2020-2021 ALL Outdoors

2020-2021 ALL Outdoors

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.

Big Little Decisions

Big Little Decisions

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.”  

Happiness Isn’t Measured in Glitter

Happiness Isn’t Measured in Glitter

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.

Celebrating Love

Celebrating Love

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!

Keeping the Winter Blues Away

Keeping the Winter Blues Away

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 Coloring:
    • 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 Marshmallows:
    • 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
      • Spoon
      • 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

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

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.