Toddler II- 122

Room 122 Red Newsletter: April 8, 2016


Did You Know?

Throughout the year we celebrate with families at festivals and events in the classrooms and school-wide.



Save the Date! The Week of the Young Child Family Breakfast for Infants and Toddlers will be Friday, April 15th from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m.  Preschool/Kindergarten will be hosting their own breakfast on Thursday, April 14th.  If you have children in both Toddlers and Preschool/Kindergarten, please plan on attending both days to eat with each child individually.  If you have any questions please speak with your child’s lead teacher or Reagan Miller our Toddler Coordinator/Assistant Director.


Room Announcements

Dance Class: We will have dance class Thursday at 10:15 with Ms. Cheryl.

Homework: Next week we will be talking about the sense of sound! If your child has a favorite item that makes noise, they are welcome to it them in! We will be listening to them at group time.

Clothing: With the weather being typical Chicago weather and going through all four seasons each day, please make sure that your children are prepared for all weather.



Community Happenings

Music for Kids with Wendy Morgan: April 16, 2016, Morton Grove Public Library




Tip of the Week

Toddlers, Tantrums and Time-In’s, Oh My!

From The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R. Knost

 When a little person feels frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain old out-of-sorts (read: tantrum time!) it’s tempting for parents to focus on correction rather than connection. But when children are intensely stressed, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which in early childhood is an underdeveloped, mushy grey sponge waiting to be formed, is flooded with cortisol, the ‘stress hormone.’ The result is what is known as the fight-freeze-or-flight syndrome in which higher brain functions (learning, reason, self-control) are markedly hampered and lower brain functions (instinct, physical reactions) take over. This is an in-built survival mechanism that gradually comes under conscious control through years of growth in a safe and supportive environment. Interestingly, it is theorized that this underdeveloped ‘sponginess’ is why small children are able to learn new languages more quickly than older children and adults. They are, in a very literal way, absorbing information raw, unhampered by the processing and reason of a more mature brain.

Expecting young children to have the maturity and self-control to overcome this God-given survival instinct is unrealistic. Threatening, punishing, or even reasoning with them while their higher brain functions are suppressed is futile and actually just adds more stress to the situation (more stress = fuel on the tantrum-fire!).

What they really need is help…

·                     First, help coping with their big emotions

·                     Then, help reconnecting with their source of safety and security (you!)

·                     And last, help processing the problem that sent them into a maelstrom of emotion in the first place.

Punishing them, yelling at them, sending them to their room, or putting them in time-out disconnects them even further from their source of security and not only delays a resolution of the issue, but misses an opportunity to equip them with the tools they need to handle future problems.

This is where the Three C’s of gentle discipline come into play.


·                     Remaining present and supportive until they are able to calm down enough to accept your help

·                     Drawing them close when they’re ready (time-in)


·                     Validating their emotions by labeling them and empathizing (i.e. “You’re sad because we have to leave the park. I’m sad, too. The park is fun!”)

·                     Offering words to help them express their frustrations using reflective language (i.e. “It’s hard to do things we don’t like, isn’t it?”)


·                     Helping them move on by redirecting their attention to the future (i.e. “When we get home we’re going to make a snack. Would you like grapes or bananas today?”)

·                     Modeling coping skills and self-control by calming your own reaction to their meltdown and helping them process their big emotions

These are all ways of reconnecting with your toddler or preschooler to help them successfully navigate their present difficulty as well as to cope with difficulties they’re confronted with in the future.

One effective tool for use in helping little ones cope with big emotions is a Calm-Me-Jar made from small, round, plastic bottles such as AquapodTM water bottles. They are perfect for small hands to shake and manhandle to their heart’s content.

To make your own Calm-Me-Jar, fill up a plastic water bottle with warm water and basic craft glitter glue in whatever color you like. You can add some extra glitter and a drop of food coloring to customize your glitter jar to your child’s tastes, and then when you have the look you want, be sure to hot glue the top on to prevent spills.

When my little ones have meltdowns, or, if I can catch it, before they reach that point, I pull out one of the Calm-Me-Jars and shake it up and just let them hold it while I hold them (when they are ready to be held) and talk or sing quietly. When I feel their body relaxing and their breathing slow down, I might say something like, “It’s sad when we can’t have a toy, isn’t it?” or whatever else will reflect what they seem to be unable to express.

When an older preschooler or early elementary-aged child has a meltdown, or, again, before if I can catch it, I first connect, “I’m here. I can see you’re upset. How can I help?” and listen as they try to verbalize their feelings. If they’re having trouble with the words, instead of immediately supplying the words for them, I’ll offer them a Calm-Me-Jar and ask if they’d like to show me how they’re feeling. They will often shake the Calm-Me-Jar vigorously while jumping up and down and twisting all around, which is a great physical outlet for their intense feelings. I watch until I see their movements slowing and their breathing evening out, and when they’ve calmed just enough to hear me, I quietly talk them through the calming process, “Look at all that fairy dust bouncing around like crazy! I bet that’s how it feels inside when you’re so upset. Look at how it’s starting to slow down and settle to the bottom. If we breathe really slowly, we can feel ourselves settling like the fairy dust. Want to try it with me?” Then, if there are any behavior issues we need to address, we’ll work through those afterward when they’re calm, connected, and capable of interacting and understanding.

Here’s an example of how Calm-Me-Jars are helpful in ‘listening between the lines’ to my children’s behavior so I can meet them where they are and help them process their big feelings:

My five-year-old is a tiny girl with BIG emotions, and she really likes using Calm-Me-Jars to work through her feelings. We’ve put several together such as a silvery one she named Goodnight Moon, a light blue one she named Nemo Under the Sea, a pink one she named Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina, and a dark blue one she named Starry, Starry Night. When she is mad at one of her siblings, she’ll often bring me one of her Calm-Me-Jars (Goodnight Moon is a favorite in the evening!) and work out some of her upset physically by shaking the jar like crazy while she jumps up and down and tells me how mad she is. When she’s a bit calmer, we’ll have a little cuddle and watch the glitter settle while saying goodnight to the moon, all the furniture, and whatever other silliness we come up with until she’s calm. If there’s a discipline issue or she needs some help working things out with a sibling, we’ll work through it at that point because I know that’s when she can hear me and really process what I’m saying. If she chooses Starry, Starry Night we might sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or step outside and see if there are any stars out yet. If she decides on Hello Kitty Princess Ballerina she’ll often dance her frustrations away while shaking her Calm-Me-Jar. And if she picks out Nemo Under the Sea we’ll ‘speak whale’ like Dory from Finding Nemo or we’ll make fishy faces at each other until we’re both giggling.

As you can see, my feisty little girl’s choice of Calm-Me-Jar shows me what she needs to do to work through her emotions of the moment, whether it’s to act things out physically in acceptable ways or to connect through song or through silliness.

The key is being in tune with your little one enough to understand their personality and work with it instead of against it. My five-year-old is spunky and silly, so having a long, serious talk would drive her crazy and accomplish nothing. We quickly decide together how she’ll approach whatever the problem was the next time she encounters it, and then she’s ready to move on, whereas when some of my older ones were little they really liked to talk things through (and still do!). My toddler, on the other hand, doesn’t have tantrums because that simply isn’t part of her own unique personality, but she’s still fascinated by her Calm-Me-Jar and loves to sit with me and watch the “pintess faywe dut” (“princess fairy dust”) glitter settle when she’s feeling a bit cranky or out-of-sorts.

Remember, there is no cure for tantrums because they are simply a normal result of a normal developmental stage of childhood. Trying to avoid tantrum triggers (tiredness, hunger, overstimulation, etc.) is always a good first step, along with remaining in-tune, responsive, and available, but when all else fails and a tantrum does occur, reacting with an adult tantrum is tantamount to throwing fuel on a toddler-tantrum-fire. So instead of losing it when your little one loses it, take an adult time-out, breathe deeply to gain control of your own emotions, and then grab the Three C’s of gentle discipline from your parenting toolbox and work with your child, not against them.

“Reactors react to a crisis with a meltdown. Responders respond to a crisis with help. To raise a mature, stable adult, be a first responder, not a nuclear reactor!” ~ L.R.Knost

Curriculum Update:

The Five Senses: Smell

            The children’s noses were on high alert this week! We made goop that smelled like cinnamon that the children made “pancakes” with. The children glued all different spices such as nutmeg, oregano, cinnamon, onion powder, and basil to paper. Next the children made cloud dough (cornstarch and conditioner) for the sensory table, they have been making “cupcakes” and all sorts of food with the scented dough. The children became little chefs when we made playdough and added pinches of different teas and spices, the children then kneaded the dough and mixed in all the spices. The children also painted with flowers. The noses were on full overload this week! Ask your child about all the fun smells they liked and disliked!

Next Week: The Five Senses: Sound  

Have a great weekend!

Deb, Mariellen, Margaret

Room 122 Red Newsletter February 12, 2016

Did You Know?

In addition to our being licensed by DCFS and accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), we hold the honor of having achieved the Gold Standard of Quality in ExceleRate Illinois, our State’s new rating system.



Room Announcements

Dance Class: We will have dance class Thursday at 10:15 with Ms. Cheryl.

Goodbye: Troy will be leaving us this week. We are very sad to see him go! Please wish him and his family goodbye! We will miss him!!

COLOR DAYS!: Each day we will do a different color! Monday is favorite color day! Please keep an eye on the signs by the door to see which color is next!!



Community Happenings

Pets Unleashed: Chicago Children’s Museum



Tip of the Week

My Toddler’s A Monster! What Happened?

by Tovah Klein

I’ve heard a wide range of parenting concerns, worries and questions over the years. Common themes arise again and again, in different forms but with similar challenges. I’ll address something parents of toddlers are all familiar with: erratic behavior—you know, when your child suddenly starts acting like a monster that you cannot control.
 I recently received this email from a frustrated and worried couple: “Our 4 year old son is a happy, talkative, sweet little boy. But, in the past two months he has become a surly, easily upset kid. He gets mad, screams, yells and makes outrageous demands including that one of us do everything for him in no time. He has changed… and we are missing the child he used to be and are not sure if we should be worried. Is something wrong? And how do we help him?”
When I questioned further, the parents agreed that yes, he still had his ‘sweet side’, but this other side of him appeared ‘out of the blue’ and was becoming intolerable. They worried that his personality had changed. I hear this often, parents worried that their child has an altered personality that is now their ‘true’ way of being.
These situations worry parents greatly and I understand why. No one wants to be around a whining, demanding child. And thinking this is who your child will be forevermore is a frightful proposition. After all, you don’t want the sassy, demanding little person to be a permanent fixture in your household.
Let’s take a look at this behavior from your child’s point of view to help you better understand what is going on with her up and down moods and how best to handle them. Two things are happening at this stage of toddler development. 
1) Your child’s growing independence means he has his own ideas and desires separate from yours. And guess what? He wants you to listen and go along with his desires. When our children discover that their own ideas and wishes of the moment are not necessarily in synch with mommy or daddy’s ideas, they can become frustrated. The seemingly smallest moment can trigger them. And when they realize their limited skills can’t accomplish their goals, from completing a puzzle to reaching the crackers on the shelf they can become even more enraged. Their heightened emotions easily turn into bossy, often unreasonable demands. Your child feels out of control and seeks to regain it by any means possible.
2) In addition, their brains are still new, under-developed and growing. The parts of their brain that will eventually be wired to handle and control emotions, think logically and act reasonably are developing gradually but slowly during the toddler years. The brain’s pre-frontal cortex has a long way to go before it will be fully intact (until their early-20’s), so when your child becomes frustrated or emotionally charged in some way, he will show it (rather than handling it reasonably as we hope she will one day).
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: Don’t panic. Your child gets overwhelmed and needs you to stay steady. And I assure you it won’t last forever. Your child can still be the same lovely person, now blossoming in a new way.
I remember thinking at one point during my own toddler years that my son was becoming so obnoxious that he’d never have any friends. He was a mini-dictator at home. “I need this now!” “I don’t have to listen to you!” I forced myself to take a step back and remember how little he was, that he was the youngest of three children and that his behavior at home was likely much different from how he interacted with his friends or teachers at school.
Stay calm and keep your responses light. I know this can be hard, but when you respond in a reasonable manner, your child learns over time how to be reasonable, too.  When our children yell or act irrationally, it is easy for us to take it personally and get pulled into the toddler vortex. Instead, do all you can to stay calm, recognizing their frustration for what it is, “I hear how badly you want to go outside. I wish we could right now. After lunch, we will." Use a tone that conveys you truly understand and hear them (toddlers know when we are insincere). If you can’t meet their desire, that is okay. Genuinely recognizing their wants and needs is what’s most important.
Label emotions. You’ve likely heard me say this before, but it’s important to reiterate. Children learn to handle their emotions by having them validated. You do this every time you put a name to their feelings, “That is so, so frustrating! Puzzles are hard to do, how frustrating.” Naming the feeling won’t necessarily stop their frustration, but letting them know you understand what they’re feeling helps your child learn to handle the emotion better over time. Allowing and recognizing negative and hard feelings fosters their resilience.
Allow some control. Children feel safest when they know the grown ups are in control and yet, they want some for themselves. Find ways to give your toddler a sense of control and you will discover that their demands become less intense. During mealtimes, for example, let your child choose which cup to use- blue or red? Leaving the house? Ask your child which pair of shoes he wants to wear (out of 2, no more) and invite her to pack a bag with 1-2 toys of her choosing. Simple choices let your child feel in control while feeding their desire for independence at this age.
Finally, as I remind every parent, this phase won’t last forever. This was the mantra I used for myself during my own years of raising toddlers; and it helps with teenagers, too!



Curriculum Update:

Light and Dark

In our last week on light and dark we explored more neon colors and how colors change from light to dark. We created neon ice paint with water and paint that we put in the freezer. The children had a great time painting with the ice and then watching it glow once we put the black light over it. It was so fun to see the children’s reactions when they realized that not only did the paint put color on the paper but it also glowed!! We also painted with toilet brushes using different colors mixed with white or black. The children observed that when a color was mixed with black it became darker and when it was mixed with white it became lighter.

Next Week: Colors  

Have a great weekend!

Deb, Mariellen, Margaret