When will they Go?

Have you been listening to friends and family gently chide you for your child’s carefree attitude toward using his diaper? Are you becoming concerned that your  family is the only one left who is still buying diapers or Pull- Ups? Rest assured that toilet learning is a process, and a significantly long process at that.
Harley Hopkins Family Center is offering an evening seminar on February 24th to discuss just how to approach the bathroom basics. The parent educator, Denise Konen, will discuss the significant role that a child’s language, motor and emotional development plays in establishing readiness to learn. She will provide information on the readiness signs to look for; spotting these signs will help you be more confident in your approach to toilet learning. In addition, she will provide the steps to take to encourage your child to use the bathroom, while respecting his right to take charge of the process himself.

Space is limited for our evening seminars, so call our office to sign up at your earliest convenience. You can register by calling 952.988.5000.  Please note that childcare is provided.

That Button in the Top Right Corner…

One of the experiences that parents enjoy in our Hopkins ECFE classes is the feeling that they are not alone.  Each group of parents understands the trials and joys of raising a child of a certain age, because they are all going through it together. Parents don’t have to be from the same neighborhood, or have the same strategies for dealing with parenting issues.  They don’t have to be friends before the semester begins, or even see each other outside of our early childhood center.  When one parent sits down at a table and explains the difficulty of dealing with her two-year-old’s tantrum in the local grocery store, all the parents in the room start to nod and sigh together and say “We are so sorry that it happened to you, but so happy that it is not just me that is going through that exact same thing!”  Caring and sharing about children in an ECFE class brings people together to find common ground and from that, friendships. The friendships that form create the community within which our children grow and flourish.

Another way that parents feel supported is the “we’re all in this together” attitude of the parent classroom.  When a parent, maybe sheepishly, brings up a question that she is sure she is the only one wondering about, the whole group works together to discuss different angles of that question, find multiple solutions, and gain insight and information from the parent educator.  The truth is, that very same question was often also on the mind of other parents in the room.  Not only do parents get to discuss opinions and strategies, but the research-based feedback by the parent educator provides everyone at the table with further information with which to make their own decisions about how to parent.

The Hopkins ECFE staff enjoys the chance to lend a listening ear, information and resources during our classes.  We as a group have also greatly enjoyed the chance to offer our insights about areas of concern for parents through this blog.  We have often based our posts on discussions from classrooms, creating concise articles so that others who may not yet be enrolled in a class could also benefit from the information. The Hopkins staff is invested in answering your questions, the questions of the reader.  Therefore we have provided an easy-access, one-click option for parents who would like  feedback on a specific child-raising issue or concern.

If you have a question for our early childhood staff, remember that others who are reading this blog likely have the same question.  We invite you to click on the “Questions For Our Parent Educators” button and send us an email.  Rest assured, we will not connect your name to the question you ask.  We will simply use your question as a starter for one of our round-table discussions–which is how we begin the process of creating our posts. Once our post is published and you have the information you were looking for, you will also have helped any number of families deal with exactly the same thing.  You can almost hear the collective sigh now: “I am so happy to know I am not the only person wondering about how to deal with that issue!”

Coming soon – Preschool Registration

Every year I am surprised by how quickly it is time to plan for a new school year.  As the children, parents and staff finally have had enough time to develop into a classroom community, we challenge families to think about planning for their next school experience months in advance.  How many days a week will be best?  Which days?  Will mornings or afternoons work for our family?

Registration for three of Hopkins early childhood programs are fast approaching. The full day, full week year before kindergarten program, Stepping Stones, will begin with a  lottery for Hopkins School District residents and currently open-enrolled families.  This lottery will occur at noon on Friday, February 11.  The remaining openings are filled on a first come, first served basis beginning February 14.

This year, with the addition of a new location developed to serve the western most portion of our school district, the part-day, part-week program for 3 to 5 year olds, Kaleidoscope Preschool, begins their registration by allowing families whose attendance area is Glen Lake to register first for the new classes at the same time that families in our current classes can re-register for the new school year.  Priority for the Glen Lake classes will go to Glen Lake residents and currently open-enrolled Glen Lake families.  Applications should be in the Harley Hopkins office by noon on February 25.   All other families may turn in their registrations by noon on March 11 to be the new family lottery.

Planning for summer too?  Kaleidoscope Preschool Summer Adventures offers classes for children 3 to 5 years and runs two half-days a week for six weeks from June 6 to July 14.  The registration lottery will be held on Friday, April 8 at noon.

All programs continue to accept registrations throughout the year for any available opening.

Need more specific information about the early childhood programs?  Click on the program name to access program and registration information or call us at 952.988.5000.

Playful Ideas for Families

The month of February is cold and snowy.  It is the shortest month of the year. The groundhog has already left his underground burrow, looked for his shadow and promised either a shorter or longer winter. However, by this time in Minnesota we have dealt with months of mittens, snowpants, darkness by late afternoon and consistently runny noses.  Parents of young children by February are justifiably fed up with their cabin fever.

The parents in the Hopkins ECFE classes have been discussing the difficulties around keeping their children’s energy channeled into constructive play.  This gets so much more difficult as the weeks melt into each other (and the snow refuses to melt–just keeps piling up) and the same activities that started out so exciting during the first part of winter become more hum drum.

Young children are constantly interested in engaging with the people they love most.  Their play is their best way to develop an understanding of the world around them. Children often want us to play with them, set up games for them, act out stories with them, read books to them and pay attention to them as much as possible. As the snowy months keep us house-bound it is tempting to find more passive ways to entertain our children.  High quality screen time, carefully scheduled throughout the day and offered under clearly defined limits can often help parents find a moment of peace during the long hours.

However, it is important to remember that both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have strongly recommended that children under the age of two watch no television and experience no screen time. They recommend children aged three and older experience only 1-2 hours of screen time a day. (Screen time includes television, computer, i-pad, computer games and etc.)

These recommendations make sense to us as parents, we understand that children learn more when they are directly involved with a real person.  We know that children learn best when they are engaging their senses and whole body fully. We know that children learn through imitation and we are often much more comfortable with what we model than what the television models.  But that does not change the fact that in the middle of February we as parents are just completely, absolutely, undeniably and frustratingly out of creative ideas.  So what to do?

As the parents in our ECFE classes discussed the winter hum-drums, they also worked together to come up with creative ideas they can use and wanted to share:

  • Big cardboard boxes with crayons
  • Long sheet of paper with crayons
  • Make your own sensory table/bin – big plastic storage bin from target filled with snow, beans, cornstarch etc.  Just like ECFE.  Put storage bin on plastic table cloth on floor.
  • Dress up in Mom/dad clothes
  • Grocery list treasure hunt – Do we have milk?  sugar? mustard?
  • Create an obstacle course of pillows, blankets, chairs and etc.
  • Make a fort out of blankets and chairs or a table.
  • Have an indoor picnic–have lunch on a blanket in the living room

These ideas may provide the opportunity for you and your children to have some wonderful afternoons of cozy family play. But what if you are looking for even more?  The Lexington Health Department in Kentucky has provided an activity list entitled 101 Things to Do Instead of Watch Television.  Some of these ideas appeal to older children, but most ideas could be modified to work for younger children. Some of these ideas are also designed for play during the rest of the year–so be sure to have this list handy throughout all four of the seasons.

Don’t forget that Harley Family Center offers great opportunities for indoor play. You are welcome to register for Saturday Open Gyms as well as Thursday and Friday Stay and Plays by calling 952-988-5000. These classroom experiences offer time to play together as a family in a room filled with toys–and a motor room designed to run, jump, climb and throw balls in! In addition, our Toy Lending Closet provides toys to families for a two week loan period. Parents can bring play things into their house without the expense of having a new toy, and just when the kids are tiring of it, parents can bring it back for something else new and exciting.

We are interested in hearing your creative ideas to keep children engaged and active during the cold months. If you have an idea to share, leave a comment and tell others about how you are getting through these last winter weeks with play-based ideas. Log in and leave a comment on the blog.  Our parent body is so ingenious and creative I am sure we could come up with an activity-a-day for the next 6 weeks of winter!

Interested in learning more about why play is important in the life of the child? The American Academy of Pediatrics has offered an article (through their web site Healthy Children) discussing the value of play in helping a child learn about the world around him. The AAP has also discussed the limit setting practices of parents and its effectiveness in setting up clear expectations around TV watching for children.

We hope that as the sun shines longer and longer during the day, we can find more and more signs that spring is coming soon.  If we know it is coming, we can focus  on enjoying these last days of winter.