How To Talk To Children About Race

How To Talk To Children About Race

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:

  1.    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.
  2.    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.
  3.    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.
  4.    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.
  5.    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.
  6.    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.
  7.    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?”).
  8.    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.
  9.    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.
  10. 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.

Picturebooks:
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)

Chapter Books:
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)

The Transplant Family: Finding a Herd

The Transplant Family: Finding a Herd

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.

Trick or Treat?

Trick or Treat?

 

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. sharone.biz@gmail.com I’d love to hear about your ideas.

Happy Treating!

Sources:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201309/4-ways-sugar-could-be-harming-your-mental-health%3famp

Outdoor Crafts for Kids

Outdoor Crafts for Kids

Spring is officially here and Summer is right around the corner. With the warmer weather, I can’t wait to send my kids outside to play, to soak up a little (but not too much) sun, explore, and just enjoy being kids. While thinking about activities to really take advantage of our backyard, I have come across so many simple arts-and-crafts type activities that are sure to keep my kids busy and happy to be outside for hours on end. Here are some of my favorites that I know your kids will love!

How to make giant bubbles:

Making bubbles is no real challenge, you basically need just water and dish soap. To make giant bubbles and get them to last you just need to add in a little cornstarch and baking soda.

Here is the recipe I found:

  • 12 cups water
  • 1 cup dish soap
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons glycerin (optional)

Place the ingredients in a clean bowl or bucket and stir gently. Try not to create bubbles while mixing. Let sit for an hour before using.

You can simply use a hula hoop (you will need a plastic pool filled with the bubble solution for the hula hoop to fit), or a toy tennis racket with the netting cut out for the bubble wand. You can also make your own using two straws and a cotton string. Just thread the string through the straws and tie off in a loop. Dip your wand in the solution and then gently pull the straws apart (your wand will look like a rectangle) and slowly walk backwards to see your giant bubbles appear!

Make your own washable chalk paint:

If your kids love to paint, then this is the perfect outdoor activity.

What you will need:

  • Cheap paint brushes
  • Plastic paint trays or buckets
  • Washable chalk
  • A grater (not one that you plan to use for food, check out your local dollar store for an extra one)
  • Water

Grate a piece of chalk into your paint bucket. Add ½ cup water for every stick of chalk that you use to get the right consistency. Let your children paint away!

Giant ice cube excavation:

If you have plastic figurines like dinosaurs, farm animals, or sea creatures, try freezing them into a giant ice cube. Just make sure anything you use won’t be ruined by being in water. All you need is to fill a large bowl or tub with water, place the figurines inside, and freeze. You can freeze multiple layers to really scatter the toys inside the ice cube, and even add food coloring to make it extra special. Once frozen, take outside and have your child use tools (preferably plastic to avoid injury) and spray bottles to try to free his toys from the ice. It’s a great way for them to explore and cool down in one. I tried this last summer with my boys and our neighbors and it was a favorite activity. They kept asking to do it for days afterwards!

Homemade Body Paint:

Have your kids help to make this body paint recipe for double the fun!

You will need:

  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Place all of the above ingredients in a medium pot and mix. Put pot on the stove and stir over medium to medium-high heat. Continue to stir as the mixture thickens to your desired consistency. This will likely happen right before it starts to boil and will look like smooth pudding. Allow the paint to cool and divide it between different bowls or containers. Add 3-5 drops of food coloring to each bowl and mix. Now you are ready to go outside and paint! I would recommend wearing swimsuits or old clothing so that the food coloring does not dye any nice piece of clothing. When you are done just rinse it off.

Nature Collage or Mural:

After a few hours of exploring most kids will have collected all kinds of treasures. One way to make their treasures even more special is to turn them into works of art. All you need is some paper and glue and you can turn their leaves, nuts, seeds, flowers, rocks, sticks, etc. into a masterpiece worthy of hanging on the fridge.

Whether you use one of these ideas or not, I hope that you and your kids are able to get out and enjoy the outdoors this Spring and Summer!

What Do We Want For Our Kids?

What Do We Want For Our Kids?

When I drill down to what I really want for my children, I want them to have deep connections to others, resilience, and a voice. By resilience, I mean the ability to keep going when things are difficult, practice when it’s hard. And by voice, I mean that they express who they are and what they believe. They are ok with being different or disagreeing with a common opinion.
 
The traits I want for my kids are the very things I struggle with the most. I know I learned so many lessons from my family that they didn’t explicitly teach. Just thousands of interactions absorbed over time.
 
Empathy is the trait that will help children form deep connections with others in their life according to John Medina, in Brain Rules for Baby. Can we learn to really understand what someone else is going through or feeling? I get stuck in my own head and wrapped up with my own problems, forgetting that other people are having their own experiences. I forget that what I do affects the people around me, especially my family.
 
I try to get my boys to “read the room”. “Is your brother enjoying you standing on his head? Look at his face. How does he feel? It’s not a fun game if not everyone is having a good time.” I hope this idea expands to other areas of consent in later years.
 
Resilience is also difficult for me. A growth mindset articulated by Carol Dweck says praising a child’s effort instead of calling them smart helps them learn perseverance. As someone who was raised to think I was smart (as if intelligence is innate), any time things got difficult, I stopped. I work to praise the effort my kids are making. I try to make praise them about their behavior. “You are being really kind to your brother right now”, rather than a blanket “You are kind.” A subtle but important distinction.
 
And voice? I go with the crowd so much. I learned to conform at home and learned the “rules” of the different groups I was in. With my kids, when I don’t like something, I try to use the phrase, “that’s not for me.” (Borrowed from Austin Kleon.) It’s the idea that just because I don’t like something, doesn’t strip it of value for someone else. Sometimes my older boy will like something his friends don’t. I try to let him know that “you like what you like.” I figure the idea can expand to bigger subjects in the future.
 
I feel like my kids are so much better than me at being people. Sure, they don’t have executive function and impulse control but, regardless, they are sweet, try hard, and love each other. And love me, despite my many faults.
 
They make me want to be better and do better.

Outdoor Play is More Than Fun

Outdoor Play is More Than Fun

I participate in a moms’ group where we support and encourage each other in our parenting endeavors. At one of our meetings, we were challenged to complete this phrase, “My family is best when …” It didn’t take me long to answer with “outdoors.” My children, ages six and three, fight less, are more engaged, and generally appear happier whenever we are outside. Somehow despite this, it can still be a struggle to convince them to go outdoors.

In preparation for this article, I found there is an ever growing body of research extolling the benefits of connecting with nature. From preventing obesity, to better mental health, to lifelong love and concern for our natural environment, it is worth the effort that it sometimes takes to get the kids out of the house.

As the weather is warming up and summer is just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful mountainous landscape that looms over Salt Lake City or even just the backyard. Better yet, take a trip down to one of the scenic national parks in southern Utah before the summer heat arrives or go up north to Yellowstone National Park for a breathtaking getaway. Utah is blessed to have so much natural beauty within and around its borders.

I want to share with you some the great supportive research I found, complete with embedded links, and some tips that have been helpful in our own family for connecting with nature.

The American Psychological Association actively promotes the idea of taking children outdoors for mental health. Here is a snippet from Getting Back to the Great Outdoors, an article posted on their website:

“Psychologists have actively studied the role nature plays in children’s mental health since the early 1980s, when Harvard University biologist Edward O. Wilson, PhD, introduced his theory of “biophilia,” which argues that humans have an innate affinity for the natural world. Now, a host of studies are showing just how essential outdoor activities are for the developing mind.

One of the most influential longitudinal studies, led by Cornell University environmental psychologist Nancy M. Wells, PhD, found that children who experienced the biggest increase in green space near their home after moving improved their cognitive functioning more than those who moved to areas with fewer natural resources nearby (Environment and Behavior (Vol. 32, No. 6). Similarly, in a study of 337 school-age children in rural upstate New York, Wells found that the presence of nearby nature bolsters a child’s resilience against stress and adversity, particularly among those children who experience a high level of stress (Environment and Behavior, Vol. 35, No. 3).”

The Child Mind Institute, an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders based in New York City, similarly advocates for getting children outdoors. They estimate on their website that nearly 17.1 million of the 74.5 million children living in the United States suffer or have suffered from a mental health disorder. That is greater than the number of children with cancer, diabetes, or AIDS combined. They argue just going outdoors can help.

In Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature, an article on their website, they claim that “the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.”

This shift of kids spending more and more in time indoors now has a name: Nature-Deficit Disorder. It was coined by author Richard Louv, who has championed connecting kids with nature, and written a book titled with that same phrase, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.

“As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow,” Louv warns, “and this reduces the richness of human experience.”

The Child Mind Institute agrees stating “kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.”

Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, gave a written testimony to the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans titled “No Child Left Inside: Reconnecting Kids with the Outdoors”, in which he stated, “Play in an outdoor, natural environment allows children to explore both their world and their own minds. … Nature places virtually no bounds on the imagination and engages all of the senses. For all children, this setting allows for the full blossoming of creativity, curiosity, and the associated developmental advances.”

Now that you are convinced of the importance of spending time outside, maybe you’d like some ideas to help convince your children. Our family has found that it works best to give our children choices. Instead of dragging them along to a predetermined destination, we offer up a few ideas and call them adventures. It becomes a choose-your-own-adventure journey, which has helped a lot with cooperation and gives them a sense of ownership in the process. We have learned too that the destination isn’t necessarily the goal. Having fun along the way is better than pressing forward with a child who is overtired or just done. Small candies like jelly beans or smarties doled out slowly help to keep children moving forward as well.

Choosing short hikes that usually are a couple of miles long or less has been key. Some of our favorite hikes have been to Lisa Falls, Donut Falls, Mill B trail, Bloods Lake, Secret Lake, and Silver Lake. But also close to home can be just as fun at Wasatch Hollow or Miller Bird Refuge and Nature Park. We have an affinity for water. There is nothing more fun than throwing stones and twigs in a creek or lake. We also have a small inflatable pool and a sprinkler for the backyard.

A couple of years ago, we began a small vegetable garden in our backyard and let the children help decide what to grow, and they participate in planting and watering it. We let them use trowels to dig in the dirt among the flowerbeds, and they often create strange concoctions in a bucket consisting of mostly dirt, leaves, fallen flower petals, and twigs they discover in the backyard. Add a little water and they can entertain themselves for an hour or more.

We recently discovered the free Jr. Ranger programs offered through the national park system. We all learn a lot more about the national parks or forests we visit, and the kids love earning the accompanying badges for completing their booklets.

Need even more ideas? The Child Mind Institute offers a list with great ideas for ways to engage children outdoors from setting up treasure hunts to starting a collection to making art. Or sign up for a semester of Wasatch Wanderers here at CCNS!

President’s Message

President’s Message

Happy Spring! I have always found springtime to be a fun and eye-opening time at CCNS. As we approach the end of the school year, you can really see the students blooming! They become more comfortable and confident with their classmates, co-opers, and teachers, and most of the kids seem to feel at ease (and ecstatic about!) running around the playground, working on classroom projects, or setting out for new field trip adventures. Through play, they have learned so much about the world around them—essential skills and experiences that will help them be successful with school, friendships, and much more. And for parents, let’s be honest, co-oping at the end of the year is usually a bit easier than at the start, when so much is brand new.

This time of year is also packed with fun activities including a pony party, outdoor field trips, graduation for our kindergarten-bound students, and of course, the annual Spring Picnic. This year the picnic will be on Saturday, May 19th so mark your calendar and stay tuned for more details. There will be lots of food from R&R BBQ, a fantastic silent auction, and lots of kid-friendly activities. The picnic is always fun for the whole family and an important fundraiser for CCNS scholarships. You don’t want to miss it!

This May will also mark the end of my time as a parent and Board President at CCNS. It has been a privilege to spend the last 4 years helping run this amazing school, which has been educating preschoolers and fostering community for 56 years. I have enjoyed working with fantastic teachers and directors to create new programs that are moving the school forward, while maintaining the CCNS philosophy, mission, and values. And I especially appreciate the dedicated parent-volunteers on the Board, who have brought their unique skills to the table, making CCNS the best it can be. But most importantly, I have treasured the opportunity to experience preschool with my three kids, who will forever be proud CCNS alumni.

I am pleased to announce that Dana Powers will be taking over as President of the Board of Directors at the end of May. Dana is a 4-year CCNS parent and board member, and co-taught in the Wasatch Wanderers program this year. She has been teaching and/or co-oping for the last 14 years in many different settings in a variety of roles including lead teacher and program director. She will continue to bring lots of experience and great ideas to CCNS in her new role.

I hope you enjoy the last few months of the school year – see you CCNS!

Podcasts and Audio Books for Summer Road Trips

Podcasts and Audio Books for Summer Road Trips

Summer is just around the corner and with it comes the family road trip. Podcasts and audio books can be a great way to break up the journey, take a break from screens, or, in our car, avoid listening to the Frozen soundtrack for the 300th time. Here are some of our family’s favorites that both kids and parents can enjoy together.

Podcasts

Wow in the World
I first discovered Wow in the World when looking for a fun way to explain last summer’s solar eclipse to my four-year-old daughter. Thanks to the enthusiastic hosts and engaging format, it quickly became her favorite podcast. Each episode takes listeners on a scientific adventure, covering topics ranging from gene editing technology to why onions make you cry. Kids and parents will have plenty to talk about long after the podcast ends.

Dream Big
Adorable second-grader Eva, along with her mom Olga, interview people who will inspire kids to follow their dreams and reach their full potential. Guests have included astronauts, musicians, Olympians and authors. One of the best episodes is an interview with Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate from Harvard Law school.

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child
This music podcast features playlists that combine children’s artists such as Laura Doherty and Elizabeth Mitchell with kid-friendly tunes from adult artists like Sleater-Kinney, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Paul Simon. As a parent who was clueless about kids music, this podcast helped introduce me to many great artists, and having a few of my favorite songs in the mix is an added bonus.

Story Pirates
Be prepared, Story Pirates gets really silly, really fast! Each episode beings with a narrator reading an original story written by a child. Professional actors then expand on the story, creating a sketch comedy, often with a song and a few jokes for parents thrown in as well. After listening to this podcast your kids will want to start writing and submitting their own stories to the show!

Audiobooks

The Roald Dahl Audio Collection
Some preschoolers may not be ready for Roald Dahl quite yet, but for those that are I highly recommend this collection read by the author. Dahl adds personality and humor to each of the five included stories (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James & the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Enormous Crocodile and The Magic Finger).

The Collected Stories of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
With narration by Stephen Fry and additional voices provided by Judi Dench and Jane Horrocks, this audio book is even more charming than the original print edition. The classic tales of Winnie-the-Pooh are just as meaningful now as they were when first released in 1926.

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
Jim Dale, who also narrated the Harry Potter audio book series, reads a charming set of tales from the author of All Creatures Great and Small. Based on Herriot’s experiences as a rural veterinarian in the English countryside, each story will teach kids the joy of having pets and the responsibilities involved with their care. At about 10 minutes apiece, each story is also perfect for short trips around town.

Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater
A hysterical story of a 266-pound chicken named Henrietta. Young children will enjoy the craziness of the giant chicken, and older children will enjoy the sense of humor and imagination in the book. There is even a political lesson included in the story regarding con artists and scams. The narration is positive and children will enjoy the way the story unfolds.

The Magic Tree House Collection: Books 1-8 by Mary Pope Osborne
The Magic Tree House series tells the story of two children who find a tree house filled with books. The tree house takes the siblings on a series of adventures based on the books they choose to read. Narrated by the author, the stories captivate children as young as three and as old as six or seven.

Which Kindergarten Do I Choose?

Which Kindergarten Do I Choose?

When I was a kid, I went to my neighborhood school. Boom. Done. Easy.
 
Years later, when my son was ready for school, I was paralyzed by all the choices. There is so much more information these days about being a parent, things that kids need, and approaches to education.
 
Drilling down to the school that would work best for my son meant my wife and I had to articulate our values and philosophies surrounding education.

  • What do we want him to get out of school?
  • Who he is as a learner?

My wife and I wanted our son to learn a second language and be in a diverse environment. We found a school that seemed like a good fit. He made good friends there and was learning Spanish. For all the good things, he ultimately started to hate going to school. He is curious and loves reading and learning. We didn’t want him to equate his dislike for school into a dislike for learning. We wanted him to enjoy going to school. We moved him to another school and he loves it. His c current school wasn’t the first choice for us, but it was a great choice for him.
A couple things I know now:

  • There will never be a perfect fit
  • Your “final” choice may have change
  • Your kid is the one who has to go there everyday

We’ll likely move our son again as his interests emerge and we see what he needs to grow as a person and a learner.

I recommend visiting classrooms early in year, so now. Some schools have open houses beginning in October. If you can visit the class on a non-Open-House day, you may get a better feel for how the class runs on a normal day.

Some thoughts on assessing the class during your visit:

  • How you feel in the class? Is it welcoming?
  • Does the teacher’s approach fit with your values/philosophy surrounding education?
  • How are the students responding to the teacher and the material being taught?
  • Is the focus of the school more academic or more about socialization?
  • What type of classroom involvement do you want as a parent?
  • Is there a dress code? Do you care about a dress code?
  • Is the school population diverse or homogeneous?
  • Is the school half-day or full-day?

Something to think about for parents whose kids are near the age cut-off is redshirting which is “the practice of postponing entrance into kindergarten of age-eligible children in order to allow extra time for socioemotional, intellectual, or physical growth. This occurs most frequently where children’s birthdays are so close to the cut-off dates that they are very likely to be among the youngest in their kindergarten class.” source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redshirting_(academic)
 
Below are some options for kindergarten around Salt Lake. Some of the schools have been to CCNS in the past to promote their programs, some schools I’ve heard about from other parents. This list is intended to be informational, not any kind of endorsement for a particular school. (Whew. My lawyer just left.) Now, on with the schools. I’ve tried to link to the school’s admission page, were possible.
 

Open Enrollment

Both Salt Lake City and Granite School Districts offer open enrollment, meaning you can go to a school that is not your neighborhood school. Check with the school itself to find information about enrolling.

Dual Immersion

Part of the day is taught all in English, the other part of the day is taught all in another language like Spanish or French

ELP (Extended Learning Program) or Gifted and Talented

Charter schools

Part of the school district but with some practices that are different than a typical school such as co-oping

Private schools

 
UtahFamily.com has school directories for kindergartens searchable by location.
 
I hope this information is useful. I’d love to hear more about your experiences and recommnedations on the CCNS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CCNSslc/

Planning Activities when Air Quality is Bad

Planning Activities when Air Quality is Bad

In addition to all the outdoor wonder, religious zeal, and booming economy, Salt Lake is now also nationally recognized for dangerously poor air quality. Of course, most of the year our air remains unremarkable, but when ozone or PM2.5 levels become elevated there can be serious consequences to our health. As we move into this winter season, when bad air quality days are most common, the activities we choose for our families can help minimize risk and avoid contributing further to the problem.
 
Over the past several years, the state has begun several campaigns to inform citizens about the current air quality measurements and issuing warnings when levels become elevated. Numbers are usually expressed through the Air Quality Index (AQI), a scoring system that provides simple thresholds and categories that tell us what those levels mean for us.
 
When the Air Quality Index (AQI) is high (greater than 100 for sensitive groups and greater than 150 for all others), make sure to avoid strenuous exercise outside. Exercising causes us to inhale much higher levels of air, increasing exposure and risk to our bodies. According to Dr Brian Moench, of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, minimizing exposure is especially important for kids, because their bodies have not yet developed the same biological barriers that exist in adults.
 
When air is bad, it’s critical that we keep driving to a minimum and avoid burning wood in a stove or fireplace so that we don’t make the problem worse. If you want to go the extra mile, consider lowering the heating setpoint of your furnace by a few degrees (ex: 68 °F) to reduce the energy (and associated combustion) that it takes to heat your home.
 
So, if we can’t let our kids outdoors and we can’t drive, the best activities are in the home. Consider planning a few ideas ahead of time so you can keep the family occupied for a day and don’t have to make a last-minute trip to the store to get supplies. Share your ideas with other families! To get you started, here are a few items that came to mind for me:

  • Collect a box of craft goods and let the kids go crazy making art from it. Some of the most treasured cards my daughter has received were shell and jewel embossed notes.
  • Have you ever played the board games Make Me a Cake or Busytown from Richard Scarry? They can even be fun for the adults, blowing old classics like Candyland out of the water.
  • What recipes have you tried baking with your kids? Think they’re up for the mixing or cracking an egg? Consider making and decorate cupcakes.

If you don’t already have a favorite website or app to tell you about our current air quality, current measurements and a number of helpful resources can be found at air.utah.gov, a website managed by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.