Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Behavior is like an Iceberg...What's it REALLY saying to you?

Pop Quiz: 
You take a four year old to the zoo and he begins to have a complete meltdown.
Do you:
a. Take him to the bathroom and spank him?
b. Tell him that if he calms down you will let him play in the water park?
c. Distract him with food or looking at some more animals?
d. Yell at him and tell him how miserable he is and how he is ruining this trip for everyone and if he doesn't stop you're going to LEAVE!!!
e.  Breathe with him and acknowledge these difficult feelings and use them to guide you in your next appropriate step?  
When a child is having a meltdown or giving you fits about are you able to see it from their point of view and understand the message of the behavior or do you just want the misbehavior the STOP. 
One of the key components in helping children change their behavior is seeing it from their point of view.  What message is their behavior really sending and how can we use that to be of the most help? 
I saw an image similar to this one going around the internet several months ago.  I found it very helpful in reminding me that all behavior comes from an internal state.  Once we understand that, we can better guide children in the skills of self-regulation and managing their emotional mayhem.  I made a few "tweaks" to the original graphic to make it line up better with what we teach in Conscious Discipline.  I hope you find it helpful as you remember that if you only look at what you "see" and try to make it stop you're going to run into some problems and we ALL know how that went for the Titanic!!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Setting and Reaching Goals

This quote from Stephen Covey goes along with our post from yesterday.  If you don't know where you're going how are you going to get there?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Helping Children Reach Their Goals

I am such a geek when it comes to professional development!!!  I absolutely LOVE TO LEARN!!!  Something really BIG happened for me last week!!!

I reached a BIG goal!!!  It has been a life dream of mine to be able to share my passion for teaching and learning on the national platform.  Last week that dream came true when I presented at the  NAEYC Conference in Dallas, Texas.  Lindy McDaniel from Considerate Classroom was my co-presenter and I was thrilled to have such a talented friend along side me all the way through this experience!  I could not have done it by myself! 

Lindy's blog is like the MECA of Early Childhood Special Education!!!  If you haven't checked it out already GO THERE NOW!!!!  She is AMAZING!!!  When others think there is NO way to help a child with special needs she says, "YES THERE IS"!!!  She will help you find a way with all her free videos and printable downloads.  She has such a giving heart!

Our presentation at NAEYC focused on helping children reach their goals and creating an optimal learning environment.  We shared many ideas for focusing on WHAT YOU WANT and then figuring out the steps for getting there.  You cannot change behavior by focusing on what you DON'T want!

Using a School Family Agreement is a great way to create a safe learning environment and teach children how to set and reach goals at school.  These are the guidelines we use as a School Family to help us know how to interact safely with one another on a daily basis.  Here is an excellent example of a School Family Agreement from a preschool classroom I visited recently.  
Notice how clear and specific the each statement is.  There are also appropriate pictures to show children what you WANT them TO DO.  This teacher set her class up for success by making this into a ritual that they did together every day as they continued to practice how to reach each of these goals!
She has this special basket that contains the names of all her "treasures" (her students).  She calls each child up to commit to keeping the School Family safe by placing their name on the Safekeeper Board near the commitments.  She is brilliantly aiming her attention as well as the attention of her students on what she WANTS them TO DO!  (I may or may not have gotten a little choked up when I witnessed the beauty of this ritual).  :)
Finally, here is one of my dear friends who is implementing Conscious Discipline in her Head Start Classroom.  She is absolutely brilliant and her passion for helping young children be their best just shines through!!!  She is sharing her class agreement which she has taught with rhythm and motions to help her children pick up the pattern, unite, and focus on moving in a positive direction!
By making commitments we are helping our children see that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.  We are also helping them discover that their teacher (the Safekeeper) is a safe conscious adult who owns their own upset, handles it appropriately, and can be trusted as a guide to come along side them whenever they need help. 
My week in Dallas wouldn't have been complete without the many treasured memories I created with my Conscious Discipline Family.  Dr. Becky Bailey and my dear friends have been that School Family for me and they have helped guide me as I move one step closer (with imperfect progress) toward becoming my best self!  I hope you'll join me!  Until next time, I wish you well!  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Peaceful Playground

I visit a lot of early childhood programs.  One of the most difficult environments in many programs is the playground.  The wide open spaces, less structure, and excitement can lead to conflict. 

Let's face it!  Teachers are just as excited about getting outside as the children are!!!  Many teachers see this as a time to relax and let the children play while they watch.  Although it is a very relaxed environment, there are many opportunities to help children learn self-regulation and social skills on the playground!

If you plan ahead and teach children the structures necessary to help them be safe on the playground you will make outside time much more enjoyable for everyone!!!

One essential tool for shutting off the stress response and helping children feel safe is VISUALS!  Before releasing children to play on the playground, make sure you take time to MAP out the playground expectations for everyone.  Model your expectation by acting it out yourself or having children role play for you.  Add pictures because pictures govern behavior for young children.  Practice with the children doing it the "right" way and notice them when they do!  When a child goes up the steps and down the slide say, "You did it!!!  You went up the steps and down the slide!  Way to go!!!"

Turn those visuals into a classroom book that can be referred to often!  If you would like a free copy of my playground book just follow this link!  Place it in your classroom library and pull it back out whenever you need a reminder of how to create a peaceful playground environment!  Until next time...I wish you well!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes

Who's ready to go back to school? 
Maybe I can help you get ready for school with another one of my favorite children's books! 

If you haven't already discovered the Pete the Cat books by Eric Litwin and James Dean you definitely need to check them out!  The adorable cat, predictable language, and rockin' songs are a favorite for children and adults alike!

I am sharing one of my personal favorites today, Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes.  It is a great back to school book that helps you teach many of your beginning of the year routines and procedures.  It also offers an opportunity to discuss the feelings children might have as they begin the new school year.  Children may find that they have a lot in common with Pete!  

I like to begin by using the free download of the author reading the story to the children.  I hold the book and turn the pages, but I let the author work his magic with the rhythm and song!  This way, each additional time we read the book, the children know the rhythm and they can sing along!

The story begins when Pete arrives at school on the bus.  After reading the story, we discuss the various ways that children come to school.  There are usually walkers, car riders, and bus riders.  The children use art materials to draw a picture and "write" about how they get to school.  They share their drawings and we compare this information by making a bar graph. 
Eventually, we turn their drawings into a class book about all the ways we come to school.  When you help children see how they are alike and appreciate their differences, you are building Unity among your students.  "We all come to school, but we may get here different ways."   
I also make arrangements with a bus driver to bring in a bus for us to tour and explore.  I have a Pete the Cat stuffed doll that went with us for the bus tour!

We had so much fun exploring the bus!  We covered language, math, motor, and social-emotional skills and had so much fun doing it! 

We made comparisons with the tires to see how BIG they are.  We discussed the colors, shapes, letters, and numbers on the bus.  The driver let us get on the bus and practice the procedures for being safe.  And of course the tour wouldn't be complete without a roaring rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus!"
When we arrived back in the classroom, we gave the children the supplies to make a "bus" for their snack.  They used Twinkies, mini Oreos, and some icing for glue.  Yes, it was full of sugar, but it was a special treat and we didn't do things like that very often!  Sometimes you have to splurge!  :)
To conclude our fun with Pete on the bus, we made a thank you card for the bus driver.  We used yellow paper to cut out the shape of a bus and added some tires and windows.  The children made thumbprints in the windows to represent themselves.  They added facial features and, of course, we added a little Pete the Cat to the bus as well! 
Remember, what you offer to others you strengthen in yourself.  Practicing an attitude of gratitude and appreciating the help of others, helps children feel appreciated.  Always take time to be thankful!
Follow this link to my previous Back to School with Pete the Cat post!  See you soon!!!  Until then, I wish you well!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?

The brain loves contrast.  Contrast helps the brain pick up patterns and focus attention.  At the beginning of the school year I spend about six weeks helping my students learn the patterns/routines and expectations of our classroom.  This enhances feelings of safety.

One of my favorite teaching tools during this time is  the book How Do Dinosaurs Go to School.  There are several other similar books in this series by Jane Yolan and Mark Teague.  They are so much fun!  Through the use of contrast and humor they teach valuable social-emotional lessons.  Follow the link below to learn more about this book and others!

After reading this story with the children we make a class book titled:  How do Preschoolers Go to School

By this point, all of the children know our classroom agreements.  They look something like this...

We repeat them day after day, we sing about them, and even include movements to help us remember the agreements to keep our classroom safe.

When we make the book, the preschoolers act out what it would look like if they were NOT doing these things.  We take pictures of each scene.  There is a picture of them fighting over toys, looking away while the teacher is reading a story, running through the classroom, and screaming and yelling.  Here is an example...

Looking away while the teacher reads a story.
Screaming and yelling while they play at the table.
They have an absolute blast making this book!  It is their chance to act naughty without any consequences.  They really ham it up!
Once we take pictures of what NOT to do.  We go back and take pictures of what TO DO.  Once all the pictures are printed we make them into a class book.
The beginning of the book says...
"How do preschoolers go to school?" 
"Do they run through the classroom and crash into walls?" 
"Do they scream and yell at the top of their lungs?" 
"Do they turn their back and not look at all?"
Then in the very middle of the book you put a big NO!!!!! 
The second half of the book illustrates how preschoolers go to school safely.
"They walk through the classroom and in the halls."
"They talk quietly with voices so small."
"They look at the teacher when she shows a book."
...And so on until you have included all of your class agreements in the book.  I like to end the book with a photo of our entire class including teachers and something like, "My job is to keep you safe, your job is to help keep it safe.  THAT'S how Preschoolers Go To School!" 
Picture rule cards are also helpful.  These are images that you post around the classroom, school, or home to show children two positive options and one that is not an option.  You can print images off of the internet or take photos.  Conscious Discipline also has a premade pack of Shubert's Picture Rule Cards that you can purchase. 

As in the example above, these images show children what you want them to do.  "You may clean up your workspace by yourself."  "You may clean up your workspace with a friend."  "You may not leave a messy workspace."

When a child has trouble remembering your classroom expectations, the first consequence is to choose again.  Send the child back to the pictures for a reminder and guide them in making a different choice. 

Self-regulation is a right brain job.  The right brain needs images to help govern behavior.  The best thing about images is that they don't get tired of reminding children what to do!  :)

Until next time, I wish you well!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Children's Books that Teach Self-Regulation

I LOVE really good children's books!  In fact, I might just have a little bit of an obsession!

I am one happy girl when I find a book that can help me teach self-regulation skills to children!  One of my favorites is Shubert is a S.T.A.R.

In this adorable story, Shubert comes to school in a very grumpy mood.  He hurts his friend and does several other things that are unsafe.  His brilliant teacher, Mrs. Bookbinder (a beautiful butterfly), floats across the room to help. 

With the guidance of Mrs. Bookbinder, Shubert learns some new skills.  His classmates help him turn "bug crazy mad" into "caterpillar calm".

This book is very helpful when teaching your children the four calming strategies that Dr. Becky Bailey has shared with us.  They are:  S.T.A.R., Drain, Balloon, and Pretzel.  You can get some free printables for your classroom or home on the Conscious Discipline website.  Just follow this link

Once we have finished reading the story I have children share what makes them "bug crazy mad".  We use this photo of Shubert to help us get started.

Children fill in the blank and then illustrate it.  "I feel bug crazy mad when _________________." 

There are many extension activities you could do with this book!  You could have children think about what they can do to help them feel caterpillar calm.  Some examples would be listening to music, taking a bath, writing in a journal, or exercising.  Some of these are strategies that work well for the "I choose" step in the Five Steps for Self-Regulation.

Look at this simple little caterpillar craft you could make.  Imagine taking one deep breath for each hump in the little critter's back!


You could also help children make this cute little caterpillar and bug snack!  You can find more information on Little Page Turners.

Shubert has a sister named Sophie!  Recently, Dr. Bailey released a board book titled:  Sophie is a STAR.  The skills in this book are similar to the Shubert book.  The language is much simpler as it is geared for infants, toddlers, and children with special needs.

What are some of your favorite children's books?  Could you use them to help teach children life skills?  Come back on Thursday!  I'll be sharing another one of my favorites! 

Until then, I wish you well!!!

photo credit: sean dreilinger via photopin cc

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five Steps for Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the number one skill necessary for children to be successful in school.  Did you know 40% of children enter school missing this essential skill?  Many adults struggle to teach self-regulation skills because it was never taught to them!  

I had the privilege of sharing a guest post over on Teach Preschool today about Dr. Becky Bailey’s book Managing Emotional Mayhem .  In her book, she shares the process for becoming BFF's with your own feelings.  This helps you guide children in doing the same.  Self-regulation is the ability regulate our thoughts, feelings, and actions so we can access higher levels of thinking.
In the post I shared the steps for getting started with your own self-regulation program:  Personal Awareness, Active Calming, and the DNA Process.  Now we continue the process with the Five Steps for Self-Regulation that are also shared in Dr. Bailey's book.

When coaching a child toward self-regulation, the first step is noticing they have been triggered.  Various things can trigger a child's upset.  It is helpful to be aware of your child's triggers.

When a child has been triggered, they are overcome with an emotion.  There is usually some physical indication that they are now in a Survival State.  Such behaviors include kicking, hitting, hiding, slamming doors, biting, spitting, or putting their head down.

Step 1:  I Am
Dr. Bailey wants us to recognize that it is no longer the child you are talking to.  Now you are talking to the feeling (ie: angry, scared, sad).  This is when the DNA process begins.  Move the child to a safe place in the classroom.  For infants, toddlers, and children with developmental delays you are their safe place.  You will hold the child on your chest or lap and begin to breathe with them.  Older children can be coached to use a self-regulation station that we refer to as a Safe Place.  We are very intentional about teaching children how to use the Safe Place appropriately.  For ideas about how to set up your Safe Place check out my Pinterest board.

Step 2:  I Calm

Now that the child is safe, you can use some of the Active Calming strategies that you have taught them in advance.  Dr. Bailey offers us four basic breathing techinques:  STAR, Balloon, Pretzel, and Drain Breathing.  There are free printables as well as instructions for each breathing technique on the Conscious Discipline website.

This is a video of one of my former students doing Balloon Breathing.  Give children plenty of opportunity to practice these skills.  It's like getting ready for the big game.  You wouldn't just send a soccer team out and expect them to win without practicing.  The same is true with breathing.  Children need to practice DEEP belly breathing so they are able to disengage the stress readily in moments of upset.  It takes three deep breaths to really shut off the stress response.  

Step 3:  I Feel

The next step in the self-regulation process is helping the child identify their feeling.  Young children under the age of eight don't have any internal speech.  By using the Feeling Buddies you offer children the opportunity to develop a helpful internal dialogue.  Dr. Bailey recommends that we begin with the four basic feelings happy, sad, angry, and scared.

Feel Chart

The language goes something like this:

  1. "Hello angry."
  2. "Welcome angry."
  3. "Your eyes are like this." (demonstrate)
  4. "Your mouth is like this." (demonstrate)
  5. "You seem angry."
  6. "You are safe."  (hold the buddy close)
  7. "Breathe with me." (take several deep breaths)

Acknowledging the child's emotions helps them bridge the gap from problems to solutions.  As you connect with the child, you are guiding them toward a higher brain state.  Now problem solving can occur.  By naming the feeling the child can begin to manage it.

Step 4:  I Choose

To continue the journey toward an optimal learning state we help the child make a choice.  Some ideas that may be offered as choices are writing in a journal, connecting rituals, friends and family photos, music, relaxation techniques, books, or calming cream.  Base these choices on the preference/needs of your children.

Step 5:  I Solve

This final step in the self-regulation process helps the child revisit the trigger and approach future difficulties with new life skills.  When we started this process, the child was in a Survival State.  Teaching and learning cannot occur when a child is in a Survival State.  This process helps us guide the child back to a regulated state so they are ready for teaching and moving forward with new skills.

Conflict Resolution Time Machine
There are five categories of solutions:

  1. Conflict resolution using the Time Machine Mat.
  2. Accept and manage your feelings.
  3. Learn a new skill.
  4. Structure the environment visually for success.
  5. Establish stronger connections.
At first, this process can seem very labor intensive.  You have to teach children each of the steps and coach them through the process.  The good news is that once you give them the practice and support they need, this is something they will carry with them throughout life.  

This process can seem like learning a foreign language.  Many of us were raised to ignore, dismiss, punish, or medicate our feelings instead of recognizing and managing them.  The Feeling Buddies Curriculum by Dr. Becky Bailey is a treasure trove of information and resources that leads you step by step through this process.  Its like a two for one.  As you guide your children, you also learn to manage your own emotions!  I highly recommend you check it out!!

Stay tuned for more ideas that will help you teach children how to self-regulate so they can be successful in school AND life!!!

Until next time, I wish you well!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day: Helping Children with Developmental Opposition

Happy Fourth of July!!!  I hope you are enjoying this time with family and friends!  What a great reminder every year to celebrate our freedom! 

One thing I think of when I consider Independence Day is the Conscious Discipline Power of Free Will.  This is one of the most difficult Powers for me to really practice.  I have a deep rooted belief that if I go about it right I can still make others do what I want.

Don't we all wish sometimes that children would just cooperate?  We want them to do as we say without complaint.  I shared a post on Prek and K Sharing today about how to help children by offering Two Positive Choices.  BUT I bet we all know that child.  You know, the one that for some reason challenges you beyond your skill level.

This is the child that when given choice A or B chooses C.  Dr. Becky Bailey describes several reasons why this child may be so resistant and gives us some strategies to help us address their needs.  Over the next week I will describe the characteristics of several different types of opposition.  Today we are going to discuss Developmental Opposition and the Parroting Technique. 

Developmental Opposition
  • Individuation separation is a child's journey toward self-hood.  It transforms a helpless, dependent infant into a person with a unique identity.  Any assertive stance from an adult prompts the child to react with the opposite behavior. 
Help a child that is resistant for developmental reason by using the following strategies:
    • Avoid a power struggle by taking a deep breath, become conscious of your thoughts, and  focus on what you want the child to do.
    • Now that you are composed, choose to rely on the Power of Free Will rather than coercion to solve the problem.  Coercion is the problem, not the solution.
    • Use the parroting technique as demonstrated in the picture below.

When you use the parroting technique there are a few things to remember:

1. You must stay calm.  As you continue to repeat the choices remember to breathe.  The child may continue pushing you and attempt to engage in a power struggle.  Keep breathing.

2. If the child downshifts and becomes physically aggressive it is time to offer assertive commands and active calming strategies.  You cannot offer choices to a child in a Survival State.

3. Although you may need to leave the blocks on the floor for a few more minutes while the child calms down be sure to follow through with having her clean up when she returns.  Once the blocks are cleaned up celebrate her accomplishments with her.

You can learn more about opposition by tuning back in next week.  We will explore other types of resistance and share strategies about what you can do to help! 

photo credit: <a href="">_Hadock_</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

One Word 2014

Speaking of commitments, it's been exactly six months since we began our One Word journey. 

How are you doing on your goals and resolutions you set for yourself this not so new year?

Do you even remember what your goals were this year? 

As I shared in my post "Becoming Your Best Self:  One Word" my family members and I each decided to choose one word that we are focusing on throughout the year. 

These paintings are a reminder for us daily to focus on challenging ourselves to reach our goals.  It has been so cool to see this process take on a life of its own in each person's daily experience.   

As I shared in January, my one word is CLARITY.

I thought I really had a good idea about what I needed clarity on this year.  Isn't it interesting sometimes how what we think will go one way ends up going in a totally different direction!

God had different plans than I did!
I have found clarity in so many ways that have been meaningful for me both personally and professionally. 

So, my question for you is this...

If you chose a word for the year how is it going?  What is your word and how are you focusing on that word this year?

Maybe you sort of got busy and stressed and haven't really been very goal focused so far this year.  No worries!  You still have six more months before the year is over and that is plenty of time to make a change!

Why wait?  Start today!  Make this the best year yet!

To learn more about One Word by Jon Gordon, check out the link below.  (affiliate post)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are You Willing?

Last week I had the opportunity to join Loving Guidance Associate, Karen Hickman, for a two day Conscious Discipline training here in Indiana.  Over 100 people from around the state were empowered by her messages and the opportunity to learn how to help children learn from the consequences of their behavior.

Each day she challenged us to make a group commitment as well as a personal commitment.  Making commitments help us set ourselves as well as our children up for success! 

On day two of our workshop Karen asked the question "are you willing?"    She pointed out how often we say yes or no to things without really thinking through the consequences of that choice. 

Immediately, I thought about all the times I've said no to my own children before even thinking through what I was saying.

For example, I might say no to having a snack without thinking about the fact that they may really be hungry or have another need that is unmet.  You know how that goes.  As soon as you say no the whining ensues.  "But I'm huuuuuunnnnnngggggrrrrry!"  They cry.

Before you know it, I give in and let them have a snack and don't stick to the limit I initially set.   This can create a very unhealthy pattern for them AND me!

Perhaps if I'd slow down and pause when they ask for the snack and think about whether or not they really could need something to eat, I would consciously make a decision about it instead of answering while on autopilot.   

As I plan for the coming week, I am going to slow down and pause before making decisions.  I am going to intentionally ask myself, "Am I willing?" instead of getting myself into something and then later beating myself up about it and feeling disappointed or angry because of unmet expectations. 

So, my question for you is are you willing to slow down and put a pause in place before making a commitment?  Are you willing to take a deep breath and reflect instead of reacting out of the lower centers of your brain and saying or doing something you are later going to feel guilty about?

What are you willing to do this week to help set you and your children up for success?  Hope you'll join me in committing to putting in that pause and living life intentionally so you and your children can experience more joy and happiness in this journey!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Creating a School Family: Organizing Center Time

I have observed that many teacher have good intentions and want to allow children to have a choice about where they want to play and when.  Unfortunately, if it isn't managed well, free choice time can turn into chaos and the anxiety in the room goes through the roof.   

I get the opportunity to visit many classrooms when I am coaching.  I always keep my camera handy so I can snap shots of brilliance in action!  Recently, I found two new ideas for managing Center Time that I would love to share with you!  These ideas would work best with children that are preschool age and older. 

This first idea comes from a Head Start Classroom in my community.  At each center in the classroom, the teacher has posted a simple poster like the one shown above.  She added photos from school supply catalogs to help the children have a visual support along with written label for each center.  The bear cutouts give the children a visual reminder for how many children may play safely at each center.  When children arrive at the center, they hang their individualized bear on one of the spaces provided.  What a simple and easy way to add safety and predictability to your center time!

Speaking of simple, it doesn't get much simpler than this next idea!  I came across this fabulous and super super easy idea at the same Head Start, but in a different classroom.  You will flip when you see how easy it can be to kick your center management up a notch!

This teacher has a baggie with hair ties in it.  Yes, you heard that right, HAIR TIES!  When it is time for centers the teacher lays out the correct number of bands for each center.  So, if the yellow center is allowed to have four children, then she lays out four yellow bands. When the children choose their center they put the band around their wrist to help others know where they're going.  If they want to change centers they simply go over change colors and move to the center of their choice. 

The teacher spends time at the beginning of the year teaching the children which color represents each center.  She practices it with them and sets them (and her) up for success!  You could also hang some sort of colored symbol in each center to remind children of the color for each center if you choose.  What a great visual and tactile way to manage centers! It just doesn't get any easier than this!

Remember, our goal in center time is for children to be engaged in learning activities that increase social, motor, and cognitive skills, as well as language development through play.  Lack of structure at Center Time creates an atmosphere of stress for children.  When children are stressed learning will not occur.  By adding just a few little structures such as the ones shared above you can soothe the lower centers of the brain, help children feel safe and ready to learn!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hot Chocolate Connecting Activities that will Warm Your Heart

Does hot chocolate take you back to memories of your childhood like it does me?  I remember my mom getting out that dented little pan to warm up some milk and make some steamy hot chocolate for us on those cold winter days.  She warmed the milk oh so carefully so it wouldn't burn.  Then she would squeeze in just enough chocolate to give it taste and if we had some on hand we always added marshmallows! 

One of the best things about hot chocolate is the way if feels in your hands!  Heck!  Half of the experience is just holding the mug and sniffing that rich chocolaty aroma!

I am sharing a sweet little connecting activity with you today that I hope will help you create some warm memories that you will look back on some day with your children and perhaps even carry on for the next generation.

You might like to do this activity with your little ones just before bed or when they get home from school to allow them some time to melt into the warmth of their relationship with you and experience a deep sense of connection and safety.  This activity could be easily adapted for use in the classroom with individual students or as a connecting activity for your class as a whole in your Brain Smart Start.

However you decide to do this activity, remember that it is important that it include eye contact, touch, presence, and playfulness.  Don't get too caught up in the words or motions, enjoy the time with your child, relax and be present

Here are the steps to doing the activity:
  1. Hold your child in your lap.
  2. Form the shape of a pot with your child's arms.
  3. Pretend to pour milk into the "pot".
  4. Holding your child's hands make a stirring motion with your arms as if you are stirring the milk with a big wooden spoon.
  5. Squeeze your child's arms, hands, legs, or feet to pretend that it is the chocolate syrup squeezing it into the pot.
  6. Gently poke your child's tummy or cheeks as you add the "marshmallows".
  7. Wrap your arms snug around your child and give a hug.
  8. Last, but not least, drink up that yummy hot chocolate as you enjoy smiles and giggles all around!
This poster for this song can be found here.  You can print it out for free!!!

If you are interested in more developmentally appropriate activities that include hot chocolate be sure to check out my post over on Pre-K and K Sharing.  There is another free printable over there that will help you teach your children to take that deep calming breath when they are feeling upset and need to relax.

Go ahead, grab a cup of hot cocoa, print out the poster and put it up on the fridge so you are ready to snuggle in close with your little ones.  This is one connecting activity that is sure to warm your hearts!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Time to Hibernate it's Snowpocalypse 2014!!!

If a foot of snow wasn't enough to make use want to hibernate then the cold temps that are settling in across the Hoosier State sure will!  Here in Indiana, we are experiencing some record snow fall along with temperatures that haven't been seen in nearly a hundred years if EVER!

Since the Hoosier State is setting weather records, some of my Hoosier Blogging Friends thought maybe we'd set our own record with a first ever Teachers Pay Teacher Snowpocalypse Dollar Sale too! 

In celebration of Snowpocalypse 2014 several of us are offering products in our stores for JUST $1.00 on Monday and Tuesday, January 6th and 7th only!

"There's SNOW better way to spend a day than with a $1 Sale!"
I am featuring three products that relate to the theme of HIBERNATION!  So, put on an extra layer of clothes, snuggle down in your warm blankets, and grab a cup of coffee and start shopping!
 January is welcome month to teach children about what animals do in winter.  Why not teach them about kindness too with this book that is patterned after Brown Bear, Brown Bear!!!

Help little ones get ready for bed with this handy routine book that is great for creating a safe and predictable bedtime routine!  This book can be put in a small photo album or you can bind it yourself.  The compact size and practical use is great for Grandma's house too!

This is another great tool for the bedtime routine!  This checklist is offered in several colors that you can put in a frame or laminate and hang on the wall as a visual reminder of the bedtime routine!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Becoming Your Best Self: One Word


I am so excited about the New Year!  With the New Year comes prospects of so many good things.  We get to choose our outlook on the New Year and I'm choosing to focus on "Becoming My Best Self" in 2014!  I'm going to DARE to use my SUPER POWERS and rely closely on the PEOPLE around me so it will be the best year yet!
I've been reading the book One Word that Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon.  Jon says that four out of five people never keep their New Year's resolutions and that half of the people have given up by the end of January.  I've never been a big fan of making resolutions for that very reason!  Why set yourself up for failure?  I decided to give ONE WORD a try. 

Jon shares three simple steps for choosing your ONE WORD:

Look in:  Set aside some time that is free from distractions and ask yourself some questions about where you've been and where you want to go in the coming year in all aspects of your life:  physically, financially, socially, mentally, and spiritually.

Look up:  Spend some time in prayer and ask God to help you find the word that will help you become the person He wants you to be.

Look out:  Once you've discovered your word it is time to live it out.  As Jon says, "This is where the rubber meets the road."

Jon encourages you to share your word with your inner circle and put some structures in place to help guarantee your success.  Find some people in your life that can help hold you accountable and who can cheer you on throughout the year!  He also suggests that you take pictures or find a creative way to display your word in a painting, photo, or other visible way so you see it frequently and stay focused.

I was sharing what I had read about ONE WORD with my family last week during our family meeting.  They were very interested in joining me in the process.  I am so excited that they will be doing this with me and it was super cool getting to go through the process of choosing their word with them. 

I want to share a couple of ideas of what I did to help my children who are 10 and 12 years old choose their words even though they have not read the book and didn't fully understand the concept at first.  Here is the process we went through:

1.  Start where they are:  I reminded my children of the movie the Polar Express.  In the beginning of the movie each child is given a different word on their train ticket, but they only get half of the word.  Your curiosity is peaked as you wonder throughout the movie what their word will be.  Each child's word is finally revealed toward the end of the movie.  Now that you know the characters better you fully understand why they got the word they did. (Lead, learn, believe, etc.)  I told my children that the One Word process was similar.  Each person gets a word that is unique to them. 

2.  Help them reflect with guiding questions:  I found a helpful printable by Mique over at her blog called "Thirty Handmade Days".  I printed one out for each of my kids and we sat down and reflected on their answers. They answered questions about what they learned in 2013, what they want to learn in 2014, and what goals they have for the year ahead.

3.  Look at pictures online of words other people have chosen and how they have displayed them.  It was really helpful for the kids to see that there are schools, sports teams, businesses, and families all over the world doing this with us!  It really inspired them!

4.  Make a list with each child of possible words they could choose.  This was mostly a brain storming session that just helped get everyone thinking.

5.  Give them some time to think.  I gave the kids some time and space to reflect on their list of words and see what jumps out at them.  I also suggested that they chat with other family members about their thoughts and get guidance and input from various sources.  Within 24 hours they were both confident about the words they'd chosen.

We are going to do a family project this weekend to help us display our words, but we haven't decided what we want to do yet.  We'll see what we come up with and post pictures of that later!

I thought you might like to see what words we chose so you can be a part of our journey this year.  We would love for you to share your words with us in the comments below so we can encourage one another and become our best selves together!

Back in June I left my full time job to have more time to focus on my family, building my business, and blogging.  I have struggled in the months since trying to get into a regular routine.  I was a teacher for 18 years.  There was always someone else giving me the structure I needed to be successful as a teacher.  They told me when to come, what to teach, and how.  With that in place, my creativity was at it's max!  Without those structures, my creativity and composure flew out the window! 

So, as I started considering my word, "routine" was at the top of the list.  There were a couple of other words that kept flying around in my head as well and I just couldn't pick one.  I kept thinking to myself, "I wish I had more clarity on my word."  Finally, I decided to ask for some help and someone suggested the word CLARITY.  HA!  That's it!!!  That's exactly the word for me! 

As I seek to be my best self, I need clarity!  That's the intent behind being Assertive.  An assertive person sets clear limits for themselves and the people around them.  In order to be assertive though, I need better vision for where I'm going and how I'm going to get there.  Without a clear vision it is as if you are walking around in a fog just being blown by each whim that comes your way.  In order to be my best self I need to clarify my goals and put some limits in place for myself and for my family that will help get where I want to go.

Here are the words for the rest of my family.  (My son was sleeping so we will add his tomorrow).  They each have their own story for why their word is important to them and how they hope it will change their lives in 2014.

We hope you will join us in this journey to become our best selves.  It's not about the destination, it's about the journey!  What is your ONE WORD?