CCNS has opened this FALL 2020 in a fully outdoor model following our Wasatch Wanderers curriculum. Staying outdoors as well as our COVID-19 Safety Protocols, was the best way for us to open this year. We do plan on returning to our indoor location in the Fall of 2021. Careful planning has helped us reimagine our preschooler’s days and adjust our programming to align with current public health guidelines in regards to COVID-19. More details about our Covid-19 Protocols can be found here.
CCNS (Community Cooperative Nursery School) is seeking individuals passionate about preschoolers. At CCNS we believe children learn best through exploring the world around them. Together, we are dedicated to fostering happy, socially engaged, independent thinking children through a teacher and parent supported community.
Our current openings are for a lead teacher. Part-time and full-time options are available. Applicants should be willing to work closely with parents in our co-op model, coordinate well with other teachers, and must have training or experience in a preschool or professional childcare setting. Benefits include tuition reduction and health insurance for full-time employees. Interested individuals should email a cover letter and resume to email@example.com.
By Brooke Blanchard
There are two groups of people: those who thrive on having a lot of options and those who absolutely do not. The former include people who enjoy comparing and contrasting a manifold array of possibilities when it comes to making a decision. These individuals most likely did very well on their SATs. The latter group, in which I include myself, can become quickly overwhelmed and insecure when presented with more than just a handful of options. Second-guessing and anxiety go into overdrive as we panic over having to make a decision that we tell ourselves is of life-altering importance. We don’t just put the cart before the horse. We run in circles, with our arms flailing, around the unhitched cart and horse in a futile exercise of wasted physical and emotional energy.
All this to say, when it comes to making choices for our young children, the amount of directions, options and methods we base our decisions on can be overwhelming. What age should I start pre-school? How many days should they go? Should they be in a structured setting or play-based? Fine arts or dual-language? Ballet or soccer? And so on and so on. Sometimes, the answer is made for us due to scheduling or financial limitations, but even then, second guessing can simmer beneath the surface. Am I making the right decision? What if I make the wrong decision?
For most of us, the “right” decision is the one that we think will be best for our children’s development. It is the path that will give them all the best tools in their tool belt to build healthy, happy, and successful lives. However, life is not a SAT test. There isn’t actually one right answer. This reality can feel both infuriatingly vague and mercifully relieving. It means that you will be confronted with an overabundance of options for each decision you need to make for your child. However, it also means that whatever you ultimately decide will likely support and nurture your child in a way that will help them further down the road.
There is a lot of anxiety and fatalism out there in the world right now. It can feel hard not to let it seep into our daily lives and decision-making. However, when it comes to making big little decisions or little big decisions for our families, our perspective can be a positive one. The abundance of options in front of us can be viewed as an abundance of opportunities. In this sense, any choice that you make will ultimately give your child something valuable rather than deprive them of something missed out on. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
By Aspen Anderson
Because my son was premature (82 days early, 2 pounds, 62 days in the NICU, I know you were wondering), for over two years I had an amazing benefit, provided by the state, of bi-weekly therapy appointments with speech, physical, and developmental therapists with Master’s Degrees and Ph.D.s in early childhood development. One of my biggest takeaways from that experience was that there is real, valid, scientifically-backed advice out there that, when followed, can make life with a small human just SO much easier.
I was constantly amazed at the specificity of the instructions these therapists gave me to help him catch up. He’s behind in crawling? Do this eye exercise. Boom, fixed. He’s not advancing to the next food texture quickly enough? Stick his Cheerios in the back side of his cheek so he has to strengthen his tongue to fish it out. Boom, fixed. It once took me (not my son – ME) four tries to properly follow their very specific instructions on how to give my son a choice – if I gave him a choice and he grabbed the item from me rather than me handing it to him, it wasn’t properly developing his social interaction skills, so I had to turn his wrist upward and put the toy in his hand so that I was actively responding to his choice. The minutia was fascinating to me, and it taught me that tiny adjustments in how we parent can lead to huge results.
Fortunately, a lot of equally qualified therapists and doctors maintain blogs, so I have been able to continue learning in the wonderful world of the internet. As my son began entering toddlerhood, I read an article I found extremely helpful on how to get your toddler’s cooperation and participation – unfortunately, it was a while ago and I can’t find it to link. It was written by a Ph.D. in childhood development, and let me tell you – IT WORKS! Here are some of the things I took away that I have incorporated to get better cooperation from my toddler. It’s all about understanding how their brains work!
- Make everything a story: Rather than saying, “put your toys away,” you make cleanup about something your toddler can relate to. So I say, “It’s time for your toys to go to sleep! Do you know where their beds are?” and he will joyfully help put the toys “to bed.” Recently he has started hugging and kissing them and says goodnight to them. It’s adorable! Making things silly will get their cooperation too because they are engaging in an imaginary world with you so your instructions become play. Instead of “get in your car seat,” try, “Oh no, if you get into your car seat you will sit on my purple elephant!”
- Create patterns: Every day I tell my son to son take off his shoes and then I ask him “where they live” and he puts them away. Then I do the same thing with his dirty socks – it took a little while for him to learn there were different homes for dirty and clean socks, but he gets it now! Having as much structure in your day as possible helps them feel like they understand what is happening, and explaining when things are going to be different will help them feel involved in the process. My son goes to a different babysitter or family member almost every day, so every morning I explain where we are going, who he is going to see, who is going to pick him up, and who is going to put him to bed. The other day he loved this so much he made me go over it eight times, piping “again!” every time I finished.
- Toddlers love to help! Research shows that if you let your children help you clean and cook at this young age, it establishes life-long cognitive patterns and increases their cooperation for years to come. It also establishes the expectation that they are participants in maintaining the household – which cuts down on entitlement. As soon as they are old enough to do something for themselves, they should be expected to take ownership of it (not as a rule, where if they don’t they will be punished – more as a natural evolution of their role in the family). My son pulls out his broom to help sweep, throws things in the garbage, and if I start baking he pulls his stool around the counter and insists on helping pour and stir. If he spills something, he asks for a paper towel and cleans it up himself – I didn’t teach him that, he just learned by example. You may have to do it right when they think they are done, but there is a huge developmental benefit to letting them try.
- Ease transitions: If you are getting ready to head out the door and rip your child away from his toys without warning, you are likely going to get a meltdown. Give them fair warning when a transition is happening: “We will be leaving in five minutes to go to grandma’s, so I’m going to play with you for a few minutes, then we will put on your shoes.” Giving that little bit of time and attention helps them prepare for a shift, and puts their focus on you and what you are doing, distracting them from their previous activity. Giving positive statements about what is coming or telling them who they are going to see also helps them shift to what is next. If I tell him it’s time to see Gracie (Papa’s blue macaw) or Stella (his BFF at CCNS), he gets actively excited to get out the door. A good tip for yourself is to take a deep breath because sometimes it is hard to have the patience to work with your toddler when you are running behind.
- Be careful about choices vs. directions: “Can you go find your socks” is an optional choice, “I need you to go find your socks” is a direction. If you give them a choice when you really did need them to do something, you can’t blame them if they accepted the fact it was a choice, and choose “no.” Being specific helps them understand when they need to follow directions, versus when you are giving them an option. Similarly, giving them a choice helps them feel like they have control of their lives. Just be sure to be specific. Instead of saying, “Choose a shirt,” say “Do you want to wear the red shirt with the dinosaur or the pink shirt with Elsa?” Whenever my son realizes I am giving him a choice to make his face lights up and he savors every second of it before deciding. These sorts of communications work best when you get down on their level and look them in the eye.
- Give them jobs: My son is responsible for getting his own hat, coat, and shoes in the morning and retrieving his bowl and spoon for cereal. It is his job to open the garage door and to hold the receipt for the checkers at the exit of Costco. He knows these things are his responsibility, and he takes them very seriously. Giving toddlers responsibilities helps them feel that sense of control, as well as a sense of participation in the adult world. It prepares them for bigger jobs in the future by teaching them they have an active role to play in their lives.
- Give natural consequences: When consequences need to be enforced, opt for logical, natural consequences rather than an enforcement of your power as the adult. Unless you are talking about a situation where their safety is at risk, find a way to talk to them that they can understand rather than just saying “I’m the adult so you have to do what I say” (again, deep breaths). We are developing little human brains, and unfortunately, if they live in a world where we train them to submit to us as authoritarians, they find it confusing because their instinct is to run to us when they are afraid, yet we are the source of their fear. This inadvertently teaches them that it’s ok for someone they love to exert power over them, which sets them up for normalizing abuse in adult relationships. So try to use “if” “then” statements that are logical. “If you don’t sit still in church, you don’t get ice cream after” isn’t a natural consequence, and are you really going to follow through? Probably not. “If you don’t get into the car, we won’t be able to listen to your favorite song” is a natural consequence. “If you don’t put on your pajamas now, we won’t have time to read your favorite story.” Your job is to help them understand cause and effect, so eventually, they can recognize the relationship between actions and consequences themselves.
So much of parenting success is in the minutia. The little things really count, and establishing routines and working on making your own responses consistent will go miles in getting cooperation. I know it isn’t always easy, and we aren’t going to be perfect. But if there ever was a good motivation to try, it is the galaxy that looks back at you through your child’s eyes.
CCNS is hosting drop-in tours for families interested in learning more about our program and wanting to enroll for the 2020-2021 school year. If you wish to attend, please meet on the playground at the designated time.
January 15 at 9:30 (3 and 4 year olds)
January 16 at 9:30 (2 year olds)
January 29 at 9:30 and 12:30 (3 and 4 year olds)
January 30 at 9:30 (2 year olds)
*Please reach out to our director, Cathleen Wilkes, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you cannot attend a tour but still wish to apply.
by Amy Twede
The magic of the holiday season is upon us. If you were like me as a child, this was the reason for being alive! My most cherished seasonal activities were exchanging presents, decorating our home, spending time with loved ones, and celebrating traditions.. Usually, we’d travel to St. George where my grandfather would bake a plethora of cookies and hand a tin full to each family. I specifically remember this tradition of my grandfather’s cookies because without fail, we’d receive a tin filled to the top, even if we were unable to travel to visit with family in Utah. The assortment was delicious, I remember only passing on one or two cookies that I didn’t like.
Now that I have kids of my own, traditions are something I think about every year. Which ones will I continue with my boys? Will we start new ones? Since becoming a mother, I’ve learned that nothing is set in stone. If you want to start a new tradition, start now! It’s never too late to try something new with your family. I’ve never had an advent calendar, but it’s something I desire to do with my kids. I do not have the energy this year to create one from scratch, so a store bought Lego Advent calendar seems to be in the cards for us this time around. And that’s ok, it will still be fun!
Some traditions which take less time and energy are watching holiday movies, looking at seasonal light displays (have you ever been to The Grand America to see their window displays?) and baking a yummy treat together.
Do you have some favorite holiday traditions? How do you create new ones? My top two suggestions for creating new traditions are to ask family and friends how they enjoy celebrating the season and ask your children what they like to do once the holidays come around. Our family celebrates Christmas. When I asked my four year old what he likes to do for the holiday he told me he likes decorating our tree and decorating gingerbread houses. Now, we’ve never decorated gingerbread houses at our house, but right there I received a suggestion which I can implement this year!
I hope you are able to celebrate this holiday season how you want to with your family. May you find ways to make new memories and carry on old traditions.
By Brooke Blanchard
You never forget the moment your child is born. No matter how it comes about, you’re suddenly handed this beautiful tiny human with dazed blinking eyes and the softest skin you have ever touched in your entire life. Watching this new person as they drift off into a deep sleep or grab your finger and gently scratch you with inexplicably long fingernails, it is impossible to imagine them ever not being this innocent and perfect for all of time…
Then they turn three.
While they continue to enchant us and bring us immeasurable joy, toddlers are frequently straddling the line between feral and dictatorial. As their conscripted guardians, we parents find ourselves wearing numerous hats throughout the day to maintain order: a healer hat, a mind-reader hat, a personal injury attorney hat, a janitorial hat, and a chauffeur hat… to name just a few. More often than not, we find a way to wear two or more hats at the same time. It’s a dizzying juggling act that can leave us mentally and physically exhausted by the time our toddlers fall asleep and once again return to that state of peaceful innocence and quiet stillness.
Despite the daily reminders that our lovely toddlers are fallible humans, it can come as an unwanted surprise when another parent points out unpleasant behavior to us. On my two-year-old daughter’s first day at CCNS last year, a seasoned CCNS mom came up to me to tell me that my daughter “had a great day, but has trouble sharing.” My initial reaction was to feel defensive and hurt by what felt like a criticism of my precious first-born child. But what was I so upset about? I knew better than anyone that she hadn’t learned to share yet. I live with her for Pete’s sake! Was my feeling one of embarrassment? Was it shame? Why was I so sensitive to hearing about my child’s completely expected behavior? This same thoughtful and kind-hearted CCNS mom later explained things in a way that enlightened me to one of the joys of parenting. Her comment that day was not a judgment about my daughter. It was an observation about where she was in her development on that day.
Co-oping provides the opportunity for observation every day; either you or another parent is in the classroom or on the playground observing your child’s growth and exploration. Co-op parents can tell you in September that your two-year-old isn’t sharing, but they can also be the one to tell you in January that your child happily handed over the coveted Elsa costume to another kid when asked. Moreover, when you enter the classroom yourself, you experience a spectacular sense of relief and near nirvana-level calm when you realize that every single other kid struggles and has bad days like yours. When parents (and teachers!) come together to traverse toddlerhood together, it removes the feelings of doubt and embarrassment and replaces them with judgment-free camaraderie.
There is a common saying. “Me before kids: I am going to run such a tight ship! Me after kids: Annnnnnnd the ship is on fire.” A lot of our time is spent trying to put out these frequent blazes, usually by counting to three, bribery, or the old pick em’ up and go move. However, sometimes it might be OK to take a moment to stop throwing buckets of water on the burning ship and just sit back and enjoy the beauty of the light with your fellow shipmates.
CCNS will host our annual Fall Harvest Dinner tonight starting at 6:30pm. This event for parents is a great opportunity to socialize with friends, old and new, while supporting CCNS. Ticket sales and proceeds from the auction go directly into the school’s curriculum. We hope to see you all there!
At this time, tickets can be purchased at the door and cost $45/couple or $25/person. BYOB (alcohol included). We hope to see you all there!
By Megan Corrent
Reading time is one of our favorite activities. If your family is anything like mine, you know that this can be a wonderful activity… Or one that grinds on your last nerve when your kid is obsessed with the worst book. There have been a several books that we have found over the last few months that have become favorites, and one in particular that has been a BIG hit! I wanted to share some of these literature gems in hopes that you find a new favorite as well so that the worst book might get misplaced for a while and no one will notice.
First up: Cyril’s Big Adventure. This one came to us by way of Grandma along with a super cute sloth, of course named Cyril. Cyril is a sloth who lives in the humid depths of the Costa Rican rainforest with his brother Horace. Cyril has a great dream to travel to far-away places. So, he decides to do just that. The story takes you through his adventures in a new big city. He tries restaurants, parks, even gets an ice cream treat. In the end, Cyril learns that adventures can be fun, but spending time at home with family is even better.
Next up: The Friend Ship. This story is one of my personal favorites. A sweet little hedgehog is very lonely and begins a journey to find a ship that is full of friends (a “friend ship” – cute, huh?). She first encounters a curious beaver who wants to join on her on her quest. They board a ship and start sailing to find the friend ship. On their journey they find more and more lonely animals in need of friends. In the end, they learn that all of them gathered together on their ship is the friend ship they have been searching for all along. I love this book, not only because I had a pet hedgehog named Gwyneth growing up, but mostly because of the sweet lesson that to find friends, sometimes you just need to look around you.
Last but not least: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. My 2-year old is completely obsessed with this story and it’s become a multiple-times a night kind of book. Which is fine, because it is adorable. Penelope Rex is starting school and she is nervous (what will her classmates be like? will they also like ponies?). As her name suggests, Penelope is a T-Rex, but come the first day of school, all of her classmates happen to be children -which are super delicious for dinosaurs. So she eats them (her teacher makes her spit them out). We love this story (and laugh particularly hard when the goldfish takes a CHOMP out of Penelope to teach her a lesson) not only because it is adorably written, but because it has great lessons on friendship and loving people who are different from you. As it turns out, when you are learning to make friends, it’s best not to eat them (even if they spilled bar-b-q sauce on themselves).
I hope you and your little ones find just as much enjoyment out of these stories as we have and help you both enjoy reading time a little bit more.
Come enjoy our annual Spring Picnic on May 18, 2019 from 3-6 pm. All proceeds from tickets sales and the event go toward a great cause: our scholarship fund! This year’s picnic will again be catered by R&R BBQ with some drinks available (donations appreciated!). Families are welcome to BYOB. Activities for the kids will include a bike/scooter course, bounce house, face painting, sing-along songs, and crafts/activities for the kids. Adults can enjoy a silent auction and food and drinks with our awesome parent community. Advanced tickets are $6 for kids and $10 for adults (not including PayPal fees). Children under 2 are free. Purchase your tickets here:
By Jana Cunningham
As I browsed through Instagram and Facebook this past St. Patrick’s Day, my feed was littered with photos and videos of green pancakes, green milk, green beaded necklaces, green decorations covered in green glitter and green gifts, as if it was Christmas. Although I found this strange (because until that moment, I had no idea St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated this way), I was most shocked by the elaborate leprechaun traps and the staged mischief (footprints made out of construction paper, toilet water dyed green, green writing on the walls, etc.) this little guy got into.
Three short years ago before I became a parent, I had no idea how many hours I would need to dedicate to ensure my child felt the magic of every holiday, including St. Patrick’s Day, apparently. Halloween is no longer about school parades and trick-or-treating, it’s a month-long celebration with festivals, corn mazes, over-priced pumpkins, endless crafts, parties, and trunk-or-treating. Valentine’s Day isn’t about bringing a paper-wrapped shoe box to school to collect store-bought cards, it’s about expensive home-made cards with tulle and glitter, daily love notes taped to the door, heart-shaped everything and ornate boxes with engines and AI features. (I may be exaggerating, but you get my point.)
I’m not saying that some of these activities aren’t fun – our local park puts on an adorable over-the-top Easter Egg hunt each year that I love to attend. However, it’s the pressure to participate in all of the activities, the pressure to spend my paycheck at Michaels on craft supplies and the pressure to make everything memorable just so I can forget to tape love notes on my daughter’s door that leaves me feeling like a failure.
In the age of social media, it’s easy to get caught up on what we “should” be doing to make holidays special. It’s easy to forget that some parents are naturally crafty and enjoy doing these sorts of things, but there are also parents who run to grocery store after work on Valentine’s Day and frantically search for the last remaining mini mylar balloon – who cares if it says “I Love You, Dad,” toddlers can’t read. The latter are the posts we don’t see on Instagram.
It’s the greatest feeling in the world to see your child experience something new and magical and it doesn’t matter if it comes from an expertly crafted Easter Egg basket that shoots glitter filled with hand painted Faberge eggs or a store-bought cleaning bucket filled with pink plastics eggs. Each one is memorable and fun. We all have different parenting styles and levels of craftiness and hopefully our kids will appreciate that – and hopefully we can appreciate it in each other as well.
So, whether you trapped a leprechaun this year or did absolutely nothing, remember your child’s happiness isn’t measured in glitter.
by Brooke Blanchard
My grandmother – a lifelong New Yorker – was as tough as she was warm. She lived through the depression, lost her brother in the South Pacific, married and raised 3 daughters, and worked for decades as a school teacher. When I was in college, I regularly visited her apartment for dinner and would often be on the receiving end of lectures that, much like her personality, could seem at odds with each other.
Most often she lamented extensively about my single status. She advised me to sit in the lobby of the Columbia University Law School with my hair down and act like I was lost. A nice law student would surely come to my aid, and marriage (and children) would soon follow. She said this with complete sincerity and unfeigned urgency. One evening however, she sat down next to me and told me that no matter what, I must always vigorously pursue interests and work outside of my marriage and children. To a 19-year-old, these sounded like conflicting priorities that couldn’t co-exist together. Today, I know they are conflicting priorities. But they can coincide via a complicated juggling act.
Millions of men and women struggle everyday to balance hands-on dedicated parenting with successful professional pursuits. The decision to pursue both can be personal, financial necessity, or both. In doing so however, life can become a one-person game of Twister; contorting your body into absurd and uncomfortable positions with a hand and a foot in different spheres of life, all while trying not to topple over. It’s a constant push and pull that more often than not makes you feel like neither side is getting a fair shake. A deadline is missed and a toddler is yelled at for no reason other than stress.
Enrolling your child in a co-op preschool is just one way parents can be more hands-on and involved in their kid’s life. And while it is incredibly fun, it can also put a lot of time management pressure on those who also have to work. It’s another circle in the game of Twister. Whether you work full time in an office, part time at home, or some combination of both, fulfilling your co-oping responsibilities and keeping it as a priority in your life can be difficult. Not to mention the feelings of guilt it creates when another parent needs someone to step in and you consistently decline due to a prior professional commitment.
This is not to say that only working parents struggle with conflicting priorities. I’ve met incredible people at CCNS. Men and women who have jobs, who manage their household and other kids, who take care of ailing family members around the clock, and who are still figuring all this stuff out. Everyone has a story that is compelling and filled to the brim with hard decisions, anxiety, and fulfillment. As a mother of two with no childcare, a part-time job, and an evening gig as an adjunct professor, I felt inclined to focus on the issue of working and co-oping because I live it.
Working and co-oping can be a challenge. Sometimes it works out just fine. Sometimes it does not. Both are perfectly acceptable, and families will endeavor to do what they believe is best for them. Perhaps, in between complaining about not wearing my hair down enough and inspiring me to professional and financial independence, my grandmother could have warned me about how challenging it would be to balance the priorities of family and work. However, knowing her, if I had asked how to do it, she would have looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Figure it out hon.”
Please stay home and stay safe today! As a reminder, CCNS follows the SLC school district in regards to closings.
By Sharon Bates
As parents, life can become so hectic we easily forget what ignited the very relationship which created today’s reality of having children together. Good thing we have Valentines Day to remind us!
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Valentines Day. Although I’m a huge fan of Love, I didn’t appreciate the pressure women in particular would put on men to “do it right,” and “make it amazing.” That being said, if I happened to be in a relationship at the time, I would usually make it known that I wasn’t a fan of the holiday, saying, “please don’t bother.” And of course, being the sweethearts that men are, they always would anyway. Then… there was John.
It was Valentines Day 2012 and I had a strong feeling that my fiancé, John, who knew my feelings about Valentines Day, yet still enjoyed celebrating, had also been so busy with work that month that he completely forgot to do anything about it. I knew he’d kick himself for not doing anything, so I took it upon myself to finally do something special for a change.
On my way to see him at his event that evening, I stopped by a Whole Foods and purchased two Valentines Day cards and two different, special craft beers. (This was in California, mind you.) I picked one card for him, and one for him to give to me. I’ll never forget that night. He took a quick break to sit in the car with me and chat. I surprised him with the idea and we signed, then exchanged our cards and beers, and shared a beer together. It was such a blast. Really, what ended up being so interesting about this “save,” was that I discovered, when picking the card for him to give to me, I had a chance to playfully help him express his love, but in a way that I’d especially love to hear it. It made me vulnerable, and it was totally fun at the same time.
I know I scored major points that night, and my husband will forever bow to my feet for having his back, and being so graceful about it. And, I will say, the creativity that I used that Valentines Day opened something up for me, too. Now I approach Valentines Day as not just a “show-me-how-much-you-care Day,” but as a day to be in-Love again! And I feel like John picked up on this vibe, too.
Since then, we don’t usually celebrate on the 14th; we both feel it gets too crazy with reservations and dinner. We now pick an evening in early February, and either treat ourselves to a super fancy restaurant or go somewhere interesting and gaze into each other’s eyes, getting present to how much fun it is to be a team. And, by the way, if you’re not on a “team” right now, use this holiday to express your love to those who play a part in making your life work as well as it does.
So, here I am wishing you a fantastic Valentines Day 2019, and supporting you to give it your best shot and get creative, meanwhile having zero expectations.
Here are some fun ideas, on ways to celebrate:
• Write a love letter.
• Make a “love jam mixtape” CD of songs that express your feelings.
• Design and create your own card.
• Cook a romantic 4-course dinner.
• Take a walk around the block, holding hands.
Cheers! …And Happy Valentines Day!
By Megan Corrent
December was such a magical time. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just enjoy the extra days off and the beautiful lights, most of us can appreciate that December is full of wonder and. At our home, our children are bouncing off the walls and are full of anticipation and excitement waiting for Santa Clause. Once we take down the tree, remove the lights, and clean up the last specks of glitter left behind by the mountain of gifts, January arrives bringing its freezing temperatures, poor air quality, and the realization that Santa won’t be visiting again for another 358 days. So the question then arises, how should we spend the month of January?
We do try and spend time outside playing and running around, but there are many days not suitable for outside play, so then what to do? There are, of course, the favorite go-tos: Discovery Gateway, the library, Living Planet Aquarium, the Natural History Museum, and even sometimes the McDonald’s playground, but some days are just spent at home. Having a two-year-old and four-year-old, there is no shortage of energy and curiosity that needs to be cultivated. Here are three other ways that we have found to entertain our children on those freezing January days spent at home:
- Good, Old-Fashioned
- Our kids love to color, so we have bought large rolls of white paper so they never run out. We unroll the paper, provide a bucketful of washable markers (or paint), and let them go at it. Of course, there are the occasional colored walls, windows, and floors, but the washable markers and Mr Clean Magic Erasers allow for easy clean-up for caregivers and hours of fun for the kids.
- Building with
- Really all you need for this fun activity is a bag of marshmallows (maybe two if your kids love to sneak a few) and toothpicks. Toothpick to marshmallow to toothpick to marshmallow is the great foundation to build a tower. See who can build the widest, the tallest, or the strongest! This is such a fun and mess-free way to start introducing the amazing world of engineering to curious minds.
- Instant Snow:
- You may be asking, “Why do we need to make fake snow? We live in Utah with the Best Snow on Earth.” Well, of course when we have a fresh snowstorm the need to make fake snow is kind of ridiculous, but for those freezing days with month-old, crispy, and dirty snow, making fluffy homemade snow is a super fun activity.
- What you’ll need:
- Large mixing bowl
- Measuring cups
- Baking soda
- Hair conditioner
- Glitter (Optional))
- Baking pan or large tray
- Next Steps:
- Measure and pour 1 cup of baking soda
- Measure 3 tablespoons of hair conditioner and mix with the baking soda
- Pour the mixture onto the baking pan or large tray and add 1 tablespoon of glitter (if this is when you say “nope,” feel free to skip the glitter) and mix with hands (little hands love this step)
- Let the kids then make different shapes and sculpt for hours!
Finding activities for little and inquisitive minds can be a challenge, but sometimes even free-play is a great way to allow for creativity to blossom and fun to be had. We hope that you and your children enjoy these activities as much as ours do, and Happy New Year!
How to Talk to Children About Race
University of Utah professor provides 10 tips for discussing race and culture with small children
Although children don’t come with instruction manuals there are, thankfully, an unlimited number of books and online resources to help parents navigate the ins-and-outs of raising children. Many popular resources are focused on topics such as sleep training, nap lengths, feeding, discipline and how to distinguish a blazing 2-year-old’s tantrum. But what about instructions for raising socially conscious children? How do you talk to a 5-year old about skin color, diversity or equity? Karen Tao, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Utah, can help.
“Kids are complex thinkers and they are really observant at a very young age,” said Tao. “They are watching adults and other kids, trying to make sense of how to operate and navigate their own interactions. For really young kids, they’re looking at what’s right and wrong and what’s fair and not fair. It’s important to provide a space for kids to have open conversations about these matters.”
Tao studies how children talk about and understand race and their other social identities. She has collaborated with elementary school teachers, students and parents in the Salt Lake School District to implement a classroom-based program focused on topics such as race and gender. She also conducts research on how parents and kids discuss these issues. Tao stresses the importance of starting conversations about diversity early, as children as young as 2-years old are beginning to articulate their ideas about difference and developing judgments on what these differences might mean.
“Kids are hearing a lot of misinformation through media, books and playground interactions, so it’s essential to ask questions and engage with them about these topics. These conversations can build empathy, compassion and kindness.”
Below are 10 of Tao’s tips for discussing race and culture with children:
- Examine your own understanding of race. If race wasn’t discussed in your household growing up, do some research on your own and reflect on what it brings up for you. The more you understand what race means and how it operates in our society, the better equipped you are to teach your children about it.
- Become comfortable with terminology and familiar with how certain concepts are used. For example, race and culture are not synonymous. It’s important to be explicit and provide children with accurate terms so they can learn how to apply them.
- When your child brings up a topic related to race, don’t be afraid to keep the conversation going. This lets children know it is OK to talk about what they notice. Instead of telling kids to keep quiet, refrain from using particular words or make specific observations out loud, talk to them. Ask them what they noticed and discuss it.
- Find opportunities to ask questions. For example, when reading a book to or with your child, ask them why someone is being treated a certain way? Is it because of their gender or skin color? Let this lead into a rich conversation.
- Let children take the lead. They will probably be the ones to initiate the conversation, so spend some time on what they bring up. Validate their questions or observations (“that’s such a great observation…”) and then move into a discussion. Statements and questions such as, “I’d love to hear more about that,” “that’s really interesting, what made you think of this?” or “how did that make you feel when you saw that happen?” are helpful ways to deepen your conversations.
- Involve your children in activities to help them learn about their own cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds. This will help them develop a greater sense of who they are, which will then enable them to create more positive interactions across various racial-ethnic groups.
- Help your children to think critically. It is common for children to focus on concrete and visible features to describe others, such as skin color or assumed gender. Challenge them to think about other important personal dimensions. For example, if your child refers to a friend as “my brown-skinned friend,” ask her to tell you more about her friend (e.g., “What does your friend like to do?” and “What kinds of things do you play together?”).
- Recognize your child’s limits and know when to stop. Depending on age and attention spans, conversations with children about these topics may only last a minute or two.
- Initiate a book club or conversation group with other parents who are interested in learning how to talk with their children about race. Sharing challenges you encounter will normalize the difficulty in talking about socially charged topics.
- It’s OK to make mistakes. Many of us did not grow up discussing racial issues, so there is quite a steep learning curve. You will stumble over your words and may share wrong information. Let your child know you are still figuring out how to talk about these important topics too and are so happy you get to have these conversations together.
Suggested books for discussing race with children provided by Lauren Liang, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Utah.
Everywhere Babies (Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee)
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James)
Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship (Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualis and Selina Aiko)
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson)
The Other Side (Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis)
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation (Duncan Tonatiuh)
Freedom in Congo Square (Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie)
The Year of the Dog (Grace Lin)
Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson)
Save Me a Seat (Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan)
Inside Out and Back Again (Thanhha Lai)
The Crossover (Kwame Alexander)
We have a saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Whether the phrase evolved from an African proverb or Native American lore, it speaks to our natural instinct to raise our children in places we know, where we feel safe, and where we have existing support. Well, what if you don’t have that village? Or what if you have to leave it and move far away? Blogs and Instagram make valiant attempts to assume the role of that proverbial village. Technology saturates us with social media platforms dedicated to parenting advice, baby gear and “mommy blogs” – all with the intent on guiding us through the tangled jungle of child rearing. But it’s not the same. Blogs won’t watch your kids for an afternoon so that you can finish a grant proposal without interruption. They won’t get together with you for a drink and an evening of venting. They won’t make you feel less alone.
This idea of communal support and nesting can be found all over the natural world. Aquatic animals, such as sea Turtles and the Pacific Salmon instinctually follow a homing process by which the adults return to their birthplace to reproduce because of safety and suitability. Elephants raise their young in “All Mother” herds where they take turns watching over each other’s babies to help allow the actual mother time to rejuvenate and produce enough milk. Again and again the themes of “home” and “community” come up. They are natural instincts derived from a primal sense of self-preservation. At our core, humans share this instinct as well. So despite appearances, it would appear we not unlike our salmon friends.
I was raised in Berkeley and Oakland, CA. Since I left in 2002, I have lived and worked in 5 different states and 4 different countries. When I became pregnant with my first child while living in upstate New York, however, I had an overwhelming instinct to get back to Berkeley. I had family and friends there. I knew the schools. I knew my way around town. It was HOME. Every fiber of my hormone raging body told me to get back there. Instead, due to various professional and financial forces, at five and a half months pregnant my husband and I packed up a POD, threw our dog Zeke into our rusted out Subaru Outback and drove 2000 miles to Salt Lake City, Utah. We arrived with no place to live, no health insurance, no friends, and no job for me. It was terrifying and overwhelming.
Needless to say, the shelter thing was figured out, health insurance kicked in, work eventually presented itself and baby Rose came along. Her brother Henry followed in spectacularly quick fashion. However, as many new mothers know, a baby’s world during its first years of life can be a very small one. Your radius for public outings is limited to who, what, and where you know. This is especially true if you are living in a strange new city. To make matters more difficult, if you are a true introvert like me, you struggle with outreach gestures and small talk (though you secretly crave both). You go to the park and watch other moms gather in groups while you sit silently next to your 7-month old playing in the sand feeling isolated and more than a bit awkward – two sentiments that pretty much capture new motherhood.
Despite the challenges, the natural instinct to create a community never disappeared. As my confidence as a mother grew, I began to build bridges from my tiny island of new motherhood. I was able to make a couple friends and even managed to push aside my nerves and ask for some phone numbers to set up playdates. When it became time to enroll Rose into preschool, I not only saw an opportunity for my daughter to learn and socialize, but for myself as well.
My research quickly uncovered that many preschools in the city boasted unique offerings that would apparently have an impact on my 2-year-old’s college admissions prospects. However, only a co-op like CCNS offered an environment where I could meet and interact with other parents on a more genuine level and avoid the limited and artificial parking lot conversations inherent to other schools. Thrown together in the fog of sand, glitter and finger paint, we would get to know each other’s kids and one and other in an intimate way that naturally forms stronger bonds. For a transplant family, a co-op provided the opportunity to plant a seed that could eventually grow the strong roots of community, friendship, and possibly a sense of home.
Being a transplant family is hard. The process of creating a herd is difficult and ripe for embarrassing interactions. However, our natural instinct to create a community that will support and protect us while we raise our kids is deeply ingrained in our DNA. It will ultimately push us past the fear of rejection and make even awkward introverts like myself open up and eventually ask for a phone number.
Halloween is just around the corner, and if you’re anything like me, you’re terrified. I consider myself to be somewhat of a “health nut,” which looks like me giving out small water bottles, when kids come to my door trick or treating. (When I was little, it was the dentist next door, that handed out toothbrushes. At least, I’m not that bad. I know…But, I’m close.) I won’t even let my 2 year old son, John, attend friends’ birthday parties – what my husband and I call “sugar fests.” So, we obviously are very committed to creating healthy habits for our young one. However, I do frequently ask myself how long can this last?
Then, little John has had a few beginning cavities. A combination of genetics, dried mango treats, night-nursing, and not brushing his teeth nearly as often as we should have. Our bad. Now, we’re on top of it. But, it’s not just tooth decay that has us take things so seriously. Consider the physiological impact sugar has on our bodies: “A high-sugar diet impacts both physical and mental health. The roller coaster of high blood sugar followed by a crash may accentuate the symptoms of mood disorders.” Psychology Today / 4 Ways Sugar Could Be Harming Your Mental Health
So, it seems like, I either take on the challenge of carefully managing little John’s unnecessary sugar intake, or try to tame the dragon. I’m not sure which one is easier, but I feel like I know which one is healthier.
Back to Halloween! Although, we don’t plan to go trick or treating just yet, I still wanted to interview a couple parents that offered some great solutions for handling the abundance o’ candy situation, and I wanted to share:.
Carolyn, a mother of two, had a practical approach. She said, “We let them have 2 or 3 pieces when they got home, then they could have 2 a day….. then they were sick of it and we’d throw it all away! Lol! …And of course we raided it! …We traded for toys once, but that didn’t stick.”
Michael, a father of three, had a playful approach. He said “You’ll have to ask the girls about The Candy Goblin coming to our front porch on Halloween night- he would take half of the candy gathered by trick or treating, in exchange for a gift of a toy, or music etc.
And whatever was left, I let them eat it at their own pace- [our son] might gobble his and make himself sick- Rose would make hers last until Christmas- either way, I let them figure it out.”
If you have anything to add to these suggestions, by all means, please e-mail me. email@example.com I’d love to hear about your ideas.
About Our 21/22 School Year
2020 was year unlike any other. We are proud that we managed to maintain our program outdoors during the 20/21 school year, safely. But we are excited to get back to our sunny classrooms at First Unitarian and depending on the state of Covid-19 infections in Salt Lake County– we plan to do just that.
We are happy to announce that we are working in coordination with First Unitarian to outfit our classrooms and shared spaces with improved air scrubbers in the HVAC systems that are proven to help kill ALL viruses as they circulate the air.
With vaccines rolling out and our local numbers going down, we are confident we will be opening indoors, but CCNS will plan to incorporate even more time on our playground and move circle times outside anytime the weather is nice! We will also be following guidance from the State Health Dept and CDC to form our safety measures. For more information, see our Covid-19 protocols.
We will have lots of Wasatch Wanderers outdoor exploration classes with Teacher Terry. We will have stand-alone classes on T/TH am and pm. You will also be able to add a single day of WW to your indoor preschool through single day add ons Wednesday or Friday afternoons. CCNS is excited to offer our first WW after school program for children ages 5+. We just can’t wait to see how our CCNS alum have grown.
Click to Enroll
Enrollment is open to current students Jan 25th at 8am and new students February 1st 8am.