Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer is finally here!!

We are very excited about summer being here.  Our Junior Scholars summer camp began last week.  This year we have welcomed a few new faces as well as welcomed back returning campers and kids we sent to kindergarten last year.   This year’s camp promises to be very exciting for the kids.  Ms. Kristin and Ms. Jill have planned a lot of fun fieldtrips and activities on campus.

We have a lot of exciting things going on this summer at our main center as well.  We have had our wading pools delivered for our two year old.  The older kids will be able to run through the UIS fountain.  Talk to your child’s teacher about how to dress your child for swim days.

 Reading adventures for the older kids will also be starting soon.  The kids will take walks across campus and read books.  Watch for updates on where their adventures take them!

Please remember to bring in sunscreen and fill out a form.  We ask that you please apply sunscreen to your children in the morning.  We try to get the kids outside as much as possible to enjoy the weather.  We will reapply sunscreen in the afternoon before going back outside.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Importance of Family Meals

Why are family meal times important?

Less than half of the families in the United States eat dinner together at the dinner table.  Our society is so busy with “things we need to do” that we forget that we need to take the time to slow down and enjoy meal times with our family.  Studies reveal that family meals are an important part of a child’s development, emotional health, and nutritional views. 

Family meal times promote family communication.  Along with this your child will learn how to effectively express their ideas.  They will also learn to listen patiently while others speak.  This leads to children being able to form and express their own opinions in a respectful manner.  For these reasons it is important to turn off other distractions.  Turn the television off so that it doesn’t distract your child and other family members.  Focus on teaching manners, these manners will carry across to their interactions with other in all situations.

A very good way to start family meals is to have your child participate.  Let them become involved in the planning of the meals.  You can use this to encourage them to try new foods.  They will be more excited to try different foods if they have a hand in preparing them.  Children can also help with setting the tables and cleaning up. 

Family meals are a time when you can show your family that you love and appreciate them.  This will help boost your child’s self-esteem.  Family meals create a sense of routine for children and give children an extra sense of security.  It can be a safe haven time for not only your children, but your whole family as well.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Creative Curriculum- new curriculum to be implemented at the Cox Children's Center

For the past few months, the Butterfly Room and now the Lincoln Room have been experimenting with a new curriculum style. We began looking into other options in an effort to better connect our observations and assessment of children with our purposeful and planned curriculum. The preschool teachers have completed a 15 hour training on Creative Curriculum and the infant, toddlers and two year old teachers will complete theirs this Saturday.

The care that infants, toddlers, and twos receive and their experiences during the first 3 years of life have a powerful influence on how they view the world, how they relate to others, and their ability to succeed as learners. Infants, toddlers, and twos who receive high-quality care are more likely to become sociable, capable preschoolers who get along with others, demonstrate self-control, and love learning.

Certain fundamental beliefs underlie The Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos:
  • building a trusting relationship with each child
  • providing responsive, individualized care
  • creating environments that support and encourage exploration
  • ensuring children's safety and health
  • developing partnerships with families
  • observing and documenting children's development in order to plan for each child and the group
  • recognizing the importance of social/emotional development
  • appreciating cultural, family, and individual differences
  • taking advantage of every opportunity to build a foundation for lifelong learning
  • supporting dual language learners
  • including children with disabilities in all aspects of the program

Creative Curriculum for Preschoolers is based on five fundamental principles. They guide practice and help us understand the reasons for intentionally setting up and operating our programs. The five principals are:
  1. positive interactions and relationships with adults provide a critical foundation for successful learning.
  2. social-emotional competence is a significant factor in school success.
  3. constructive, purposeful play supports essential learning.
  4. the physical environment affects the type and quality of learning interactions.
  5. teacher-family partnerships promote development and learning.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Using Yoga with Young Children

Many people use yoga as a way to stay healthy, focused and relaxed. We have recently used yoga with our preschoolers and found it to be a natural way for children to help transition into the naptime routine. Through this technique, we found that it also enhanced children's learning experiences in the classroom. Some of the other benefits include: promotion of social emotional development, increased control of impulses, increased focus and attention to body placement and confidence.

Here are some examples of yoga moves that are developmentally appropriate for young children (mostly concentrating on children 2 1/2 to 5). These moves are inclusive while also allowing for independent expression and creativity.

Turtle Shell:

  1. Fold your body forward
  2. Tuck in legs, arms and chin (like a turtle)
  3. take breaths- deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth
  4. remain quietly tucked in your shell
Growing roots:

  1. raise arms out to sides, overhead, and back down
  2. inhale as arms go up and exhale as arms go down
  3. pause with arms raised
  4. repeat as needed/desired
Monkey Breaths:

  1. make fists and take deep breaths through the nose
  2. exhale and pull the right fist up toward right armpit
  3. inhale and release the hand down
  4. repeat with the left side
  5. alternate sides and quicken the pace
  6. gradually slow down movements
  7. take 3 breaths

Monday, December 15, 2014

Helping Children Become Successful Writers

Wasik & Hindman (2010) found that shared book reading alone accounted for only 10 percent of the variability in children’s literacy skills (73). Some studies have revealed that skill-based parent involvement plays an important role in early literacy development (Evans et al., 2000).

Some researchers have found that when picture books are traditionally shared with young children, links do not automatically form between the words on the page and the illustrations (Philips et al, 2008). Here are a few ideas to use when reading to children to build early literacy development.

1. Point to the words as you read to them in order to help develop print awareness (words are separated by spaces, we read from left to right and top to bottom, etc.).

2. Ask questions to connect new vocabulary and to help with sequencing and comprehension.

3. Point out those sight words that are repeated over and over again (I, and, the, etc.). Help children sound out words as appropriate, based on their age.

4. Use the pictures/illustrations to help tell the story.

5. Assist and encourage children to identify letters and/or words on the pages as you read along.

We know that the home-literacy environment plays a more important role than socio-economic status when it comes to academic success (Dickinson and McCabe, 2001, p. 196). The goal of the writing process at all levels is to help children find their own voices and to nurture their writing development with scaffold support until they feel confident taking independent responsibility (VanNess, Murnen, & Bertelsen, 2013). Enjoy this journey with your children.

Children will go through stages as they learn to write:

  1. Random Scribbling (ages 15 months-2.5 years): The child makes random contact with paper and exhibits little muscular control. The strokes made are usually the result of large muscle movements with a fist grip.
  2. Controlled Scribbling (2-3 years old): Pretend writing is produced as children scribble across paper in a linear fashion. Patterns may be repeated and increased muscular control is observed. Over time they transition from a fist grip to holding the utensil between their thumb and pointed finger.
  3. Lines and Patterns (2 1/2- 3 1/2 years old): Children understand that writing is made up of lines, curves and patterns.  To the children, their writing now has meaning!
  4. Pictures of Objects or People (3-5 years old): Children naming their creations, children planning prior to drawing with more detail and more control in their fine motor actions.
  5. Letter and Word Practice (3-5 years old): The beginning of using letters in their writing. This starts with the letters in their names and also with pretend letters (that often resemble shapes, letters). They are experimenting with (and understanding) that letters and print have meaning.
More tips to encourage writing:
  • make art a regular part of your routine
  • allow your child to experiment and explore (no instructions needed)
  • notice the process....not just the end product
  • experiment with art materials as your child nears age 3
  • encourage your child's attempts to write (make shopping lists or notes for Grandma or Mom and Dad)
  • display your child's work (this is how he/she feels it is valued

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

UIS Cox Children's Center FAQ

I recently attended the annual NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) conference that was held in Dallas, Texas. I look forward to this opportunity each year as the conference presents opportunities to network with colleagues from around the world who share in my passion for early care and education. One of my favorite sessions this year related to using social media to strengthen communication with families, staff and the community as a whole. Since returning (and even from the hotel) I have been busy tweeting, pinning and now....blogging about all of the wonderful ideas that I am excited to share with you. That being said, it's time to get our blog up and running again. In this session it became clear that it was important to have a FAQ accessible to parents. I will share with you some of the answers to questions that we are asked most often.

1.  Ratios: While we are required to maintain the ratios set by the state, we aim to meet those recommended by NAEYC. Our infant classroom is licensed for 12 and we have 8 babies with 2 teachers (ratio is 4:1). Our toddler class is licensed for 10 children and we have 8 with 2 teachers (ratio is 5:1). Our two year old class is licensed for 13 and we have up to 13 with 2 teachers (ratio is 8:1). Our 3 year old room is licensed for 8 and we enroll up to 8 with 1 teacher (ratio is 10:1 for 3 year olds). Our Pre-K room is licensed for 20 and we enroll up to 18 with 2 teachers (ratio is 10:1). We believe that you will have stronger and more positive interactions when you have a lower adult:child ratio.

2.  Food Program: We participate in the USDA federal food program and we must follow their guidelines at all times. We comply with regulations related to food selection, health/sanitation, times of meals, charting/serving of meals, etc. We go through periodic audits and are subject to fines and loss of our grant if found to be out of compliance. The rules apply to all children enrolled at the center. The infants eat breakfast at 8:15, lunch at 11:15 and snack at 2:15. The toddlers/two's eat breakfast at 8:30, lunch at 11:30 and snack as they wake up around 2:45/3:00. The 3-5's eat breakfast at 9:00, lunch at 12:00 and snack at 3:00-3:15. We serve a health, well-balanced meal and all children are encouraged to eat all components. Many of them eat better than they may at home because they see their friends doing it.

3.  Outside/Gross Motor Time: We support the believe that children need at least 1 hour of gross motor play per day and we strive for 2 (depending on the weather). We believe that children and adults need fresh air and we go outside daily when at all possible. If the temperature falls between 25-90 we will go outside so please dress your child accordingly. We are blessed to have access to the gym in the student life building for those days when the weather does not cooperate and you can find us there on those occasions. We have our own equipment in the gym and the children love going there.

4.  Naptime:  As children get older, they may start to outgrow their nap. However, as a state licensed center we are still required to have them rest for 1 hour. If they do not sleep they will then be offered quiet activities to do for the remainder of the rest period while their friends sleep. This rule does not apply to infants and toddlers, who do not follow the same rules regarding naptime. Naptime is based on individual need for infants/toddlers. Some may sleep for 2 hours and some may not. Please work with your child's teacher regarding naptime if you are experiencing problems at home. We want to work with you but please realize, this is a group setting and others do need their nap. It is important that those not sleeping remain quiet and respectful of their needs as well.

5.  Is my child doing .......... Often times we are asked about certain behaviors that a parent may be seeing at home. Parents become concerned and are curious if we too are seeing them at school. Sometimes we are, but often times we are not (and that is okay). Many experts will say that children save that special behavior for the ones they love the most. They feel most comfortable at home so it is only natural to let loose at home. I mean, really.....they can only be good for so long!  What is most important is to maintain open communication so that parents and teachers can work together for the best interest of the child. By sharing information, parents can assist teachers and teachers can assist parents in learning the most effective ways of working through situations that are happening.

6.  Celebration of birthdays/holidays: We are proud to have a diverse center with a unique group of families and cultures celebrated. We tailor our celebrations around the families that are enrolled and strive to make our experiences real and relevant. We hope that all families interested will share customs and traditions with us in the classrooms. When celebrating birthdays, please talk with your child's teacher to make arrangements. Anything brought into the center must be store bought and in its original packaging. There are children with allergies and special diets to be taken into consideration.

7.  Transitions:  Our goal when transitioning your child to the next classroom is to make it as smooth as possible for you and your child. Our transition process typically takes place over a 2 week period. The child's visits gradually build up over this period of time while they slowly get more comfortable in their new classroom and with their new teachers and friends. Often times, the change is harder on the adult than it is on the child. Please share your concerns with us so that we can help you adapt.

8.  Open door policy:  We have an open door policy and encourage you to take an active role in your child's education and care. However, please be aware of certain factors that could play a role in how he/she responds to your visit. For example, parents coming/going can be particularly hard on an older infant and a toddler. They can't quite process that you are just visiting and get confused when it's time for you to leave. Also, we ask that you not come/go when your child is first getting adjusted to the center. Allow your child at least a month to get fully acclimated prior to coming in. We want your first visit to be a happy one for both you and child.

9.  Can my child bring toys to school?  We ask that generally speaking, your child not bring toys to school. However, there are some exceptions. For example, it is okay to bring in toys that help your child self soothe at naptime (blanket, stuffed animal, etc.). There may also be an occasion when you are asked to share items related to a special topic that your child's class is studying. Aside from these exceptions, please do not bring in items from home. When children bring items from home they tend to be very territorial of them and that can lead to conflict. Oftentimes, the conflict can lead to a broken toy and that is never good. Please rest assured that we have plenty of challenging and developmentally appropriate toys to keep your little one happy throughout the day.

10.  Curriculum:  Our curriculum is based on the changing interests of the children and the world around them. We also believe that their environment plays a big role in the learning process. Our goal is to design the environment to support the curriculum and to act as a "3rd teacher" in the educational journey. We encourage you to share your ideas with the teachers related to interests that your child has and goals that you have for him/her in the classroom.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Busy During the Holidays

Need some ideas for activities to do during the Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday breaks? I have selected  nine activities that will keep your children busy for hours! Most of these items you will easily find in the house without ever heading to the store. Enjoy and happy holidays! :)

Fabric Garden-
Scraps of plain and floral fabric
Colored markers
Plain paper
White glue
Poster board

First cut out the flowers, leaves, stems, and buds from floral fabric. Plan fabric can be used to cut out additional petals, leaves, and stems. Use colored markers to outline the shapes. Glue all the shapes onto the paper to make them firmer. Let the glue dry completely. Reassemble the shapes on the poster board to make flowers, plants, and imaginary flora so that the finished effect is like a flower garden or field of flowers designed by your child.
*Taken from the book “365 Days of Creative Play” by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray

Paper Chain People-



Fold paper accordion- fashion so that all sections are equal. On the top section, draw a person whose hands extend the folds of the paper. Carefully cut around your person. Open out the paper and your child will have a chain of several people holding hands. Color them in with crayons and take them to the refrigerator.
*Take from the book “365 Days of Creative Play” by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray

Bear Hospital-


Old Sheeting
Masking Tape

Tear narrow strips of old sheeting to make bandages. Cut out triangular shapes too. Show your child how to make an arm sling and how to tape down bandages. Using his or her bears, dolls, and stuffed toys as patients, have your child pretend that he or she is in the hospital or clinic where the toys must be treated and repaired. Be careful to handle the toys gently.
*Taken from the book “365 Days of Creative Play” by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray

Paper Bag Puppets-


Small brown paper bag
White glue
Construction paper

Draw the puppet’s eyes, nose, and mouth on to the bottom flaps of paper bag. Glue on yarn for the puppet’s hair. Use scissors to cute things out such as bow ties and buttons from the construction paper. Glue them onto the bag for puppet’s costume. Put a hand inside the bag to move the puppet’s mouth.
*Taken from the book “The little Hands Art Book” by Judy Press

Paper Plate Spider-


Black construction paper
Small white paper plate
Long piece of string
White glue
Black marker

Use scissors to cute the black construction paper into eight long strips. Accordion fold the paper strips back and forth onto themselves for spider legs. Poke two holes in the center of the paper plate, then thread string through. Glue spider legs around the edges of the paper plate. Glue two pop-up eyes on top of the plate, if you want. Use black marker to color the paper plate for body of spider. Dangle spider from string.
*Taken from the book “The Little Hands Art Book” by Judy Press

Dancing Fingers-


Container of Water
Glossy White Paper
Popsicle Stick or Spoon
Finger Paint
Radio or CD player


Cover table with newspaper. Sprinkle a few drops of water to dampen glossy paper. Use Popsicle stick to scoop a glob of paint on paper. Listen to music while using fingers to spread finger paint around paper.
*Taken from the book “The Little Hands Art Book” by Judy Press



1 cup liquid starch
1 cup glue
Food coloring


Pour glue and food coloring into bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add starch slowly, and mix in. Knead. (Feels like rubber and can be reused if stored in an airtight container)
*Taken from the book “The Cooking Book” by Laura J. Colker

Fabulous Finger Paint I-


½ cup cornstarch
2 cups cold water
2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
1 cup powdered laundry detergent
Food coloring


Medium mixing bowl
Measuring cups
Wooden spoon
Small bowl
Medium Saucepan
Jar with lid


Place cornstarch in mixing bowl. Add 1 ½ cups cold water. Mix with spoon. Pour gelatin into small bowl. Add ½ cup cold water, mix, and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Add gelatin to saucepan. Cook on medium heat until thick and glossy. Stir in detergent. Add food coloring and mix. Store in an airtight container.
*Taken from the book “The Cooking Book” by Laura J. Colker 

Wake-Up-and-Smell-the-Coffee Clay-


¼ cup instant coffee
1 ½ cups warm water
4 cups flour
1 cup salt


2 mixing boals
Measuring cups
Wooden spoon

Directions: Place coffee in a bowl. Add water, and stir to dissolve. In second bowl, mix flour and salt. Use spoon to make a hollow in center of flour mixture. Pour coffee into hole. Mix dough. Knead until shiny. (after molding, clay can either be stored in a plastic bag for reuse or be hardened by baking in 300-degree oven for 1hr.)
*Taken from the book “The Cooking Book”