Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 3

April 16, 2014

ContributeToABookCaught up in the swirl of our daily lives, we often don’t have a moment to notice where we are. If we did look up, we would likely discover a small miracle, like an eagle taking flight or a child transfixed by a snowflake. This moment is a second chance to look up, notice where you are, and discover something of wonder. What do you notice?

In her latest Share Your Stories post, Holly Elissa Bruno invites you to take a moment to pause and reflect on your surroundings. Join in conversation with Holly Elissa as you notice where you are.

Notice Where You Are

“Notice where you are,” she softly suggested. “Just for the moment, stop what you are doing, put aside what you are thinking, and notice where you are.”

I didn’t see how. My mind bustled off into the future and darted back to the past faster than a dog gallops after a ball.

Notice where you are meant making sure my toddler son, Nick, didn’t bite his friend, Cy, in frustration again. Notice where you are meant being alert for a break in traffic so we could cross the street without being hit by a Boston driver. Given the demands of my work, my young family, and my community, I kept my head down and forged ahead.

That couldn’t be what Madeline meant. She was a wise mentor whom I had come to trust.

Madeline didn’t give up on me. She continued, suggesting, “When you step outside, look around until something calls your attention. When something calls your attention, pay attention.” Because I respected Madeline, I agreed in my “What they hey?” way.

As I waved goodbye and stepped outside, a wind tunnel blast of frigid January air blustered about me. The pine trees swaying on the right side of Madeline’s building warned me of another blast. I glanced up at the trees with gratitude. And there they were.

Lighted candles on the pine trees! Candles at the end of every arched branch. Candles pointing to the sky. Not flickering, undaunted. Candles like those on an old-fashioned Christmas tree. Candles lit for me.

Of course, in the next moment, my mind caught up to inform me that the “candles” were snow covered pinecones glistening in the midday sunlight. Just regular pine cones in the everyday light on a stand of old evergreens.

But, like a child catching her first snowflake, I had stood in a moment of wonder.

Notice where you are:

  • Brushing the silky elegance of my little girl’s hair as she sighs in contentment.
  • The eagle floating on the Alaskan air above Juneau Bay.
  • Hearing my son, Nick, through his autism say, “How are you, Mom?”
  • Witnessing a classroom of world-weary educators joyously playfully sing “Stop! In the Name of Love” with me.
  • My mother squeezing my hand before she died.

When I stop my busy ways to give a passing moment a second chance, I stand on what feels to me like holy ground. Each moment rewards in riches, yet costs nothing.

This momentary second chance is mine for the asking. The prompt is simple and light: notice where you are. Pay attention to what calls your attention. Let wonder fill your soul.

Share your stories and tell me: What if you were to give yourself a moment today to notice where you are?

BY LEAVING A COMMENT, I hereby give my permission to Redleaf Press to use my story and quote me (all names will be changed) in Holly Elissa Bruno’s upcoming book on second chances, including in all revised editions of the book, in all formats (including print and electronic) now known or developed in the future, in all languages and territories, and in any other subsidiary editions of the book, and in promotional materials published by Redleaf Press, as it sees fit.

If you’re new to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Share Your Stories series, you can learn more about the project here and read previous posts here. We invite you to share as often and openly as you want—on this post, previous posts, and future posts. Your comments will provide Holly Elissa with unique insight as she writes her next book, and she looks forward to continuing the conversation after the book is published.

Dig Into Our Latest Release!

April 3, 2014

NewFromRedleafPress

What’s blooming at Redleaf Press? Gardening with Young Children, that’s what! Our latest release is packed with information and inspiration to help you immerse children in gardening and outdoor learning experiences—green thumb or a perfect plot of land not required. You’ll find heaps of suggestions for planning, planting, and caring for a garden suited to your unique setting, and you will learn how a gardening curriculum supports learning and development across all domains.

Gardening with Young Children includes

  • Vibrant photographs and classroom stories describing great programs from around the country
  • Content reflecting childhood issues and gardening trends that have surfaced in recent years, including concerns that children are becoming alienated from nature, and that childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic
  • Resources to help your garden flourish, seed and garden supply lists, information on poisonous plants, and books about gardens and garden creatures

The book also provides more than 60 hands-on indoor and outdoor learning activities for children of all ages to explore plants and garden creatures. These experiences are not dependent on a specific plant or environment—in fact, many of them don’t even require a garden. The activities may help build interest among your class about gardening, and they may spur your thinking and inspire you to come up with new ideas of your own. For example, try this one . . .

You Fill Up My Senses, an activity from Gardening with Young Children

Concepts

  • Plants are made up of many parts
  • Each plant has its own unique look
  • Plants have varied textures
  • Some plants have distinct smells
  • Some plants make noise
  • Some plants are edible

Materials

five large trays (such as copy paper box lids, cookie sheets, cafeteria trays)

colored markers

poster board strips

plants that make noise

plants with a strong fragrance

plants that can be eaten

plants that are brightly colored

plants that have an interesting texture

Description

  1. Label each tray with a word and picture representing one of the five senses (look, touch, listen, smell, and taste).
  2. Ask children to brainstorm garden items that could be displayed on each tray. Work with children in small groups to collect items from the garden for each tray, such as the following:
    1. Listen: wind chime, Chinese lanterns, dried gourds, dried money plants, northern sea oats
    2. Look: Canterbury bells, zinnias, snapdragons, alyssums, geraniums
    3. Touch: lamb’s ear, dusty millers, Autumn Joy sedums, strawflowers, cockscombs, hens and chicks
    4. Smell: thyme, sage, basil, chives, cucumber slices
    5. Taste: parsley, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, carrots, pansies, nasturtiums
  3. Place trays in an area where they can be visited and manipulated by children or guests.
  4. Guide children as they explore, and encourage them to use their senses as they manipulate the objects.

Extensions

Assign children to four groups (touch, smell, look, listen). Give each group a clipboard, and take a sensory walk through the playground, neighborhood, or nearby park. (If cameras are available, children can also take photos.) Encourage the children to find interesting items to write on their list (such as touching the cool gravel or hot asphalt, look for insects, smell food from a nearby restaurant, listen for birds singing.) Return to the room, and ask each group to report what they found. Post their records for parents to see at the end of the day.

Gardening with Young Children is available now from Redleaf Press.

Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 2

March 26, 2014

ContributeToABookWelcome to the second installment of Share Your Stories, a new collaborative book project in which you’re invited to partake! Share Your Stories presents an exciting opportunity for you to let your experiences be heard and contribute to an upcoming Redleaf Press book.

Holly Elissa Bruno, MA, JD—an author, international keynote speaker, attorney, and radio host—is working on an interactive book on second chances. She’s looking for your input, your thoughts, and your stories.

After reading what Holly Elissa has written below, we encourage you to respond to the questions presented. Then, please keep checking back for more from Holly Elissa. This is an ongoing project, so we’ll alert you to new posts via Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up to receive notifications of new posts by entering your email address under the “Follow Along” heading in the right-hand column of this screen. We invite you to share as often and openly as you want. Your comments will provide Holly Elissa with unique insight as she writes the book, and she looks forward to continuing the conversation after the book is published.

Want to catch up on previous Share Your Stories posts? Watch a special message from Holly Elissa, read previous posts, or read on for Holly Elissa’s latest.

What difference would it make if you gave someone, including yourself, a second chance?

Shelby the Rescue Dog Rescues Back

Right now, in a school in rural South Carolina, North Carolina, or Georgia, a dog once abandoned, beaten, or neglected, is using her second chance to rescue a hurting child.

Picture Shelby prancing beside her trainer through the front door of a school and, in a heartbeat, intuitively selecting a child.

The child Shelby selects may act as if she is “just fine,” or he may be a cocky bully or a child emotionally isolated from others. Just as Shelby was hurled to the side of the road, the child she chooses—regardless of appearance—has in some way been abandoned, beaten, or neglected. Shelby senses a fellow traveler.

Shelby will figure out just the right way to connect with the child: Does resting her furry brown head on the child’s lap thaw the child’s icy shield? Do Shelby’s imploring amber eyes see through the child’s defenses to his wounded heart? Or does Shelby’s 100 percent wagging body, offering the child 100 percent unconditional love, forge the connection?

Adele Little, educator and dog expert, describes this moment as Shelby “loving on” the child until the child cannot hold back from petting the adoring dog. In that moment, the dog with the second chance soothes the wounded spirit of the child who needs a second chance. In that moment of wonder, a healing connection is forged.

I believe your experience with a second chance could uplift the rest of us.

  • Can you share a time when you, like Shelby, gave another person or yourself a second chance?
  • Do you know a child who needs Shelby?
  • Can you picture the easing of the child’s tense exterior when Shelby selects the child?
  • Can you also picture Shelby ambling your way?
  • How would your soul be eased if you gave yourself a second chance?

Fred Rogers could answer these questions. He reminds us: The toughest thing to do is to forgive the person who has hurt you, especially if that person is yourself.

Thank you so much for reading. If you’re feeling inspired, please do share your stories here. I’m looking forward to hearing from you and, perhaps, including your contribution in my book!

Let the mutual wagging begin!

BY LEAVING A COMMENT, I hereby give my permission to Redleaf Press to use my story and quote me (all names will be changed) in Holly Elissa Bruno’s upcoming book on second chances, including in all revised editions of the book, in all formats (including print and electronic) now known or developed in the future, in all languages and territories, and in any other subsidiary editions of the book, and in promotional materials published by Redleaf Press, as it sees fit.

Celebrate Our New Children’s Books!

March 24, 2014

Hey, Twin Citians and friends planning to be in the area: Join us on April 19 as we celebrate our new line of children’s books. It’ll be fun for all ages and features story time with author Mike Huber, giveaways, and book signings.

WHAT: A celebration for Redleaf Lane’s new children’s books

WHEN: Saturday, April 19, from 10:30am – 11:30 am

WHERE: The Imagination Activity Room at the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

 

Redleaf Lane Book Launch

 

Guest Post: Silently Watching by Tamar Jacobson, PhD

March 19, 2014

SpecialGuestBloggerWe’re very happy to welcome back a familiar face around these parts. Guest blogger Tamar Jacobson, PhD, is sharing another insightful post—this one on the complex, delicate, and critical dynamics of interpersonal communication between children and adults.

In addition to writing “Don’t Get So Upset!” Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings by Understanding Your Own and editing Perspectives on Gender in Early Childhood, both published by Redleaf Press, Dr. Jacobson is professor, chair of the Department of Teacher Educator, and director of the Early Childhood Education Program at Rider University in New Jersey. She is also a frequent and popular presenter at international, national, regional, and state conferences and workshops on a variety of topics—and the recipient of the 2013 National Association for Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE) Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Educator Award.

Jacobson.TamarEarly morning. Still dark even though the clock reads 6:00 a.m. I look away from the computer and stretch widely in my chair, arms reach upwards and feet extend out into the room. Two cats sit still and quiet—sphinxes in the early morning. Patient and waiting. As I stretch and sigh they look up slowly from their posts. Mimi on the carpet close by, and Oscar on his stand huddled down. I realize how dependent they are on me. For they await their breakfast, and I am the only one who will give it to them at this time of the day. I realize how they need me for affection, encouragement, discipline, and food.

Much like any young child.

My thoughts stray to when I was a child and I remember sitting still silently watching the adults around me. Keeping track of their movements, facial expressions and listening for intonations as they spoke, all the while gleaning information that was important for my emotional and physical survival. A shift in my mother’s face, slight shadow, tightening lips, softening or glaring eyes, clenching of her jaw were some of the signs that taught me to relax around her, or become afraid, wary of what I did or said. Still learning about a brand new environment, or getting to know new people in my life, I treaded with caution, and took seriously things that were said in anger, or even with humor. Sarcasm was confusing and hurtful, because as a young child, learning to survive could be treacherous and lonely, or safe and warm depending on the reactions and behaviors of the significant adults in my life.

As adults, how often we forget that children are sitting or standing silently by, watching our every move or unintentional wince, making assumptions and interpretations, finding meaning that is relevant to their unique and egoistic perspective.  Moment by moment they drink in our everyday reactions and behaviors, learning about their worth as future adults.

How helpful it would be for children if only we could talk them through what they might be understanding about how we are feeling.

But, then again, do we always know what we are feeling when we are being around children?

For more from Dr. Jacobson, visit her blogs—personal or parent-directed—or check out her Redleaf Press booksYou can also read our recent Q&A with Tamar in the Redleaf Author Spotlight.

Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 1

March 14, 2014

Welcome to Share Your Stories, a new collaborative book project in which you’re invited to partake! Share Your Stories presents an exciting opportunity for you to let your experiences be heard and contribute to an upcoming Redleaf Press book. Watch a special message from the book’s author, Holly Elissa Bruno.

Holly Elissa Bruno, MA, JD—an author, international keynote speaker, attorney, and radio host—is working on an interactive book on second chances. She’s looking for your input, your thoughts, and your stories.

After reading what Holly Elissa has written below, we encourage you to respond to the questions presented. Then, please keep checking back for more from Holly Elissa. This is an ongoing project, so we’ll alert you to new posts via Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up to receive notifications of new posts by entering your email address under the “Follow Along” heading in the right-hand column of this screen. We invite you to share as often and openly as you want. Your comments will provide Holly Elissa with unique insight as she writes the book, and she looks forward to continuing the conversation after the book is published.

Read on for Holly Elissa’s first post.

Second chances wait like ripe peaches on a nearby tree, offering their sweetness to us for free

In Little Ways

When you sneeze, does a person nearby—someone you might not even know—bestow a “bless you!” on your nose-wiping self?

When someone blesses my sneezing self, I smile a thank you in his direction. I am grateful to any person who can lift an unnoticed or embarrassing moment into a smiling interaction. I get the sense that the person who has blessed me has blessed herself as well.

But, when we trip up, physically or metaphorically, do we say, “Bless me”?

One of my sweetest and closest friends, who unconditionally adores his grandchildren, curses himself nonverbally in their presence when he spills or breaks something. The lesson his grandchildren pick up non-verbally about self-acceptance in those tiny moments is the opposite of what he intends.

In little ways we barely notice, we bestow blessings (or their opposite) in any moment. Our spirit, touched by that gesture, glows or recoils in response. Instead of a blessing, I so often hear “How stupid!” or “Oh man, how clumsy can I get?”

Second chances wait like ripe peaches on a nearby tree, offering their sweetness to us for free. I snap off a peach every time I roll back my shoulders, breathe deeply and say, “Good for me.” The taste is sweet.

This has not always been the case.

When I had bent-over shoulders, a harsh voice scolded, “Sit up straight! Stop slouching.” I chided myself for failing the “good posture” standard. I was raised in a house where imperfections, in house cleaning, school grades, or posture, were unacceptable. My mother raised me the way her mother had raised her: blessings had to be earned.

In so many little ways, aren’t we far gentler with others than we are with ourselves? So, when I give myself a second chance to bless rather than demean my spirit, I savor the sweetness. I roll my shoulders back and breathe.

  • Can you tell me how you have given yourself a second chance in little ways?
  • Or, could you give yourself a second chance in this moment, rather than turn away from the peach?

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem highlighting the blossoming peach, which I memorized as a teenager, serves me well today.

Thank you so much for reading. If you’re feeling inspired, please do share your stories here. I’m looking forward to hearing from you and, perhaps, including your contribution in my book!

BY LEAVING A COMMENT, I hereby give my permission to Redleaf Press to use my story and quote me (all names will be changed) in Holly Elissa Bruno’s upcoming book on second chances, including in all revised editions of the book, in all formats (including print and electronic) now known or developed in the future, in all languages and territories, and in any other subsidiary editions of the book, and in promotional materials published by Redleaf Press, as it sees fit.

Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Introduction

March 14, 2014

Holly Elissa Bruno, MA, JD, is writing an interactive book about the culture of second chances in education, and she wants to hear what you have to say about it. Join Holly Elissa as she reflects on her encounters with second chances and invites you to share your own experiences. Your comments and stories could end up in her book!

Watch this special video message from Holly Elissa, read her first post, and then keep checking back here for more. This is an ongoing project, so we’ll alert you to new posts via Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up to receive notifications of new posts by entering your email address under the “Follow Along” heading in the right-hand column of this screen. (If you don’t see the “Follow Along” heading, try clicking on the Redleaf Press Blog banner at the top of your screen, and then it should appear. If you’re viewing this from the mobile site, try switching over to the full site—scroll all the way down to find that option.)

We invite you to share as often and openly as you want. Your comments will provide Holly Elissa with unique insight as she writes the book, and she looks forward to continuing the conversation even after the book is published.

Thank you, from everyone at Redleaf Press and Holly Elissa, for joining us for this journey!

From the Redleaf Kitchen: A Nutrition-Packed Salad Pocket

March 6, 2014

March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating habits. As an early childhood professional, you play an important role in helping children cultivate healthy food choices. One of the ways you can do this is by offering opportunities to explore food groups and prepare recipes together.

With that said, we’ve got a great recipe that children can help prepare: Waldorf Salad Pockets—a delicious mixture of fresh produce, creamy yogurt, and pita bread. They’re easy to make, pack in a lot of learning, and provide a fun cooking experience for children—and they make the perfect snack or lunch. As children read the recipe, measure the ingredients, and taste the the finished dish, they’ll also build math and literacy skills, practice science process skills, and learn about the foods being used. Gather the children and dig in!

WaldorfSaladPockets

Waldorf Salad Pockets from Cooking Is Cool: Heat-Free Recipes for Kids to Cook

This pita pocket salad combines apples, grapes, and cranberries mixed with vanilla yogurt for a quick salad on the go.

Ingredients

1/2 green apple (Granny Smith or similar), cored and diced

1/2 red apple (Red Delicious or similar), cored and diced

3 tablespoons dried cranberries

1/4 cup seedless red grapes, chopped

1/2 celery stick, sliced

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

3 pitas

1 teaspoon chopped walnuts (optional) (Warning: check for nut allergies children might have!)

Equipment

Mixing bowl

Mixing spoon

Measuring cups

Measuring spoons

Cutting board

Sharp knife

Apple corer (optional)

Directions

1. Place diced apple pieces in a mixing bowl.

2. Add cranberries, grapes, and celery.

3. Pour lemon juice over the mixture, and stir well.

4. Pour yogurt over fruit, and stir well.

5. If you are using walnuts, add them now, and mix well.

6. Cut pitas in half across the diameter, and open the pocket.

7. Fill each pita half with the fruit mixture.

8. Serve on a plate or napkin.

Extension

What happens inside a pita that creates a pocket while it is cooking?

A Book to Read

Read about all the different types of bread that we eat in Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris.

Yield: Makes 6 servings. Serving size 1/2 filled pita.

Nutritional information for pockets: 2 grams fat, 29 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams protein.

541587

Looking for more recipes that children can make? Cooking Is Cool is a great way to help budding chefs follow easy instructions to transform simple ingredients into great-tasting snacks, beverages, entrees, and more. All of the recipes are classroom-friendly and heat-free, meaning they can be made without an oven, stove, microwave, or hot plate.

Mystery Word: An Active Way to Build Cognitive Skills

February 19, 2014

We have a great learning adventure to share today. The activity, Mystery Word, is pulled from one of our latest releases, Let’s Play, by Jeff A. Johnson and Denita Dinger. (Want to learn more about the book and its counterpart, Let Them Play? Read all the way to the end of this post for more information.) If cold temperatures or snowy days are keeping you indoors, give it a whirl—you could try using words related to the weather, like icy, blizzard, or chilly. Or, use words relating to topics that the children are especially interested in right now. All you need are a few index cards, markers, and a group of children who love to discover.

MysteryWord

From Mystery Word, an (un)curriculum early learning adventure from Let’s Play

Mystery Word

Lots of kids love solving mysteries, so the idea of Mystery Word will be very exciting to them. Mystery Word is an active way to build letter recognition, vocabulary, cooperation, and problem-solving skills.

Ingredients

  • 4- x 6-inch index cards
  • Marker
  • Index card file box (optional, but it makes for easy storage of your words and letters)

Process

First, some prep work:

  1. Create a set of letters—write one letter per index card until you have the whole alphabet.
  2. Make duplicates of popular letters so you’ll be prepared for any Mystery Word that pops up.
  3. File the cards in your index card file box.

Now share your Mystery Word with the kids:

  1. Choose a word. Make it a fresh, new, fun, or exciting word that relates somehow to what has been going on (or will be going on) in the lives of the kids. For example, here are some popular words from Denita’s program: stomp, slimy, absorb, snot, aim, wow, jump, treasure, dig, imagine, construct, ramp, goopy, string.
  2. Write the word down on a blank index card, and then display the card. You can tape it to the wall, put it in a picture frame, or set it on an activity table—whatever works for your program.
  3. From your index box, grab the individual letters that spell the word you’ve chosen, and then hide the letters around the room.
  4. Wait for the children to discover the letters and build the word during free play. (There is not a scheduled Mystery Word time.) As their play evolves, the children will discover the letters, and the word will eventually get built.
  5. Once the children have found all the letters, let them figure out what the word is.
  6. Have the children cooperatively share what they know about letter sounds and try to figure out the word. Younger children need assistance, which older children are more than happy to provide. Give children the opportunity to ask for what they need. Never step in to help until they ask. Figuring out the word can take time, patience, and persistence—all good skills to practice.
  7. Once the children have figured it out, talk about the word. The children will want to share what they know about it. Make time for this Mystery Word conversation with the group and with individual children.
  8. Be prepared for play possibilities the Mystery Word may inspire. The children will often incorporate the word into their play. For example, if the Mystery Word is gloppy, you had better be prepared for some messy play.

The Mystery Word concept teaches children letters in a fun, exciting, motivating way. It helps them learn letters, as well as the purpose of each letter, in a very unthreatening, unforced, playful way. All the children feel a sense of pride when they find a letter, and when the younger children ask the older children to assist them in identifying a letter, the older children feel a huge boost of self-esteem. For them, sharing what they know is empowering.

As the letters are found, the children have to construct the Mystery Word by putting letters in the correct order. Doing this is great for learning visual tracking, problem solving, letter sounds, letter recognition, teamwork, ownership of discoveries, knowledge sharing, and community building. Many times, one mystery word builds on another. For example, the word apart may lead to the word together, and that may lead to the word attach, and that may lead to the word glue. This means kids are identifying connections between words, stretching and owning their own vocabularies, and actively thinking about language.

More Play Adventures

  • Lowercase letters. If you’ve been using all capital letters, use the Mystery Word as a time to introduce lowercase letters. Just write the word in lowercase letters, and then write and hide a matching set of lowercase letters.
  • Match lowercase letters with uppercase letters. Write the Mystery Word in either uppercase or lowercase letters, and then hide the opposite type of letters. The children then have to match the uppercase letters with their lowercase partners, or vice versa.
  • Extra letters. In addition to the letters needed to build the Mystery Word, hide letters that are not part of the word. Then the kids have to figure out which ones belong and which ones do not.
  • Letter scatter. Instead of hiding the letters, scatter them all over the floor and let the children go on a letter hunt. Call out the letters as they are needed to build the Mystery Word, but do not provide a visual aid. This provides a great way to assess the children’s knowledge of letters in a fun, nonthreatening way. Make good observations of the children who are successful as well as those who are not. Don’t stand there with a clipboard making checkmarks, just pay attention to who seems to know what. Stay in the moment with them. You can always record anything that needs recording later.
  • Problem solving. If you hide letters in very tricky and inconvenient places, it takes some problem solving to retrieve them. It’s fun to watch the gears turn as children work together to figure out how to get a letter that’s been taped to the ceiling.
  • Go magnetic. Hide magnetic letters instead, and have the children build the word on a refrigerator, metal cabinet, or magnetic marker board.
  • Grab some books or sing. Share books and songs that are related to the Mystery Word you’ve selected.

541273Like this activity? Find more like it in Let’s Play. The handbook is filled with thirty-nine child-led, open-ended play adventures—plus more than 225 play variations—that are packed with learning. Building on the early learning principles presented in Jeff A. Johnson and Denita Dinger’s first book together, Let Them Play, these budget-friendly activities support your transition to a play-based, child-led (un)curriculum.

540535What is an (un)curriculum? Find out in Let Them Play. You’ll learn why children’s play is focused, purposeful, and full of learning. An (un)curriculum is all about supporting child-led play, trusting children as capable and engaged learners, and forgoing packaged curriculums and prescribed activities. Jeff and Denita explain the guiding principles of an (un)curriculum and how it gives children the freedom to play, includes suggestions to create spaces that promote healthy development and learning, and supports those who believe in the learning power of play. (Bonus: you can also read about a few tips to advocate for play—all from the book—in this blog post.)

Both books are available through Redleaf Press now, where you can also read our Q&A with the authors.

Guest Post: Insights on Brain Development from Deborah McNelis

January 29, 2014

SpecialGuestBloggerYou may have noticed that we recently added an exciting new product line to our library of resources — Brain Insights cards. Created by Deborah McNelis, each pocket-sized, age-specific Brain Insights set (there are six available!) offers 40 brain-building learning activity ideas to jump-start interactive play anywhere throughout the day. In this guest post, Deborah shares a bit background on early brain development and insight on the significant role you play in young children’s lives. Read on for a dose of brain power!

It is an extreme pleasure to contribute to this incredibly valuable site. My passion is to create the awareness and understanding that we can easily impact the healthy and optimal brain development of children which leads to overall well-being in life—and the early years are the best time to have a positive influence.

McNelis

As I often say to audiences at the beginning of brain presentations, “I am thrilled that technology allows the study of the brain like we’ve never seen before.” When scientific research began demonstrating that a child’s early development is largely determined by the daily environment and experiences, rather than genetics alone, I became extremely excited. I was an early childhood educator at that time and knew the impact of the early years, but having scientific evidence to support the dramatic difference quality early childhood educators and caring parents make was very reinforcing.

The good news is that advances in brain research have demonstrated the enormous importance of the early years in determining a person’s future success in learning and in life. It is now known that a child’s brain continues to develop long after birth. The term “brain development” means more than just intelligence building. It means the actual structural changes that take place in the brain. The experiences a child has in the early years activate the actual physical connections between brain cells that make the brain grow—in other words, the brain’s “wiring.” We now understand that school readiness is based on this brain wiring, most of which takes place before age five. This wiring develops best when provided with:

  • Nurturing and stimulating environments         
  • Repetition of positive experiences
  • Nutrition and sleep 
  • Unstructured play with real objects
  • Movement activities and time in nature 
  • Direct and interactive language
  • Routines and predictability
  • Being read to and exposure to music
  • Positive, responsive, and caring relationships

Conversely, constant exposure to stress, limited stimulation, poor nutrition, chaos, little time outdoors, too much screen time, unpredictability, and lack of nurturing relationships all lead to types of brain wiring that can contribute to emotional and learning problems. Brains learn very early how to cope with the environment in which they exposed, sometimes with harmful results.

This information is critical because approximately 13 million toddlers and preschoolers are not in the care of their parent during the day, including 45% of children under the age of one. Early childhood professionals who are trained and are knowledgeable about early brain development have a dramatic and very positive influence. Dedicated educators and care providers create healthy learning environments and the loving interactions growing minds need when children are away from their parents.

The significance of the early years is still not fully recognized by most adults. We need to ensure both home and out of care settings are environments where children can thrive. Our entire society cannot afford to continue to allow large numbers of children to miss out on the positive experiences they need in infancy and early childhood; the costs in terms of lost potential and increasing rates of emotional and behavioral problems are too high. Brain research shows us what children need; our responsibility is to ensure that every child receives it!

Deborah McNelis, MS.ed is the founder of Brain Insights, LLC, and author of the Brian Development Packets series. She has contributed to several books, is seen in several publications, heard on numerous radio shows, and receives rave reviews for her enlightening and engaging presentations throughout the country.

Her goal through this work is for everyone to gain an understanding of early brain development, its impact, and the ways we can all easily make a REAL difference for the future of our children.

Read our Q&A with Deborah McNelis and learn more about  her Brain Insights line, available from Redleaf Press.

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