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Creative Childcare Blog

Embracing Diversity: Multicultural Spring Celebrations

As spring blooms and nature awakens, it's the perfect time to celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures that make our world so vibrant and diverse. Early learning settings provide an ideal opportunity to introduce children to different traditions, customs, and celebrations from around the globe, fostering empathy, curiosity, and respect for cultural diversity. Let's explore some multicultural spring celebrations that can inspire meaningful learning experiences for young children:

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Holi - Festival of Colors (India)

Holi, known as the Festival of Colors, is a joyous Hindu celebration that marks the arrival of spring. During Holi, children and adults come together to play with vibrant coloured powders, dance to lively music, and share festive treats. In early learning environments, educators can organize hands-on activities like creating colourful artwork, experimenting with safe, washable dyes, and exploring the sensory experience of different textures and hues.

Nowruz - Persian New Year (Iran)

Nowruz, the Persian New Year, symbolizes renewal, hope, and the arrival of spring. Families gather to set a beautiful Haft-Seen table adorned with seven symbolic items representing blessings for the new year. Early learning classrooms can explore Nowruz traditions through storytelling, music, and art projects such as creating Haft-Seen displays or crafting traditional symbols like fish, flowers, and wheatgrass.

Cherry Blossom Festival (Japan)

In Japan, the arrival of cherry blossoms heralds the arrival of spring and is celebrated with Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing picnics. Children delight in picnics under the blooming trees, enjoying special treats and spending time with family and friends. Early learning programs can organize their cherry blossom picnics, complete with Japanese-inspired snacks, origami crafts, and nature walks to observe the beauty of blooming flowers.

Easter Celebrations (Global)

Easter, celebrated by Christians worldwide, symbolizes rebirth and new beginnings. Children eagerly anticipate Easter egg hunts, decorating eggs, and sharing festive meals with loved ones. Early learning classrooms can explore the story of Easter through age-appropriate books, songs, and art activities like dyeing eggs, creating Easter bonnets, and crafting spring-themed decorations.

Songkran - Thai New Year (Thailand)

Songkran, the Thai New Year, is celebrated with water festivals symbolizing purification, renewal, and the washing away of the past year's misfortunes. Children joyfully splash water on each other and participate in traditional ceremonies, honouring elders and offering blessings for the year ahead. Early learning settings can introduce children to Songkran traditions through water play activities, Thai music and dance, and crafting traditional flower garlands.

Cinco de Mayo (Mexico)

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army's victory over the French Empire and is celebrated with lively parades, music, dancing, and feasting. Early learning programs can explore Mexican culture through colourful art projects, learning about traditional Mexican instruments like maracas and guitars, and tasting authentic Mexican cuisines like tacos, quesadillas, and fresh fruit.

By embracing a variety of multicultural celebrations in the springtime, educators create inclusive and enriching environments where children can learn about, respect, and celebrate the diversity of cultures around them. Through hands-on activities, music, storytelling, and shared experiences, children develop empathy, cultural awareness, and a deep appreciation for the beauty and richness of our multicultural world. Let's celebrate spring with open hearts, minds, and arms!

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Every Child Matters

Every Child Matters

In light of the recent news of the discovery of 215 children’s remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School site, here are some valuable resources that you, as educators, can access for yourselves and the children & families you support through your daily practice.

The first resource is a YouTube video that provides some tips about how to communicate with children regarding Canada’s Residential School history. In the video, Monique Gray Smith recommends books and resources of interest. The video is about nine minutes long, and is well worth your time. .  Please watch with kindness and mindfulness for yourself and others in place.

The second resource is a link to the Canadian Child Care Federations Indigenous Child Care website. Here you can find information on the importance of culturally appropriate programs and how to encourage aboriginal identity in childcare.  You are encouraged to explore the information and resources offered here.

The third resource is the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework This framework represents the Canadian government and Indigenous peoples’ work to develop a framework that reflects the unique cultures, aspirations and needs of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children within Canada.

The fourth resource is 4 links to a variety of booklists for little ones and the age groups with which they are best suited.  The last link is to some YouTube videos of Indigenous read alouds.

Lastly, here is a copy of a child-friendly Land  Acknowledgement statement.

Thank you for sharing and caring for the land we learn and play on.  In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Iyarhe  Nakoda Nations, the Metis Nation (Region 3) and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta. 

Land acknowledgement statements formally recognize that we have an obligation to recognize and respect Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of the land and to honour their relationships with their traditional territories.  You are encouraged to consider adopting one for your childcare program.

As early childcare educators, now is the time to honour Residential School Survivors and their families, and to remember those children who did not come home.   

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Dealing with Feedback You Don’t Like

Dealing with Feedback You Don’t Like

We’ve all been there. Maybe it happens during a performance review, or perhaps an incident occurred in your program, and changes need to be made. At one time or another, each of us has received negative feedback, and it stings.

There are times when we know we’re in the wrong, and then feedbackthere are times we disagree with what we’re being told. The next choice you make will determine if you can move forward professionally or if you open the door to many more problems in your current position.

Poor choices include:

  • Lashing out
  • Blaming
  • Deflecting
  • Shutting down
  • Offering excuses as to why the behaviour happened

The best course of action is to stay quiet and listen. Make sure you are listening carefully. This is hard to do when you feel like you are under attack, but you must stop your inner voice from taking over. This means that you do not start thinking about how you will respond or why the person delivering the news is wrong/horrible/out to get you. Your job while you are listening is to get very clear on what the problem is. It is your time to put your emotions aside and to make sure you understand the problem. One way to ensure you are clear is to state back what you think you have heard.

“So I am clear, you are saying that I am not supervising the children properly?”

This is the time to ask questions about the issue. You have the right to ask for examples, especially if you disagree with the problem. If you know that you prefer to gossip or be on your phone while in the playground, perhaps questions are unnecessary.

“Could you please give me some examples of when I haven’t been supervising the children properly?”

As examples are being shared with you, you must listen and take notes. If you came to your meeting without pen and paper, it’s a good idea to ask to borrow them now. This lets your supervisor know you are taking this seriously and are looking to improve your performance.

The next step in dealing with negative feedback is probably the hardest. Do not take it personally. Many believe that negative feedback from your supervisor means that they don’t like you. Nothing can be further from the truth!

This feedback is meant to help you change behaviours or seek more training to become a better educator. I can promise you that your supervisor is not lying in bed at night, thinking of ways to make your life hard. They might be lying in bed, worrying about having to deliver this feedback to you, and they hope that you remain open and receptive because they don’t want to lose you.

If you disagree with this information, you have a choice. You can stay quiet, or you can voice your disagreement. If you choose to dispute, do it respectfully and tactfully. Your supervisor’s information or perspective may be very wrong.

“You said that a parent saw me behind a bush in the playground yesterday. The children and I were playing hide and seek at that time, and I deliberately chose that place to hide because I still had a good view of the playground by using it.”

If the information they have shared with you is not wrong, it is in your best interest to show initiative immediately. The initiative can be:

  • Asking for guidance or help
  • Looking for learning opportunities that will strengthen your weak area(s)
  • Developing an improvement plan and sharing it with your supervisor

By taking the initiative, you show your supervisor that you care and that you want to do better. You may need a few days to decide what you are going to do, or you may want to state your intentions to wrap up the meeting.

Now is the time to learn what you can and adapt your practice to align with your program’s vision and philosophy. Remember to check in with your supervisor after two weeks and again in three months to ensure you are on track.

Just like puzzle pieces, each team member is responsible for doing the best job they can. Take heart because if you have a supervisor who is willing to sit down and work with you, the chances are that they are doing the same thing with other team members.

Negative feedback, sometimes called constructive criticism, is not meant to target you or make your life hard. It is given for you to become a better educator. Embrace the idea that your supervisor has enough respect for you to bring their concerns to your attention. Show them the same respect by listening and doing something proactive about it.

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What superpower are you channelling today?

What superpower are you channelling today?

By: Traudi Kelm

Superpowers are real, I have them, you have them.

You may be leading your team through new innovative health and safety practices?

Or supporting a family who is experiencing added stress as they continue to deal with the pandemic?

Are you connecting with a child who is having a hard day?

Or are you just trying to get through the day yourself?


 If you were a superhero what would your superpower be? What is your greatest strength?

These questions may help you identify your biggest personal asset. Hopefully, they invite you to focus on the impact you have

on others.

Your superpowers may not seem to have much in common with the typical skills and competencies of a superhero they are, however, drawn from your real-life experiences.  Channelling those superpowers could be the key towards a brighter outlook.

This should get you started…

Are there any achievements you are particularly proud of, or times when you had obstacles to overcome in order to be successful?

Can you identify a particular characteristic that enabled you to do this?

Where have you shown stamina despite adverse circumstances? Where do you show endurance, strength, or resilience?

Do you have the power of observation? You may not have x-ray eyes, but you could have an eye for detail or the ability to step back and analyse a situation. You may be able to spot a child who needs an extra bit of attention or a co-worker who is dealing with a stressful situation.

Speed…a definite superpower. Are you efficient, do you manage your time well or accomplish tasks quickly? Can you get to the other side of the room in the blink of an eye?

Are you capable of flexibility and adaptability? Even though you don’t have shapeshifting abilities you may still be able to make changes quickly based on what you notice the children are interested in on a particular day in the moment.

Are you sensitive to what others are thinking and feeling? Are you empathetic? Emotional intelligence is a particularly useful superpower when engaging children, parents, or co-workers.

Do you have the power to influence your environment? What was your last provocation? What changes have you made to the environment? Have you successfully taken on a leadership role?

So …. what is your superpower?

I think mine is having incredible patience, at least that is what I have been told. Because the Crane symbolizes patience my superhero name will be “Silver Crane”… a bit corny I know.

But seriously, all children need a superhero, now more than ever. Children are always looking for someone who they can look up to, someone who they can admire, someone who they can trust and feel safe with. There is no better feeling than knowing a child thinks you are a superstar. It isn’t easy having superpowers, a single mistake can bring you back to ground zero. It’s a high stakes game, but well worth it in the end.

So how can you be a superhero? Be there! Be there when a child needs you and when they don’t. Make sure their needs are met both physically and emotionally.

You may not want to be a superhero but having a positive trusting relationship with every child in your care, every family and every co-worker will make you a better educator, and a better person.


Take the Creative Challenge: Pick your superpower and superhero name

Share with us at: and we will post on our website.

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Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Should you. or should you not, use food products for craft and sensory experiences in your early learning environment? This is a frequent debate in the field. You may have given it some thought or may not have even thought about it until now.   

Think about all the places you may have seen food used in your journey as an early learning educator. Painting with chocolate syrup? Making aquariums full of goldfish crackers?  Beading with fruit loops? Scooping in a sensory bin of rice? Sprinkling brown sugar on a desert scene?  Others?

While we all would agree that the children enjoy these activities and that there are benefits to the activities, do they really need to be completed with food products? Are there not alternatives that could be used? 

Why is this worth a conversation? Because there are a few things to consider when using food products and the mixed messages you are sending, to the children in your care, when doing so.

First, what does it say about how you value food?  By indicating that food is something that can be played with and experimented with, you are telling children that food has other purposes than fueling their  bodies.   Does this not contradict us when, at snack time  and they are ‘swimming’ their goldfish and we tell them “Stop playing with your food!”  We tell children to eat their snack, have “ one more bite”, or to “just try it’” and, on the other hand, we tell them to ‘waste it’ by playing with it or creating with it.   What sort of mixed message is that?

Secondly, we have to be mindful of our families and their efforts to put food on their own tables.  We have children in our care so their families can go to work to make a living wage that allows them to provide the necessities of life.   When we devalue food, we are devaluing the work done to obtain it.  What about that child whose family struggles with putting food on the table?  What about the child who shows up hungry because there is not enough food in the cupboards or fridge? Imagine  if you are showing up hungry to daycare or preschool and then – next thing you know – you are stringing cereal on pipe cleaners and being told not to eat the cereal.  What sort of mixed message is that?

Thirdly,  we all agree that keeping children safe is part of our responsibility. What about those who have food allergies and sensitivities that may be known or unknown?   Is it really necessary to use a food product to create or explore when there are alternatives that are much safer to use? We all know about the toxicity of bingo dabbers so why do we not give the same consideration to other supplies we are using. What sort of mixed message is that?

Fourthly , during the pandemic, we need to be mindful that many are struggling to make ends meet and that there have been, at times, increased demand for food products. For instance, when the pandemic started, we saw a rush on flour as people worried and started stocking their pantries. Yes, some were just stocking up while others were buying out of necessity.  Is it appropriate, then, that some of that flour may have been used to make playdoh or salt dough in an early learning environment when it was needed as food?  What sort of mixed message is that?

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, our classrooms are diverse. We have children that come to us from countries that are not as rich as Canada.  We have children that come to us from countries where poverty and food shortages are a real thing. Is it respectful then to throw a sensory bin of rice on the table and tell a child: “Don’t eat it. Just play with it.”?  This may be a child who has experienced, in one way or another, food line-ups for a bag of rice and now is feeling surprised? anxious? that their teacher is telling them the very opposite of what they have been told by their family and community. What sort of mixed message is that?

We have to consider what messages we are sending to children, and ourselves, when we use food products as materials.  We have to consider how we are contributing to children’s understanding of community and togetherness.  We have to consider the role models we are being for children when it comes to our collective global consciousness around resources. 

But it is so much fun to paint with chocolate syrup, you say.

The children love to bead with cereal or pasta, you say.

They love to create a desert with brown sugar and glue, you say.

They love to play in the rice bin, you say.

But I saw it on Pinterest, you say

All true….but there really is no reason why you should be using food products as craft or sensory materials when there is an abundance of materials and loose parts that are available to us today.    It just requires us to close our cupboard doors, be creative, and look elsewhere.  We have a responsibility to do so.

So, in answer to the question… NO, you should not!

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OK, Wait, there are Seven Senses?

OK, Wait, there are Seven Senses?

As educators, we are all aware of the benefits of sensory play. Many of us are familiar with the sense of sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch, but there are two other senses we should be aware of.

there are Seven SensesThe vestibular system explains the perception of our body in relation to gravity, movement, and balance. The vestibular system measures acceleration, g-force, body movements and head position.  

You are using your vestibular senses when you:

  • Are walking on a balance beam
  • Know when you are in an elevator that is moving
  • Are aware of when you are sitting, kneeling or standing

When a child has a robust vestibular system, they are more confident and in control. They may be willing to try new activities and possibly take more chances. As educators, we can wake up the vestibular system or quiet it down.

Stimulating Vestibular Activities:

  • Jumping bouncing games (short spells of 20–30 secs) Vertical (up and down) movement is the most accepted form of vestibular input for the body and brain.
  • Controlled and supervised spinning games. These games can easily over-stimulate children. Spinning no more than ten times is an excellent place to start. Remember to spin again in the opposite direction.
  • Swinging. Fifteen minutes of swinging can have up to 7 hours of effect on the brain.
  • Yoga poses such as Downward Dog, Horse or Monkey pose.

Soothing and Calming Vestibular Activities:

  • Slow rocking movements
  • Relaxation games – lying/sitting with the head still
  • Yoga poses such as Mouse pose, Child’s pose or Savasana

Proprioception is the ability to sense what different parts of your body are doing without having to look at them. This sense is essential as it lets us know where our body parts are, how we are positioned in space and helps us plan our movements.  

You are proprioception when you are:

  • Touching your finger to your nose with your eyes closed
  • Walk between parked cars
  • Use a pen or a pencil without tearing the paper

There are many easy ways to incorporate activities into your daily programming to build the children’s sense of proprioception.

  • Weightbearing activities such as crawling, pushing up, or jumping
  • Heavy lifting and carrying
  • Cardiovascular exercises such as running, jumping, hopping or skipping
  • Oral activities such as chewing

When you think about engaging children’s senses, do not forget to include their vestibular and proprioceptor senses. If you want to learn more, an excellent book is Balanced and barefoot by Angela Hanscom.

Until next time,

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Regression in Children

Regression in Children

How frustrating is it when a child in your care starts having toileting accidents when they have been potty trained for over a year? Do you see children refusing to climb up the stairs when they were perfectly capable of doing so yesterday?

You may be seeing regression happening in these children. Children often respond to stress by taking a step back developmentally.

Perhaps there is a new baby at home, or the disruption of schedules due to COVID-19 is negatively impacting the children

you work with.    Regression in Children1

It’s no wonder that many of us are seeing an uptake in regressive behaviour!

The one thing that these children are asking for is your reassurance and support. They are already feeling bad; they don’t need you to make them feel worse by shaming them for their regressions.

Dealing with Regression in General:

  1. Be kind. Empathize with the changes and losses the child is going through. Validate their experience. They’ll probably need to express their feelings before they can cooperate with efforts to behave more maturely.
  2. Maintain consistent routines. Help them take back control. Give them choices whenever possible. Maybe they need to hold your hand while out on a walk or want to help you and be near you.
  3. Take breaks. Are you and the children becoming more frustrated lately? Talk with your room partner and choose which activities are “non-negotiable” (i.e., handwashing, naptime, going outside.) You can choose many battles to avoid (i.e., sitting criss-cross applesauce, allowing the children to spend more time in activities they are enjoying.) Choose to avoid power struggles by being more flexible. Participate in the fun and silly activities you plan for the children.
  4. Move around. On the other hand, physical exercise relieves stress too. Spontaneous dance parties, animal yoga or a quick game of tag on the playground will alleviate their stress as well as yours.
  5. Enjoy nature. Just spending time outdoors can make you feel happier. Even though it’s winter, find any excuse you can to be out in nature. If that fails, bring nature inside. Put away the Mini Pops cd and opt for crashing waves or bird sounds instead.
  6. Be a role model. Your mood affects the children, especially the child experiencing regressive behaviour, remaining calm and cheerful when they slip will show them how to be more resilient.
Whether it’s triggered by a virus or a new baby brother, regressive behaviour is likely to fade away over time. Meanwhile, the best way for you to help the children is to remain a stable, loving and calm force in their lives

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Observations: Who Has Time?

Observations are one of the pillars of our professional practice.  In theory, we agree that observations are important.  We know that we need to observe the children.  We observe to determine the children’s interests, wants, and needs. We observe to effectively plan.  We observe to determine social and emotional learning.  We observe to determine how responsive our environment is and what needs to be changed.  We observe as co-learners, co-researchers and co-imaginers. 

In practice, however, observations can be challenging and time-consuming. In a busy day, how do we find the time to effectively observe? If we do manage to find the time, then what? Where do we go from there?  

To help navigate the process, here are some tips that make observations less tedious and time-consuming.

Tip #1: Don’t go undercover. Observations to not have to be done ‘in secret’. You can observe the children and document your observations while in the early learning environment.  If you are taking photos, talk the documentation so the children know what you are doing. “I love that sandcastle you created. I am going to take a picture to share with mom and dad.”   OR “You jumped so high. Let’s try that again and I am going to get an action shot.”   If you are making a few notes, let the children see them. In doing so, you are modelling literacy. You are opening yourself to questions that you can answer. When asked, “What are you doing?” respond truthfully: “I am writing about how you just shared with a friend and showed compassion and empathy.” Use big words!  Build them up!  OR if you are observing to plan/scaffold learning, let them know. “I am trying to figure out what we should do next because you are showing me your learning.”

Tip #2: Just do it!  There is no right time or place to observe so don’t wait for one. Just do it when you see something that catches your attention.   Jot down an interesting phrase on a sticky note and put it on your planning board or on your clipboard to reflect upon later.  Note an exploration of play and jot it down. If some thoughts come to mind about it there and then, note them on the side. Just get it all down and figure it out later. 

Tip #3: Be messy. Observations are all about the process and it is a messy process. Don’t worry about making mistakes; there are no mistakes to be made!  You can correct the spelling later. You can change the vocabulary afterwards when you reflect on your observation.  Can’t think of the word in English? Write it down in whatever language works for you.  Scribble where needed…draw arrows… use abbreviations just as long as you get it down.  

Tip #4: Know your why. If you do not know why you are observing then you won’t know what to observe or how to document it.  If you are observing a challenging behaviour, you are going to be using the ABCs to figure out what is going on. If you are observing a child exploring a pine cone for the first time, you may observe to write a learning story.  If you are observing why there are always disagreements in the house centre, you may be observing to listen to running narratives or doing an activity-path to figure out what is working or not working for the children.   You need to know your why in order to determine your how and you're what!

Tip #5: Don’t go it alone.  Observations do not have to be a solitary exercise. They can involve your colleagues. They can involve families. They can involve the children.   Ask for others’ interpretations or ideas on what you are seeing.  If your circle time is not working, ask a colleague to observe you in practice.  If a child is struggling, ask parents to offer up insights.  If children are gathered around a mud puddle, ask what they are looking at. Ask what they are thinking about?   Multiple observations allow you to get multiple perspectives which allows for multiple reflections. 

Tip #6: Find time to reflect.  When all is said and done, you need to reflect on what you have observed in order to determine the “Now what?”. What do you do with this information? Do you tuck it away for future reference? Do you write it up and post it for the children to see? For the parents to read?  To bring to your next planning session?     When do you reflect? In the moments that are offered up: coffee break, while on the playground supervising, while tidying up, on the way home or just sitting for ten minutes at the end of your day to collect your thoughts.  

Being effective in both content and time is the key to observations. It takes repeated practice to hone your skills but the effort it worth it.  By committing your time and effort to observations, you are investing in your professional practice.

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Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children Internal vs. External Control

Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children

Internal vs. External Control

As educators, we are responsible for several children all at once. We are tasked with managing their health, safety and learning. To do that, we need to maintain a certain amount of control of our group. This allows us to avoid chaos and the stress that comes with it.

As professionals, we need to recognize our limits and learn how to manage the children without becoming overly dominant or controlling. Somewhere there is aPromoting Positive Self Esteem in ChildrenInternal vsjpg perfect balance, but what does it look like?

We play a critical role in helping young children develop impulse control and socially acceptable behaviours.

Managing vs. Controlling Children

One aspect of management is, indeed, control. Classroom management requires that we assume control of the environment. Behaviour management requires that we take control of the behaviour of the children in the classroom.

As professionals, we achieve these responsibilities by using skills. If telling children to sit still and be quiet were sufficient to manage a classroom, our work would be a breeze.

Little humans learn through repetition and practice. Teaching is complicated. Particularly when you consider that all of us have different learning styles, we will try many strategies before finding what brings balance and calm to our children.

Teaching and Developing Children

When we attempt to control a child, we can be guaranteed poor outcomes.

The only person we have total control over is ourselves. We cannot take control of another’s behaviour or emotions. Nobody can control emotions or actions other than that person. You can’t make me happy or unhappy - though you may set up an environment that lends itself to one or the other.

As long as children have free will, they choose what to do, how to react, and how they feel in no small degree.

Think about the last time you tried to get a child to stop crying? They may eventually be able to reign in their emotions, but not merely because they are told to do so. Commanding them to stop emoting may suppress their feelings, but it does not mean they stop feeling what they feel.

Commanding a child to stop fidgeting may get short-term results, but what happens when you aren’t present? This is internal versus external control.

Ultimately, children need to internalize the skills to manage their behaviour and emotions. Otherwise, they rely on external circumstances and control to do so.

Teaching and managing children is more likely to result in the long-term changes that you want for the children. Allowing them to learn, choose, and accept responsibility for their choices results in the lessons needed to internalize both skills and confidence.

Internal vs. External Control

Either I learn to manage and control myself, or I need someone else to monitor, motivate and control me.

By teaching children to think critically, make the best choices, learn from mistakes, and fine-tune their skills, we allow them to internalize the skills necessary to succeed.

Adults who lack internal control often develop addictions. They usually require close supervision and external motivation - either positive or negative - and frequent rewards. In relationships, they are often unreliable.

Such people often find themselves in trouble, but it is never their fault. Always, someone else should have, would have, or could have caused their behaviour.

They take no initiative, accept no responsibility, and assume no consequences.

Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children

Using the following process allows you to establish an environment where children can learn, grow, and develop the skills needed to become young adults with positive self-esteem. They’ll have an internal locus of control.

These are the essential steps:

  1. Communicate expectations with accountability.
  2. Get all the adults on the same page.
  3. Be consistent. Follow through and negotiate any changes explicitly.
  4. Allow them to experience the natural consequences that arise from their choices.
  5. Help them learn from their failures and shortcomings.
  6. Encourage good behaviour and avoid reinforcing bad behaviour.
  7. Set up opportunities for success.
  8. No matter what, appreciate them for the unique individual they are.

Each step in the process is critical. Teaching, monitoring, processing and enforcing consequences make this work.

You will likely not see it, but the result will be young adults that have high self-esteem and take responsibility for their actions. They’ll be on the road to greater success and happiness in life.

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Pointing Fingers

Pointing Fingers

Have you pointed your finger at someone?  NO – not that finger. Your pointer finger. Have you pointed at someone, whether it be literally or figuratively?

Have you caught yourself having real or “mirror” conversations with yourself where you are pointing?       pointing fingers

Were you trying to work out a conflict with a colleague in the mirror? Were you practising what to say? What you str going to do? How you are going to say it?   Do you find yourself pointing as you imagine yourself saying, “You are not.….”           

Do you find yourself, during those transitions that we dread (see last week’s blog), pointing at the room or a corner and saying, “Clean up the blocks over there.”  Or “What about that car under the table? “

WELL, here is something worth noting.

Did you know that when you point a finger, three fingers point back at yourself? Yup! It’s true. Try it. See? Three fingers are pointing at you, but we often only focus on our pointer finger.

Pointing fingers is what we do when we want to shift blame or responsibility to others. Pointing fingers is equal to saying, “You are not…

  • Doing what I have asked
  • Doing what I want
  • Listening to me
  • Honouring me
  • Focusing on what I am focusing on

We point to blame, accuse, and point out what is not being done.  It is our way of signalling, to a colleague, to a child, to a family member, that we are not happy with their behaviour or efforts. But, what about our behaviour? Our efforts?  This is where those three fingers come into the picture.

Since more fingers are pointing at you - the pointer – we need to look more closely at them.  Why? Because they indicate that YOU need to look at a few things first before starting to point the finger at others.   

Think of those three fingers – that are pointing back at you – as the three E’s: expectations, environment, and effort.  This is what you need to evaluate when you find yourself pointing that finger – whether it be real or figuratively – because this is what needs to be changed or addressed first and, guess what, they are YOUR fingers, and they are pointing at YOU. So, one guess, who has to re-evaluate? Yup.  YOU.

You read that right. You need to look at yourself and what you can do to change the situation.  The answers lie in those three fingers – the Es – that are pointing back at you, telling you what you need to examine. Let’s start with:

E = Expectations 

Are your ideas realistic? Have you communicated your wants and needs appropriately?  Have you set yourself and others up for success, or have you assumed?  You know what they say when you assume – dissect the word – you make an ass-u-me – it is a lose-lose situation. Assuming others know what you want or need is akin to mind reading.  What may be apparent to us may not be clear to others. Why? Because they have their own fingers to worry about. They have their own expectations. They have their own wants and needs.

So, take a look at your expectations.   Are they realistic? Are they appropriate?  Pointing your finger at a three-year-old who is not listening at circle time means you have to look at those fingers pointing back at you and ask yourself, “Is it appropriate to ask a three-year-old to sit for 15 minutes without moving? “ Where does the responsibility lie to ensure that the circle is appropriate in length?  With YOU. Where does the responsibility lie to ensure the circle is engaging? With YOU. Where does the responsibility lie when a co-worker talks over you while you are giving instructions to your little ones?  With YOU.  See that finger? Yep – it is pointing back at you.

Okay, what about finger #2 looking back at you.  It stands for:

E = Environment

Take an objective look at your environment. What does it say?  Have you created runways for chaos in the way you have organized your room? Do you have visuals that indicate the class routines? When you point that finger and tell a child to clean up, have you made it clear where to put the items? Is the bin marked? Did you move it closer, so they understand where the items are to go?   Did you give enough transition warnings?  Did you assume? (There is that word again!)

How is your environment promoting positive behaviours? How is it enabling challenging behaviours? If the children are running around the room, it is up to YOU to rearrange the furniture to make it less easy to navigate around.  If the children are bored and acting out, it is up to YOU to make the environment more stimulating. Do you need more toys? Less toys? New toys? Loose parts?   You need to reflect on the environment.

This brings us to that third finger that points at us when we are pointing at others. It represents:

E = Effort

Have you put in the effort that you expect others to?  Taking time to reflect and revisit our thoughts and assumptions is part of our best practice.  If we are too busy putting our effort into pointing or shifting blame, we are not doing what we can to make a situation better. We are diluting our efforts.  If you have a conflict with a colleague, have you put effort into trying to solve it?   Have you followed the steps of conflict resolution?  Have you looked at your expectations and environment to see how they may be contributing to this misunderstanding?

Now, you may have read this and thought, “But I don’t point fingers.”  It is rude to do so. For you, this may be true, but we can point fingers  - with our words  - without realizing it.

Pointing finger statements can include:  

  • How many times have I told you…
  • What part of no don’t you understand?
  • You are not listening to me.
  • Stop it!
  • That’s not my problem. It is your problem.

These statements are a way of verbally shifting responsibility to the other person, whether it be a child or colleague. The best way to stop that verbal finger-pointing is to use I-messages.

Some good I-message starters are:

  • I see…
  • I hear…
  • I need…
  • I prefer…

Instead of saying, “How many times have I told you…” you say, “I get upset when I have to remind you to pick up your shoes because I keep tripping over them.”   You can follow this with: “I want you to help me pick them up.” 

I-messages allow you to be responsible for your expectations, environment and effort by acknowledging your response and commenting from your perspective.  I-messages let you take responsibility for YOU and your feelings without the finger-pointing. 

SO – take a step back when you want to point the finger and look at those fingers pointing back at you.

Remember: The power is in your hands to be anything you want to become.   ~Thabisile Ledwaba

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Do You Dread Transitions?

Do You Dread Transitions?

Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up; everybody do you share…….   Transistions 1

If that song brings dread into your heart when you hear it, you are not alone! Like many adults, children also struggle with transitions. Have you ever been to an event that is so enjoyable, you hate for it to end? How about a weekend family reunion on Sunday night? Or, have you been immersed in a project or a great book and life is forcing you to put it down? As rational adults, we have the tools and experience to deal with how to stop doing something fun.

When children are engaged in an enjoyable activity, there always comes a time when the activity must end. Sometimes, without warning, a transition in the classroom begins. Children are expected to immediately stop what they are doing and prepare to do something different. For many children, this does not go well.

If you care for children with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder or A.D.H.D., transitions can be the stuff that nightmares are made of.

So, how can we begin to make transitions smoother?

  • Give warningsTransistions 2

Let children know in advance that their activity will end soon. Be mindful that children cannot tell time. You can use countdown timers, sand timers, or even showing a size with your hands far apart, and then closer and then showing only a small amount of time left.

  • Establish Routines and Stick to Them

Make sure your day is consistent as possible. Children appreciate knowing what comes next. Remind children with picture schedules and with verbal reminders. “After we clean up, we are going outside.”

  • Connect with Each Child

Some educators announce that there is a transition coming to the entire room. They forget that some children can be so engrossed in their play that they don’t hear their teacher and don’t get any warning of the upcoming change. Make sure you check in with all the children in the room, ensuring that each child knows what is coming.

You may want to put your hand on the shoulder of a child who is not making eye contact with you to make sure you’ve connected with him/her. You can also check-in and ask, “Did you hear what we’re doing next?” By connecting with each child, you can prevent meltdowns. Perhaps you can offer to take pictures of what the child has created, or suggest to place their work in a safe place so they can finish at a later time.

  • Make Transitions Fun

Have you been singing the same transition song for years? It’s time to change your tune and find something exciting, new and fun.

Children grumble about transitions because they usually have to wait. Waiting is B.O.R.I.N.G. If children must wait, be prepared with songs, games or activities. If children are playing a game while waiting for their peers to change out of their winter clothes, something fun might motivate others to finish up to join the fun.

Great Transition Games

  • Simon Says
  • I Spy
  • Statues
  • Rhyming words

Great Transition Activities

  • Singing songs
  • Fingerplays
  • Use a puppet
  • Teach sign language

Always remember to catch the children being good. Praise children by pointing out what they are doing right. Be specific; avoid saying, “Good job.” Children do not know why they are being praised. Instead, you can say, “Billy, I love how quickly you picked those blocks up” or “Naik, you are a good friend by helping Jerry put the trucks in the box.”

Make sure you positively reinforce the actions of your entire class. “I am so happy to see every ready for our story.”

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Role Modeling Emotional Intelligence; Your Superpower 

Role Modeling Emotional Intelligence; Your Superpower 


Little children experience big emotions and cannot handle those feelings in what many adults see as “appropriate” ways. Fortunately, our children take part in high quality early learning programs staffed by adults whose brains have matured and are positioned to show children how to manage their big emotions.Role Modeling Emotional Intelligence Your Superpower

The first thing we can do is recognize emotional cues made by the children around us. We can help them label those feelings. If you see a child frowning and turning away from a situation, you can say,” I see you are leaving with a frown on your face. I do that when I am unhappy or angry. What is going on?” or “What is making you feel this way?”

Everyone wants their feelings to be validated, even when we are grown adults. As professionals, we can acknowledge those feelings, not sweep them under the rug by saying, “you’re ok.” If a child is angry, sad, hurt, lonely, frustrated etc.…they are NOT ok. They have feelings that they are making them feel icky, and they need help the work through those feelings.

It is enough to say, “you look sad. May I sit with you?” Children are looking for a safe connection with a trusted adult. They may not be able to tell you what they’re thinking, but they will often begin to calm down and feel safe in the presence of someone who is simply supporting them. Perhaps you can talk a little about what you do when you feel scared. “I really like it when someone holds my hand when I am scared. Would you like me to hold your hand?” Remember that it’s ok for the child to say or indicate they don’t want that. You can respond with, “Ok, is there something I can do that will help you feel better, or would you like me just to sit here?”

If a friend or loved one patted you on the back and said, “you’re ok” when you were experiencing a crisis, how would you feel? I don’t imagine you would stop feeling horrible and get back to work. You would probably feel worse because you were dismissed by someone you trusted, and your feelings were marginalized. Why do we consistently do this to the children in our care? Perhaps we are trying to stay on schedule, or maybe no one has shown us a different way to handle these situations.

When we address children’s emotions, we begin building them a foundation for self-regulation. In turn, we may also discover that we are inadvertently making things too difficult for the children. Perhaps our schedules are too fast, or our activities are too complicated. When we address the reasons behind the meltdowns and the challenging behaviours, we may need to rethink how we plan for the children.

When we honestly talk about emotions, we allow children to be part of the solution. For example, if a child is new in the room and is having difficulty with separation, their classmates will likely be interested in why that child is crying.  When we honestly discuss fear, loneliness and uncertainty, the crying child feels validated, the other children understand the situation, and everyone’s emotional learning grows. The well-adjusted children may go out of their way to include the new child or perhaps even talk about how they felt when they first came into the room. As the teacher, you can include stories about when you felt lonely and scared and how you handled it.

Emotions are challenging and messy, especially for young children who are developing their social-emotional intelligence. What small steps can you take in your room this week that will improve outcomes for all of your children?

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What’s for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch?

Now that it is January, educators everywhere are packing lunches for themselves and, let’s face it; inspiration is needed; more on some days than others.Whats for Lunch

Have you ever experienced that moment when you sit down at work, open your lunch, and don’t like anything in there?  You look around and think to yourself, “What was I thinking this morning?”  because YOU are the one that packed your lunch.  It is such a disappointing feeling because you have no-one to blame but yourself.

Here are some quick and easy ideas of great ways to fuel your body, which, in turn, fuels your brain and energizes you for the rest of your busy day. No matter your taste, there are some ideas here for you that will make those lunches more appealing and less appalling.

  • Make a protein box: include a crunch veggie like carrots, some fruit (apple slices, grapes/blueberries), a hard-boiled egg, some cheese and a few crackers and – voila – a quick protein pick-me-up.
  • Leftover pasta or spaghetti? Make a pasta salad and tuck in, and enjoy.
  • Make Sundays a lunch-loading day and prep some lunch ingredients so that you can ‘grab and go’ every morning. Some ideas: cut-up carrots, chopped celery, prepped /bagged salads, and any other ingredients you may want to add.
  • When cooking supper, make enough, so you have some leftovers for the next day.
  • Buy some hummus and pair it with tortillas/naan or veggies (carrots, celery, cucumbers & peppers)
  • Make a big fruit salad and then divide into Tupperware containers for grab ‘n go options
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Make a smoothie the night before; freeze it, and then add it to your lunch bag in the morning. It will be nicely thawed by lunchtime.
  • Cook rice ahead of time to have it as a base to add all sorts of goodies.
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Rice cakes with apple slices drizzled with cinnamon or honey
  • Cereal; buy the small travel packages – just add milk

Don’t forget to have a stash of utensils, napkins, plates/bowls and a can opener somewhere in your room as well.

Other ideas? Check out some of these websites, but remember to follow the food protocols in your early learning environments that are in place to keep our children safe.

Our days can be hectic. We can be gulping our lunch down in 10 minutes instead of the preferred 30 minutes.   We can be eating bits and bites in between activities or planning. We can be eating on our way home! 

We know that a meal is just not about the food itself.    Yes, it is easier said than done, but make the most of the time you have to eat.

  • If it is only 10 glorious minutes, be as mindful as you can and chew slowly and mindfully so you can taste your food.
  • Pack your lunch in fun containers such as mason jars and colourful Tupperware.
  • Go and buy yourself a lunch kit and fun napkins with an appropriate – but meaningful – message that makes you smile. Better yet, write yourself a love note the night before and stick it in your lunch.
  • Add a special treat to your lunch that you can eat at the end of your busy day, which will tide you over until suppertime.

In other words, make your lunch a marker of all that you have accomplished that morning and all that you are going to accomplish that afternoon.    After all, it is fuel for fabulousness.

Until next time

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Professional Work Goals For 2021 

professional Goals

Now that we are a week into 2021, many of us have been working away on our New Year’s goals/resolutions.  Last week’s blog challenged you to take a 30- day challenge to be happier. This week we’ll be discussing professional goals.

Perhaps you were tasked with creating professional goals during last year’s annual review. Now is the time to pick up that list and determine where you are achieving those 2020 goals.

There will be some people who did not get the opportunity to create goals due to COVID or because that is not the evaluation model your organization uses.

Here are some goals for professional development that you might like to consider. Pick one or two goals and commit to completing them. In December, you’ll be able to proudly look back and see how your choices positively impacted the children and families in your care.

1. Take a workshop or course to improve your skills

What is the one job you avoid doing because you believe you aren’t strong in? Some professionals feel disempowered when it comes to challenging behaviour. A class in brain development might shed light on why your children behave the way they do. You might feel weak in delivering math or science activities to your group. There are workshops specifically for ECE’s to build their skills and learn new and exciting ways of incorporating those concepts into your room.

Choose a topic you consciously avoid and commit to nurturing your skillset around it! This goal can have a massive impact on your work when you do the learning and immediately begin practicing your new skills.

2. Teach what you know

One of the best ways to learn something new is to learn it with the idea that you will teach it. So you chose to build your skills by taking a workshop or course; ask if you can present a summary of your learning at the next staff meeting!

If you are shy are afraid to speak to your team, this is a great goal that can positively impact your career. You won’t be perfect the first time, but that’s alright! You are sharing a gift of knowledge with people who support you. A professional team will cheer you on and want you to succeed.

3. Research different age groups or positions within your organization

If you have been working with one age group for years, it might be time to think about changing things up.

If you’ve never worked with infants or school-age children, take some time to research the facts around their development, challenges and learning. You may be inspired to ask for a change. When we are immersed in a new area, all of our senses are heightened. We don’t know everything and are challenged to meet a new learning curve. Perhaps it’s time to break out of your rut.

4. Improve your team collaboration and communication

Do you work in the same room as others, but you don’t work together? Sometimes it takes only one person to initiate a conversation around collaboration.

You may have team members who don’t get the opportunity to do jobs they love because they assume that if they ask to change things up, it will “rock the boat.”

When was the last time your room partners had an honest talk about how things are going in the class? Do you rotate specific responsibilities? Would one of you like to change the schedule up a bit?

Working with a team that communicates well, respects each other and is eager to collaborate makes your workday so much easier. You can begin by asking your colleagues respectful questions and then take the time to reach out and support them when possible. Communication and collaboration can be achieved when someone starts to role model behaviours that support those goals.

5. Network

Networking might sound like something that executives do, but that is not true. Amazing things happen when you can network with people who do similar work to yours. Although face to face networking is currently off the table due to the pandemic, there are still social media opportunities abound!

There are many early learning Facebook groups for professionals. The participants are engaging, and the content is inspiring.

Join two or three of these groups. If one doesn’t resonate with you, simply leave the group and find another. It is surprising how quickly we can build relationships with people we have never met in person. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have global connections?

6. Find new challenges

Is it time to ask for additional responsibilities within your organization? You might choose to wait to be asked, but over time I have discovered that many people desperately want more responsibility but are afraid to ask.

You might be social media savvy, but your director is not. You can offer to take over the company’s social media page and take that job off your boss’s plate. Perhaps you have a background in an area of interest like music, physical activity, or literacy, and you want to create a resource for your program. Or maybe you’re a golden unicorn, an ECE who is a neat freak and organization guru! Believe it or not, some people LOVE to organize, declutter and purge. If that’s you, I can confidently say there are storage rooms and art closets that have your name written all over them.HR people love a professional development goal like this. If research makes your heart sing, find out what your program needs researching. This could be parent reporting software, catering, or finding out more about a learning trend and reporting back to your supervisor with the information they want.

Pick only one or two goals, and get specific about what they are.






Check-in with yourself on Canada Day (July 1, 2021) and again on New Year’s Eve ( December 31, 2021.) Write those appointments in your calendar immediately, so you don’t forget. Those appointments in the back of your mind will help you to follow through on your chosen goals.

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Try a 30-Day Happiness Challenge

Try a 30-Day Happiness Challenge

30 day happ Image
Happiness can be a natural state. You don’t need anything to be happy except to choose to be happy. However, but some things can prevent your happiness from shining through.

After the past year, many of us have developed habits that block the experience of happiness. As each month of 2020 ticked away, many of us braced ourselves for more dread or more unwanted news. We have learned to look at life through an extremely negative lens. All is not lost, though. With a little bit of work, you can reprogram yourself to eliminate the negative thoughts and actions that can limit your happiness.

I challenge you to train yourself to be happier in just 30 days.

Try these strategies:

  1. Keep a gratitude diary. Each day for the next 30 days, list 5 things that make you feel grateful. The challenging part is that each day must have 5 unique items! No repeats.
  • If you do this early in the day, you’ll find that it puts you in a great frame of mind for the rest of the day.
  1. Spend 10 minutes visualizing your ideal future. It’s nice to have something pleasant to look forward to. So, spend a few minutes each day visualizing what you want your life to be.
  • Be reasonable. You might dream of being 6-inches taller and having 10 million dollars, but let’s be realistic. Shoot for something that’s appealing but within the realm of possibility.
  1. Set a small goal that can be accomplished in 30 days and spend at least 10 minutes each day working toward it. Set a 30-day goal that’s meaningful to you. Make yourself spend a few minutes working toward that goal each day. A few examples include:
  • Losing 5 pounds.
  • Organizing your clothes closet.
  • Cleaning out the basement.
  • Writing 15 pages for your book.
  • Meditating each day for 30 days.
  1. Give at least two compliments each day. Give yourself and one other person one compliment each day. Feel free to give more. You’ll feel good about yourself for making someone else feel good. And you’ll be making yourself feel good too.
  2. Catch and stop all negative thoughts. Has lingering on your negative thoughts ever helped you? Of course not. Catch yourself when you’re dwelling on a negative thought and think about turning that negative thought into something positive. For example:
  • Ask yourself what you are supposed to learn from this negative situation.
  • If you’re dealing with a problematic person, explore why you feel this person is difficult. Perhaps you can put yourself in their shoes.
  • If you are dealing with disappointment, look for a tiny bit of good that has come from the situation
  1. Focus on solutions instead of problems. Everyone has challenges. Stopping your negative thoughts doesn’t mean ignoring your issues. Instead, recognize that there are things in your life that need to be addressed. Then focus on resolving them, rather than worrying about them.
  • For 30 days, give up worrying and focus on solving. Your life will improve dramatically and so will your attitude.
  1. Eliminate sugar from your diet. For just 30 days, give up all foods with added sugar. You can expect to feel worse for a few days, but you’ll be happy with how you feel by the end of the month.
  2. Create a list of 30 things you can do over the 30 days. Have something planned for each day for the next month. These are little, or big, things you can do that will increase your happiness. A few examples include:
  • Calling your childhood friend.
  • Meeting someone for a walk.
  • Trying a new recipe.
  • Reading an inspiring book.
  • Watching your favourite movie.

Happiness doesn’t have to be elusive. To find happiness, we often focus on the wrong things and ignore the right things. We have too many negative thoughts and spend too much time thinking about the past and the future. We end up training ourselves to be unhappy.

Wouldn’t you rather train yourself to be happy? You can do this! Give yourself 30 days to prove it to yourself. You can feel different in a month!

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Attitude of Gratitude

Attitude of Gratitude

“There is only one real deprivation…and that is not to be able to give one’s gifts to those one loves most.”   ~ May Sarton

This quote seemingly speaks about Alberta’s current state of restrictions.  Let’s face it, the festivities and celebrations that we partake in are going to be different.  For many, the upcoming holidays have become an outreach program as we figure out how to connect with family and friends virtually.

Since we are left with our own company, what a great time to work on ourselves. No matter our busy schedules, it seems that, with the new year around the corner, we start to think about what we could do differently. How can we be better versions of ourselves for when we return to our early learning environments?  How can we bring our scattered focus into view?

The answer: through the gift of giving.   Giving is good for us! Giving has many positive effects on our physical and mental health.  Science backs this up.  “There is evidence that, during gift-giving behaviours, humans secrete ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin (a mood-mediating chemical), dopamine (a feel-good chemical) and oxytocin (a compassion and bonding chemical).” (retrieved from

Here are 6 simple gifts that you can give - year-round – to the children that you work with and, in return, reap the rewards of:

  • Connection-building
  • Relationship-strengthening
  • Modelling generosity of spirit

So, what are these gifts, you ask? 

  • The first is the Gift of Undivided Attention - be present, in the moment, with the children; actively listen to their stories; put down any distractions; comment thoughtfully and nod appreciatingly
  • The second is the Gift of Enthusiasm – be excited about what the children want to share with you; be their cheerleader and give them a ‘rah rah rah’ when needed
  • The third is the Gift of Creative Energy – be curious; allow yourself to wonder; allow yourself to think outside the box as you observe and interact with the children; think about the ‘why” and the ‘how’ and how you can bring them to life
  • The fourth is the Gift of Simple Seasonal Pleasures - bring the beauty of the season into your early learning environments through pictures, through sensory bags, and by exploring the outdoors, whether it be going on a walk, making snow angels,  or simply looking out the window
  • The fifth is the Gift of Good Cheer – bring a positive attitude and outlook to all you do; find joy in the simplest pleasures – a smile from a child, a small hand tucked into yours – dwell on the good so that you can be fortified against the bad; establish a responsive environment that is based on social-emotional learning
  • The sixth is the Gift of Wonder – we are very fortunate to work with little people who see the world through unfiltered lenses. Wonder alongside them; embrace and revel in the unknown, the unexpected, and the unexplained.

 These six simple gifts do not cost anything material-wise. They do cost our time and effort as they require us to dig into our natural resources, those very resources that are feeling depleted right now and in need of a break.  So, take time over the next few days – when you have a moment to yourself – to recharge, rejuvenate and refocus - so that you can give of yourself. We can afford these gifts, even on a childcare educator’s income. What we cannot afford is to ignore them!

*Adapted from Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach (1995)

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Dealing with Compassion Fatigue

Dealing with Compassion Fatigue

If you are in a role where you care for others, there is a very good chance that you may be dealing with compassion fatigue.Dealing with Compassion

First of all, what is it?

According to the American Institute of Stress, “Compassion fatigue is basically draining of emotional energy for those of us who deal with others pain.” Typically it has a tendency to be progressive and sneak up on people and often times we characterize this as burnout.”

As a professional working with young children and families, you are a prime candidate to deal with compassion fatigue (cf.) Everyone around is stressed, pained and struggling to deal with the fallout from the pandemic. It surrounds us on the job, on our commute, when we get home and attempting to navigate our day to day lives.

How do you figure out if you have it?

There are many quizzes online. None of them can replace a doctor’s diagnosis or advice, but they can confirm that you need to see a doctor or other professional before things get out of hand.

What can I do if I have CF?

First of all, talk to your doctor. They are your best resource when dealing with CF. You may also wish to consider:

  • Become more aware by educating yourself about CF.
  • Deal with the here and now. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future.
  • Talk to others in your role. Your fellow early learning professional will be able to validate your feelings and offer support.
  • Keep work and home separate.
  • Do what you can to keep your work and home environments positive.
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Speak up for yourself and tell those around you what you need. None of us are mind readers, but like you, we want to help those around us.

How can I avoid CF?

  • Realize you cannot change the current situation. All you can do is change your reaction to it.
  • Read, watch or listen to the news in small doses. It’s hard to find positivity lately in the news, so don’t let that drag you down.
  • Practice gratitude and acknowledge the good things in your life.
  • Be kind to yourself. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself; it’s necessary.
  • Avoid pinning the blame on anyone or anything. Directing blame is a useless and futile exercise. Accept that this is happening, and go about living your best life. It doesn’t matter how we got here. What matters is how we carry ourselves through it.

Let’s start talking about how we’re feeling. Rather than sitting in the staff room, moaning and complaining about the current situation, choose to step up and positively lead your team.

Talk about the team’s combined skill-set and brainstorm ways to hold each other up in these challenging times.

Until next time

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Simple Ways to Stress Less

Simple Ways to Stress Less

When was the last time you felt relaxed? The world around us has never been this crazy, and it’s easy for stress to build up without you realizing what is Simple Ways to Stress Lesshappening. After a while, you might think that feeling irritable, sad, or restless is just your natural state.

Chronic tension affects your body and mind negatively. It can weaken your immune system and increase your risk for many health issues, including heart disease and diabetes.

The stress that presents itself in our lives will happen, but you can control how they affect you. Try these ideas for building your resilience and creating a calmer personal space.

Increasing Your Resilience:

  1. Slow down. You’ll probably accomplish more if you stop rushing around. Cut your to-do list down to a realistic size. If you’re at work, TAKE YOUR BREAK. If you sit for work, set a timer and get up each hour and move your body.
  2. Breathe deeply. Your feelings are closely tied to your breath. Lie down on your back and place one hand on your abdomen. Your body will naturally start to breathe more fully from your diaphragm rather than taking shallow breaths from your chest.
  3. Laugh it up. Humour drives away tension. Look for the funny side of difficult situations. Cheer up after a hard day by calling a friend who cracks you up or learn to practise Laughter Yoga.
  4. Eat healthy. Sticking to a balanced diet will make your body more effective at tolerating stress. Get most of your calories from whole natural foods. Cut down on added sugar and salt. Avoid processed foods as much as you can.
  5. Sleep well. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Remember that some people need more, and others need less. If you wake up feeling tired, make small adjustments until you figure out your ideal amount of sleep. Move your bedtime back an hour each night until you can wake up feeling refreshed. Maintain your new schedule even on holidays and weekends. Your body appreciates consistency and will thank you for it.
  6. Work out. Exercise is a constructive way to handle disturbing news or conflicts and a fantastic stress reliever. You don’t need expensive equipment to workout at home. Resistance training, weight-bearing exercise, or yoga all require minimal, affordable gear. If the weather is good, take a walk.
  7. Create something. Creativity is an excellent stress buster. Find a medium that you enjoy. You may want to paint with watercolours or sculpt metal. You may prefer writing poetry, beading, sewing or woodworking. Take a stroll through your local hobby/craft store in person or virtually to see what inspires you.
  8. Reach out. Build a tribe of like-minded people who love and support you. Connect with family and friends regularly.
  9. Advocate for yourself. Most of us would help a friend without hesitation if they asked for it. Yet, we rarely speak up when we need a little help. Let your friends support you when you need it. Ask for what you need tactfully and directly.

Adjusting Your Environment:

  1. Clear away clutter. A tidy home and workspace will reduce your anxiety levels. Get rid of anything you seldom use. Donate it to charity or sell it online. Throw it away or store it out of sight if you can’t part with it right now.
  2. Play music. Use sound to create the mood you want. Put together a playlist for different activities. You might relax with soft piano music or nature sounds.
  3. Enjoy silence. On the other hand, the lack of sound can also be soothing. Turn off your devices for a designated period each day, including mealtimes and before bed. Order a pair of noise-cancelling headphones if you need to block out noisy neighbours and heavy traffic.
  4. Decorate naturally. Green spaces are energizing. Spend more time outdoors and bring nature into your home. Grow ferns and herbs.
  5. Create a refuge. Design a meditation room or space in your home. If you have trouble meditating, you can use it for reading or relaxation practices.

Adjusting Your Environment:

  1. Clear away clutter. A tidy home and workspace will reduce your anxiety levels. Get rid of anything you seldom use. Donate it to charity or sell it online. Throw it away or store it out of sight if you can’t part with it right now.
  2. Play music. Use sound to create the mood you want. Put together a playlist for different activities. You might relax with soft piano music or nature sounds.
  3. Enjoy silence. On the other hand, the lack of sound can also be soothing. Turn off your devices for a designated period each day, including mealtimes and before bed. Order a pair of noise-cancelling headphones if you need to block out noisy neighbours and heavy traffic.
  4. Decorate naturally. Green spaces are energizing. Spend more time outdoors and bring nature into your home. Grow ferns and herbs.
  5. Create a refuge. Design a meditation room or space in your home. If you have trouble meditating, you can use it for reading or relaxation practices.

Dealing with stress is an ongoing process. Take time each day to think about what you can do to make your surroundings more peaceful to protect your health and wellbeing. Make small, manageable changes to begin; you will reach your goals faster and easier.

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Top 10 Reasons for Year-Round Outdoor Play

 Top 10 Reasons for Year-Round Outdoor Play

Professionals in the Early Learning sector understand the importance of daily outdoor play. In many areas of the world, outdoor play can cause resistance with families who are not accustomed to cold/hot/wet weather and prefer that their children remain indoors.

This blog is dedicated to those of you who need a bit of support to help families understand why we take children outdoors daily (except in extreme weather.)Year Round Outdoor Play

10. Outdoor play can reduce a child’s risk of becoming nearsighted.

Being in bright daylight and having the opportunity to focus on things that are in the distance may prevent nearsightedness!

9. Outdoor play exposes children to sunlight and vitamin D.

Being exposed to regular sunlight, even on a cloudy day, helps children maintain healthy sleep patterns. Vitamin D aids in bone growth, muscle function and may prevent Multiple Sclerosis.

8. Outdoor play expands on children’s knowledge of the natural world in ways that staying indoors does not.

Most of us are kinesthetic learners, and we can grasp concepts better when we experience them first hand. Playing outside allows children the opportunity to explore and understand a vast array of scientific and social ideas. Children’s vocabulary grows with being outdoors. The words we use to describe the weather can be experienced and understood. Physical processes such as freezing, melting, bleaching, absorption, growth or decay are experienced outdoors.

7. Outdoor play invites more strenuous activity.

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that children reach at least 60 minutes of intense physical activity each day by the time they are 5 years old. Being outdoors naturally encourages running, leaping, jumping, skipping or climbing.

6. Outdoor play allows children the opportunity to decompress and exposes the brain to Serotonin rather the Cortisol.

Stress floods the human brain with the hormone Cortisol. When a young child’s brain is flooded with Cortisol for long periods, it negatively impacts the brain’s ability to develop.

Playing outdoors exposes you to Vitamin D, and that vitamin helps to release Seratonin in the body. Being outdoors can drastically improve mood and allow children to focus better when learning.

5. Outdoor play can build social skills.

Children are more apt to gather together to create or imagine in a broader outdoor environment. While it is true that children learn social skills in the classroom, the outdoors offers different opportunities for children to learn these critical skills.

4. Outdoor play allows children to understand and embrace the beauty of our environment.

When children are exposed to positive outdoor experiences, they may be likely to have a greater appreciation of nature, ecology or science. Those with a positive perspective on outdoor life can be more likely to explore the gifts nature offers and may be interested in preserving the environment and our planet.

3. Outdoor play allows children to fall asleep more easily.

Studies suggest that children fall asleep quickly and are more likely to stay asleep when they have regular outdoor playtime. These studies indicate that children do not necessarily sleep longer, but they experience a better sleep experience.

2. Outdoor play helps children learn how to take risks and become more confident.

When children are permitted to indulge in risky play, they learn about safely taking risks and becoming very aware of their surroundings and what their bodies are doing. Jumping off a 15 cm high stump may not appear to be a big deal; however, a young child may see a risk and possibly, and they may have some fear when assessing if they will jump.

In the great outdoors, children can run, jump, climb and leap, which they cannot safely do inside the classroom.

And the number one reason for outdoor play……..

1. Outdoor play minimizes behaviour problems.

Many challenging behaviours can be traced back to boredom or the need to use built-up physical energy. Early in the blog, we talked about vigorous play, and it’s benefits. When children have an appropriate outlet for their energy and their silliness, they can concentrate and follow the “inside” rules of walking feet and quiet voices.

Below are some links that you can share with your families:

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines:

Canadian Paediatric Society:

Canadian Child Care Federation Outdoor Play Resource Sheet:

Academic Research Paper on Outdoor Play:

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The Importance of Being Present: Active Listening

The Importance of Being Present: Active Listening

This week’s focus is on active listening and its importance to being a caring and effective early learning educator.   Active listening is about listening to understand.  It is about being present in the moment. Active listening is akin to mindful meditation as you need to remove distractions and focus. Unlike meditation, though, you want to focus outwardly rather than inwardly. 

Outward focus is important as it means you are directing your attention to that person who is talking to you.

  • You are focused on them.
  • You are reading their body language.
  • You are noting the inflections in their voice.                                    The Importance of Being PresentActive Listeningpic
  • You hear their message.

You are mindfully listening to them so you can respond in kind.  

Inward focus is not conducive to active listening.  Making that grocery list in your head while a colleague talks to you about a concern means you are not listening.   Inwardly rolling your eyes at someone means you are not listening.  Thinking of your response and waiting for a chance to respond is not active listening.   Waiting for a child to stop talking to you so you can address the other children in the book corner is not active listening.

So, how do you respond?  You can interject with comments that demonstrate you are listening. Use I-messages in doing so. “I hear, by your voice, that this was frustrating for you.”   You can repeat what they have said but ask for clarity. “You want to change the paperwork binder. What do you find problematic?”   You can respond with an invitation: “Wow, that must have been surprising. Tell me what happened next?”  These are all methods that demonstrate engagement and active listening.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of impassive listening or unwanted advice, then you know you have not been actively listened to; it doesn’t feel good, does it?  We have all had someone in our lives who we talk to but who doesn’t listen to us. They seem only to want to listen to themselves. This is not active listening. Remember that active listening is divided into two parts.  ‘Active’ means it is a dynamic process, so you need to pay attention.  ‘Listening’ means you need to acknowledge the components of the message. 

Who do you actively listen to?  Actively listen to yourself, and the signals/messages your body and brain are telling you.  Actively listen to your colleagues and, in doing so, become a collaborative and compassionate team member.  Actively listen to your families. Bring them into your conversational circle and give them your full attention to demonstrate your value and respect their thoughts, values and beliefs.  Lastly, and most importantly, actively listen to the children! Give them your full attention so that you can show them you value their thoughts and ideas. 

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply”.   Do not let this quote apply to you; instead, listen to understand and then reply thoughtfully.

For more ideas of how you can actively listen, check out this website:

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Back Pain

Back Pain

We love the work we do with young children, but that work also comes with a high risk of injury to the back. Any pain or discomfort can take our attention away from the children, and the repetitive tasks we do can make our back pain worse. When we understand what causes back pain at work, we can avoid injury and lost

The leading causes of back injury are:                                                          

  • Exerting too much force on your back — such as lifting children or moving furniture can cause injury.
  • Repeating specific movements such as bending, dancing, jumping, or twisting can injure your back.
  • If you are an administrator, you may do most of your work at a desk. This contributes to back pain, mainly if you use poor posture, improper seating, or incorrect screen height.

What can you do?

  • Make fitness a priority- especially your core muscles
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking. Believe it or not, smoking slows the blood flow to your lower back. This can cause individual discs in your spine to degenerate, and if you have a back injury, smoking can slow the healing process.

Prevention is key

Learn proper lifting and carrying techniques.

If you carry children, keep them in front of you, not on your hip. Lift with your weight balanced equally on both feet and avoid twisting when picking children up.

Encourage independence in the children. If a child can walk, they can use stairs (with your assistance) to get onto the change table. If you take a child out of a crib, lower the side of the crib before lifting.

Be on the floor with the children, and comfort them while seated, rather than lifting them.

Use adult furniture when possible

Sit on the floor or use a low to the floor steno chair that is made for adults.

Use a proper step stool or ladder when you need to access things that are above your head.


Over the day, make sure to stretch. You can turn it into a fun game with the children.

How do you store things?

Think about storing heavy items at waist height. Take the time to put things away correctly so that you can access what you need efficiently.


If you have to move a heavy item, use a fridge cart, a wheel board, or anything else, you may have to hold the weight and is on wheels.

Pay Attention

Your body will always let you know when it’s time to move. If you are sitting in one position for a lengthy period, periodically get up to move around and reposition yourself.

Lifting and bending, a PDF for Child Care Professionals:

Exercises to strengthen your back:

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Energy, Excitement and Enthusiasm

Energy, Excitement and Enthusiasm


Globally the world is reeling from the chaos that is 2020.

As Early Learning Educators, more has been asked of you than at any other time in your career, and for some, it is becoming more and more challenging to get excited about going to work.

Last week’s blog opened the door to further discussion around our passion for this field. This week we will discuss the motivators that drive us to do what we do.

When you think about a typical day in your program, how would you answer the following questions?    Energy Excitement and Enthusiasm

  • What do I feel passionate about?
  • What makes me feel more energized and less tired than before I started?
  • What can I talk about for hours if given the opportunity?
  • What gets me excited about my work?
  • When I do run down, how do I recharge and return to work with enthusiasm and dedication?

Once you have the answers to the above questions, you can draw on them for energy, excitement, and enthusiasm.

If you are passionate about children’s social-emotional development, how will you bring that into your practice each day? Perhaps you are passionate about music and movement. Where do you create opportunities in your day for your passion to shine?

If you can determine what activities energize you rather than drain your energy, make those activities part of your daily practice. The chances are good that if they energize you, they will do the same for your colleagues and the children.

Where is your expertise, and how do you share it? Better yet, how can you grow your understanding and incorporate it into your program? Art, literacy, imaginary play, or science can always be built up in classrooms, and perhaps you can expose the children to concepts and opportunities they might not get to experience.

When you’re sharing your day with family or friends, are your stories filled with joy and excitement? If you are more likely to come home and unload with a bucket of complaints and share a bad mood, isn’t it time to change your perspective? You only need to look at the children in your care to see the happiness and awe surrounding us in the world. What happy and exciting stories can you share today?

Most importantly, what are you doing for self-care? Those who work with young children need the clarity to realize when they are run down or beginning to burn out. It’s critical that you nip that situation in the bud and set your physical and mental health on a positive course.

  • Find someone you can be vulnerable and honest with. Better still, find a mentor or coach who can help guide you and provide you with professional support.
  • Surround yourself with people you want to be like. Studies have proven that the people in your life are the most significant influence on how you behave or treat yourself.
  • Establish a healthy work-life balance. Know when to stop working and when to start enjoying your personal life. The opposite is also true. Remember your work commitments, and take care of them first, then enjoy yourself.
  • Make sure that you get to play! Enjoy the children and look for more reasons to laugh each day.
  • Incorporate a mindfulness practice into your daily routine. This will help you stay present and will allow you to notice the “little things.”
  • Get the rest you need. Not everyone needs 8 hours of sleep each night. Find out what your magic number is and try to stay with it. Regular, restful sleep will keep you healthy and happy.
  • Find a hobby that disconnects you from technology. You deserve to unleash your creative beast. Everyone needs an outlet of expression; it’s good for your heart and mind.
  • Ditch the negative self-talk. The next time you begin scolding yourself, stop and ask if you would speak to your friend or a colleague like that? If left unchecked, we say things to ourselves we would never say to another person.
  • Get outside. Seriously. Get outside.
  • Practice being grateful. Gratitude is like a weed. If you give it a little attention, you will discover more things to be thankful for each day.

That’s it for this week. If you aren’t waking up each day ready and excited to get going, print off this article and get to work on the questions and suggestions above. You can thank me later…..

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Yes, I am talking to you.  Have you reached your limit?  Has your “get up and go” got up and gone?  If so, read on, my friend. You are not alone.

I was reading through a post on an ECE Network that I belong to and, one, in particular, caught my eye this week. This early learning educator is about to quit.  It is not because of the children. It is not because of work demands. It is not because of the remuneration or lack thereof.    The straw, or in this case, straws that were breaking the proverbial camel’s back: COVID, winter, and neighbours complaining about her day home children being outside and being noisy.  Yes, really! You may be thinking, “I can relate to that. I am done with COVID. I am not ready for the long, cold, and dark days of winter AND I am tired of not being respected, by others, for what I have chosen to do for a profession.”  What to do?

Well, let’s look at our options. Yes, quitting is one of them and it may seem viable and enticing. Say goodbye to COVID protocols around cleaning and toys. Yes, please! Say goodbye to low wages. Definitely! Say goodbye to spending those low wages on supplies and materials for your early learning environment.   Yippee! Enough, you say. Good riddance! We say yes to fewer hassles and aggravations. Hooray! I am dusting off my resume.

BUT – and there always is a but – what else do you say goodbye to? Are you ready to say goodbye to sweet smiles from children? To say goodbye to those rewarding little moments? You know the ones; a child happily separating from a parent after months of separation anxiety. A child who comes to you for comfort instead of your colleague. A parent who confides in you that they appreciated your advice.  These, and more, are the moments you find yourself telling your family and friends about and they hear the pride and enthusiasm in your voice. They may be rolling their eyes because they don’t quite understand but they smile and nod because they can tell this is an important moment to you.  Say goodbye to all of that? Hmmm….wait a minute…let’s think about that…

Meanwhile, we all want to say goodbye to COVID. It has rocked all of our worlds; some of us more than others; but there is rocking in one way or another.  If you are like me, there are days when you comfortably stare COVID down and are thankful for all that you have and all that you do.  If you are like me, there are days when you don’t want to get out of bed and if one more person tells you to “be safe” you are going to SCREAM!  Hopefully, the “can-do” days outweigh the “can’t do” days. If not, you need to seek support and help from friends, family, and mental health professionals.

The days that I feel I have got this are the days that I see joy in what I am doing. I enjoy hearing the chatter of the children. I enjoy oohing and aahing over a leaf rubbing. I laugh at a cute expression. I beam when I am asked to help.  Those moments fill my bucket and I am so glad I am an early learning educator.  These are the moments that I draw upon to boost myself up when I cannot see my way.

With winter around the corner, we need to prepare ourselves to see our way.  Just like we have COVID protocols and self-care, we need to have winter protocols and self-care. What do those look like? To be honest, I am not sure but I have some ideas. Winter protocols involve being safe, being outside, and being connected to others. This means we get out and enjoy the fresh air when we can and marvel in the beauty of that fresh air.  This means we put on our comfy boots, favourite scarf, and warm mittens and prepare ourselves to be outside and smiling, without masks, and marvelling in the joy that is around us.   I always remind myself that, when I lived overseas in a tropical climate for three years, what I missed most was the changing of seasons.  Yes, believe it or not, I got tired of sunny skies and a high of 30 degrees every day. Talk about sameness! Talk about feeling like I was caught in a time trap!  These are feelings that I also associate with COVID so I am working hard to remember the positives associated with the impending winter months.

My winter self-care involves catching up on books I haven’t had time to read. It involves baking some of my favourite treats.  It involves drinking a cup of red rose tea out of a favourite mug in a sunny spot in my house.  It means exercising whether it is a brisk walk with my dog or twenty minutes on the treadmill watching some mindless TV.  It also means be gentle with myself and remembering that whatever I bring to the day is “good enough”. Don’t compare with yesterday and don’t worry about tomorrow. Just meet yourself where you are… just like you do with the children. You meet them where they are – emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally – so give yourself the same respect.

Which brings me to my last point: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.   How do we get it? Well, not by telling those neighbours, and other naysayers, to just shut it (!!!), as much as you would like to.  You don’t gain respect by giving up. By giving up, you are giving in to those who don’t value or understand the value of quality experiences, quality environments, and quality care to the little ones in our world.  Giving in to the naysayers, as much as it can be desirable on those “can’t do” days, is akin to giving up on yourself. 

We all have those days we want to give up and give in but we need to rally. We need to sit back and just absorb the moment and then revisit it on a “can-do” day. This way there is clarity and perspective on decisions.  For those “can’t do” days, let off steam.  Find someone supportive – a fellow early learning educator, for instance – and rant. Find the active listener in your life and let ‘em have it.   For those “can’t do” days, take a deep breathe and – remember – be kind to yourself.  Take inventory of why you chose this profession; revisit those reasons. Are they still valid? Then soldier on. Do they need updating? Then update them. Are they no longer applicable? Then time to reflect and re-purpose but do so intentionally and mindfully.

As for that ECE who inspired this blog, my heart breaks for her. It breaks because I have been there.  I hear her sadness. I feel her despair.  It breaks because I know she cares about what she does and the children she supports. It breaks because I know we need more ECEs like her… not less! 

BUT (yep, there it is again) I also have HOPE.  Why? Because she is reaching out to her network. She knows she cannot do this alone. She wants to be convinced to stay.  She asks for motivation to stay strong.  I am encouraged by her request. I know she’s got this even though she wants to quit.  She needs us to share our collective experiences and offer support.   To her, and to all of us, I say stay strong! We are in this together and we will prevail so no quitting today!

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Motivation in the Workplace Part Two

Motivation in the Workplace Part Two

This week we will take a deeper dive into how you can motivate the people you work with. If you are a leader, director or owner, the chances are excellent that you have a fire in your belly and a deep, meaning investment in young children's education. This isn't always true for the entire team. They may enjoy the work and do a good job, but their commitment may not be the same as yours.

We're going to look at more ways to motivate your team, and you'll walk about with more tools for your toolbox!       Motivation in the Workplace Part Tw

1. Positivity rules

Your team needs you to be positive and be the one who stirs up enthusiasm and passion. When they see your joy and passion, it will rub off on them. We work in child care, and there is room for singing, dancing, joking and laughing. Be that role model for your team.

2. Be trusting

Let your team know that you trust and believe in them. Have you heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy? Collins dictionary defines it as "a prophecy that comes true because of the expectation that it will."

Your team needs to hear that you trust them to do an excellent job. When you verbalize that they can do it, they will do it.

3. Small weekly goals

Last week we addressed goals for the team. This week I am challenging you to break those big goals down into small, weekly achievements. Be sure to celebrate when those goals are met. Being successful will encourage the team to achieve even more goals moving forward because success feels fantastic.

  • What's the point?

Does your team understand what the big picture is? Do they realize how their involvement pushes the team forward? We often assign tasks or ask our team to do their work differently, but forget to explain the reasons behind our requests.

  • Be an open book

No one likes surprises unless it involves cake, candles, and gifts. Your team needs you to be transparent, and that means they should know what is going on with the program, they should have honest and genuine feedback around their work performance, and they should be consulted during the policy development process. There will always be information that staff should not be privy to. However, if it directly involves the team and how they do their work, they should know what is going on.

6.  Create a healthy culture

Make sure you communicate the importance of work-life balance. Commit to making sure each staff gets their breaks except under extraordinary circumstances. Ensure everyone takes their allotted vacation time each year; honour birthdays, anniversaries, and other family celebrations. Finally, be a good role model by taking your breaks and vacations. Nobody appreciates a martyr.

7.  Offer more

Some of the most unmotivated people become highly engaged when they are offered more responsibility. You may consider asking them to lead a committee, research possible program purchases, organize a professional development day or tutor a staff who is taking further Early Learning courses. These jobs convey your trust and faith in the team.

8. Keep your office door open often

Be available for your team but be sure you schedule uninterrupted time to get your work done. When someone comes in with an idea, hear them out. Many people are scared to share their thoughts, especially when addressing perceived problems in the workplace. Be a good listener, and make sure to thank them for coming to you. You may or may not act on what they've shared, but handle it well, and you will have staff who feel respected and heard.

Motivating your team is an ongoing job. It would be best if you didn't become complacent with your staff. You are their leader, and they look to you each day as an example of how they should be behaving.

None of us are perfect, and when we have a terrible day, we can make it into a learning experience for our team. Failures happen and we make mistakes. We leaders need to embrace those learning opportunities and role models to be resilient and committed to our profession.

Until next week,

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Motivation in the Workplace Part One

Motivation in the Workplace Part One

We dedicate this week’s blog to the owners, directors, managers, supervisors and team leads who motivate others. Some people in our profession make you ask you wonder, “Why on earth do you do this job?”

You know who those people are. They are the ones disengaged from the children, or disengaged from their room partner, or seem to go out of their way to demonstrate they would rather be anywhere but at work. Some people might suggest that you ask them to quit, or you terminate their position. What if there were extenuating circumstances that prevented you from “getting rid” of them?  otivation in the Workplace Part One

What if they are long term staff that the board of directors LOVES? Perhaps they are the owner’s cousin/daughter/friend. Or maybe you own the program and know that families will leave in droves if that staff no longer works for you. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that your hands are tied, and relieving an unmotivated staff of their duties is not an option.

The majority of us in this sector are passionate about what we do. Your problem staff may have been passionate at some point. So then the question is, how do we re-ignite their passion?

1. Understand your team’s point of view

If you haven’t surveyed your staff in the past 12 months, it’s time to create a survey. Make your survey anonymous and ask honest questions. Be prepared to hear some things you may not want to hear!

  • What is your biggest worry about work?
  • Do you have a sense of meaning and purpose with the work that you do?
  • Do you have any issues you want to see addressed?
  • Are you challenged, and what opportunities would you like to see for your role?
  • What do you like best about your work?
  • Is there anything you wish to learn more about?
  • Who do you look up to in the Early Learning Profession? Why?
  • What are we doing well in the program?
  • Where can we improve to make the program better for the team?

If it’s within your budget, you can hire a consulting team like Creative Child Care Consulting to come in and do a confidential group interview with your staff. Often people will be more honest and candid with strangers than they are with their supervisors.

2. What motivators do you use?

Many are surprised to find out that money is not the primary motivator when it comes to work. Studies have shown that money is NOT the number one motivator. It falls about sixth or seventh on the list of motivators.

The biggest motivator for employees is a positive work environment, and the second most significant factor is having a voice regarding day to day operations. The third motivator is employee recognition.

  • Is your work environment a positive one, or does gossip, speculation, or bullying dominate?
  • Do you regularly consult with your team on matters that impact their delivery of services?
  • How do you recognize individual employees? Do you do so regularly, and do you make the recognition meaningful?

3. Build up happy by offering meaningful benefits

No one gets into child care to become wealthy. However, there are many things you can do that make work more attractive.

  • Flexible hours
  • Paid coffee break
  • Social committee activities (Fitbit challenges, weekend activities)
  • Extended lunch break once a month
  • Partially paid health benefits
  • Weekly lunchtime yoga session
  • Matching RRSP contributions
  • Volunteerism day off
  • Monthly team breakfast or lunch

Poll your employees and find out what they would appreciate. Figure out which of their suggestions fit within your current budget and offer them however you can.

4. Is everyone working towards goals?

Setting SMART goals and being held accountable to those goals is an excellent way to motivate your team.

Specific- Exactly what do you want to achieve?

Measurable- How will you know when you’ve met the goal?

Attainable-Is it realistic?

Relevant-Will this enhance your job performance?

Timely-Can this be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time?

5. Where is the fun?

Take a long look at your program. Are the staff having as much fun as the children? Do team members seem to enjoy each other? Is the mood in the staff room uplifting? We have critical work to do, but it is essential that we have some fun doing it.

What ways can you incorporate fun at work?

  • Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones
  • Bring lunch in for the team once a month, or hold a potluck
  • Play a game throughout the day
  • Do the staff have an area where they can practice yoga, pray or meditate?
  • Encourage staff to pin their favourite joke or cartoon in the staff room
  • Organize a social committee that plans fun staff activities outside of work

The more fun you can bring to the program, the more comfortable your everyone feel communicating and collaborating. They’ll start to see each other as ordinary people rather than people who work together.

Employee motivation matters

Motivated staff make work a much better place to be. They feel heard and appreciated and are more likely to take the initiative while bringing new ideas into the workplace. When the team feels valued, they are more likely to respect everyone around them.

As a supervisor, it is your job to motivate the people who answer you. To expect everyone to show up motivated and ready to work is not enough. Motivation and enthusiasm begins with you! Build trusting and respectful relationships with your team and implement the ideas above. Remember, things will not change overnight. It will be a long, slow road to improve team motivation. Be consistent and don’t give up! The benefits to the program will be huge.

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A Path in the Forest

A Path in the Forest

As early learning professionals, you know that children’s play is important.   It is so important that you likely have taken a course on it while on your professional learning journey.

These days, however, you may be hearing a lot of talk about play and how it is being pushed aside or modified to accommodate our current realities. A Path in the Forest

What you might not be hearing is that play is important to children’s development, especially during times of stress and uncertainty.  Why? Because play allows children to make sense of their world and the accompanying questions, fears, anxieties and concerns that they may be experiencing.   As a result, we need to make time for play.  

Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “play is a child’s work,” but what does that really mean?  As adults, work defines us, challenges us and gives a sense of purpose to our day.  The same holds true for play when it comes to children’s “work.”  

Play is an integral part of childhood as it allows exploration of roles and ways of being.  It is a safe way to develop and practice skills for later in life. Unfortunately, we can inadvertently hurry children through it by imposing schedules and expectations that may not be appropriate and, consequently, we leave little time for play. You may find it hard, especially these days, to schedule quality time for play with all the restrictions and expectations that have occurred due to the pandemic.  Your workdays were full before; now, they are over-flowing!

To ease the expectations of ourselves, as early learning professionals, we need to remind ourselves that play takes on many forms and looks many ways.  It happens right before us; we just need to remember what it looks like.

I liken play to a path in a forest when it comes to remembering the types of play we see children engaged in throughout the day.   So let’s explore this path…

You find a path in a forest. You are curious where it leads, so you start upon it.  You find it relaxing and enjoyable because you are smelling the flowers, noting the tall trees, and admiring the colours of the leaves.  This is akin to solitary play where a child plays alone, lost in thought and imagination.

While on that path, you come to notice that there is another path running alongside yours.  On that path, someone else is walking along, smelling the flowers, noting the tall trees, and admiring the colour of the leaves. They don’t see you, though, and you don’t say ‘hello.’ You keep walking along.  This is akin to parallel play where children play alongside one another, maybe in a similar fashion or maybe not, but – regardless – they are not really interacting with one another.

As you are walking along, smelling the flowers, noting the tall trees and admiring the colours of the leaves, you come to realize that your two paths – which were side by side – have now joined, and you are walking together on the same path.   You are busy gathering colourful leaves, and they are busy picking beautiful flowers. You both are together, but you are not talking to one another, nor are you looking at each other.  This is similar to associative play. Children are together on the same agenda, but doing different things on that agenda.

Now, while on that path, the two of you finally make eye contact. You notice the beautiful bouquet of flowers. They notice your colourful leaves. You find yourselves talking about your respective treasures, deciding that you are going to make flower and leaf bouquets for each another.  This is akin to cooperative play where children play with one another and allow their individual play agendas to merge into something larger and more collaborative.

How does this translate to your early learning environment?   Simple: your responsibility, as early learning professionals, is to provide the paths in the forest; those play opportunities that let children choose their path and who is walking alongside them…beside them… or with them.    The paths don’t have to be elaborate; simple will do.  As long as there is a path that children can travel down, the play will appear.  

Until next week,

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Meeting Children Where They’re At

Meeting Children Where They’re At

Meeting children where they’re at means that as professionals, we understand what individual children need and what they are currently capable of doing.

Let’s focus on INDIVIDUAL children. Often professionals expect children to do things that are not developmentally appropriate. Then others assume because children fall within a specific developmental range that they are capable of doing certain things. These assumptions do a massive disservice to the children in our care.Meeting Children Where Theyre At

As professionals, it is our responsibility to create deep and meaningful relationships with each child. When planning

for our groups, we should look at all the children and ask ourselves:

  • What are each child’s strengths, and how can we challenge them?
  • What are each child’s challenges, and how can we support them?
  • What interests each child, and how can we encourage their exploration?
  • What goals have we set for each child, and what will successful outcomes look like?

As professionals, we require a strong knowledge base around child development. This development includes how a child’s brain grows. Many of us did not have brain development education when we were in school studying ECE. Great leaps have been made in brain science, and now more than ever, we can take into account how an individual’s brain development guides their behaviour, social interactions and emotional state.

We need to start with building a respectful and honest relationship with the child. They look to us for emotional support and role modelling when it comes to experiences that are new and unfamiliar. We need to build trust and to learn about each child’s life as much as possible.

The children in our care are experiencing extraordinary and remarkable growth every day. Factors out of our control can positively or negatively impact their development. Our role is to provide the best possible experiences for children while they are in our care. This is the only thing that we can control for children. Engaging, low-stress environments are ideal for maximum growth and development!

If a four-year-old has never held a pair of scissors, we cannot expect them to know 1.) how to hold them, 2.) how to use them safely or 3.) be interested in using them. When we meet children where they are, we provide the opportunity for that child to be interested in trying to cut things successfully and guide them while they are learning how to use scissors. Perhaps you know that this child is fascinated by snakes and reptiles. A great strategy would be to offer paper plates and markers as a provocation to cut out snakes. Another task could be offering green playdough to make snakes and have scissors on standby to cut many little snakes out of one large play dough snake.

Perhaps you have a 2 ½-year-old who falls into a crying heap every morning at drop off. You have learned that this is a difficult time because the child’s father often leaves for business trips during the day, and the child doesn’t discover this until they are picked up. The child is stressed because he doesn’t know if his daddy will be gone again. Because we have built great relationships with the child and family, we see the source of the problem. We also understand where this child is with his brain development and know that logical thinking in a child this age isn’t. Instead of trying to reason with this child, we need to comfort him. Telling a child that they are okay is not comforting; it is condescending. A better tactic is to acknowledge that they are sad and sit with them until they are calmer. If daddy is going away, perhaps the child will want to “write” a letter. If the father is not leaving, you can encourage the child to create something to give daddy when he picks the child up. Another possibility is that once the child has had the opportunity to calm, they might be ready to engage with their friends. The child can decide how they wish to proceed.

In both of the above scenarios, the children are being respected, honoured and supported. The educators understand what the child’s perspective is and have created strategies to help the child learn a new skill. With the scissor situation, the child learns how to use scissors. With the toddler, you are helping the child build their emotional intelligence.

The work we do is impactful, but it isn’t easy. It may seem easier to push children to where you think they need to be, but in the long run, it makes our work much more difficult. Taking the time to meet the child where they are can strengthen your relationships and offer opportunities for children to build essential skills.

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Pedagogy is a word that is turning up more and more in the articles we read, the podcasts we listen to and the professional development we embrace. This blog will break this down for everyone who is curious about what the word means and how it applies to early learning.

Pedagogy is the study and theory of the methods and principles of teaching. Pedagog

In a nutshell, pedagogy is how we educate children and help them develop. It’s the strategies you use to provide opportunities for child development and the impact of your relationship with the children.

Pedagogy looks at:

  • Development
  • Behaviour
  • Relationships
  • Culture
  • Reflection

Some well-known pedagogies include:

  • Reggio Emilia
  • Montessori
  • Waldorf
  • Forest schools
  • Bandura
  • Schemas

In Alberta, we are fortunate to have a curriculum framework (pedagogy) that has been developed especially for our youngest residents.

Flight is a curriculum framework intended to guide the significant work of early learning and child care educators with young children (ages 0 – before 6 years) and their families in centre-based child care and family day home settings. This is a flexible framework for thinking about how children learn and experience their worlds, as well as a guide that fosters strong early childhood communities.

Children’s play is central to this curriculum framework as an active, exploratory, creative, expressive process, deeply embedded in children’s everyday experiences and through which children participate in, learn about, and actively make sense of the world.”

Pedagogy is nothing to be fearful of! Whether your program is implementing FLIGHT or not, we should be clear on how we are delivering early learning experiences to our children and embrace the research and development behind that delivery system. If you’re curious about our province’s framework, you down download FLIGHT at

Please have a look at their website and take the time to read and reflect on the framework. Don’t let the language deter you! There is always something new that we can learn each day and you are a capable and committed educator who understands the value of learning. Each small step we take to improve our practice has long-lasting and positive effects on the children in our care.

What are your thoughts on pedagogy? How about FLIGHT? Head over to our Facebook page at and share your thoughts.

Until next time,

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Little Eyes are Watching You

Little Eyes are Watching You

Many educators believe that children learn through play. This is, in fact, true. Children also learn by watching what the adults around them do and say. Children trust and love their caregivers and want to be just like them. You can positively teach critical social-emotional skills, or you can show them negative behaviours.

Even when they appear to be engaged with other things, children are often taking in every word and action you use. People follow all sorts of influencers on Instagram and YouTube. Guess what? You are an influencer in Early Learning. How will you choose to influence the children in your care?ittle Eyes are Watching You

Let’s begin at the start of the day. Do you arrive to work happy and enthusiastic? Or are you tired, working on your XL cup of coffee, and complaining about the weather? A young child sees that a grown-up they love is tired, listless and talking about not getting enough sleep {maybe I won’t nap today.} They are walking around with their cup of coffee {I don’t need to sit down to drink or eat}, and they are not happy about the weather {I’ll make a fuss to stay inside when it’s outside time.}

Instead, why not show up to work and let everyone know how happy you are to be there? Keep the consumption of grown-up beverages to your breaks and make sure that you are always sitting down when eating and drinking. Is the weather nasty? Talk about fresh air and the fantastic things you can learn when you play in the rain, snow or cold. Children in Canada should understand that we have varied weather, and there is always something amazing about nature.

Did you stomp on a spider in your room, or did you show it kindness and take it outside?

Did you yell across the room at a child, or did you walk over to them and speak to them in a respectful tone?

Do you use a ladder or a chair when you need to reach things up high? What do you say to the children who stand on chairs?

What Can You Teach?

There are many lessons that school does not teach. One of the most basic and important lesson is how to make a mistake. As an influencer, you can be a role model on how to handle mistakes and to teach that it is alright to make mistakes.

Your lesson can be as simple as saying, “Oh dear! I’ve made a mistake. Now I need to fix it.” Or you can say, “You’re right, what I said was wrong. Thank you for pointing that out.”

School doesn’t teach you how to fail or to lose with grace. In Early Learning Environments, you can deliver a positive narrative to the children. Perhaps you are chatting at the lunch table and tell the children you watched a hockey game last night. Maybe your team didn’t win. The next words out of your mouth can be positive or negative. “I’m sad that my team lost, but I know that they will do better next season! I enjoy watching hockey with my family.”

If you remember the acronym for FAIL and teach it to the children, you will help build a generation of children who are resilient and have a higher degree of emotional intelligence.





Teaching good behaviour

What do you want children to be? Do you value positive self-esteem, self-confidence, kindness, patience, empathy, and joy? Those qualities are important to me, so ask yourself which ones are important to you?

Now that you have your list reflect on whether or not you role model those qualities in the classroom. We often think we are modelling those behaviours, but sadly the reverse is often the truth. Do you hold a crying child and tell them they are okay? You might think this is showing kindness, but it is not. If a child is crying, they are NOT OKAY. Something is very wrong in their world. Even though you know it’s not a big problem; the children do not have the life skills and experience to understand that it’s not a big deal. As an influencer, you need to comfort the child by telling them that they are safe, and to acknowledge their feelings, “I’m sorry you’re so sad.”

You cannot teach patience if you are always rushing around and telling children to hurry up. Self-confidence is learned when you encourage children to try and to set them up to be successful. When you are joyful, it becomes contagious, and the children around you also become joyful.

So ask yourself, what do the children see me do?

Until next time

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Are You a Bossy Pants?

Are You a Bossy Pants?

Do you like to be bossed around?aaaaa

I know I sure don’t like it.

How do you feel when you think about someone managing a considerable part of your life? Most people might react negatively to being told what to do and when to do it. You might even consider being a bit of a rebel or being outright defiant.

So my question to you is, how are you managing the children in your care?  You are their role model, often for more than 8 hours a day. Are you unknowingly teaching children to become bossy, or are they learning to become respectful humans?

What Is Respect?

The definition of respect is esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.

If you were out to dinner with friends and you witnessed a woman snap her fingers at the waitstaff and yell at them because they weren’t bringing her food quickly enough, what would you think of that woman?

You’d probably think they were rude, inconsiderate and disrespectful.

Now imagine you’re in the classroom, and you hear your room partner call across the room to have a child come back to the block corner, and clean their mess up right away before they play in another centre. To make matters worse, your room partner tells the child to hurry up; they have other things they need to do.

What do you think of your room partner?

Many adults speak to children in ways they would never dream of speaking to another adult. Some Early Educators fail to use “please” or “thank you” when asking children to do something. Adults will tell children what is going to happen and then become upset when some children don’t cooperate or comply.

Just like you, children get tired of being bossed around. The best way to teach children how to be respectful is to be respectful to them. Do you have a very bossy and challenging child in your room? Where do you think they’ve learned to push other people around? It may not have been from you, and you have the opportunity to teach them how to be more respectful to others.

Think back to your favourite or best supervisor. They probably were very respectful to you and were able to get the team to do the tasks with enthusiasm and joy. Children are no different. They want you to be a leader, not their boss. Speak to them kindly so that they feel respected and appreciated. Avoid actions that may belittle or humiliate them.

Instead of being bossy, why not try to be:

  • Empathetic
  • Mindful
  • Honest
  • Generous
  • Passionate
  • Consistent
  • Fun
  • Curious
  • Compassionate
  • Reflective
  • Trustworthy
  • Humorous

What would your life be like if your supervisor had all of those previous qualities?

Children are going to enjoy being with you more and be more likely to cooperate when you are a fun person to be around. Educators have many things they need to do over the day. It is much easier to tell everyone what they are supposed to do, and when and how to do it. Instead of being bossy, make a promise to yourself that you will be respectful. Invite the children to join you in fun, exploration and comforting routines.

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. You’ll slip occasionally and catch yourself being a bossy pants. Acknowledge your mistake and be better the next time.

Until next week,

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Professional Reflection

Professional Reflection

One of the essential skills that can take us from an average educator to and outstanding educator is reflection.

Our current high paced society often forces us to put a reflective practice on the backburner. There are many more expectations others have of us in our personal and professional lives. Changes in how we deliver our services have complicated our professional lives even more. As for navigating the current pandemic on a personal level, many of us are edgy, hoping that we make the right choices for our health and our family’s.

However, if we are to support children in their growth and development, then we must be regularly reflecting on our own experiences and practices, as well as the children’s experiences. It’s time that we must carve into our schedule if we are to remain professional and focused.

Being reflective means that we look at the good things along with the bad. You probably fall into one of two camps. Either you focus on the failures or are blind to the shortcomings and only focus on successes. Professional educators must look at both outcomes because there is valuable learning to be had from both. Taking the time to understand why activities and experiences went well is as essential as why there were failures. Acknowledging the good moments offer us the opportunity to extend activities and to deepen children’s learning.

Taking the time to reflect allows us to remain present and make observations around the children’s experiences and play. When we take the time to stop and objectively see what is happening with the children, we learn how our children are learning and what is motivating them to explore and discover. These essential observations allow us to plan for the program and to adjust our practice to better meet children where they are.

When we draw up our curriculum plans, we can have an idea in our mind as to how children will use and interact with the materials or activities that we provide. Children can be counted on to show us ways to interact with the environment that we had never considered. When we take the time to observe and to reflect on what the children did, rather than what we assumed they would do, we begin to understand their skills, needs and interests on a deeper, more meaningful level.

When we make reflection a regular part of our practice, we bring intentionality to the classroom. When we are intentional, we are questioning our choices and our decisions. Materials and activities are brought into the classroom with a plan or a reason. Reflecting allows us to slow down and be proactive rather than reactive to the children’s needs.  Reflection will enable us to grow insight into our children and their families, which strengthens those relationships.

Building reflection into our practice buys us the time to think about what we want, what the children need and allows us to become the educators that we aspire to become.

Until next week

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Challenging Behavior

Challenging Behavior

As early learning educators, it seems as if we are on a quest for the magic tool or technique to eliminate challenging behaviours in the classroom. I sadly must report that this tool does not exist. When managing challenging behaviours, your first line of defense is to change your attitude when a behaviour presents itself.

It’s time to become a detective and figure out the root of the behaviours. If you A) stop taking the behaviour personally and B) believe that the behaviour is an attempt to communicate something to you, you will be on your way to figure out why the behaviour is occurring.

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Every child in your care is a unique individual. This is the reason that a one-size-fits-all approach to behaviour management is not practical. Even though each child is unique, they all require that the same fundamental needs are met.

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When you have a misbehaving child, you should take a deep breath and ground yourself. Approaching the situation calmly and compassionately will initially help to diffuse the situation. Ask yourself or the child when they are calm, what it is that they need. The chances are good that the child will have a difficult time telling you what they want. Little people with big emotions are hard-pressed to explain their feelings because they don’t understand those feelings, to begin with.

Very young children are challenged when they are expected to self regulate. Children will act out when they don’t get what they want. They are impatient and demand immediate attention and gratification. Self-regulation is something that each of us must learn in order to grow into a responsible adult. Children with behavioural challenges in the early years will often become adolescents who skip school, consume alcohol or drugs and have run-ins with the law (Lipsey & Derzon, 1998.)

This is where your detective work becomes essential. Why is the behaviour happening? Look at the first level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Is the child hungry? Is the child in pain?

At the second level, ask if the child is missing a parent who is away for work? Did the goldfish die? Are they in a new home, a new bed? Has the situation in the classroom changed? Is there a new teacher or has a good friend changed rooms, or left the program entirely?

On the third level, you might question if the child plays easily with others. Does this child know how to enter into play with other children? Does he/she know the words to use? Do they get the time they need with a loving and supportive adult? Are they included with all the other children, or are they singled out for their challenging behaviour? Have you ever said something like, “James, everyone here is waiting for you to sit quietly? We can’t start our story until you sit nicely.”

On the fourth level, is the child able to make choices throughout the day? Most children have few opportunities to make personal choices regularly. When we move the children from one activity to another (I like to refer to this as “herding” children), they are not allowed to decide for themselves which activities they want to immerse themselves into on that particular day. Are the children in your classroom acknowledged when they do something good, or when they are misbehaving? It’s challenging to switch your thoughts, but helpful when you start catching children being good. When everyone is recognized thoughtfully and honestly when they are good, other children will see how easy it is to get the teacher’s attention!

At the top level, children need the chance to create and to expand their knowledge. Providing open-ended learning opportunities does this and so much more. Crafts do not allow for creative opportunities. There will be children who will do the craft well, and others who will avoid the activity because they know that they can’t do as nice a job as their peers. Crafts are the opportunity for children to follow directions; there is nothing creative going on. If a child is misbehaving, ask yourself if they need the chance to explore or to do a deep dive into a subject that is interesting to them?

This detective process will take time, and you will make mistakes. That’s okay. Finding out what a child needs is the first of many steps you can take to manage challenging behaviours in your classroom. Next week, we will discuss motivation and how that impacts behaviour. You will also learn about a cool tool that can help you figure out what makes your children tick.

Until next week.

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Children’s Curiosity and Brain Development

Children’s Curiosity and Brain Development

In the May/June issue of The Exchange, Wendy L. Ostroff penned an article, “The Cognitive Science and Neuroscience of Young Children’s Curiosity.”

Anyone who works with children will tell you that they are ceaselessly curious. This curiosity, this need to explore and understand, is hardwired into children’s brains so they can learn about their world. In a child’s first three years of life, their brains are literal sponges. They absorb anything and everything around them. Children’s brains are ripe for learning, and it is up to us to provide environments that support their brain development.

Newness in a child’s environment immediately spawns curiosity. I’ve always said that children have a special radar that allows them to see the tiniest change in their environment. Ms. Ostroff refers to it as “novelty seeking.” As educators, we can make regular changes to our classroom environments that will support children’s curiosity and learning. Easy and affordable changes to your room can include:

  • Rearranging your room
  • Rotating materials and toys
  • Turning a centre upside down
  • Hide small surprises (shiny rocks, exciting textures, etc.) around the room
  • Add loose parts that the staff and parents contribute
  • Ask the children how they would like to arrange the room
  • Intentionally set up problems for the children to solve

Not surprisingly, curiosity is correlated to learning and intelligence. So, the more curious a child is, the more they learn, and the more their knowledge grows. Curiosity can take the form of exploring with all the senses or asking questions.

There was a study done with preschool children where they were recorded at home during the day. Children asked an average of 76 questions PER HOUR about things they were curious about. More research has determined that the number of questions a child asks dramatically drops off when they entered the school system.

76 questions per hour? Wow.

How do you respond to the endless questions a child has? Do you become frustrated or annoyed? Your response will set the tone for learning. If you are warm, patient, and supportive, you will be nurturing their brain development. When a child asks a question, you do not necessarily need to answer it for her.

You can:

  • Give them time to wonder by saying; I don’t know; I need to think about that
  • Ask them what they think the answer is
  • Invite them to research with you (i.e., I have a book about pandas, maybe we can find the answer here.)
  • Plan an experiment around the question (i.e., let’s see if those rocks will float.)

Finally, you want to encourage curiosity because it releases Dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that sends signals to tell your body. It is responsible for motivation and focus. Kids who have low Dopamine are often unmotivated, poorly focused, and struggle with a whole host of other issues. When Dopamine is released, children understand what they are doing more deeply and remember better. Dopamine directly impacts the Hippocampus of the brain; Dopamine helps it function better.

You can offer more Dopamine producing experiences by:

  • Observing and documenting what children are asking about and incorporating it into the program
  • Offer emergent experiences that grow and change with the children’s curiosity
  • Build on the children’s current interests by offering new and unexplored opportunities
  • Learn what the process of scientific inquiry is, and use it to research with the children
  • Teach the children that it’s alright to make mistakes. Do this by role modelling.

Visit us on our Facebook page at  and let us know how you are supporting curiosity in your program.

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Summer Sun and Physical Fun


It’s that time of year when everyone starts getting excited for the wonderful days of the summer sun and of course outdoor physical fun. Summer camp is a time when both leaders and kids create lifelong memories, learn new skills, get exposed to new ideas, and have the opportunity to experience lots of time on interesting projects, games in the park, field trips, exploring outdoor nature activities and long hours of just hanging out and playing! Kids are excited about summer and will be looking forward to some fun, friendship and taking a vacation from the everyday pressure’s today's’ children face. Camp Leaders work hard to make it all happen.

Hours of planning and research goes into a summer camp program. As a camp planner for over 25 years, one of my biggest challenges was to ensure the activities I offered worked within the children’s and leaders interests and abilities. Summer camps offered many weeks that were filled with rafting, camping and river exploration. These were balanced with weeks of field trips, long lazy park days filled with games, hunts, art in the park and of course on site play days filled with interesting materials that encouraged creative play.

When planning camp activities, it is important to:

  • Offer a wide variety of choices and activities that meet the broad range of children’s interests.
  • Refer to child development. It’s important to remember that your 5-7 year old’s have different needs than your 8-12 year old’s. Offer some play activities that meet those interests.
  • Match activities to your program philosophy and policies
  • Review regulatory requirements to ensure you are meeting them.
  • Develop a risk management and supervision plan.
  • Break your larger group into smaller groups for easier group management, organization, and supervision.
  • Include group names, banners and group cheers in your weekly planning. These small details create friendship bonds and support relationships between leaders and their groups of children.
  • Check field trip locations before your trip so you know where the bathrooms are, the best place to set up your group, and to ensure the environment is safe and to create a team supervision, risk management plan.
  • Your enthusiasm and energy go a long way to ensuring activity success. Engage and play with the children

Theme Days

Some children may attend your summer camps for weeks at a time. Introducing a  variety of weekly themes, daily themes and special occasion days will keep the Leaders and children interested in camp, as well as provides a planning framework for leaders. For example, you could have weeks around themes such as:

  • Pirates: children come dressed in pirate gear or use the camps dress-up clothes: use large cardboard boxes and recycled materials to create a giant pirate ship, make pirate puppets, play treasure hunt games, create their own treasure maps, make individual pirate ships,
  • Jungle: children make or colour in animal masks to wear; use camouflage netting and other props to create a jungle den; play crossing crocodile-infested river game; competition to make a giraffe out of newspaper and sticky tape; use clay to make animal face fridge magnets etc.
  • Backyard beach: children come dressed in 'beach' clothes (bright t-shirts, shorts, flip flops, sunglasses, floppy hats ), decorate flip-flops, make frisbees,  play volleyball with large softball, water play with sprinkler balloons sponges etc., make, decorate and float paper boats in large container of water, ice cream factory with lots of toppings; experiment with making different smoothies etc.

Here are some other theme day suggestions:


Summer Fun Weekly  Theme Ideas

Summer Fun Daily Theme Ideas

Art in the Park

Outdoor Adventurers

Mission Impossible

Imagination Station

Minecraft Mania


Mainly Music

Amazing Race

Mission to Mars


Medieval Times


Mighty Jungle

Harry Potter

Talent Show Week

Camping Trip

Mad Science

Extreme Adventures

Mardi Gras

Chefs Week

Travel  the World in 7 days

Games Galore and More

Nature Week

Treasure Hunter Times

Time Travelers

Water World 

Summer Olympics

Wind and Sea

Wheels Week

Willy Wonka  and the Chocolate Factory


Retro Week

Around the World in 7 Days

Wizards and Fairies

Crazy Hair Day

Crazy Socks Day

Fear Factor Day

Invention Day

Denim Day

Cartoon Character Day

Emergency Services Day

Celebrity Look-Alike Day

Magic Day

Try a Trade Day

Tournament Thursday

Pirate Day

Obstacle Course Challenge Day

Rockstar Day

Pop Culture Day

Storybook Day

Down Under Day

Throwback Thursdays

Wacky Wednesdays

Mission Mondays

Pajama Day

Water Day Wednesdays

Funky Friday

Invent your own Holiday

Endangered Species Day

Drive-In Movie Day

Wheels Day

Worlds Record Day

Game Show Day

Junk Yard Days

Ooppey Goopey Day

Super Hero Day

Wet and Wild Day


July Celebration Days

August Celebration Days

1. International Joke Day

1. Creative ice cream flavours day 

2. Build a Scarecrow Day

20. Moon Day

25. Grotto

27. Walking on Stilts Day

28. Fingerprints used as evidence Day


  1. Lama Day

5.   Disc Golf Day

11. Play in the sand day

13. International Left-Handers Day

18. Bad Poetry Day

19. Bow Day

27. Tug of war day

30. Toasted Marshmallow Day

External Specialists

Bringing in specialist activities from external providers is a great way to increase the variety of activities that you offer and will help to give focus to the week. Bringing in some of these external activities can become expensive, but you can balance them by:

  • Offering free activities .
  • Have your camp leaders’ do a personal skills inventory. What topics or activities are they subject experts on and how can you use that expertise within your camp’s theme weeks.
  • Look to your circle of friends, parents and community partners: does anyone have a special skill or interest that they would be prepared to come and demonstrate for an hour or two? 

Specialist activities that you might like to consider include:


Group Games:

Need Flags or a strip of cloth to be used as a tail.
Players have a tail inserted into his/her belt or pocket that is hanging at the back-side.
All players chase one another trying to collect tails, while protecting his/her own.
Players with the most tails collected in a specified time are the winners. (Game is good in the gym or outside)


Children are divided into teams.
They each select one child from each team to be the prisoner of the other team and the two prisoners are placed in jail. This can be a designated area or a chalk box if playing outside.

The teams each line-up and the object of the game are to free the prisoner from the other team.
The teams must get to the prison by going to the other team’s side to free the prisoner.
If tagged, that child then becomes a prisoner too and must go to jail.
If a child makes it to jail, however, he or she is safe as long as he is inside the prison.
The rescuer can only rescue one person at a time and can choose the right time to “break for it.”


Need: Two flags (you can make flags with two sticks and bandanas) Divide the kids into two teams and decide on the teams’ territories. Be sure to specifically state the boundary lines of each team’s territory because once a player crosses that boundary line they are subject to being caught. Also, decide where each team’s jail will be located.

  • For the first few minutes of the game, each team decides where to place its flag. It must be visible and it cannot be moved by its team. A 10-20 foot circle around the flag is a safety zone that cannot be entered by its team unless the opposing team enters the circle first.
  • The object of the game is to grab the other team’s flag and carry it safely back to your team’s territory.
  • Part of the team stays to guard their flag and part of the team goes on the capture mission in enemy territory.
  • If a player sees an opposing team member enters his territory, he can catch him by tagging him long enough to say “Caught!” three times.
  • When a player is caught, he must go to the jail area.
  • The player stays in jail until one of his teammates sneaks in and tags him.
  • Only one prisoner at a time can be freed.


Tic-tac-toe can be scratched in the dirt and is more enticing than on paper–Hangman, too. (or use chalk for pavement)
Sketch a checker board on the sidewalk and fabricate markers out of stones and acorns.
Or just spread a blanket on the grass for Monopoly or Candyland played in a whole new venue…


Players aim at targets & award hits (singles, doubles, triples, and home runs) for striking each one.
You need a rubber or tennis ball & targets.

  • Players need to decide upon a throwing line & targets—-Rocks, boxes, toys, trees, piles of leaves, old sweatshirts, hula-hoops can be targets.
    When decided–for safety reasons– mark off the playing field
  • Make the scoring system equal to the task.
    Each target is worth a certain kind of hit. Easy targets are singles, harder ones are doubles and so on.
  • Players take turns throwing at the targets.
    If the target is hit, the player’s team gets the corresponding award (points).
    If the target is missed, the player’s team is given one out. When the thrower has 3 outs, the next thrower comes to “bat”.
  • Play as many innings as you like, keeping score.
    The player with the most hits (points) gets to pick the next targets.
    This can also be scored as a team effort.


Body part freeze tag is just like regular freeze tag except once tagged, you are not completely frozen.

  • Select one or two children to be “it.”
    These children run around tagging other children.
  • If a child is tagged on the arm, only the arm is frozen.
    If tagged on the leg, only the leg is frozen, so the child must hop on one leg.
    If both legs are tagged, the child can pull himself along the ground with arms (assuming they weren’t already tagged).
  • The object is to completely freeze as many as possible.
  • If you want, you can have other unfreeze body parts as well.



(Can be played outside or inside gym area)
This game is for 5 or more players and should be played outside or in an open area.

  • To play, select four objects to be based and give each base a name:
    “Don’t like it,” “Love it,” “It’s OK,” “Never tried it.”
  • Make signs for each base to make it easy to remember which is which!
  • Pick someone to be “IT.” “IT” stands in the middle and the players stand on any base they want. “IT” calls out the name of a food.
  • Players then have to run to the base that describes how they feel about that food. “IT” tries to tag a player before he or she reaches the base. The player who is tagged then becomes the new “It “


Websites That are Helpful for Summer Camp Activities


STEM Activities (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)

Crafting websites

Make it with boxes

Messy Play websites

Club ideas


Pop Up Play and Loose Parts



Chants and songs

leader chants, campers repeat...

Everywhere we go! (Everywhere we go)
People always ask us (People always ask us)           
Who we are (who we are)
Where we come from (where we come from)
So we tell them (So we tell them)
We're from your camp... (we're from...)
And if they cannot hear us (And if they cannot hear us)
We shout a little louder (we shout a little louder)
It is best to start out kind quiet so that you can increase the volume a few times... this is a good chant for when you are walking somewhere.

Orange Crush
Lemon Ice
Beat them once beet them twice
Beat them high 
Beat them low 
(team name) on the go!

Bazooka Bubblegum Song

My momma
She gave me a dollar
She told me to buy a collar
But I didn't buy no collar
Instead I bought some bubblegumccc3
BAZOOKA, ZOOKA bubble gum (x2)

My momma 
She gave me a quarter

She told me to tip the porter
But I didn't tip no porter 
Instead I bought some bubblegum
BAZOOKA, ZOOKA bubble gum (x2)

My momma 
She gave me a dime 
She told me to buy a lime
But I didn't buy no lime
Instead I bought some bubblegum 
BAZOOKA, ZOOKA bubble gum (x2)

My momma 
She gave me a nickel 
She tole me to buy a pickle 
But I didn't buy no pickle 
Instead i bought some bubblegum
BAZOOKA, ZOOKA bubble gum (x2)

My momma 
She gave me a penny 
She told me to buy some bubblegum
But I didn't buy no bubblegum 
Because I'm sick of bubblegum
BAZOOKA, ZOOKA bubble gum (x2)

Song and chant websites:

Transition and Back Pocket Activities



Activities for on the bus

Have a fun and safe summer







Read More

What Can You Do to Increase Enrollment?

As operators, we understand all too well that operating at maximum capacity is necessary to keep our operations running “in the zone.”

Right now, in Alberta, many child care centres are struggling to maintain the enrollment that they already have. Dreams of the program being full have been put on hold while more and more people are finding themselves out of work.


Here are some low cost and no-cost ideas to increase traffic to your centre:

During tours, make sure to communicate your differences when compared to other programs in the area. Make sure that they focus on high quality! (i.e.: we serve only organic fruits and vegetables, we offer a music program, we have a huge indoor large muscle space.) Let potential parents know just how different and wonderful you are.

Offer a satisfaction guarantee. Give your guarantee a catchy name like, “The Daisy Care Satisfied Families Guarantee.” You can promise that if a parent is not satisfied with the care they are receiving in the first 30 days, they can withdraw their child and will receive a refund of their tuition.

Print a map of your community and begin marking where your families live. You will be able to determine where many of your families reside. Once complete, research the area to find out when there are local events, festivals, or even new construction sites. You can then determine if opportunities are available for you and your program to contribute to those communities. Perhaps you can set up a children’s craft table at a local craft market or event. Maybe take part in a community parade.

Offer to write articles for your local/community paper.

Make sure your program has a Facebook page. Ask all your parents to “like” the page and make sure that you have your Facebook URL on all of your marketing information. Make sure to dedicate time to post updates, polls and useful information.

Have a referral rewards program. When you think about it, one enrollment can mean $13,000.00 or more a year! Choose an amount (between $100 and $500) cash back to families who refer to a successful enrollment. Make sure you take a picture of you handing that hundred-dollar bill to the family and post it on your Facebook page and your parent newsletter. Work will quickly get around, and families will become your best enrollment partners.

If you are looking for even more ideas, Kris Murray has a book entitled The 77 Best Strategies To Grow Your Early Childhood Program. You can order your copy at and only pay for the cost of shipping.

Until next time,

Read More

Beyond the Chaos- Seeing the Beauty Behind the Mess

Beyond the Chaos- Seeing the Beauty Behind the Mess

Many ECE’s take pride in cleanliness and orderliness in their classrooms. However, it is critical that we allow time for messy art each day! Here are the top 5 reasons to include messy art in your daily programming:

  1. Messy art builds nerve connections within the developing brain’s neural pathways, which paves the way for a child to complex learning tasks
  2. Messy art supports language development, cognitive growth, motor skills, problem-solving skills, and social interaction
  3. Messy art helps in developing and enhancing memory functioning
  4. Messy art is great for calming all children, especially those who are dealing with an undue amount of stress in their lives
  5. Messy art helps children learn vitally important sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry, wet, squishy etc.)

Messy, creative art is so much more than finger-painting. Messy art is an insightful, delightful stimulation of our senses and our creative being! It’s exploring colour, causal relationships, shapes and textures. It’s enjoying sensory stimulation which we all understand as being critical for a child’s well-rounded development.

Messy art allows for critical thinking and independent choice. Those skills allow children to become confident in their self-expression which in turn builds their self-esteem.


Contact us if you want to explore this with your staff team. We LOVE delivering this workshop and you will love being able to experience the joy and wonderment of messy art!

Until next time,

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Heuristic Play

Offer the Ultimate Infant and Toddler Learning Opportunities

This post is all about treasure baskets and heuristic play. The term heuristic play was coined by Elinor Goldschmied (1910-2009) in the 1990s. Adults offer seated babies (who cannot move independently) a range of natural, household and recycled objects contained in a sturdy basket for exploration. This approach to infant and toddler learning is practiced around the world but is not as popular in Canada.

Read More

Who’s Caring for You?

The choice to become an Early Childhood Educator may have had a great deal to do with your personality type. Let's face it, most of us derive personal satisfaction from caring for others and giving of ourselves to make the lives of others better. Most of us finish our work day and then have people at home that need us. Even if we live alone there are still bills to pay, housework to do, and family commitments.

Read More

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