New: Expanded-age pilot program at Stepping Stones Preschool

We have some exciting news to share with your family — after demand from our preschool families, we are opening our full-day, year-round Stepping Stones Preschool at Gatewood to children who will turn 4 years old by December 31, 2011 (the usual deadline is 4 years old by September 1). This expanded age-range limit is a 2011-12 pilot program at our Gatewood site in Minnetonka only.

What makes Stepping Stones Preschool exceptional:

  • Our curriculum. Developmentally appropriate, our guided, discovery-based curriculum is inspired by the signature Reggio Emilia Approach. The curriculum adapts to the interests of the children and allows them to plan, think, experiment, evaluate and amend their ideas.
  • The environment. We boast creative, engaging classrooms and nature-orientated playgrounds that encourage exploring and inspire learning.
  • Our well-trained teachers. Not only do all hold a master’s or bachelor’s degree, they have extensive experience in creating nurturing surroundings that kindle curiosity and boost learning.
  • Social and emotional growth. Children make the social, academic, and physical connections to school, while creating long-lasting relationships.

Our unparalleled full-day, year-round preschool is conveniently located at Gatewood Elementary School, 14900 Gatewood Drive, Minnetonka. We’re open 6:45 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Think the expanded age-range program is right for your family?
If your child will turn 4 years old between September 1-December 31, 2011, there is criteria that your child should meet. Begin the registration process by:

  1. Contacting Ginger Ebeling or Coreen Hagon at email or 952-988-5154.
  2. Schedule a site visit.
  3. Complete and return registration packet with deposit.
Limited space available — secure your spot in Stepping Stones Preschool today! We encourage you to visit us, check out our website, or call us to learn why our families consistently rate us as exceeding expectations.

952-988-4080 • www.ChooseSteppingStones.com

Prioritizing Our Priorities

Parents involved in the summer infant class through Hopkins ECFE have enjoyed gathering weekly to talk about all the changes, challenges and joys that babies bring to our life.  The staff at Harley Hopkins Family Center has greatly enjoyed seeing families continue to walk through the halls during these summer months.  The programming has allowed new parents to meet, support and laugh with each other about the all the “new” that comes along with a new baby.

One of the conversations our families had was about finding ways to simplify and prioritize over the first year of baby’s life.  Our conversation was informed by some of the insights of family therapist, educator and researcher Dr. Bill Doherty’s work.  Much of the ideas that parents came up with were based on the simple and important actions they take on a weekly or daily basis to maintain their family as a priority.  One of the ways to do this is to be sure that other important priorities are met: self, partner, household and community.

Read through some of the tips and hints that our summer families created.  Incorporate one or two of the ideas into your own routine, and see how re-focusing on priorities tends to re-focus our life.

Tips for Maintaining Our Priorities During This First Year:

Prioritize Self

  • This is not selfish, it is necessary to be at your best with your baby
  • Find a way to fit in exercise—even a 10-20 minute walk can be rejuvenating
  • Equalize “time-off” with partner.  If one person gets a few hours of free time, the other person should get equal time
  • If it is energizing for you, find ways to get outside of your house on a daily basis. This can happen with or without baby, as getting out of the house tends to fight that feeling of cabin fever
  • Take the time to clarify with your partner or support group what the natural routine of the day seems to be, what is most comfortable, and how to work together to keep that routine
  • You can’t be everything to everybody, and you can’t be anything to anybody if you are totally stressed. Take care of yourself.

Prioritize Time With Partner

  • Eat a meal together as often as possible. It doesn’t have to be dinner, it could be breakfast if that works better
  • Incorporate a “date” night, if possible
  • Spend 15 minutes a day talking with your partner eye-to-eye. Try to focus on subjects other than baby. (This is very hard to do in the fist year)
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Remember, this is a partnership, work with each other

Prioritize Family

  • Look for community events to go to with your family.  This reinforces your family unit, as well as your place in the community.  Community events are often free or low cost
  • Maintain a routine during your day and week, as best you can.  These routines develop as the months go by and patterns become more clear with baby as well as family. Keep routines simple.
  • Create rituals that your family can share throughout the months and years.  Ex: Sunday morning is waffle morning, or Saturday afternoons are walks in the nature center.
  • Be intentional about what you say “yes” to. Often saying “no” to something else means saying “yes” to your family
  • Try to go at your child’s pace when you can. It is a lot slower, but that gives you time to connect over the littlest details of life.

Prioritize Household

  • Relax your expectations of yourself. Be ok with what you can get done in a day
  • Schedule necessary errands for the time of day when baby has the most energy for them. Stop errands when baby becomes overtired.
  • Find ways to exercise during your errands, bike or walk to stores when you can.
  • Take 10 minutes before bed to make a list outlining the next day’s events in priority order. Understand and accept that you won’t get to everything on your list. Set up what you can to ensure a smoother morning (make lunches or set out clothes or etc).
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier or go to bed 15 minutes later, and use that time to get a flurry of little chores done

Prioritize Community

  • Help others in your community in a way that is meaningful to you. It doesn’t have to be a large scale project—making dinner for a family with a new baby is a great service!
  • Attend community events around your neighborhood. These events are great ways to build connections.
  • ATTEND ECFE!!!!!

Living Up To The Label

Summer-time moves fast.
It often seems that the relaxed and easy pace of summer doesn’t quite ever settle over us. We drive from one camp to the next, or zoom to the park after a long day of work, or try to get each promised play date in before our next week’s road trip. All this activity when summer is supposed to provide a slow pace can be a bit irksome.

We have a vision of what summer should be, because we have labeled it as relaxing. This label makes a real impact on us, because whenever I talk to people about summer one of their first comments is: “Summer is supposed to be slow paced, but I am just running around like a maniac.” When we as parents realize that a label we are using isn’t accurately reflecting what is going on, we can do one of two things. We can change the label to make it more accurate, or we can live up to the label that we prefer. The choice is ours.

Labeling has great effects on people too. Often in our rush to get from one place to another, or our crabbiness over the heat and our lack of a swimming pool, we utter things that become labels. We can fill in the blanks for the following statements: “That driver is an ___________”. “Your room is a _________”. “I burned our dinner on the grill, I am such a _________.” The labels that we use in these situations tend to reflect what we are feeling. But do they reflect the whole picture–do they reflect what we most want our children to be hearing us talk about?

Children are constantly listening to us, and they pick up the meaning of what we are saying through the tone of our voice and our choice of words. For this reason we have a responsibility to be sure that the words we are saying are the words we most want them to hear as an explanation for what is going on. The short-hand labels that we often resort to because we are in a hurry, or not too happy about a situation, can be incorporated into our children’s understanding of the world.

What about the labels we sometimes use for our children? Children will live up to the expectations that we have of them, and so our expectations should be consistently clear and help them to see the strengths that they have in a situation. If we use labels for our children that show our low expectations, our children may not strive to achieve what we are hoping for them. If we use labels that belittle their abilities, they may not be motivated to work toward success.  For example, if your boss in a moment of very justified exasperation told you huffily that you were “a lazy employee, stubborn and messy”, would you be inclined to go back to your projects with the energy that is required of you?  If instead your boss, still exasperated, said “I am frustrated by your work today.  The project did not get done and we have to finish it by our deadline to please our client. I expect this to be finished by tomorrow.” You may feel differently about yourself and your boss.  In both situations the frustration came through, but the effect of the words is very different.

If sometimes you use labels that don’t help your child feel successful, find a way to look at the whole situation to encourage a sense of accomplishment. Often a child who is labeled as shy can also be seen as cautious. A child who is seen as stubborn can also be seen as determined. A child who is seen as nosy can also be seen as curious. A child who is seen as messy can also be seen as self-sufficient–because the messes she makes are likely due to wanting to accomplish things on her own. By shifting the words toward showing your child her strengths, you can convey that you are proud of who she is as a person. Remember that the child who feels better about herself does better in most situations.

One of my favorite posters at our Harley Family Center offers positive labels for children from every letter of the alphabet. Here are some samples of supportive labels you can give to your child:

Amazing
Believable
Childlike
Delightful
Energetic
Fallible
Gifts
Here Now
Innocent
Joyful
Kindhearted
Lovable
Magical
Noble
Open-Minded
Precious
Questioners
Resourceful
Spontaneous
Talented
Unique
Vulnerable
Whole
Xtra special
Yearning
Zany

When you get the urge to use a label, take a moment to assess the whole situation first and use a word that supports your child’s strength. See how your family’s interaction turns out differently than what it might have with your original label!