His Name Is Jack

Last year my Lobster and I bought a pumpkin but did not get around to carving it. I love carving pumpkins so I put it on the fall fun activity list. This year we forgot to even buy a pumpkin. I was so focused on completing items on the list that I forgot to buy a pumpkin. Luckily I did buy one for work. So instead of carving a pumpkin with my lobster, I carved one with my kids. They had so much fun watching and talking about it but none of them wanted to put their hand inside or touch the insides and seeds when I pulled them out.

img_3454

I was hoping to also ‘go for a morning walk’ with  my Lobster but it seems we ran out of time. I went on a walk this morning on my way to work. Two more things to cross off the list.

fall-activity-list-update

 

Advertisements

A Little Extra Spice

Play dough is one of my favourite things to do with my kids at work. I love the feel of it in my hands, squishing it, it is so relaxing. Normally I make pretty boring play dough, usually just adding some colour. Sometimes I have gotten a little adventurous and added jello to the mix for a little extra sensory. This time I wanted to try something new. My favourite spice is cinnamon, I use it in everything. I thought why not try adding it to play dough. So I added it to my Fall Fun Activity List and brought some cinnamon to work.

Play Dough

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup cold water
  • food colouring

*I added 1-2 tbsp of cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. May need to add more water or flour so it is not to dry or sticky.

Keep in a sealed container or bag to prevent it from drying out.

Will last 2-4 weeks outside of the fridge.

The kids and I made play dough as usual and added some cinnamon.

img_4763

It smelt so delicious. It made me think of cinnamon buns and I almost wanted to eat it. It was definitely a successful experiment and the kids loved it too.

img_4777

Plus one more thing to cross of my list!

fall-activity-list-update

A Little Trick 

As an ECE I have learnt many little tricks over the years to help me through my daily adventures with children. One such is trick is how to paint on plastic. 

    
Plastic snack cups are so handy for arts and crafts. Painting them can be frustrating as the paint does not cover the cup evenly and chips off easily when dry. However, if you add glue to your paint then coat the plastic it will spread more evenly and stay on when dry. You may still need a couple coats to get your desired effect. If you are cutting holes into the cups it is best to do this before you paint. I hole punched four holes near the bottom to add pipe cleaners. 

   
This cup has one coat of paint mixed with glue. I mix 2 parts paint to 1 part glue.  I then added two more coats in order to get a darker black for a spider. Once all the paint was dry I glued on two googly eyes on the front and added pipe cleaners in the holes for legs. I used a hot glue gun to glue the pipe cleaners to the inside of the cup. 

  
These Spooky Spiders are easy to make even with toddlers! They can do most of the work just remember to have an adult use the hot glue gun to attach the pipe cleaners. They make great classroom decorations that the children can participate in instead of store bought decorations. 

  
   

Happy Halloween !  

For All The Tears

Today is ECE appreciation day! To all my fellow educators, and to those who have no idea what teaching children can be like some days I have included this wonderful story about the creation of the teacher. Being a teacher is an amazing thing, to be a part of a child’s life as they experience the world and learn new things is a wonderful gift. However there are also days that are beyond difficult. So remember to take a minute to appreciate all the hard work that educators do in order to teach young children. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did.

The Creation of the Teacher

The Good Lord was creating teachers. It was His sixth day of ‘overtime’ and He knew that this was a tremendous responsibility for teachers would touch the lives of so many impressionable young children. An angel appeared to Him and said, “You are taking a long time to figure this one out.”

“Yes,” said the Lord, ” but have you read the specs on this order?”

TEACHER:
…must stand above all students, yet be on their level
… must be able to do 180 things not connected with the subject being taught
… must run on coffee and leftovers,
… must communicate vital knowledge to all students daily and be right most of the time
… must have more time for others than for herself/himself
… must have a smile that can endure through pay cuts, problematic children, and worried parents
… must go on teaching when parents question every move and others are not supportive
… must have 6 pair of hands.

“Six pair of hands, ” said the angel, “that’s impossible”
“Well, ” said the Lord, ” it is not the hands that are the problem. It is the three pairs of eyes that are presenting the most difficulty!”

The angel looked incredulous, ” Three pairs of eyes…on a standard model?”

The Lord nodded His head, ” One pair can see a student for what he is and not what others have labeled him as. Another pair of eyes is in the back of the teacher’s head to see what should not be seen, but what must be known. The eyes in the front are only to look at the child as he/she ‘acts out’ in order to reflect, ” I understand and I still believe in you”, without so much as saying a word to the child.”

“Lord, ” said the angel, ” this is a very large project and I think you should work on it tomorrow”.

“I can’t,” said the Lord, ” for I have come very close to creating something much like Myself. I have one that comes to work when he/she is sick…..teaches a class of children that do not want to learn….has a special place in his/her heart for children who are not his/her own…..understands the struggles of those who have difficulty….never takes the students for granted…”

The angel looked closely at the model the Lord was creating.
“It is too soft-hearted, ” said the angel.

“Yes,” said the Lord, ” but also tough, You can not imagine what this teacher can endure or do, if necessary”.

“Can this teacher think?” asked the angel.

“Not only think,” said the Lord,. “but reason and compromise.”

The angel came closer to have a better look at the model and ran his finger over the teacher’s cheek.

“Well, Lord, ” said the angel, your job looks fine but there is a leak. I told you that you were putting too much into this model. You can not imagine the stress that will be placed upon the teacher.”

The Lord moved in closer and lifted the drop of moisture from the teacher’s cheek. It shone and glistened in the light.

“It is not a leak,” He said, “It is a tear.”

“A tear? What is that?” asked the angel, “What is a tear for?”

The Lord replied with great thought, ” It is for the joy and pride of seeing a child accomplish even the smallest task. It is for the loneliness of children who have a hard time to fit in and it is for compassion for the feelings of their parents. It comes from the pain of not being able to reach some children and the disappointment those children feel in themselves. It comes often when a teacher has been with a class for a year and must say good-bye to those students and get ready to welcome a new class.”

“My, ” said the angel, ” The tear thing is a great idea…You are a genius!!”
The Lord looked somber, “I didn’t put it there.”

– Author Unknown

Please Shine Down On Me

It was a rainy day today. I absolutely love the rain. I even have a pair of yellow rain boots. My goal is to find a yellow rain coat to match. The rain is perfect, I find it very calming. Thunder storms are even better. I sleep so much better during a storm. I still enjoy days when the sun is shining bright but there is just something about a rainy day.

Growing up one of my favourite books was called Rainy Day Magic. It’s an amazing children’s book full of imagination and adventure. I love reading it to my kids at school and sharing it with them. Check it out, Rainy Day Magic by Marie-Lousie Gay

IMG_0280.JPG

All The Leaves On The Trees

I have always had an interest in family trees. I like family and I like trees so I suppose it’s not much of a surprise. As a teacher I would love to do a family tree project. The only problem is I teach toddlers. So I had to come up with an idea to make it work for them. I give you our class tree.

IMG_0243-0.JPG

They loved making it. Each child got to dip their finger in paint and add a leaf to our tree. I wrote each child’s name under their finger print. One fingerprint wasn’t enough to satisfy the sensory hungry toddler however. So each child also got to make their own tree. It’s a great art project for the start of the school year for any age group. Feel free to share your own start of school project, I’m always looking for fresh ideas.

Good, good, good!

Good job, you decided to read this post.

Have you ever told a child ‘good job’ when they do or accomplish something? I have, many times. Saying ‘good job’ to a child can become meaningless when used repeatedly. As an early childhood educator I have learned of many reasons not to say ‘good job’ to a child. It can be hard not to and I catch myself often but perhaps the following article will give you some motivation to change your ways.

YOUNG CHILDREN
September 2001
Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”
By Alfie Kohn

NOTE: An abridged version of this article was published in Parents magazine in May 2000 with the title “Hooked on Praise.” For a more detailed look at the issues discussed here — as well as a comprehensive list of citations to relevant research — please see the books Punished by Rewards and Unconditional Parenting.
Para leer este artículo en Español, haga clic aquí.

Hang out at a playground, visit a school, or show up at a child’s birthday party, and there’s one phrase you can count on hearing repeatedly: “Good job!” Even tiny infants are praised for smacking their hands together (“Good clapping!”). Many of us blurt out these judgments of our children to the point that it has become almost a verbal tic.

Plenty of books and articles advise us against relying on punishment, from spanking to forcible isolation (“time out”). Occasionally someone will even ask us to rethink the practice of bribing children with stickers or food. But you’ll have to look awfully hard to find a discouraging word about what is euphemistically called positive reinforcement.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, the point here is not to call into question the importance of supporting and encouraging children, the need to love them and hug them and help them feel good about themselves. Praise, however, is a different story entirely. Here’s why.

1. Manipulating children. Suppose you offer a verbal reward to reinforce the behavior of a two-year-old who eats without spilling, or a five-year-old who cleans up her art supplies. Who benefits from this? Is it possible that telling kids they’ve done a good job may have less to do with their emotional needs than with our convenience?

Rheta DeVries, a professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, refers to this as “sugar-coated control.” Very much like tangible rewards – or, for that matter, punishments – it’s a way of doing something to children to get them to comply with our wishes. It may be effective at producing this result (at least for a while), but it’s very different from working with kids – for example, by engaging them in conversation about what makes a classroom (or family) function smoothly, or how other people are affected by what we have done — or failed to do. The latter approach is not only more respectful but more likely to help kids become thoughtful people.

The reason praise can work in the short run is that young children are hungry for our approval. But we have a responsibility not to exploit that dependence for our own convenience. A “Good job!” to reinforce something that makes our lives a little easier can be an example of taking advantage of children’s dependence. Kids may also come to feel manipulated by this, even if they can’t quite explain why.

2. Creating praise junkies. To be sure, not every use of praise is a calculated tactic to control children’s behavior. Sometimes we compliment kids just because we’re genuinely pleased by what they’ve done. Even then, however, it’s worth looking more closely. Rather than bolstering a child’s self-esteem, praise may increase kids’ dependence on us. The more we say, “I like the way you….” or “Good ______ing,” the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what’s good and bad, rather than learning to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval.

Mary Budd Rowe, a researcher at the University of Florida, discovered that students who were praised lavishly by their teachers were more tentative in their responses, more apt to answer in a questioning tone of voice (“Um, seven?”). They tended to back off from an idea they had proposed as soon as an adult disagreed with them. And they were less likely to persist with difficult tasks or share their ideas with other students.

In short, “Good job!” doesn’t reassure children; ultimately, it makes them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious circle such that the more we slather on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. Sadly, some of these kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the head and tell them whether what they did was OK. Surely this is not what we want for our daughters and sons.

3. Stealing a child’s pleasure. Apart from the issue of dependence, a child deserves to take delight in her accomplishments, to feel pride in what she’s learned how to do. She also deserves to decide when to feel that way. Every time we say, “Good job!”, though, we’re telling a child how to feel.

To be sure, there are times when our evaluations are appropriate and our guidance is necessary — especially with toddlers and preschoolers. But a constant stream of value judgments is neither necessary nor useful for children’s development. Unfortunately, we may not have realized that “Good job!” is just as much an evaluation as “Bad job!” The most notable feature of a positive judgment isn’t that it’s positive, but that it’s a judgment. And people, including kids, don’t like being judged.

I cherish the occasions when my daughter manages to do something for the first time, or does something better than she’s ever done it before. But I try to resist the knee-jerk tendency to say, “Good job!” because I don’t want to dilute her joy. I want her to share her pleasure with me, not look to me for a verdict. I want her to exclaim, “I did it!” (which she often does) instead of asking me uncertainly, “Was that good?”

4. Losing interest. “Good painting!” may get children to keep painting for as long as we keep watching and praising. But, warns Lilian Katz, one of the country’s leading authorities on early childhood education, “once attention is withdrawn, many kids won’t touch the activity again.” Indeed, an impressive body of scientific research has shown that the more we reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Now the point isn’t to draw, to read, to think, to create – the point is to get the goody, whether it’s an ice cream, a sticker, or a “Good job!”

In a troubling study conducted by Joan Grusec at the University of Toronto, young children who were frequently praised for displays of generosity tended to be slightly less generous on an everyday basis than other children were. Every time they had heard “Good sharing!” or “I’m so proud of you for helping,” they became a little less interested in sharing or helping. Those actions came to be seen not as something valuable in their own right but as something they had to do to get that reaction again from an adult. Generosity became a means to an end.

Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that’s often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.

5. Reducing achievement. As if it weren’t bad enough that “Good job!” can undermine independence, pleasure, and interest, it can also interfere with how good a job children actually do. Researchers keep finding that kids who are praised for doing well at a creative task tend to stumble at the next task – and they don’t do as well as children who weren’t praised to begin with.

Why does this happen? Partly because the praise creates pressure to “keep up the good work” that gets in the way of doing so. Partly because their interest in what they’re doing may have declined. Partly because they become less likely to take risks – a prerequisite for creativity – once they start thinking about how to keep those positive comments coming.

More generally, “Good job!” is a remnant of an approach to psychology that reduces all of human life to behaviors that can be seen and measured. Unfortunately, this ignores the thoughts, feelings, and values that lie behind behaviors. For example, a child may share a snack with a friend as a way of attracting praise, or as a way of making sure the other child has enough to eat. Praise for sharing ignores these different motives. Worse, it actually promotes the less desirable motive by making children more likely to fish for praise in the future.

*
Once you start to see praise for what it is – and what it does – these constant little evaluative eruptions from adults start to produce the same effect as fingernails being dragged down a blackboard. You begin to root for a child to give his teachers or parents a taste of their own treacle by turning around to them and saying (in the same saccharine tone of voice), “Good praising!”

Still, it’s not an easy habit to break. It can seem strange, at least at first, to stop praising; it can feel as though you’re being chilly or withholding something. But that, it soon becomes clear, suggests that we praise more because we need to say it than because children need to hear it. Whenever that’s true, it’s time to rethink what we’re doing.

What kids do need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached. That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. “Good job!” is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops, for doing things that please us.

This point, you’ll notice, is very different from a criticism that some people offer to the effect that we give kids too much approval, or give it too easily. They recommend that we become more miserly with our praise and demand that kids “earn” it. But the real problem isn’t that children expect to be praised for everything they do these days. It’s that we’re tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values.

So what’s the alternative? That depends on the situation, but whatever we decide to say instead has to be offered in the context of genuine affection and love for who kids are rather than for what they’ve done. When unconditional support is present, “Good job!” isn’t necessary; when it’s absent, “Good job!” won’t help.

If we’re praising positive actions as a way of discouraging misbehavior, this is unlikely to be effective for long. Even when it works, we can’t really say the child is now “behaving himself”; it would be more accurate to say the praise is behaving him. The alternative is to work with the child, to figure out the reasons he’s acting that way. We may have to reconsider our own requests rather than just looking for a way to get kids to obey. (Instead of using “Good job!” to get a four-year-old to sit quietly through a long class meeting or family dinner, perhaps we should ask whether it’s reasonable to expect a child to do so.)

We also need to bring kids in on the process of making decisions. If a child is doing something that disturbs others, then sitting down with her later and asking, “What do you think we can do to solve this problem?” will likely be more effective than bribes or threats. It also helps a child learn how to solve problems and teaches that her ideas and feelings are important. Of course, this process takes time and talent, care and courage. Tossing off a “Good job!” when the child acts in the way we deem appropriate takes none of those things, which helps to explain why “doing to” strategies are a lot more popular than “working with” strategies.

And what can we say when kids just do something impressive? Consider three possible responses:

* Say nothing. Some people insist a helpful act must be “reinforced” because, secretly or unconsciously, they believe it was a fluke. If children are basically evil, then they have to be given an artificial reason for being nice (namely, to get a verbal reward). But if that cynicism is unfounded – and a lot of research suggests that it is – then praise may not be necessary.

* Say what you saw. A simple, evaluation-free statement (“You put your shoes on by yourself” or even just “You did it”) tells your child that you noticed. It also lets her take pride in what she did. In other cases, a more elaborate description may make sense. If your child draws a picture, you might provide feedback – not judgment – about what you noticed: “This mountain is huge!” “Boy, you sure used a lot of purple today!”

If a child does something caring or generous, you might gently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: “Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack.” This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing

* Talk less, ask more. Even better than descriptions are questions. Why tell him what part of his drawing impressed you when you can ask him what he likes best about it? Asking “What was the hardest part to draw?” or “How did you figure out how to make the feet the right size?” is likely to nourish his interest in drawing. Saying “Good job!”, as we’ve seen, may have exactly the opposite effect.

This doesn’t mean that all compliments, all thank-you’s, all expressions of delight are harmful. We need to consider our motives for what we say (a genuine expression of enthusiasm is better than a desire to manipulate the child’s future behavior) as well as the actual effects of doing so. Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life — or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head

It’s not a matter of memorizing a new script, but of keeping in mind our long-term goals for our children and watching for the effects of what we say. The bad news is that the use of positive reinforcement really isn’t so positive. The good news is that you don’t have to evaluate in order to encourage.


Let me rephrase my opening sentence, ‘Good job, you decided to read this post’, into something more appropriate. I appreciate that you took the time to read this post, thank you.

If you liked this article check out more work by Alfie Kohn