Tooth Brushing with Minions

It’s hard not to fall back on old habits. Where a new parent would not have any experiences with tantrums or being with small children, I have preschool teaching experiences and tactics. Gives me a little bit of a leg up.

For example, tooth brushing at night. Pretty sure pulling your child away from Curious George to go stand in the bathroom isn’t difficult at all (ha, it is). However, if you can make the tooth brushing as fun as watching a cartoon monkey get into mischievous adventures, then you have a shot.

My routine with my son goes like this:

Me: “Let’s go brush our teeth.” (i.e. “our” teeth)

Son: “Okay Dada.”

Me and my son walk into the bathroom. Son pulls out stepping stool and then steps up to sink. I get the tooth brushes and tooth pastes. I put the special “Minion” tooth paste on my son’s brush and I put the cavity prevention on mine.

41rcexyfpilA leg up for tiny little legs.

Together, we brush our teeth. Me brushing my teeth is “buy-in” for my son to brush his teeth. You know? He has motivation to brush his teeth because he wants to copy his Dad. My son brushes when I brush, spits when I spits, and rinses when I rinse. It’s a cute little routine.

81g10j5zbgl-_sy679_Tooth paste must have cartoon characters on it…must!

That’s it. A few minutes that has become a routine. I change it up now and then to make each brushing eventful and entertaining, but the core routine doesn’t change.

I would not have done this if I were a new parent: have a whole routine. But, as a former preschool teacher, I understand that children need routines, motivation, and entertainment if you want them to do something, such as a daily, health routine.

Oh, and that fun stuff I do to change up the routine now and then? Try talking in Minion voices. Get’s my son every time. “King Bob!”

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Clean Up Time aka Mine Sweeping

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The older I get, the more toys I find with my feet. Blocks, train tracks, legos… I always seem to step on the sharpest edge or corner. Quite painful. I blame my depleted spatial awareness, or maybe vision. Either way, I’m barely in my 30’s so it’s all down hill from here.

Clean-up time is important for my son. Yes, he’s not even 2 yet. However, since he understands that language has meaning and can remember a couple of routines, clean-up can become a habit before he realizes he learned it. Score!

My son will clean-up sometimes. He’ll put toys in the toy bin. Or, he’ll throw his toys like shooting a basketball. Most make it in the bin. No worries. My feet are like mine sweepers. I’ll find the missed shots later that night with the soles of my feet and my soft little toes.

My son’s nightly clean-up routine was started by my wife, but we both enforce it to the best of our ability. We’re parents, so yeh, we’re tired. My wife and I both have been preschool teachers, so we both know the importance of instilling routines.

Clean-up time was muy importante in my classroom. After free choice, activities, and outdoor time, I pointed to the clock and would give my students a five minute warning before clean-up (for me, this was best done with a clock with hands, that way the children could see the big hand move and touch one of numbers). Next, I say it’s time to clean-up and sing our clean-up song. Children in all of the play areas – most of the time – sang along and cleaned their areas.

I walked around supervising, encouraging other children to clean up if they weren’t doing so already. I also pointed out areas of the classroom that were being neglected or unfinished. I didn’t say who should clean it up, but stated aloud that it needed to be cleaned up.

Sometimes, children would “tattle” and say this child or group of children should clean the area, since they were the last to play in that area. Other children “stepped-up” and cleaned an area, even if they didn’t play there and had just finished completing their part. During those times, I smiled and let those children know they made me happy that they were a Super Cleaner. At the end of clean-up time, everything was clean. Nothing on the tables. Nothing on the ground. Spotless.

I miss that about the classroom: nothing on the ground. If I did step on a toy, it hurt less. Perhaps because I was always wearing shoes. Hmmm. Maybe I should wear slippers in the house? I like slippers now. They’re so soft. Nice and soft on my feet. My poor, poor feet.

Counting on Old Habits

Counting on Old Habits

“3…, 2…, ” I count as I look at my son hiding behind a chair. He’s smiling, of course, because he thinks it’s fun to be all “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in the living room. But he’s near a lamp and electrical outlets, so it’s no bueno.

“1….., 0.” I get off the couch and walk to the chair. I reach behind the chair, hold his hand, then guide him out from behind the chair. He’s still smiling and runs over to play with his toy cars from his Uncle. However, I know within a couple of minutes, he’ll be on a chair, pulling down a safety gate, or climbing on the living room table. It’s the adventurous life of a toddler.

And, sure enough, I’ll be counting again. I didn’t intentionally choose to count. It’s just, one day, it formalized in my head and I started counting. But the practice is not a new idea, but an old routine – like riding a bike.

When I was a preschool teacher, counting was a go-to classroom procedure. I saw something happening that wasn’t suppose to be happening, I stated a consequence if the behavior continued when I got to “0”, and – most of the time – the behavior would stop before I even go to “2”.

For example, if I saw a child climbing or hanging off the outdoor apparatus in a non-preferred way, I would state why that was not safe and started counting down for the child to get back in a safe place on the structure. Then, if I saw the behavior again, then the child would not be allowed back on the playground structure for the rest of the day.

However, this counting procedure only worked if I followed through with the consequence 100% of the time. If I did it half the time or some of the time, none of the kiddos would take me seriously. I had to be consistent.

Now, getting back to my son, even though he is almost 2, he’s starting to realize that, “Hey, if Dada starts counting, then he’s going to pick me up off the table.” Sometimes – and I have to stress, sometimes – my son will leave a non-preferred space or stop climbing a piece of furniture when I start counting. It’s not that he’s aware of a consequence for his behavior (since he’s not cognitively there yet). But, I believe, he thinks it’s not worth the effort to climb or crawl into a space if I’m just going to take him out. So, he moves on to something else.

All those years of preschool teaching is paying off in fatherhood. I’m sure potty training will be a breeze!

Around the Outside, ’round the Outside

Seating children on the circle time carpet is like seating family and friends for a wedding. The only exception is that if there isn’t enough room or you can’t work it out, you can’t uninvite children.  They’re all coming.

Over many years of seating children, I strategized many seating arrangements on my circle time carpet, which was a plain blue carpet you’d find in Lakeshore.  Although there were no guides, I used colored tape and my imagination to devise any seating arrangement I wanted.

Around the Outside-01The Grid

For sixteen children, I used tape to make a square grid. Therefore, children had boundaries, and saw the extent of their area. Most adults – not all, but most – understand personal space. However, children are learning, so the tape gave children a visual boundary.

Now, there were some challenges.  For students that are fidgety, they plucked and picked at the tape.  You know what’s more exciting than pulling tape off the carpet?  I don’t know.  My kiddos never seamed to tire of it.  They pulled off tape and happily waived it in the air like victory tape of a marathon.

The next step was to put strong, clear tape over the color tape.  This made the tape stronger, stay longer and made it harder for children to pull off.

Still, there was a lot of maintenance and got to the point where I was repairing the grid every Friday.  Although I wanted to make a change, I wanted to keep some kind of organization.  So, I devised the next layout.

Around the Outside-02

Around the Outside 

Another setup was tape around the carpet. This worked well. Once the tape was down, I used a Sharpie to write all the children’s names.  Although the children knew how to sit along the outside, by sitting on their name, they wanted to make sure it was covered by their body (and, therefore, wouldn’t scoot into another child’s space).

This layout worked well… most of the time.  What I was concerned with were the children seated closest to me, because they had a hard time seeing my lessons.  Plus, children were facing different directions and not toward me.

I wanted a way to have them face me, but also keep the seating around the outside.

Around the Outside-03

Around the Outside or On the Inside

Having the children sit around the circle worked well, but not all the time. Sometimes it was better to have the children sit in rows, so they’re up front towards me. So, I used tape to make rows, then Sharpie the names. I no longer put names on the outside, since the children got the idea and gave them choice of where they wanted to sit and who they wanted to sit next to.

This was the best layout for me.  Before entering the circle time carpet, I told the children to “Sit on the outside” or “Sit on the inside.”  They picked up quick and were able to discern if they sit on their name or along the edges of the carpet.

Conclusion

As the year went on, I didn’t always have to keep the tape down.  Some years, the children were able to sit in their space without the aid of color tape.  Other years, I needed the full grid.  The arrangement was flexible.  I asked myself “Which layout best supports my class?”  Child-centered teaching should always be your approach.

Pedestrian Safety

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Last September, my preschool held its first parent meeting. There were three parents – a good number given one day’s notice.  At the meeting, I shared about our preschool’s first field trip.  We would walk around the neighborhood.  Nothing fancy or impressive, but nonetheless necessary.  The first field trip was all about pedestrian safety.  Teachers taught children how to stay with the group, cross the street, and beware of strangers.

I highly recommend that a preschool’s first field trip focus on pedestrian – the essential rules for how to remain safe when outside of the preschool walls.  Given that Halloween is one of the first major holidays children celebrate just after the beginning of the school year, pedestrian safety should be a no-brainer.  Here are a couple of pointers:

  • Wear reflective clothing and bring a flash light (flash lights get the attention of drivers).
  • Bring a STOP sign with you.  Two are better.
  • Look left, then right, then left again before crossing.
  • Cross at crosswalks.
  • Watch for turning cars.
  • Teachers are the first to enter the crosswalk and the last to leave the crosswalk.
  • Have a teacher at the front, middle, and end of the group.
  • Have teachers at the front and end of the group hold the STOP signs.
  • If a car is approaching your group, a teacher should make eye contact with the driver, ensuring that they see you and you seem them.
  • Have children hold hands with a “buddy”.
  • For children who have trouble staying with the group, and adult should hold their hand.
  • Walk on the sidewalk.  When there is no sidewalk, walk against traffic (so you can see oncoming cars and guide the group).
  • Remind the children to stay with the group: the students, teacher and chaperones.
  • Do not talk or interact with strangers unless a teacher says that the person is safe (such as an animal keeper at the zoo or guide at a museum).

Do you have any other tips and tricks?  I would love to hear them!

The Power of Blue Line

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Line up.  This transition was one of the boring parts of the day.  Some of the children had a hard time.

Child: “The line should weave through the library, then under the computer table.  I’ll stand in the library.”

… or you had children who have no physical awareness skills…

Child: “Line?  I’m gonna stand where ever I want!”

Visuals help.  Having Red Line in class helped children transition into the circle area.  Blue Line helped whenever we transitioned out of the classroom.  I placed blue tape on the floor and extended all the way to the door.  Children place their feet on the line as they lined-up.  Works out.

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The tape I use is from a little place called Lakeshore.  Heard of them?

The fun part is extending the tape throughout the entire school.  Blue Line extended to all areas of the school: down the hallway, outside, and even connected to other classrooms.

It’s a superhighway for child traffic.

Placing down all the tape takes time.  Plus, with all of the foot traffic, the tape can get torn up.  I place a layer clear packaging tape on top of blue line, reinforcing the strength.

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By the middle of the year, the children have learned the basics of making a line and maintaining the line while traveling.

The Power of Red Line

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Whenever children entered the circle time area, I would have them stand on the red line.  “Red Line” was strips of red tape on the tile floor.  Red Line served two purposes:

  • Red line was a physical transition between the previous activity and circle time.
  • Red line allowed children to settle down their bodies.

On Red Line, children placed both feet on the red tape, both arms rested at their sides, mouths were closed, and eyes were on me.  As they stood, I slowly rose my hand.  I stopped my arm until my hand was flat.  I told the children…

Me: “Wait for my hand to move, then you can come in and sit down.”

Is it okay for children to stand long periods without moving?  Absolutely not.  I wasn’t waiting for them to show perfect posture.  I was waiting for their bodies to calm down.

During the first and second week of school I waited one second before I moved my hand.  I was teaching the children the gesture.  Plus, during the first week, there’s lot’s of crying.  No need to push it.

During the third week of school, I upped the ante.  Any child that entered the circle before my hand moved was sent back to Red Line.  No one could enter before I moved my hand.

After the third week, the major components of the routine was set:

  1. Stand on Red Line
  2. Wait for my hand to move (no matter how long it took)
  3. When my hand moved, you may have a seat on the carpet.

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Now comes the major power Red Line; the major social-emotional goal they would learn.  Calmness and patience.   I just had to keep my hand still.

I started with one second before I moved.

Then two seconds.

Maybe the second month of school, five seconds…

…longer then longer then longer…

Remember, it’s not about waiting or showing the correct “posture.”  Waiting is all about calming down your body.  Most importantly, the children were responding positively.

As children waited, I gave compliments…

Me: “I like the way Ikira is standing still.  His eyes are on me.  His body is calm.  Thank you Ikira.”

Of course, other children want praise too…

Me: “Oh, I like the way Mariposa is standing on red line now.  She saw what Ikira was doing.  She is showing me that’s she’s ready to go sit down for circle.”

Other children needed support…

Me: “Pauly. Bobby. Let’s calm our bodies down.  Breathe with me…. 1… 2… 3… The air goes in slowly to slow down our hearts and our bodies.  Then breathe out.  Slow down so we can calm down.”

Four months later…

Me: “Look at all of the boys and girls. They are standing very nicely on red line.”  (raise hand)

Children: (waiting)

Counting…one second… two…three…

Me: (flat hand, perfect still)

Children: (looking at hand, perfectly still)

six… seven…

Me: (hand, not a shake)

Children: (bodies, not a move)

…ten.

Me: (the hand moves)

Children: (smiling, laughing, they walk and  jump, landing criss-cross applesauce on their spot on the carpet)

Depending on the make-up of the class, I can go longer.   Some years, I never made it to ten.  But, it was always awesome to see 16 children standing on red line – calmly and patiently – waiting for my hand move.