Welcome to the YCC Southwest classroom! The Young Children's Community provides an environment where children experience living in a community and participating in activities that support their age-appropriate development. With great joy I will share with you the stories about what we have been working on in the classroom and also provide the tips and ideas on what can you do at home with your child. I am looking forward to a wonderful year ahead!
October 9, 2019
We have been enjoying the sunny weather. Thank you for sending warmer clothing and rain boots. Getting changed to go outside is always a great practice of dressing skills. Check these tips how to support your child’s dressing skills so they can do it independently.
Sometimes after you ask your child to put his coat on, you might see him throwing the coat on the floor. At school, we lay the coat down on the floor with the tag, hood, top of the coat touching child's toes (the coat needs to be upside down). Then we ask the child to put arms into arm holes and flip the coat over his head and that's it. Try it for yourself. I sometimes put my coat this way and make children laugh because our clothes are so much bigger and they make quite a commotion.
Toddlers have a strong sense of order and a need for clear boundaries. It is very important to provide an environment which is well organized, uncluttered, and simple. With the colder weather coming soon, there will be more clothing to put on and to keep track of. Please, take a look at your entry/mud room and visualize how can you provide a space for your child to accommodate the boots, snow gear, hats and mittens. A low hook for coat and backpack on the wall and a basket for shoes, a little shelf for mittens and hats will satisfy the need for order. Remember that whatever we expect from our child, we need to model ourselves.
Our oldest friends Carmen and Barrett moved to primary. Millie is going to join them soon. It is joyful to see the children who move to primary classroom coming over to the fence at the playground and talk to us. The younger friends are always excited to see them.
September 25, 2019
It was great to see your families at the picnic. It seems like everyone had fun!
We are noticing more signs of fall. The maple leaves are turning colors and falling off the trees. The days are getting shorter, and cooler. We started to read books about fall and older children are mentioning Halloween. My favorite part of the fall are seasonal fruits: we have been enjoying purple Stanley's plums, pears and apples. The children love to munch on a whole apple or a pear. Sometimes it takes a long time for the youngest ones to bite through the skin of the fruit, but when they manage to do it, they continue eating with great persistence and concentration.
Our playground was a source of language and biology lessons recently. We kept finding interesting creatures outside that we normally see only on the pages of books or on language cards. We found a large, colorful spider and we witnessed it eating a fly. We find the spider was sitting on its web, or sometimes resting for a couple of days on the side of the building just like the busy spider in Eric Carle's book. We were checking on the spider for about a week, until it disappeared. We also have seen a slug, many praying mantises, grasshoppers, katydid, and monarch butterflies.
On the playground, I have observed a lot of cooperative play among older children. It could be a game of pretending, chasing or cooperatively trying to sweep the sand from our new bicycle track. Our two year olds are practicing taking turns. In the past, I heard a lot of comments from the parents of toddlers that their children have troubles with sharing. This is not a surprise, as sharing is not yet developmentally established. True sharing comes later, but at this age we can help the child by teaching turn taking. It looks like this: When a child is grabbing a truck that another child is playing with, we can say: “It is Jack's turn to play with the truck. Look, his hands are on it. When he is done holding the truck, you can have your turn.” We can also teach the child to ask for a turn. When we ask for a turn, we open our hands up and say: “May I have a turn? May I play with the truck?” Sometimes the words can be too difficult for a child who does not speak yet, but the gesture is easy to copy. You can practice taking turns at home. If you start modeling taking turns between adults, your child will start doing it too.
September 12, 2019
We had a great summer in YCC south. Four new children joined us during that time: Bane, Lockett, Everett, and Asher. They seem to be nicely settled into our community and routines. Carmen, Barrett, and Millie will soon start visiting primary classrooms and move to the next level in a couple of weeks.
The children have been busy. We have well stocked art cabinet to which children have free acess. Stickers, play dough, threading straw/beads for necklaces, bee wax crayons, cutting strips of paper with scissors, stamps, painting, and gluing are the examples of activities on the shelves. Each of the activities is arranged on separate tray and has own spot in the cabinet, so the child knows where to find it and where to restore it.
Most of the time the artists stick to the paper, but there are the cases when they painted the nearby wall, or shelf... In that situation we calmly say: “We paint on the paper.” than we show the child where to find the activity in the practical life area, which helps to take responsibility for the painted wall. These is the basket with two spray bottles and the towel. The child can spray the painted area with dish soap, wipe, and rinse with water. It does not happen often that we have an artist that needs other medias than paper, but it does happen and it is a part of a toddler's development – testing boundaries or experimenting. Toddlers also are capable of taking care of their errors, when the right tools are provided. This also includes appropriate expectations.
You can provide an art area in your house. A low, free standing shelf ( shoe racks work well) in the kitchen can be added to hold art supplies all arranged on trays to entertain your toddlers, while you are cooking dinner. Having access to a low table and chair is also important. And lastly having access to the sponge, or spray bottle, and wash cloth provide the opportunity to take responsibility for cleaning their work space, just like we do after we finished work in the kitchen requiring to prepare food.
Here are some ideas about art activities for a toddler.
June 6, 2019
Thank you for a wonderful year together! It was a year of growing physicaly and emotionaly. A year of learning new words, new skills and new things about each other. Some of the oldest children will be moving to their new chapter of life and joining Primary. The rest of us will enjoy summer together. Thank you for sharing your children with me!
May 22, 2019
We have been studying replicas of dinosaurs, which are on our language shelf. We are practicing pronouncing the difficult names, and are discussing the different features of each dinosaur’s body. Some dinosaurs have horns and spikes, some have sharp teeth.
Being outside provides the opportunity to study ants and ant holes, worms, spiders and flowers. We have been reading a book about the life cycle of a spider, and also a book about the life cycle of the dandelion plant. Another book that the older children enjoyed is a collection of stories about dog named Harry. Their favorite story is about Harry trying to avoid a bath and getting more dirty during his adventures in the city. They are very joyful every time they can find Harry in the picture. Harry slowly is turning from a white spotted dog into a black dog, but the children can find him every time.
Two of our friends: Maeve and Alex turned two. We celebrated their birthdays with baking blueberry buttermilk cake and rhubarb cake. We have a few children who will be turning two this summer. Being two brings an exciting privilege for the students in our school. The smaller climbing structure with monkey bars, which is on the primary playground, is designed for children 2 years old and older. Sometimes we go there to do stretching on the bars. The younger children seem to be understanding that this is a special privilege that they will be part of in the future. I am sure that you all experienced the situations when you are trying to explain to your child that he or she cannot do something. Your child may seem to not be responsive to your words. Sometimes with young children it works well to put responsibility of the decision that they might not like on a rule, clock, etc. I often use the phrase at lunch table when the child is not interested in main dish and is only wanting fruit by saying “The clock says it is not time for fruit yet. ” We will serve melon in five minutes.” Sometimes I even point to the hands of the clock to show them when will be time for fruit. Taking the power from me and imposing it on the clock, helps the two year old deal with acceptance of my response.
On Friday we will host grandparents in our classroom. The children are always eager to show visitors around and it is always a joy to watch them interacting with grandparents.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!
May 9, 2019
The school year is slowly approaching to the end. For some of the children their experience in our classroom was the first experience of leaving the house and learning how to create attachmentswith adults other than their parents. During this year, they not only developed friendships among classmates but also with adults through the whole school. They exlaim with joy: “Daddy!” everytime they see John (John works in The Children's House and he is Beatrice's dad ), they greet Colleen and Michele, chat with Steve, and talk to anybody visiting our classroom.
The children know how to carry glass bowls and cups, and how to scrape their plate into a compost bucket. Some even can wash their dishes. They are capable of taking care of themselves and the environment around them. By learning how things are done they are adapting to their life and developing independence. The freedom of choosing the activity of their interest helps develop concentration.
Our goal as adults is to create the routine and a well prepared environment which meets the children's needs and provides order. The activities on the shelves help develop skills, but the interaction with each other and adults in their life teaches them life skills. There is constant work in progress.
April 25, 2019
The spring has arrived and with it comes puddles, sunny skies, and sometimes cold and rainy days. April has brought us mix of weather including some snow. We started to wean the children from snow pants, hats and mittens and are getting them used to exposing more skin, but on Tuesday everyone was wearing some borrowed school clothing - the children were back to snow pants again. We started walks around campus, in search of spring flowers. We often stop by greenhouse to eat and water lettuce. During the weather swings children seem to be more tired and in order to boost their energy, we made a green smoothie with spinach, pineapple, bananas, orange and grapefruit juice. The children dry the spinach in salad spinner and took turns with adding ingredients into blender.
We have been brushing teeth and hair since the beginning of the year. Just recently I moved the toothbrushes and brushes out of the bathroom into the classroom where the children can use them independently. Each child has an individual brush and toothbrush which are stored in separate drawers with the child's picture on them. We have been practicing opening the correct drawer and getting the correct brush and observing when someone is taking a turn. Only one child can sit at the vanity table, the others are asked to wait. It is very important to expect older toddlers to wait for a turn. This ability not only develops patience, but also prepares children for sharing later.
Enjoy the sunny days!
April 11, 2019
We have two new students in our classroom, Mackenzie (Kenzie) Schmidt and Lillie Horner. A warm welcome to their families!
With the warmer weather, we have been spending a lot of time on the playground. Although the snow is completely gone, the ground can still get muddy. Boots and snow pants are a good protection from the elements. We have been observing daffodils and daylilies leaves getting taller everyday.
We were successful making apple sauce twice in the last two weeks. First, the children peeled and cored apples with the apple corer. Then, we cooked apples with a little water and cinnamon. At the end, we ran the cooked apples through the food mill to separate any remaining peels or parts of the core. The apple sauce was delicious and everyone enjoyed it for our morning snack.
We have new language materials on the shelves. The younger children like to learn the names of African animals. With the older children, we started to talk about symbols (typical for our culture) of Easter.
March 21, 2019
The children enjoy spending time outside, observing the changes that the warmer weather brought. The grass started to show up from under the snow and the daffodil stems are getting longer. The snow also uncovered the bunny poops around the bushes in the garden. The children enjoyed the thought of bunnies hiding under the bushes to stay warm during the winter. We enjoyed listening to the birds tweets and simply sitting on the snow and basking in the sun.
We have been reading books about spring and learning the names of the flowers. Our favorite books are "When Spring Comes" and "You Belong Here".
Metal polishing is the new activity introduced in the classroom. It is an extension of wood polishing with the difference of using non toxic tooth paste as polish and a little sponge as a tool applying tooth paste. The children enjoy making our figurine of the bird and seal shiny.
We have been experiencing classical music during the meals. They often ask for music when we are having lunch. I discovered that they love Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.
Enjoy the sunshine!
March 7, 2019
Thank you for meeting with me during the conferences. It is always helpful to compare how the child is at home and at school. This gives me a better understanding of the child's personality and development.
We cannot wait for spring, but the children are still enjoying going outside. The oldest children walk without fear in deep snow trying to conquer the hills. They shovel the snow or scoop it up with the buckets of the trucks. Our youngest children have started to show strong interest in getting dressed to play in this snow.
We have a few new materials on the shelves: the one that is popular among older children is nail polishing. We use a cosmetic oil, which I poured into an empty bottle from the nail polish. The work requires a lot of fine motor skill. First, the child needs to open the case which has zippers that go around. Then, they need to open the bottle with polish by turning the top and lifting it to get access to the tiny brush. Dipping the brush back into a bottle develops hand eye coordination. The oil is applied on the nails and the nails are buffed with a flannel square cloth. At the end the child needs to put everything back in reverse order: screw the cap on the bottle, fold the little flannel mat and place it in the cosmetic case, zip the case and put the activity on the right shelf.
We are spending a lot of time lately on practicing to put things back. This week we are also spending time on practicing listening (not obeying, just listening to the words of others and understanding their meaning.) Asking questions is a good exercise. We looked outside through the glass door and talked about things we have been observing outside. I asked the children “Do you see any birds?” “Do you see an airplane, hot air balloon in the sky?” “What color is the sky: blue or gray?” These questions and gaining their attention help the children refocus and move to the next step which was going to the gym. One of the children was ready to take off from me and run to the gym with excitement, even if every time we remind them that we walk in the hall and run in the gym. But, since the children were in a peaceful mood and open to my words, I simply asked the children: “What are we going to do now?” Another listening game is giving the child simple commands: touch your nose, put your hands on your head, jump up and down. Try playing it at home.
February 21, 2019
We welcomed the new friend into our classroom: Millie Stewart. The Stewart family came back to Traverse city from Ann Arbor. Welcome to our school community Leah, Jeremiah, and Millie!
While preparing for conferences I noticed with pleasure a great change in the classroom. All the children have many presentations, and they are practicing skills. Some activities and skills have been mastered. Sometimes the child needs to learn how to bend or twist the wrist in order to roll the rug, open the container, etc. Sometimes the child need to memorize the sequence of activity; which is the first step, what comes next. Food preparation, especially baking is the example of activity developing sequence. But there are many other examples of activities supporting sequence learning in everyday life of our classroom. Preparing for snack is the example: first the children need to set up the table, by placing tablecloth and plates on. Then they need to wash their hands and find the available spot to sit. When they are done eating, the food left on their plates need to be scraped to the compost bucket and dirty dishes placed on the dish rack, napkin in the laundry basket. Some children choose to wash their dishes. There is a great amount of concentration happening in the classroom. Children are moving from activity to activity, very much self directed. The outcome of their work is peacefulness, joy and self-discipline. Maria Montessori called that process “normalization”
February 7, 2019
With the colder temperatures we have been spending more time in the gym. What a surprise for me was to see our youngest children to attempt to ride tricycles!
Therese and the children who come to school before carline started to prepare snacks for our community. Gunner, Calvin, Barrett and Margaret make hummus and oatmeal on regular basis.
Among the new activities that I brought to the classroom is a little treasure from a thrift store: a wooden Noah's ark with little animals that children love to polish and arrange around on the shelf. It is incomplete but still brings a lot of joy into our environment. We also have a furniture waxing activity. This is a home-made wax made of olive oil and bee’s wax, which children applied on our wooden shelves with a little sponge applicator.
These are the examples of practical life activities that develop skills of taking care of the child’s environment and also strengthen the muscles and develop fine motor skills. The ability to care for the environment brings independence, the strong muscles of hands allow the child to be able to do art and hold a pencil for writing in the future.
January 17, 2019
Happy New Year! When the children came back to school after the holiday break, they all seemed to be taller and so many of them acted more mature. Two of our classmates, Barrett and Carmen, turned 2 years during the break and we celebrated their birthday with banana – chocolate chip muffins. Margaret and Syria will soon leave us, and join their new primary communities. This will put a lot of responsibility on Calvin and Beatrice's shoulders who will be the oldest children , jumping into a role of a leader.
This is the beauty of the toddler community: the child enters it on often wobbly legs, learns how to drink from the open cup, shares first words with us, masters using the toilet, keeps us on our toes with a “rule and limits testing challenge,” suddenly testing ceases and more privileges and responsibilities are passed onto a child. Then they become the “keepers” of rules and order, helpers to their younger friends, negotiators of the conflict and such a sport when it comes to the pretending games played outside at the playground. But then is the time to move to the Primary. We are always sad to let them go, but at the same time we feel happy for them to embrace next level of learning and growing.
December 13, 2018
My trip to Houston was very instructive! I came back full of new ideas and also with a strong appreciation that The Children's House is offering a rich curriculum, true to Maria's Montessori’s philosophy.
In preparation for the coming holidays, we have a small Christmas tree that children can decorate with ornaments. We have Christmas language basket with items such as: figurine of Santa Claus, a sled, a stocking, a mistletoe, an ornament, a Nativity Scene, and a present. In our Hanukkah basket, we have: yamaka, menorah, and a dreidel. We have been reading books about snow, winter, and about coming holidays. Thank you for purchasing the books for our classroom during Horizon event!
The children have been enjoying the snow. The older children (this includes the children who are two or turning two in a month) can put on snow gear independently. Some of the younger children can take off the snow gear independently. For them, the process of dressing and undressing is a collaboration between adult and a child. We guide them with our words what needs to be done first and we show them with the motions of the hands how to pull snow pants up, how to step into boots, etc.
When we dress into snow gear, the first thing that we ask the child is to take off their shoes. The next step is finding their snow pants. We line up the snow pants for the child who sits on the floor and we guide the child to put first one leg into a pant leg, then the other. Putting on pants is tricky, we often end up with two legs in one pant leg. We show the children how to pull up their pants, in a standing position. Putting boots on works better if we ask the child to hold onto the wall/door frame and step into their boots. The next item that goes on is their jacket. We place it on the floor, in front of the child with the loop/hood touching their feet. The child puts both arms in the sleeves and puts the jacket over his head, next he is ready to zip. We call that method ”up and over.” Hat and mittens go on last. We have been using a glove drying rack and after we come back from the playground the children place their wet items on the peg of the rack for drying. Boots and hats go there too.
Outside we have been enjoying hill climbing, sleding, shoveling snow or rolling in the snow. I hope that you will have many opportunities for playing outside with your child during our Winter Break!
November 29, 2018
It is good to be back from my trip to Poland. I had a nice trip spending time with my family, but my home is here in Michigan. Christy, Therese and Annie took great care of the children during my absence and everything went smoothly.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. We do not have the equivalent of this holiday in Europe, yet it was easy to learn how to celebrate it. Thanksgiving is still a subject of our conversations in the classroom. It is exciting to see older children participating with more awareness in preparation for the classroom feast. Syria was excited to bring the flowers for our table, and she spent all morning arranging them in various vases. Also, thank you for wonderful food for our Thanksgiving feast. The children enjoyed trying all the dishes. Apple cider was definitely everyone’s favorite.
A couple of weeks ago new friend Calvin joined our classroom. We wish a warm welcome to Calvin's family.
Gunner turned two during Thanksgiving and we celebrated his birthday on Tuesday by baking banana muffins and lighting two LED tea candles. We looked at Gunner's baby pictures and discussed the changes that occurred during two years of his life. Happy Birthday to Gunner!
November 8, 2018
Agnes is away on vacation and will update classroom highlights when she returns.
October 25, 2018
Two new children, Adeline and Vivivana, joined our classroom recently. A warm welcome to their families. We are waiting for Linden who will join us in November and then our classroom will be at twelve children again. It is interesting to watch the dynamics among children changing with the arrival of new students.
In preparation for Pumpkin Fun Day which we celebrate on Halloween, the children have been hammering golf tees into a pumpkin. We started to read age-appropriate books about Halloween, like “Biscuit's Halloween” and “Five Little Pumpkins”. We have large pumpkin waiting to be carved into a Jack – o – Lanterns and language cards with the symbols of Halloween. There is a picture of a house decorated with spider webs, Jack-o-Lantern, bag for treats, corn candies, Halloween spider, and a costume of a bumble bee.
Halloween is a holiday that is celebrated in our culture but it can be a little scarry for a young toddler, who is exposed to it for a first time, which is a case of most of the children under two years. Children who are turning two this year have the chance to experience Halloween again for the second time in their life. They will be more aware and will enjoy it more. Next year they will understand what Halloween really means and will be more involve in preparation for the holiday.
This is true for all the other holidays, as well as birthday celebrations and any traditions held in your family. The process of learning, getting to know, and experiencing events, traditions, rituals and even every day tasks and routines is called adaptation. Our role as adults is to help children adapt to their/our culture, time and space. How can we help them adapt to Halloween? We can bring up Halloween costumes a week earlier and practice wearing them at home, maybe go trick-or-tricking to the neighbour or grandma. You can also take your child for a walk around neighborhood and talk about houses decorated for Halloween. I have to admit that for a person who was rised in different culture, Halloween is too scarry for me. I cannot truly enjoy it. I can imagine that the young toddler may be reacting in the similar way to some scarry images. We will carve our pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern on Wednesday and we will light an LED candle inside. We also will make pumpkin – coconut milk smoothies and pumpkin bundt cake.
Enjoy your Halloween! And I will see you on Monday during our conferencess.
October 11, 2018
Our days are filled with work in the classroom. Every day, a group of children has an opportunity to prepare individual snack for themselves and, every day one of the oldest children makes food for our morning snack. On Tuesdays, we always make hummus, on Wednesdays oatmeal with bananas and dried fruit. Thursdays is waffle day and on Friday Margaret and Beatrice bake muffins. On Monday we have the muffins baked on Friday.
Last week Beatrice and Margaret peeled apples and we cooked apples in a crock pot with just a little water and cinamon. Then we used the food mill to puree apples and we made delicious applesauce which was all eaten during lunch. Peeling and coring apples required strong muscles. We used the peeler with a crank , and the girls enjoy making it turn and see the apple circles coming off the apple core.
The children in early care were enjoying the bread and toast with jam. The bread was baked on Monday by Gunner and there is nothing more precious than enjoying the children sharing the gift of food with friends. This food is really made by them.
Toddlers experience the world through their five senses. They want to touch, smell, taste, see and hear. There is nothing more satisfying for them then being involved in preparing food. The children are also more open to try something if they prepared it by themselves. When cooking/baking with young child first we need to accept that it may be messy, which means flour on the floor, batter that slipped out of mixing bowl and lots of dishes to wash. But as the children become exposed to the process of baking, they will be willing to help with cleaning. Firs,t they do it because we asked them, soon they will do it because they noticed spill on the table and driven by their sense of order they feel urgent need to take care of it.
We need to train the children to be patient with waiting for directions from us and for their turn. In order to enjoy cooking with toddlers we need to know the recipe well and have all ingredients on hand. With practice and trust, toddlers become reliable and skillful cooks and bakers. Cooking and baking is a science lesson. It develops language by providing nomenclature and verbs, and it sharpens math skills. Following the recipe, introduce the concept of sequence to the child, which indirectly prepare the child for reading. Whats more important cooking together in the classroom teaches the toddlers open-mindedness, flexibility, tolerance and how to belong to the community. It makes them proud that they made the food by themselves and happy to share it with others.
September 27, 2018
We baked our first bread on Wednesday! Syria carefully mixed all ingredients and made the loaf of bread which she took home to share with her family. Baking bread is going to be our everyday activity and you will get to taste it too when your child brings it home. When we get better we will experiment with different spices and tastes. I will also send home bread recipe as soon as we master right proportions of dry and wet ingredients. First bread was an experiment, which turned out well.
We started to talk about fall. In the classroom we have cards with fall themes. There is a picture of squirrel collecting nuts, and a picture of pumpkins, apples on the tree, children in rain coats. We have miniature pumpkins in the basket and we read the books about harvesting fruits and vegetables. We enjoy apples and plums for snacks. Stanley plums became children’s favorite. During our outside time we observed that leaves are changing colors and falling off the trees.
Fall time can be very enjoyable with all the treats and events that it brings. It is also a time when our bodies need to get adjusted to shorter and colder days. We get more tired and hungry. This is very true for young children. Sometimes they can get very emotional and sensitive. It is a great opportunity to teach children about taking care of the needs of their bodies.
September 13, 2018
We really enjoyed our first two weeks of school. George, Beatrice, Margaret, and Syria took the role of classroom leaders and helpers to the younger children. Carmen moved into a position of the middle child. Alex and Gunner are happily exploring the room and activities. Maeve and Barrett are working getting accustomed to their new school environment. We are also seeing more and more smiles and moments of them feeling settled. All the children are settling in to their new classroom community. Before our lunch we sing "Community song". George calls it "Around song".
This are the words:
"Look around and you will see
Community, a family
We're together, we are friends!"
The older children have started to prepare food for morning snack. We made waffles, banana muffins and fruit smoothies. Everyday the children have the opportunity to practice individual food preparation: slicing bananas with a chopper and cutting apples with an apple slicer, are two main activities. The youngest friends are practicing peeling banana which is cut into segments. Thank you to all of you who came to our Back to School Night. I hope to see you all at our picnic next Monday (September 17th).