Academics vs. Play… why not both!

academics-v-playWhen giving tours at ELCM, I am often asked “Are you more academic or play-based?”  I must admit I find this to be the most difficult question to answer.  If I respond with the importance of preparing children academically for the rigor of first grade, I feel I am misrepresenting the young child by denying the importance of play.  If I respond with my belief that the young child learns through play, then I am misrepresenting the importance of preparing the child with the academic skill set needed to be successful in first grade.  How do I explain to a perspective ELCM parent their child will love school and will thrive in the academic arena with the right type of play combined with a developmentally appropriate learning time.

Setting up a classroom is a very methodical process.  There must be the right balance of purposeful play and teacher directed learning.  At ELCM, every center created within the classroom has a purpose and a role in the child’s learning. Here is an outline of the “Play Centers” you will find in our all of our classrooms.

Our MATH centers are designed with brightly colored thematic objects to catch the playful eye of the child.  These hands-on objects lend themselves to sorting, graphing, patterning, and the discovery of symmetry.  What the children do not realize as they are “playing” is they are learning mathematical concepts. Also the manipulative nature of the math materials help develop small muscles and build skills they will need in higher grades.

Our DRAWING and WRITING centers are fill with markers, crayons and assorted paper.  It is in this center children are developing organizational skills, along with pencil control and printing skills.  It is also allows for creativity and for expressing one’s imagination with pen and paper.  Drawing and Writing are important steps into the writing and reading process.

Our BLOCK centers are filled with blocks of various shapes and sizes.  This tends to be the most popular spot in the classroom.  A great deal of organizing and planning, not to mention cooperative play takes place here. It is said that our future architects and city planners play here!

Our DRAMATIC PLAY centers are filled with items where children can role- play important futures career opportunities such a doctor, a veterinarian, a police officer, a mail carrier or more importantly a mommy or a daddy.

Our SCIENCE centers bring the world around us into the classroom.  They are free exploring and allow the children to experiment and discover with various mediums.  Many skills are taught through exploration and the self-discovery of making predictions and watching outcomes help to make confident learners.

Our ART centers are filled with various paints, play dough, glitter, glue etc.  This is the center to express oneself creatively and to build confidence in using all school tools such as scissors, paint, and glue.  The young child is naturally drawn to the love of art; and so we feed that love.

Our GAME centers are extremely important in teaching life skills about cooperation, how to wait your turn and the most valuable lesson of all, how to be a good winner and a good loser.

Our PLAYGROUND is as important as our classrooms.  Exercise is unmistakably important for the mind, body and spirit.  When children use their large muscles, they release energy and oxygenate the brain.  Social scenarios occur as children swing, slide, climb, dig and use construction vehicles.  Not to mention, being outside is just fun!

I agree that teacher-directed learning has its place in the early childhood curriculum, but what if you watch or listen to the young child, if play they want and play they need.  So I say to parents and teachers alike; remember, ” Play is a child’s work” and know that at ELCM our “play centers” are so much more than what meets the eye.

-Authored by Deb Winslow

 ELCM Owner / Teacher

Thankful at ELCM

thankfulThankful.

An adjective defined as: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists; of, relating to, or expressing thanks. The children at ELCM have been engaged in discussions about being thankful and showing thanksgiving or gratitude. They have been learning about the upcoming holiday and what significance it has in our own lives today. I took the opportunity while being in and out of the preschool, pre-k and kindergarten classrooms to interview some students about what they are thankful for, the answers are genuine, endearing and often reflect what is in the forefront of these young children’s minds.

I am thankful for:

  • Aria: People that we love and popsicles when I have a sore throat
  • Isabel: Carving pumpkins
  • Danny: Memere and Pepere giving me toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Olivia: Pets like horses, dogs and cats
  • Harper: When my Nana and Pops get me money and when my grandfather takes me to Dunkin Donuts
  • Caidence: Daddy letting me eat popsicles and candy
  • Sammy: When my family took me to Disneyworld
  • Emma: For hugging people
  • Eli: Thanksgiving
  • Ella: A house to live in, fruit and accessories
  • Marek: The food store so we don’t have to grow all our food
  • Hayden: Everyone getting me toys
  • Caroline: Nothing bad getting us and that the war saved us
  • Libby: My family and that we have food and toys and clothes to protect us
  • Ari: Having food and a house
  • Brielle: The sun keeping us warm and light, we have family to protect us like our dads and stuff to draw and paint with
  • Cole: Going outside
  • Connor: Lunch
  • Reid: Snack
  • Addison: Being Doc McStuffins
  • Cam: Blocks
  • Wes: Lunch
  • Vera: The loft airport
  • Austin: Momma

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

Chocolate Isn’t Evil!

halloween candyDid you know chocolate is one of the best candy choices? With Halloween right around the corner, we thought it would be a good time to talk about what’s good for your child’s teeth and promote oral health. After trick-or-treating, sort your child’s candy. Throw out anything ripped or if it appears that it has been tampered with. Allow your child to eat candy in moderation in order to avoid stomachaches and cavities. Teeth have an increase rate of cavities the longer and more frequent they are exposed to sugar.  Below is a list of the best and worst candy for your child’s teeth.

  • Chocolate quickly dissolves in your mouth, which means your teeth will be in less contact with the sugar. But be aware of chocolates that are filled with caramel or nuts, they are harder to chew and potentially harmful to your teeth.
  • Powdery candy, like Pixy Stix and Fun Dip, are not as bad as other candies because they dissolve quickly preventing the sugar from sticking to your teeth.
  • Hard candy, like lollipops and Runts, are NOT good for your teeth because they are sucked on at a leisurely pace; this allows the teeth to be coated with sugar. Teeth can also chip or break when biting down on hard candy.
  • Chewy candy, like gummies or caramels, are the WORST for your teeth; they are high in sugar and spend an extended time stuck on your teeth. Chewy candies are also more difficult for saliva to break down. The sugar gets in the grooves and stays there, creating a greater potential for tooth decay to occur. Also, be aware that raisins and other dried fruits have the same risk.

Halloween is a great time to remind your little ones of the importance of brushing and flossing:

  • Brush two times per day, once in the morning and before bed.
  • Floss one time per day. Use children’s flossers to make this easier and more fun.
  • Encourage extra brushing after they eat Halloween candy. If your child is not able to brush after having candy, have them drink water to help wash away the sugar.
  • See a Dentist two times per year for a dental cleaning, exam and professional fluoride treatment. If you are looking for a new dental home, please come see us at Family Dental Care of Milford, we are always accepting new patients.

Smiles!   Authored by: Amanda Smith, DMD, MPH (Ellamina’s mom) Kelly Fontaine, RDH (Addison’s mom)

Parents and Youth Athletics: Tips From a Coach and Dad

sports image2Will your son or daughter become a professional athlete one day?

I just had a scout tell me my two year old son is going to be a first round draft pick in the year 2030. However, first he is going to have to make it from mite hockey all the way through junior hockey. Back to this in a moment.

Youth athletics can be some of the best years of a child’s life. They’ll make memories, meet new friends and learn values – all positive enhancements in a child’s development.  I have been very fortunate to work in a youth sports environment for the past 12 years.  (I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up and I wouldn’t change what I do for anything!). I have seen the highs and lows of a child’s development.  My experience in the hockey world translates to youth sports and any youth athletic environment.  Whether it is hockey, baseball, football, dance, or soccer, parents can all have the same positive or negative effect in their child’s athletic development.

Here are my words of wisdom to parents:

  • Do not become the evil of your son or daughter’s youth sport experience.
  • Let them develop the love of the game on their own.
  • Let their coaches teach them the skills they need and let them know that it is okay to make mistakes.
  • Don’t push them or put unnecessary pressure.  It saddens me when I see a player make a mistake on the ice and his eyes immediately glare for his parent’s reaction.  This will not help your child become a better athlete.  It makes them a nervous athlete and has the potential to push him or her away from the sport that they have grown to love.
  • When you are driving in the car after baseball, hockey or soccer practice, make your conversation about the positives that he or she did; reflect  it to the team (if it is a team sport).  Ask them: did you listen to coach when he was correcting you?   Did you have fun today?

My point is this: don’t be a coach – they usually have three of them in a team environment.  Be a parent and listen to them. Let them love what they are doing.

Okay… now back to my son being a first round draft pick. It probably won’t happen, so I think I would rather him develop a passion for a sport that he is interested in and let him see it through. I think I will support him by driving him to his practices, games and tournaments and let him enjoy his teammates. I want him to learn the values of teamwork and what it takes to accomplish a goal as a team.  Children can learn so many lessons from youth athletics that will help them grow and mature. Let’s let them figure it out with our positive guidance and not our negative pressure.

-Authored by Dan Fontas

 ELCM Parent / Coach

Welcome to the 2014-2015 School Year!

2014 staff welcomeThe excitement and rush of the new school year always brings me back to one of my favorite children’s books, “Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden”, written by Edith Pattou and illustrated by Tricia Tusa.  I find the correlation between caring for a garden of flowers and the caring for a classroom of children heartwarming and inspirational.

Mrs. Spitzer is a teacher and, at the start of the school year, she is given a packet of seeds from her principal.  I have always imagined Mrs. Spritzer to be a preschool, pre-k or kindergarten teacher.  Mrs. Spitzer takes special care in preparing her garden.

“She makes sure the soil is right-light and well drained with plenty of room for sprouting”.

Then Mrs. Spitzer plants the seeds.  The start of her school year is spent watering them, feeding them and making sure they get plenty of sunlight. As they sprout and grow she checks them daily for weeds and pests.  At ELCM, our teachers take the first six weeks to plant our classroom garden and watch the children sprout into curious learners.  Classroom routines and rules are established in these early weeks to ensure physical and emotional safety.

As Mrs. Spitzer’s instinctively knows that different plants need different things. She knows some will grow quickly, and some will grow more slowly.  Some are bright and bold while some are silvery and quiet.

“A few are like windflowers and will grow anywhere you put them. And some need gentle care, a special watching over”.

This is the part of the story, which touches the heart of why we teach.  It is all about teaching to the individual.  A good teacher knows who her children are and knows what they need to grow to their fullest potential.  We always say we will take your child where s/he is academically, socially and emotionally, and take them as far as they can go.  Some children may surpass the norm, while others may not, but we must remind ourselves the child’s journey is about individual growth not peer comparisons.

As the seasons pass, Mrs. Spitzer continues to feed and care for her garden.  And then the year is over and her job is done.

“But the plants will keep growing, uncurling their stems, stretching their leaves outward, and showing their faces to the sun”.

The most rewarding moments in my teaching career have been when ELCM graduates return and I witness the continued growth of their individual journey.  It is one of life’s greatest rewards knowing you had a part in their journey.

So, as we prepare our classrooms and get ready to welcome your children into our classrooms, know that every ELCM teacher carries Mrs. Spitzer in her heart.

We are all so excited to watch your children grow throughout this school year and we thank you for entrusting your little sprouts with our wonderful ELCM teachers.

 

-Authored by Deb Winslow

 ELCM Owner / Teacher

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