Going Back to School…New Beginnings and Familiar Traditions

As I write this post most schools have recently completed their first day of school or will be welcoming students back in a few days. I simply love this time of year as it signals a new start and a fresh beginning for teachers and their students.

Throughout my twenty-six years in the field of education I continue to delight in the sights and smells of a new school year. A few days ago I conducted my last summer in-service training. As I walked into schools across eleven different states, preparing teachers for a new school year, I was greeted with the smell of freshly waxed floors (shined to perfection), saw inspiring bulletin boards decorated with bright construction paper and entered classrooms stocked with new school supplies eagerly awaiting young learners.

This year my daughter started her second year of preschool at Zion Lutheran School. She returned to the same loving teacher and was excited to find some of her friends had returned from last year. The only change was a new classroom space that her teacher successfully made both inviting and engaging. I reveled in the familiarity of it all as I anticipate future years to be a bit more stressful on both of us.

Prior to the first day of school we continued our “back to school” traditions of reading the “Kissing Hand” and making and decorating kissing hand cookies with Nana. We started these fun activities last year and you can read all about them here.

Celebrating the First Day of School With “The Kissing Hand”

Whether you’re a teacher implementing the newest curriculum, a parent sending your teenager off to college, or you have children who are simply moving to the next grade level at the same school, I send you wishes for a prosperous new school year! As the seasons change the crayons will become worn and the bulletin boards will fade, the newness becoming a distant memory. When you and your children begin to lose “the sparkle” simply look back to the beginning and try to recapture some of the excitement and anticipation we all had at the start.

Selecting the Best Preschool For Your Family

In January of last year my husband and I made the difficult decision (maybe it was a bit more difficult for me) as to where we were going to send our daughter to preschool in August. Although the final decision was made in January we began researching possible schools a year or more before.

After visiting several schools, scouring over countless websites, reviews and brochures, I will never forget the emotion that quickly overtook me when we had found the perfect fit. There was child created work scattered around the room, evidence of project work in progress and a huge naturalist playground just outside the classroom door. Far from tidy and probably appearing a bit messy to some, there was evidence of learning and the room was a canvas for children to create and explore. The teacher was inviting, observant and child centered and when a parent asked her what questions he should ask, she quickly replied, “The teacher and the environment are two important things to look at.” (This is exactly what I told my husband to look for before we left the house) The room felt comfortable and oddly familiar. The space reminded me of my own classroom and it felt like home.

A year later we are extremely pleased with our choice. Our daughter is thriving, making new friends and learning everyday! To aid others I compiled a list for parents and caregivers who are beginning their “preschool search.”

Ask Other Families- The first thing I did was ask parents where their children go to preschool. I asked neighbors, moms at the library and parents at the park. I initiated the discussion during Little Gym classes and playgroups. I found many had done their own research and were happy to share with me. The list I compiled showed most of the options in my area. I viewed the schools websites and read reviews online. I began these conversations and web searches a few years before my daughter started preschool.

Location– Location, location, location! Although it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, location is an important factor when selecting a preschool. Some good questions to ask… How far is the school from your home and from your place of work? How early will you have to leave in the morning to drop your child off? If you work, how long will it take you to get to the school after work and then how long will it take to get home? What is the traffic flow? Will you be sitting in rush hour traffic or driving against it?

School Schedule- Are you looking for a full time preschool where you send your child to school five days a week or are you looking for a part time schedule? Do you want half day or full day attendance? Most preschool centers recommend a three year old attend a minimum of two days a week and a four year old three days a week. Does the school have flexibility on the days your child would attend?

Teachers and Staff– Perhaps the most important factor is finding a teacher, an assistant and an early childhood director that are child centered, caring and passionate about working with small children. The teacher and his or her commitment to the learning process and the overall well being of children is crucial in selecting a preschool for your child. Finding a teacher who is a skilled “kid watcher” and has a clear understanding of child development is important. A teacher who gets down on the childrens’ level and knows how to stretch children by asking questions that make them think and directing them to activities and projects that will expand their knowledge and creative thinking are positive things to look for. Other questions to ask… What kind of staff professional development does the center engage in? What is the teacher turnover rate at the school? Most schools have websites that briefly describe each teacher giving his or her experience, education and background. If you can’t find this information on the website don’t be afraid to ask.

Lillian with her teacher, Mrs. Stanglein, at Zion Lutheran Early Childhood Center.
Environment– Often considered a “second teacher,” the classroom environment is crucial to learning. Some things to look for… Is the classroom safe and child centered? Are materials and manipulatives easily accessible to every student? Look for safe shelving with rounded edges that are on the child’s eye level. Are there clearly defined areas in the classroom where children can work during choice time? (writing center, science area, art center, dramatic play, building/construction area, classroom library, sensory table) Is there a classroom library or quiet area with pillows, stuffed animals and soft chairs where children can read books and calm down? Does the room feel warm and inviting with child created work on display, touches of home (picture frames, plants and lamps), open ended toys like wooden blocks and dress up clothing or does it have a cold institutional feel with teacher created bulletin boards, commercialized toys, items stored on high shelves and undefined work spaces?

Pedagogy and Programs– When you enter a preschool classroom it may appear that the children are playing but play is a child’s work. Children learn through play especially when there are trained educators asking them about their work, guiding them to make connections, evaluating their progress and providing support and assistance. A good environment gives children the ability to construct knowledge from the world around them. Perhaps you are looking for an early childhood center that prescribes to a certain pedagogy? There are many being used today: Montessori, Reggio Emilia, The Project Approach, Waldorf, Highscope, just to name a few. Research shows that mixed age grouping is preferred, allowing children to learn from each other and providing teachers the opportunity to focus on the developmental needs of each child instead of their chronological age. Many preschools use a combination of several methods. Some lean towards the traditional with a strong academic emphasis while others are affiliated with a specific religion and incorporate religious studies into their day. No matter what methods are used, all preschools should practice developmentally appropriate practices that provide hands on learning, student choice and play. Before making a school visit it would be beneficial to define what attributes you and your family are looking for.

I hope this article provides some helpful tips as you and your family begin your preschool search. Please visit this NAEYC website (National Association for the Education or Young Children) for more assistance on selecting the perfect preschool for your family.

 

 

The Snowman… 40 Years of Snow Much Fun!

The mid-west just experienced a major snowstorm that dropped 11 inches of snow in our yard. My little one has never seen so much snow and we had fun exploring this winter wonderland! Our frosty fun included sledding, making footprints in the snow and building a snowman.

We continued our fun indoors by sipping hot chocolate and watching “The Snowman” and “The Snowman and the Snowdog” films, making “The Snowman” mini-book, being creative and making snow people and baking yummy snowman treats.

The Snowman– The book “The Snowman” written and illustrated by English author Raymond Briggs is a wordless book with beautiful illustrations that chronicles the adventures of a boy named James who builds a snowman that comes to life. The book was originally published in 1978 and just celebrated 40 years of making winter dreams come to life. The delightful book takes the reader on an adventure where James introduces the snowman to his world (with a few comical mishaps along the way) and continues with the snowman taking James on a magical journey of discovery to meet Father Christmas. Sadly, the story ends the way all winter tales do, with the sun appearing overhead, melting the snow and bringing this beloved friendship promptly to an end.

In 1982 a short animated film based on Raymond Briggs classic story, “The Snowman” was created and aired in the UK. The brilliant score was composed by Howard Blake. The wordless film relies on the animation and the music to tell the story.  I was first introduced to the film when my mom (a retired teacher) purchased it on VHS through a Scholastic Book order. When I taught kindergarten I looked forward to showing the classic film to my students after we completed a January unit of study on snow. Upon first seeing it I immediately fell in love with the music and often found myself listening to the score. So you can imagine my excitement when my husband and I performed “The Snowman Concert Version” with the Northwinds Concert Band a few years ago. Our performance played simultaneously with the projected film and included the song “Walking in the Air” performed by a young boy soprano.

The book and animated film quickly became Christmas classics and is as popular in the UK as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is in the United States! There was a sequel called “The Snowman and the Snowdog,” equally adored by my dog loving little girl, additional books and a variety of toys featuring the popular snowman. I just discovered a website dedicated entirely to “The Snowman” that contains on-line games, family friendly activities and information about a stage production currently playing in London and Birmingham.

“The Snowman” Mini-Book– We also made and read the mini book “The Snowman,” a reproducible book found in Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities. Lillian loved the predictable text and read the book to her stuffed dogs. Click Here to download a copy of the mini- book, “The Snowman.”

Paper Plate Snow People- We used paper plates, construction paper and glue to make creative snow people. Lillian gave her snow person a carrot nose and a black hat. She free cut the decorations out of construction paper with some help from mommy and enjoyed gluing them on her snow person.

Snow People Snack This recipe from my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities, is the perfect winter snack! Lillian and I used chocolate chips, m&m’s and snowflake shaped sprinkles to decorate our snow people that were molded out of biscuit dough. The best part was eating them hot out of the oven! Click Here for the Snow People Snack recipe.

Roll-a-Snowman Game– Another fun activity from my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities is the Roll-a-Snowman Game. The game is played like Cooties where the players take turns rolling a die. For each number they roll they get to add a different item to the snowman they are drawing. The player who builds the snowman first is the winner. I assisted Lillian when it came time to draw her snowman. Another adaptation is drawing the parts of the snowman ahead of time, cutting out the pieces and then putting the pieces back together when you roll each number on the die. Click Here for a copy of the Roll-a-Snowman Game.

I will end with the words Raymond Briggs recites at the beginning of “The Snowman” animated film…. “I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day… and it was on that day I made the Snowman.”

Happy New Year… Hands On Fun in 2019!

Thank you for reading Noteworthy Mommy in 2018. We had many firsts in 2018: my first blog collaboration and giveaway and Lillian’s first days of preschool and Sunday school. I look to 2019 with great anticipation as I know it will be filled with opportunity and new experiences.

2019 Calendar- Lillian and I began 2019 with some “hands on fun” when we created the January page in our 2019 Handprint Calendar by Learning Good News.

This memorable calendar published by Learning Good News uses your little ones hand and foot prints to create engaging works of art for each month of the year! The calendar also includes a monthly bible verse that coordinates with each picture and makes the perfect gift for grandparents, Godparents and friends.

If giving the calendar as a gift, the author recommends creating the calendar over the course of several days as to not fatigue the child. We decided to have Lillian do one handprint a month so she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Over the months we can then compare her handprints and the calendar will become a childhood keepsake that chronicles Lillian’s growth throughout the year.

I used acrylic paint that easily washed off of Lillian’s hands. She loved creating the prints and enjoyed putting her hands in the paint. There was plenty of space on the paper for toddler sized hands. Tips and tricks for creating fabulous prints is included at the front of the calendar.

Learning Good News is giving my readers a 10% discount on all calendars purchased on the website with the code “save10.” Go to www.learninggoodnews.com and place your order today. Learning Good News is a website that offers free Christian resources for moms and their children. I am excited to explore the website for more “hands-on” fun in 2019!

An October Filled With Pumpkins, Pumpkins. Pumpkins!

It wouldn’t be fall without fun pumpkin activities, yummy pumpkin treats and a visit to the local pumpkin patch.

Roll a Pumpkin Game- This game is played like Cooties where you roll the die to build a pumpkin person. Everyone starts with a pumpkin body. With the youngest player going first you take turns rolling the die and building your pumpkin. The first player to build a pumpkin with a stem, eyes, nose, mouth, arms and legs is the winner!

Five Little Pumpkins- We enjoyed singing the classic song, “Five Little Pumpkins” and reading several different versions of the book. Using a fence and pumpkin play set found in my book Student Made Thematic Mini Books: With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy, my “Little Pumpkin” and I acted out the song and practiced our counting skills.

Pumpkin Bread- Nana helped us make yummy pumpkin bread. We added chocolate chips and enjoyed sharing our bread with others. Paired with Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend hot tea, pumpkin spiced coffee, or even pumpkin beer, it makes the perfect fall treat!

Jack-O-Faces Book- This is another fun rhyme found in my book Student Made Thematic Mini Books: With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy. We enjoyed coloring the book together and reading the fun rhyme about a pumpkin who shows us a variety of faces and emotions but ends up in a pumpkin pie! We acted out the story by making the faces along with the pumpkin. Lillian enjoyed looking at herself in the mirror as she made happy, sad, mad and sleepy faces.

Pumpkin Carving- Daddy helped Lillian carve a Jack-o-Lantern this year. Prior to creating her pumpkin, Lillian planned out her design on a large pumpkin shape. Daddy cut and we all helped clean out the “pumpkin guts,” making sure to save the seeds to roast later. We talked about how the pumpkin smelled, felt and looked. A great way to build vocabulary and to use the five senses.

Pumpkin BINGO- My dad helped me make this pumpkin themed BINGO game when I was teaching kindergarten. We dusted it off and played it at Lillian’s preschool Harvest Party and with our friends. One side has the letters of the alphabet, perfect for developing alphabetic knowledge. Flip the card over and you will find numbers, giving the BINGO players an opportunity to work on both letter and number identification. The children enjoyed using candy corn as cover ups and got to eat the candy corn at the end of the game.

Pumpkin Exploration- Lillian’s preschool teacher incorporated some wonderful pumpkin activities into center-time. An activity new to me was hammering golf tees into a pumpkin to work on fine motor skills. Pulling the golf tees out provided even more motor strength. They also did a pumpkin experiment where they tested a pumpkin to see if it floats or sinks. (It Floats!) Students worked on exploring the inside of a pumpkin, using tweezers to remove the seeds (another great fine motor activity), measured pumpkins, compared pumpkins and recorded their findings in their science journals.

Apples, Apples, Apples!.. Fun Filled Apple Activities For the Entire Family

Fall has arrived and keeping with tradition my husband and I recently took our little one apple picking. Going apple picking with my parents is one of the many joyous memories I have carried with me from my childhood. I first shared my joy of apple picking with my students when I was a kindergarten teacher. Every year we took a field trip to the apple orchard and the boys and girls would ride on a wagon, pick apples right off of the tree and taste various varieties growing in the orchard. Imagine their delight when the things we had been reading and learning about at school were now within their reach!

Below are some apple inspired activities I developed for my kindergarten classroom many, many, years ago. I recently dusted them off so I could share them with my three year old.

Apple Books- There are many high quality books about apples, apple picking and making yummy treats with apples! A few of our favorites include…

Apples by Gail Gibbons

Applesauce Day by: Lisa Amstutz

The Apples on the Tree by: Steve Metzger (our newest book from Lillian’s first Scholastic Book Order)

The Apple Pie Tree by: Zoe Hall (an all time favorite)

Apples and Pumpkins by: Anne Rockwell

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by: Gail Gibbons

Ten Apples Up on Top by: Dr. Seuss

Ten Red Apples by: Pat Hutchins

Apples! Apples! Apples!- This mini book comes from the book I wrote called Student Made Thematic Mini Books- With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy. The book was published in 2000 by Incentive Publications. My daughter enjoyed coloring the book and reading it over and over to everyone, including her stuffed animals! Repetitive readings help develop early literacy success by increasing fluency and building confidence.

Please click on this link.. “Apples, Apples, Apples!” book to download the book and create one of your own. Prior to creating the book my daughter and I took an apple taste test where we tasted the red apples, green apples and yellow apples we had picked in the orchard. Lillian declared that red was her favorite and she added that to her book!

Apple Treats- My little one loves to bake so Nana came over and helped us make apple pie, mini apple muffins and apple pizza! We followed the recipe in the back of the book  titled The Apples on the Tree by Steve Metzger for the apple pie and enjoyed eating a slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

We used Nana Freeman’s adaptation of a Southern Living recipe for the apple muffins and made them into bite sized snacks by using mini muffin tins. Lillian enjoyed sharing the muffins with her teachers and friends.

Her favorite treat to make were the apple pizzas, an activity my kindergarten students always enjoyed. The recipe can be found in my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books- With Extension Activities to Increase Language Literacy. I know the children in your life will love the apple pizza so please click on this link to download the easy to follow child friendly recipe.

Paper Strip Apple Project- Pops is a retired art teacher and this is a project he has been making with students for over fifty years! Pops used red, yellow and green construction paper and cut them in 1 inch x 9 inch strips for the apple. We began by taking two strips and making an X with them and putting a dot of glue or paste in the middle to hold it in place. Then we took a third strip and placed it through the X, creating a star or astrick shape and used a dot of glue to keep it in place. The last step involved matching the strips and gluing them into place. Lillian got lots of practice counting as we counted while pressing the glue into place after each step. We used a brown strip for the stem (1 inch by 4 inch) and cut the leaves out of a 3 x 3 square.

Apple Prints- After we enjoyed eating apples in muffins, pie and pizza, we cut some apples in half and made apple prints. We examined the inside of the apple, identifying the core and the seeds and experimented cutting the apple in half starting at the top and then cutting the apple through the center which reveals a star shape which you can see in the print! The dark paper makes a nice contrast with the bright red, green and yellow paint!

Our entire family enjoyed a month full of apple fun. From reading books, to visiting the apple orchard, to making yummy apple treats and being creative with apple art; we made new memories with activities we enjoyed in the past.

Perfectly Maggie Update… An Exciting Partnership

A few months ago I reviewed the book Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story by Meg Macquire. Click here to read more about the book. The author generously offered to giveaway a Perfectly Maggie gift set to one of my readers! I am grateful to those who read and commented on the post and am happy to announce that Veronika Tait was randomly selected from all of the entries. Congratulations!

The winner, Veronika Tait, reading Perfectly Maggie to her daughter.

Veronika is the creator of the psychology and life blog SaltEmUpSisters.com. Her personal blog features research with a flair of storytelling, including topics on relationships, parenting, data-driven politics, and mental health.  It aims to foster human connection and ensures all readers that they belong. Veronika has a PhD in Social Psychology from Brigham Young University and is currently an adjunct professor at two Utah universities. As a mom of two she is very passionate about parenting and relationships. I encourage you to visit Veronika’s blog.

Lillian and I love reading about Maggie and her kindness!

Thank you for reading noteworthymommy! Your support means the world to me and is greatly appreciated! Please come back and visit noteworthymommy in a few days and read the fun we have been having with APPLES!

Happy Reading,

Jennifer Freeman Talley- The Noteworthy Mommy

Celebrating the First Day of School With “The Kissing Hand”

The first day of school signals new beginnings and kicks off a year filled with possibilities. And in every school across the United States floors shine with fresh wax and bulletin boards are adorned with bright colored construction paper. Nervous children dressed in new clothes enter sparkling classrooms stocked with sharpened pencils and crayons standing tall in boxes. They are warmly greeted by smiling teachers who anticipate a year overflowing with adventure and growth.

I love the beginning of the school year and I have experienced many first days of school. Some as a student, others as a teacher or educational consultant and now my first as a parent. Looking back most passed without any form of celebration. Some years I closed my eyes wishing they didn’t even happen. During the years we struggled with infertility part of me dreaded the back to school season. From August to September “first day of school” photos flooded Facebook and reminded me… photos of a smiling child holding a miniature chalkboard may never appear on my news feed. But we remained optimistic and God blessed us with our little Lillian and now we get to celebrate her first day of school, a day we have been preparing for since we began touring preschools in January.

img_9033Knowing the “first day of school” would be a huge transition for Lillian (and for her mommy) we began reading books during the summer about starting school to help ease any uncertainty. A few of our favorite read alouds include, “Llama Llama Misses Mamma” by Anna Dewdney, “The 12 Days of Preschool” by Jenna Lettice and “The Night Before Preschool” by Natasha Wing. Our favorite book is “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. I was first introduced to “The Kissing Hand” by my graduate school mentor, Dr. Suzie Nall, when she read it aloud in one of my classes in the late 1990’s. I will always remember the strong emotions the book evoked in me and I immediately made “The Kissing Hand” part of my back to school routine, reading it to my new kindergarten students and their parents during “meet the teacher night” that took place a few days before the first day of school. Imagine my delight when Lillian’s preschool teacher, Mrs. Stanglein, mentioned the book during her back to school parent night, encouraging us to read the book and offering up copies for caregivers to borrow.

This fabulous book that assists with separation anxiety is about a little raccoon named Chester who is afraid to go to school for the first time. Every year I choked up while reading the book. Tears streamed down my face when Mrs. Raccoon shared the “kissing hand” secret with her son. Mrs. Raccoon took Chester’s left hand and spread open his tiny fingers into a fan and kissed the middle of his palm. Chester felt his mothers kiss rush from his hand, up his arm and into his heart. It reminded him that… Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you!

The thought of parents leaving their children with me; trusting me to teach them and secretly hoping that I would love their little ones as much as they do still brings tears to my eyes. What a privilege it is to be an educator and to be partly responsible in molding young lives and shaping the future!

I saved “The Kissing Hand” for last, reading it to Lillian a few days before her first day of school. While I read, attempting to hold back tears, Lillian sat beside me taking in every word. A few hours later we said our goodbyes as I left for an overnight trip to train teachers across our state. Without prompting, Lillian took my hand, unfolded it and gently kissed the middle of my palm. She said she wanted to give me a “kissing hand” just like the one Chester gave his mommy. I in turn kissed her palm and then we both put our kissing hands up to our faces like Chester. At that very moment I knew my daughter was going to have a successful first day of school.

The day before Lillian had her first day of preschool my parents came over and Nana helped us make homemade “kissing hand” cookies. She even had hand and heart shaped cookie cutters in her cookie cutter collection! Nana is an excellent baker and Lillian and I were her assistants. Pops assisted with the decorating and Lillian was excited to share some of the cookies with her teacher, the teacher assistant and other administrators at her school. This is a fun back to school tradition I began when I was teaching (every year I made my students heart shaped sugar cookies) and I am excited to share the tradition with my little girl.

If you would like to make Nana Freeman’s delicious sugar cookies please click on this link for the recipe. Nana’s Sugar Cookie Recipe  Sugar cookies taste even yummier with buttercream frosting. Click on this link for her buttercream frosting recipe. Nana’s Buttercream Frosting recipe

Mrs Stanglein’s Purpose…Provide a preschool experience that starts children on the way to loving school and becoming good Christian citizens of God’s world.

This is the first of many “first days of school” for our family of three and I am happy to report there were no tears from Lillian or from her mommy! As a new preschool parent I am comforted to know we have found the perfect early childhood center for our family. Zion Lutheran’s Early Childhood Center is a place where play is valued and seen as the young child’s work. Through experimentation, The Project Approach and exploration, Lillian will learn about God’s world. When I first walked into Mrs. Stanglein’s classroom during a tour in January I cried because her classroom was warm and inviting. It felt like home as it reminded me of my own classroom. Her keen observational skills showed that she had perfected the art of “kid watching” and I knew I had found a teacher who believes every child has potential. I cried because in that instant I knew Mrs. Stanglein would nurture and care for Lillian and the other children in her class like they were her own.

Whether you are a parent sending your child off to school for the first time or you just packed the family mini van to take your baby to college, I wish you and your family blessings for a wonderful school year.

There’s a New Dog in Town…Perfectly Maggie “A Sleepytime Story”

My daughter loves dogs! She has dozens of stuffed pups and everyday one of them is either celebrating a birthday or is sick and needs to visit the doctor. Her favorite dramatic play activity is “doggie daycare” where her stuffed dogs go when their owners are at work. Lillian proudly takes on the roll of “teacher” and leads her stuffed friends in choreographed songs and tricks. Although she loves all of her dogs her favorite is Sweetie Pie. I never imagined there could ever be a stuffed dog that would capture my daughter’s heart like Sweetie Pie…until we met Maggie!

*Although I was given the book Perfectly Maggie A Sleepytime Story to review, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Mommy and Lillian reading “Perfectly Maggie.”

Lillian was introduced to Maggie through the book Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story artfully written by Meg Maguire and beautifully illustrated by Josie Lee. The rhyming words and charming illustrations instantly capture the attention of children and adults who are young at heart.

In the book a charismatic dog named Maggie is far from perfect with her crooked smile, squeaky bark, tangled fur and wobbly knees. But anyone who meets Maggie instantly sees she has a huge heart filled with kindness, making her perfect in her own special way. The book helps children understand that although we all have our own special quirks, we need to embrace what makes us unique and simply be ourselves.

Making sure our daughter develops self esteem while learning how to be kind and helpful are skills my husband and I want to instill in our daughter. Maggie the dog is the perfect model as she empowers her siblings to survive in a puppy mill and naturally puts the needs of others in front of her own. The book Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story encourages the reader to reflect on their day and share a way they were helpful, kind or polite that day. Parents are asked to share too creating a special nighttime routine for the entire family. I really like the “Puppy Pact” at the end of the book for the family to sign that makes them promise to try everyday to make Maggie wag her tail. My family received Maggie and her book set at the beginning of the summer and Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story quickly become a favorite read aloud. The nighttime routine of sharing a success story is something my family looks forward to at the end of the day.

Maggie has a special talent of encouraging others to spread kindness and rigorously wags her tail to and fro when someone acts nicely. “Swoosh, swoosh, goes her tail – swinging left! Swinging right – when someone is helpful, or kind or polite.”

Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story comes in a beautifully packaged set that includes the hard bound book, a bonus pop up book (of Maggie wagging her tail) that can be used to reinforce the nighttime routine. An adorable stuffed dog that perfectly matches the illustrations in the book completes the set. The stuffed dog is high quality and the perfect size for my three year old daughter. My daughter was immediately drawn to the stuffed pup and our Maggie has survived multiple baths in the washing machine after the many adventures she has taken with our little Lillian. Maggie has been on vacation with our family, regularly goes to church and has enjoyed several special celebrations. With the stuffed Maggie by her side Lillian has a special reminder to be helpful, kind and polite wherever she goes. Always remember to be…”Perfectly You!”

This is a book set that every child in your life would enjoy. You can purchase the book Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story on Amazon or by visiting perfectlymaggie.com

The author of Perfectly Maggie a Sleepytime Story has generously offered to give one of my readers an autographed copy of her book set! To enter the random drawing please share this article on social media and leave a comment on my blog. This giveaway is open to United States residents over the age of 18.

This giveaway has ended. Click here to read about the winner.

And Just Like That Our Little Lady Was Potty Trained

Potty training is one of the biggest events in early childhood and everyone appears to have an opinion. There are countless books written on the topic and the Internet is flooded with tips. Although I found the advice useful, every child is different and my daughter’s potty training journey didn’t replicate any of the plans I read online. Her journey from diapers to underwear was individualized and unique, just like her!

Now I have to confess something…our potty training adventure wasn’t exactly as quick as the title of this article implies. In fact, as I browse through old pictures I realize I have been doing things to prepare for this day for an entire year!

Although my parents never mentioned it I could tell they were wondering if I was ever going to potty train my daughter. After all I was potty trained before the age of three and in a little over a month my daughter will be three and a half! I began to feel like I was a bad mommy since all of my daughter’s friends were fully potty trained; many for almost a year now! With some, the parents were forced to speed up the process because of daycare. Some of her friends showed signs of readiness and potty trained at an early age while others had baby siblings on the way and potty training their oldest before a baby was added to the family just made sense.

Since I spend most of the time at home with my daughter and she won’t start preschool for another four months, we had plenty of time to spend on potty training. I carefully observed her for readiness signs and created a potty friendly environment for her to learn in. I believe in child centered learning but there are a lot of things that need to be in place for success. My daughter wouldn’t be potty trained without purposeful intent by me, her teacher. Below I describe the steps I took on our “tear free” potty training journey.

Modeling- When my daughter was very young I took her into the bathroom with me. Through watching me she learned the steps: sitting on the potty, wiping with toilet paper, flushing and washing hands. Although at eighteen months she wasn’t ready to abandon her diapers just yet, she often mimicked me by grabbing a fist full of toilet paper and pretending to wipe herself while she was fully clothed! As Lillian got older, many of her friends were toilet training and during play dates she saw her friends go potty. Through modeling, especially by her peers, Lillian showed more interest in going potty.

Picture Book- We began reading books about going potty shortly after my daughter turned two years of age. A friend gave us the book, “A Potty for Me!” by Karen Katz and it became an instant favorite. Around this time my daughter went through a Daniel Tiger phase and she fell in love with the “Daniel Goes to the Potty” book that comes with a button that makes a flushing sound. The reader is encouraged to press the flush button each time Daniel Tiger uses the potty. The book follows the same storyline and includes the catchy “potty song” that appears in the Daniel Tiger episode “Daniel Goes to the Potty.” “Everyone Poops” is a classic by Taro Gomi and we enjoyed learning about different kinds of animals and the various ways they go to the bathroom.

img_9392
A few of our favorite potty themed picture books.

Selecting a Potty- Lillian helped pick out a little Minnie Mouse potty at the store and both sets of grandparents bought matching ones for their homes. This consistency proved to be helpful because Lillian didn’t regress when she spent the day or night with her grandparents. At first she sat on her potty but after awhile she occasionally went on the potty. She role played by having her stuffed animals use her potty. Her little potty is located in our master bathroom and that is where it has stayed throughout the entire process. Even though Lillian had her own little potty she sat on the big potty sometimes. In fact she loved trying out potties in public places and at family and friends homes. We never had a problem using bathrooms in public places because Lillian learned early on that there are potties everywhere!

Lillian’s Minnie Mouse potty.

Motivation Chart and Rewards- A few months after Lillian turned three I introduced a sticker chart for extra motivation. I waited until the holidays were over and we were back to a “normal” schedule with no out of town trips planned or any other unusual distractions. But the chart I selected simply wasn’t working. The goals on the chart were too ambitious for her and she wasn’t earning any stickers. I looked online and found a Paw Patrol Potty Chart! Click on this link to download the chart. paw-patrol-potty-training

img_9426-2
The Paw Patrol chart that was a huge success!

Lillian is really into Paw Patrol and the tasks on the chart were attainable for a beginner. (Told an adult I needed to go, Pulled down my pants, Sat on the potty, Went in the potty, Washed my hands) After she filled an entire chart with stickers she got a small Paw Patrol toy. The chart followed her to her grandparents house and we made sure to add stickers if she went potty while we were away from home. When she began to show success and filled up the chart at a faster pace I changed the categories on the chart to include two columns for “Went on the potty” and then added a column for “Went poop on the potty” and “Staying dry all day.” This gradual release of increased expectation proved to be very successful.

Big Girl Underwear- I bought Lillian Minnie Mouse underwear when she was two years old. She showed no interest in wearing them. One day she spied some Paw Patrol underwear at Target and she got so excited I bought them. But she still refused to wear underwear. I thought starting her in pull ups before underwear would be successful but she showed little interest in wearing pull ups (even though they are very similar to diapers.)  So to my surprise we potty trained in a diaper. She would pull down her pants, rip off her diaper and pee in the potty, so I simply went with it. At first it required suggestions from me but soon after she was running to the bathroom and going independently. On Easter Monday I asked her if she wanted to wear big girl underwear and she said yes! She stayed dry all day and after that she never wore diapers again!

My daughter’s potty training story reminds me that sometimes all it takes is time, motivation and a little bit of encouragement for something to happen. Forcing someone to do something before they are truly ready causes tears and frustration for everyone involved. Learning is a process and everyone learns at his/her own pace, following a timeframe that often doesn’t match our own expectations.