Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Helping Children Engage in Appropriate Touch

STOP touching her! 

Keep your hands to yourself!

How many times have you heard yourself saying these things to one of your children?

I remember when I was a child and we would all load up in the family station wagon to head out for a vacation.  There were three of us kids and I was the youngest so of course that meant I usually had to sit in the middle! 

We would hardly get out of the driveway and someone was tattling because someone was touching them!  (Just for the record, it was usually my brother and sister!  I was a complete angel!). 

It's actually pretty funny now to think about some of the things my mom and dad would say to us in an attempt to get us to stop touching each other and just get along!  It usually sounded something like, "If you kids don't stop touching each other I'm going to put a piece of tape down the middle of the seat between you and you won't be allowed to cross the line or you'll be punished."

Similar scenarios play out in classrooms and homes across the world every day. 

Children need touch.  In fact, it is the only sense you cannot live without.  We've heard the devastating stories of children in situations where they have been left swaddled or in cribs without touch and it results in extreme cognitive, physical, and social delays and even death.

If we need touch so badly, why is it that it is usually the first thing we do away with when children start tattling about the annoying child next to them that is touching them?  "Keep your hands to yourself!"

Would you like some strategies to help you teach children to touch appropriately so they can get their physical need for connection met in a way that will lead to willingness, greater impulse control, and improved attention? 

Children want need connection.  They also need our assistance learning the social skills necessary to get along with others.  If we want them to constantly sit "criss-cross applesauce hands in your lap" then when are they going to get the opportunity to connect with one another appropriately?  Put simply, they don't!  Since that need isn't being met, they are seeking that input in inappropriate ways.  Either because they don't know how to do it any differently or because they are in need of connection.  That's part of the reason they can't stand in line without poking, pushing or bumping their friends.

Let's start with connections.  When you are building connections with children there are four ingredients that are necessary:  eye contact, touch, presence, and playfulness.  Just like when you bake a cake, if you don't get the right measurement of each ingredient the result will be a flat cake.  It is essential that you look for creative and novel ways to help children connect with one another and with YOU!

One of Dr. Bailey's suggested "Top 10 Rituals for Connection" is Greeting and Goodbye Rituals.  They are super simple and fun!

At the beginning of our day in preschool I used to wear a greeting apron and greet each child in a playful way as they arrived each day.  Then during our circle time they would also get a greeting from a friend.  This was a great opportunity to not only build connections, but also teach social and communication skills!

During the month of November we would do lots of fun activities about Thanksgiving. 

Most of my preschoolers didn't know what a turkey looked like nor what sound it made.  We read books about turkeys and looked at lots of pictures.  We practiced making gobbling noises and even made up a fun turkey greeting! 

Here is a short video of my preschoolers offering their peers a choice of greetings.  The turkey greeting was one of their all time favorites!  Notice the brief eye contact, joyfulness, and communication that occurs as the children connect appropriately!


In the video they are using a super simple greeting plate.  You can make your own by using the template on the Make and Take cd form the Conscious Discipline website.  Basically, you use a paper plate.  Divide it into 4 sections using ribbon.  In each section, you adhere a piece of Velcro and a picture to represent a choice for greetings such as a turkey to represent the turkey greeting.  Using Velcro allows you to switch the greetings throughout the year to keep it novel and engaging.

I've included a free printable below with four new greetings that would be appropriate for Fall and Thanksgiving.  You saw the turkey greeting in the video.  I'll go ahead and describe how I would do the other three greetings.  Feel free to tweak them and make them work however would be best for you and your children! 

Pumpkin Greeting:  Give the child a hug and say, "If you were a pumpkin I'd pick YOU!"

Scarecrow Greeting:  Pretend the child is a scarecrow as you pull their arms out to the side, put a hat on their head, add some buttons on their chest (basically decorating your scarecrow).  When done smile and say, "You may scare crows, but you don't scare me!"

Football Greeting:  Take a step back away from the child and pretend you have a foot ball in your hand like you're going to make a pass.  The child puts their hands out as if to catch the "ball".  Once the child "catches" the ball, you take their hands in yours and raise them up like a goal and together shout "TOUCHDOWN!"


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Keep Your Cool with Children's Books that Teach Social-Emotional Sills

I LOVE to use children's books to help teach many skills.  One of my favorites is Social-emotional skills.  There are so many creative ideas you can use!  I have compiled a list of helpful books and resources on the handout that you find when you follow this link.  I had the opportunity to share this information with teachers at the Early Literacy Conference in Indianapolis today!  Hope you find it helpful!


Teaching Executive Skills Through Independent Reading Time

Young children have a difficult time managing their own behavior because of immature Executive Skills.  These skills aren't fully develop until the age of about 24.  Adults constantly have to come alongside children and guide them as they develop these critical skills. 

One time in our preschool day that was often difficult for children was the transition from snack to circle time.  Children finished their snack at various times and that meant there was a little bit of wait time for those who finished first.  We offered the children some independent reading time while they waited for their friends. 

Sometimes, independent reading time can be chaotic with young children.  They need help organizing themselves, settling down and getting started with their books, and then focusing their attention to the end.  I developed these "bags of books" for my classroom to help them be more successful.  See this post for more information about how to create your own book bags using cheap bags from the Dollar Store.

To help children be successful we followed these tips:
1. Put books in the bag that individual children are interested in and are appropriate
2. Add visuals to the bag to remind the children what they CAN do while they have the bag
3. Give children their own space to sit or lay quietly to enjoy their books.

Here is a free printable visual that you can add to the outside of the bag to help children make helpful choices.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Top Ten TO DO's of Conscious Discipline

I have the privilege of presenting at the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children Conference tomorrow!  I will be sharing some of the highlights of Dr. Becky Bailey's program, Conscious Discipline.  If you would like to learn more just follow this link to the handout!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

You have to admit, Frozen was quite a hit in 2014!!!!  It is now one of my all time favorite Disney movies!

I absolutely love the theme of the movie and how it demonstrates the impact that fear has on our lives!  The more we separate ourselves and rely on fear to govern our lives the more "frozen" we become...feeling like control is the only way to win!  In the end we find out that control leaves us feeling broken and alone...frozen

Just when things seem like they couldn't get worse along comes the adorable fun loving snowman--OLAF!!!  Never fear Olaf is here!!!!  Olaf has to be my favorite character in the whole movie!!!  He is such a fun character and I totally relate to his determination and dreamy outlook on life!  What is Olaf's favorite thing???  Well, of course, WARM HUGS!!!! 

So, even though the bottom just fell out of the temperatures here in Indiana and it is FREEZING outside, it can certainly be warm inside if we do like Olaf and greet each other with LOTS of warmth!!! 

I shared four new greetings over on PreK and K Sharing today that will be sure to spread lots of warmth throughout your classroom when you return from winter break this week.  In fact, they are fun enough that they can last all month long if you rotate them periodically!!! 

The post includes a FREE PRINTABLE from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store that you can use to make a quick greeting apron before school tomorrow!!!

I thought it might also warm your heart if I shared some adorable videos that help teach you how to do the greetings so you are ready to make lots of connections with those kiddos tomorrow!!!  My daughter and her friend helped me make a video to demonstrate each of the greetings and they can be found on my Youtube channel!  Here is a sample of "Snowman Greeting!" 

So, go a snowman!!!  Take the time to slow down and share the warmth of a hug or a smile with your children!  By doing so, you do more than just build a snowman...YOU'RE BUILDING BRAINS!!!!

Until next time...I wish you well!!!