The Dear Daycare Parent Blog

The Benefits of Boredom

I just read an excellent article by Victoria Prooday titled The silent tragedy affecting today’s children. Read it here.

As a person who has been working with preschoolers over 20 years, one thing that really stuck out for me in this article was the statement, provide opportunities for boredom as boredom is the time when creativity awakens! Love it!!!

Shrinking Creativity

I have realized how things have changed! And not for the better. When I first started teaching, I could put out a bunch of materials ( i.e. glue, paper , scissors, glitter……) and the kids would come running anxious to experiment and start creating!. Fast forward to the present and they are not so excited and will sometimes look and say, “what do we do with this?” They are losing the ability to be patient, think, and figure out what they can do! To imagine and create! They are getting used to constantly being entertained and told what to do. Tablets and cell phones are being used for entertainment. There are too many outside influences and their imaginations are not as strong.  Now this is a scary thing!

Learning How to Think for Themselves

How do I remedy this situation? Well, I always provided time in my classroom for free play. That means to go ahead and find something YOU want to do with little interference from the teachers. I felt my role during that time was to be an observer and provide guidance when needed. It was also during this free time I found children loved to come over and chat a bit and share a feeling or story from home. So many important skills were being used such as problem solving, socializing, creating…. all important life skills! I also liked to just stop once and a while and say, “hey guys, shhhhhhhhh! What do you hear?” They would give answers and be curious about some of the sounds. This lead to some spontaneous learning. If they heard a bird, then it would lead to wanting to learn more about that bird and nature!

The bottom line is this, if children are not allowed the time to just be and think for themselves  then how do they grow to be self-sufficient and responsibly-thinking adults some day?  What kinds of things do you do to give your children down time?

Aerosol Sunscreen May Be Dangerous To Use

Recently, Rebecca Cannon used an aerosol sunscreen, Banana Boat SPF 50, on her 14-month-old daughter, Kyla, as a precaution, even though she wouldn’t really be in the sun.  Rebecca read the directions to ensure it would be safe for her daughter.  The product said it was safe for children over 6 months old.  So, Rebecca applied the sunscreen as directed.  However, after using the product, her daughter had severe burns over her face.

Upon returning from the hospital, Rebecca did some research and was alarmed to learn, there were a disturbing number of cases like hers.  She said, “I don’t understand why it’s not removed from the shelves!”  After seeing the burns on this little one’s face, we thought we’d help this mother spread her words of warning about aerosol sunscreens.  (read story here)

Roughhousing Allowed in Daycare?

Recently a news article, in Quebec stated that dozens of daycare’s will now be allowing roughhousing and war games (read it here).  After reading the article, as well as the many comments written below, I can understand both sides of the argument.  But for me, it brings up many more questions.  First and foremost, wouldn’t this be more appropriate to start on children who are becoming more cognitive, like in Kindergarten.  Children in daycare, have yet to learn conflict resolution.  Therefore, when they get angry with their peers, they often try to resolve their problems in an aggressive manner, such as (using their fist, pushing and sometimes even biting the other child).

Very young children cannot easily distinguish what it okay in one scenario, but not okay in another.  In the article, they said, “They would welcome war games and roughhousing”.  They gave an example that would include structured sword fighting with foam swords.  There is almost an assurance that the children who can use a foam sword inside, will pick up a stick while outside and copy that already approved play.  Will these children be wearing face shields, like in real fencing?  I remember once when my student came back from vacation and was happy to see me, he raced over to give me a hug.  However, when he hugged me, the brim on his hat scrapped the cornea of my eye.  My doctor had me wearing an eye patch for a while.  My eye injury was an accident, are you ready for the injuries that might occur when you give the children toy weapons?  Therefore, I disagree with any kind of war/battle games in daycare.

I get it, boys are so different than girls!  In 2000, when I started teaching at a new school, my boss asked the staff not to tell me how many boys would be in my classroom that year.  She wanted me to find out at the Open House, when I met the parents and my new students.  It turns out, that my class of 3 and 4-year old’s, had 12 boys and 2 girls.  After the Open House, my boss popped her head in and asked, “Are you okay”?  I smiled and said, “Yup, and I’m up for the challenge”.

In the foundation for making roughhousing acceptable in daycare, they had six guidelines.  I agreed with all of them, except for the one that says, “welcome war games and roughhousing”.  When I had the class of 12 boys, I myself focused heavily on two of those guidelines:  1) Create an environment that is conductive to building a masculine identity and 2) Create opportunities for challenges and competitions.  I felt, while working with mostly boys, I had to challenge them and offer them physical outlets.  Doing this, made my year successful!

I set up my classroom in stations, to offer physical challenges.  I had a basketball hoop on the door and the children used a soft spongy ball to play.  There were two stations where I left 2 lb. & 5lb. weights, as well as a mirror so they could watch themselves exercise.  Since many of the children’s fathers used weights at home, the children often gravitated to this activity.   We had Crocodile miniature golf, Croquet, bowling and even horse shoes for them to use.  We did music and movement activities, as well as yoga.  Several times a month, we would turn the classroom into an obstacle course or we would just leave out simple balance beams.  As the children became more interested in group games, we’d go outside and played competitive games or set up challenges, like the Olympics.  I knew that I could not become complacent, I had to keep on my toes to keep them active.  While they were having fun, they were learning too.

In the article, Neisha May, a mother of a boy and a girl, said, “I don’t know how I would feel about roughhousing in a daycare setting because the ratio is like 10 to 1, where at home, where they do wrestle with my husband and they love it, we can keep an eye on what’s going on.”  So, we’d love to hear your opinion, would you welcome war games and roughhousing in your child’s daycare?

Children Imitate Their Parents At An Early Age

Recently, there were two news web portals about children and their parent’s car.  The first story was about an 8-year-old boy from Ohio (read it here) who wanted a cheeseburger even though he had eaten hours earlier.  His father had already gone to bed, and his mother had fallen asleep on the couch.  So, at 8:00 p.m., this little boy decided to go to get the desired cheeseburger.  He took money from his piggy bank, grabbed his father’s van keys and then buckled his 4-year-old sister into the back seat.

He drove about a mile to his destination.  Witnesses said, he appeared to adhere to all the speed limits and traffic lights.  Then when he reached McDonald’s, he drove right up to the drive through. The workers thought it was a prank and that the parents were really in the backseat.  A family friend had spotted the children and quickly called their grandparents to come get them.  The police arrive as the children were finishing their meal.  The officer asked the boy in amazement, “How did you learn how to drive?”, the boy simply responded, “YouTube”.

Although YouTube may have taught him the mechanics of driving, children learn to imitate their parents at a very early age.  The second news story will give you a glimpse of how young children are when they begin to copy their parents (read it here).  In the story, the mother had just left a grocery store with her 14-month-old son.  He wasn’t sitting in the carriage, so she thought it would be safer to put him in the car.  Even though this child would have had a limited vocabulary, since he was so young; he obviously paid attention while in the car with his parents.  Once his mother put him in the car, he climbed into the driver’s seat, locked the doors and then stood holding the steering wheel as if he were driving.  His hands were even on the steering wheel in the correct position of a clock, at 10 and 2.

In our book, Dear Daycare Parent: The Must Have Guide to Daycare For Working Parents, we warn parents about leaving a child in a running car.

When children are young, they like to role play.  By role playing, they begin to understand and learn about their immediate world.  Daily they will take on different roles, especially being mom and dad!  They dress up in the dramatic play area in what they call their “work clothes” and then they will get busy building a car so they can get to work.  It could be something quick like a box, or lining up a bunch of chairs.  Other times, they will build a more elaborate car out of blocks.  They use a Popsicle stick or a plastic set of keys to start their car; and they stomp their foot on a small block while pretending to push the foot pedal for the gas or the brake, and they use hand motions to pull on an invisible gear shift.

Even while playing outside, the children will pretend to drive, using toy cars, fire trucks, bikes and wagons.  As they ride over the hard-top, they could be heard making beeping sounds for horns, screeching sounds for brakes or just revving up their car by saying, “Vroom, vroom”.  As they play, their main goal is to drive like their parents do daily.

So, it’s quite scary when we see when a parent has left a child in a car, unattended.  All too often, we’ve watched that child take off their seat belt or climb out of their car seat, and move into the driver’s seat and grasp the steering wheel so they could pretend to drive.

Knowing that children want to emulate their parents, we would remind parents often, “Remember, safety first, shut off your car and take all children into the school with you!”

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