.  The contemporary interpretation is at least 20 years old, despite some notions that it might be a new or progressive idea.  Colleen Tomko wrote in 1996:

“It is being included in life and participating using one's abilities in day to day activities as a member of the community.  It is being a part of what everyone else is, and being welcomed and embraced as a member who belongs. Inclusion can occur in schools, churches, play- grounds, work and in recreation.”

It’s not about placing the differentiated learners along with the typical developers and praying it goes well.  It is much more work than that, but perfect work for the Y.  Our teachers are actively learning about how to better provide for each individual in every classroom so that all children feel like they belong.  Sometimes that translates into leveling the playing field in the class so that everyone has the opportunity to contribute.  Sometimes it means going further to challenge that one child who seems to be a little further along the developmental curve.  Sometimes it means reminding the parents and guardians in the classroom community that everyone is unique and everyone belongs, even if someone comes across as different or struggles to fit in or make friends. 

The Child Learning Center and Milford YMCA Preschool are committed to these ideals.  We see children as competent and capable as soon as they walk in the door.  Do your Google searches.  You will find that historically, the children who benefit the most from inclusive programs are the typically developing children, especially in the early childhood years while they are growing their capacity for empathy, patience, understanding and problem-solving.  Here are some links you might find helpful:

Happy Halloween!

Michael Reisman, M.Ed. is Director of Early Childhood Education for the Hunterdon County YMCA.  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 Straight Skinny on Successful Drop-off – All You Need To Know

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


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.  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:

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:

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.  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.  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.  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.  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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