ABC’s of Summer

The Hopkins Early Childhood Staff wish you a safe, playful and peaceful summer. Enjoy your children and revel in your time together as a family. As you make time to drift lazily through the long days, author Meiji Stewart has created a delightful way to help you remember all the important parts of parenting:

Children Need:

Appreciation…for all they bring into our lives
Balance…somewhere between too little and too much
Commitment…it’s the little things we do each day that matter
Dreams…to touch the future
Empathy…remember what it was like to be a child
Family, Friends…everyone needs someone to love
Guidance…actions speak louder than words
Healthy Habits…to nurture body, mind and spirit
Inspiration…to explore beauty, wonder and mystery
Joy…sprinkle laughter and happiness daily
Kindness…to learn to care for others as they are cared for
Limits…set boundaries and consequences together
Mentors…to give wings to their aspirations
Nature…to delight in rainbow butterflies and shooting stars
Opportunities…to discover what truly makes their hearts sing
Play…the work of childhood
Quiet Time…to recharge their batteries
Responsibilities…to build self esteem and self confidence
Security…feeling safe is essential for growth
Traditions…keep the family tree alive and sprout new branches
Unconditional Love…for who they are, not for what they do
Values…live yours and encourage them to find theirs
Words of Encouragement…you can do it, I believe in you
XOXOXOXO’s…hug and kiss them each and every day
You…your presence more than your presents
zzzzzzzzzzzzz…a good night sleep

Summer Goodbyes

Summer is a great time to focus on being together as a family. There are long hours of unstructured time, sometimes there are vacations and always there are activities galore. This together time is also a great time to start to focus on ways to build “goodbye” into the routine when the new school year begins.

We often shift into the school year in autumn with a whoosh of relief (yes relief!!) for the chance to move back to a little structure and to provide an opportunity for our children to have their own experiences again.  As parents, though, we tend to forget that this is a major transition to a young child.  He was pretty content spending long hours with us, and has forgotten—or has not yet ever had the experience—of having to say goodbye to mom or dad in order to get involved in preschool or kindergarten or a child care center.

The staff at the Hopkins School District Stepping Stones program discussed the benefits of early preparation with your child concerning goodbye. We thought we would share some ideas and activities and strategies for helping your child get used to the idea of saying goodbye—and helping him build the trust that you will always return-during the summer.  Doing some prep work in the comfortable cozy season of summer can help your child develop confidence when faced with the prospect of saying goodbye on that first day of school in autumn.

When there are opportunities to say goodbye to your child during this summer—even if it is just going out for the evening and leaving your child with a babysitter, begin a simple routine around saying goodbye.  This may include a hug, a brief statement reassuring him that you will come back (children have a need to hear you say this—we know it is true, but children don’t always believe it easily) and a wave at the door.  Then exit with confidence. This simple routine can help them begin to feel comfortable with the idea of separating from you, and gives them some actions to help them transition into the goodbye.

A goodbye routine can be silly or serious; create a routine that fits your personality, but be intentional about what you do. Some parents have a silly song to say goodbye, some parents blow three kisses to their child, others have a hug and kiss. As long as you build a consistent and short routine, what you do doesn’t matter. Using the routine every time you say goodbye is what your child needs.  As this routine becomes habit throughout the summer, it will become a natural way to say goodbye during your child’s first separation at school or child care. Even though the surroundings will be new, the actions you take with your child will be familiar and comfortable, and that will help your child feel settled and confident.

Your child will likely show you that he is unhappy with the separation when you say goodbye. However, it is much harder on your child and the caretaker if you slip away without saying anything to your child to avoid facing the anger or tears. This leaves your child panicked when they turn around in their play and realize you have disappeared. Allowing your child to show their emotions around having to say goodbye is a valuable gift to him. Show your child that you are confident in his ability to handle the separation. In addition, show your child you are confident in the abilities of the caretaker you are leaving him with. Use the routine to ground yourself in saying goodbye, and then exit the room.

Often, our heart breaks when we hear the tears that follow our departure; trust that the care provider is able to handle the sadness and allow them to do so. When we leave our children with caretakers in the summer it is often with family and friends whom we already trust completely. The practice that we have in trusting others will serve us well as parents when we need to transfer that trust to the caretakers during the school year. Allow yourself to believe in the ability of the teachers to handle your child’s sadness in the same way your other trusted adults do so. (Teachers of young children have seen sadness at separation many times, and have found very effective ways of handling and comforting the child).

When summer begins to fade, and the school year gets closer, be sure to talk with your child about what they can expect now that they will shortly be going to kindergarten / preschool / child care. Talk openly and honestly about the goodbye that they will say in the morning, and about your return at the end of the program day. Remind them of the successes they have had in the summer when they have said goodbye to you and have had a great time during the separation.  Reading books about saying goodbye can help to begin the conversation with your child about what it will be like to have a first day of “school”. One book on this topic that staff has come to greatly appreciate is The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn.

Remember that summer is the season that is “in the moment”. Enjoy the many moments of togetherness that arise. When you find an opportunity to help your child experience a goodbye, help them feel successful in that moment with an eye toward the future school year.

Come OUTSIDE to play!

School days are coming to an end, and summer is stretched out in all its glory!  Having longer days and weather designed for picnics and beach trips helps all families to forget the long and difficult months of winter.  It is also a great time to reinvigorate our outside play energy.

The Kaleidoscope preschool staff discussed how important it is for our children to get outside during every season. We thought we would share the many good reasons for encouraging outdoor play.  Getting into the practice of going outdoors when it is easiest—in the summer—will help to build the habit for continuing outdoor adventures when the weather can be a bit more daunting.

Research is telling us that outside, unstructured play is greatly beneficial to children cognitively, physically and emotionally. An opportunity to work off the huge stores of childish energy through an hour’s worth of active play a day (at least an hour) will help your child stay physically fit. After physical play they are better able to focus on cognitive tasks with focus and attention. In addition, the peace and quiet that surrounds a child while she is outdoors helps to restore her emotionally—it is an escape from the constant rush of sounds and lights and beeps and bells that accost us all daily.

Adults often ask children to complete tasks in an effort to further their academic or developmental abilities. We focus in on one or two concepts and work in a linear fashion to help our child meet our goals. Whether it is learning to recognize shapes or colors, learn to crawl or walk, learn to say words or begin to learn to read them. All of these tasks are important; but we sometimes go through things in too singular a fashion.

We don’t remember that if a child is immersed in an environment and left to herself to create an activity, these things will be learned in a context that keeps her interest because it appeals to the whole child.  Taking a walk with a child through the woods, or even around the backyard, allows a child to be learning at every single moment. The movement of the body through the world teaches physical skills in a way that gymanstic class drills cannot match.  Excited exclamations about a worm in the soil, a bud on a tree or a bird flying high in the sky builds a natural bridge for a parent to be talking about the “oozy” worm (vocabulary), the green bud (colors) or the birds that fly in the shape of an arrow (shapes) in the autumn sky. When a parent gives her child the opportunity to explore the natural world around her, she is providing a chance for the child’s mind and body to work together, using all the different modalities of learning (cognitive, physical, emotional, social, language, spatial awareness, the list can go on and on and on).

Playing outside does not need to happen only in ideal conditions.  Finding a way to enjoy the natural weather even when it is raining, or a little colder or warmer than you would prefer, helps you and your child appreciate the varying beauty of the world we live in. Find the outer-wear that suits you both, and get out the door. Remember, your children’s energy stores don’t dwindle if the weather is less than perfect. They need to have physical exercise every day. Your child will be overjoyed if he gets the opportunity to explore the world when it is dripping with rain. As your child gets older there are fewer and fewer chances to really get dirty and muddy and fully experience the joy of splashing in puddles. Enjoy being able to give this experience to your child—the bathtub will wash away everything but the memory.


Celebrate Summer Together

The end of Hopkins ECFE classes is a bittersweet time for most families. The excitement for some parents as they look forward to kindergarten or preschool is offset by the fact that they will be saying goodbye to friendships that have grown strong. Some groups of parents have been together for years. It can be very powerful to share parenting experiences—the wonderful and the challenging—with a group of supportive peers. This is one of the great values of early childhood family education—the sense of community that comes from providing a supportive atmosphere for all families.

One way to keep this sense of community alive is to continue to meet in playgroups throughout the “off” season of ECFE.  In addition, having lost the weekly structure of classes, many parents are looking for places to go and let their children work off all that summer-time energy!  The parents in our ECFE classes have compiled a list of parks and places that are toddler friendly. Use the list to inspire new gathering spots for your summer time play-dates, or to encourage your family to explore new places in the Twin Cities.

Parks that work well for toddlers:
Brookview, on 55 and Winnetka
Lions Park on Glenwood Avenue (this park has the “Puppet Wagon” puppet shows)
Junction Park on Excelsior Blvd
Hidden Valley on Boone and 32nd in New Hope
Three Rivers Park System has lots of parks with lots of great amenities

Toddler friendly wading pools and water fun:
Oak Hill Splash Pad on Rhode Island Avenue in St. Louis Park
Linden Hills Park with wading pool
Elm Creek Park has a chlorinated lake
Shady Oak Lake
Manor Park in Robbinsdale
North Mississippi Regional Park
St. Louis Park Recreation Center water park—has a toddler only morning option.
Crystal Community Pool—has Little Splashers toddler only time
Parker Lake in Plymouth

More places that are fun to visit:
Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park (has Nature for the Very Young program)
Richardson Nature Center—has a naturescape (natural playground)
Arboretum-has a naturescape
Golden Valley Library—with Vehicle Wednesdays
Hopkins Library has a play area designed by the Children’s Museum
Wild Rumpus Bookstore in Minneapolis
Kiddiewumpus Art Store in St. Louis Park
MN Zoo
Como Zoo
Children’s museum—has toddler Tuesdays (not all Tuesdays)

Farmer’s Markets: Lots to look at, great food and often free entertainment:
Mill City Market in Minneapolis
Near the Basilica—Minneapolis
Hopkins—very small and toddler friendly
Minnetonka—music in the park afterwards
New Hope
Golden Valley
St. Louis Park Recreation Center

Other Events to Look Forward to:
Harley Family Center Summer Fun
Harley Family Center Vehicle Fair
Harley Family Center / Hopkins Police Department Daddy and Me Reading Event
Crystal Community Center Vehicle Fair
Fire Station Open Houses-each city hosts one
Puppet Wagon Puppet Shows—this travels to various parks in the area

If you are interested in learning more about any of the places, parks or events on this list, feel free to Google them to get more information. Or call up one of your neighbors or ECFE friends and ask them if they have ever heard of it. Then make a date for your families to do something together.  Celebrate the joy of building your community in the Minnesota sunshine!