Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sensitive Children

I meet a lot of sensitive children and in many ways, in varying degrees, all young children are sensitive. They are just developing ways of processing what comes to them that allows them to digest what they ingest. Particularly with the highly sensitive child, it seems that the world penetrates too deeply and affects them profoundly. In this way, they are like the canaries in the cage that signal to us that something needs to be adjusted. The sensitive child tends to be demonstrative in expressing discomfort or indigestion and they either retreat inwardly or act out, bringing valuable information to the surrounding adults. What is essential for the sensitive child is a conscious sensory environment and care; these are components of programs that serve all children.
Parents of sensitive children may be sensitive souls themselves and they can be at a loss for what to do to help their child thrive. The child's discomfort might trigger parental discomfort which can then further add to the challenge. Many parents of sensitive children choose the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center. They notice the sensory input is less, not more, and it is easier to integrate (or to continue the metaphor above, to digest). Like digestible food, the sensory information can be assimilated and become a part of the child or let go of, rather than causing a belly-ache or other symptoms. According to Dr. Elaine Aron, researcher on sensitivity, it is primarily the adult response that decides whether the expression of sensitivity will be an advantage or a source of anxiety for children.
Maureen Healy, author of Growing Happier Kids and the website, "Highly Sensitive Kids.com" has these suggestions which align with the general approach to early childhood development that we use at the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center:
1. Accept, rather than seek to change your child; embrace your child's uniqueness.
2. See sensitivity as a gift even if the child is withdrawn or cries a lot. Sensitivity characterizes many artists, innovators, prodigies and great thinkers.
3. Partner up. Let your child experience your guidance as helpful, teaching him or her how to cope with triggers.
4. Focus on your child's strengths. Remember what your child does well when your child is overwhelmed, emotional, shy or picky about clothes, food, etc.
5. Create calmness. Begin with yourself. Give your child something to imitate and create a calming area in the house where the sensory information is soothing.
6. Instill inner discipline. Rhythms help. Clear boundaries set with respect help. Clarity helps the child learn.
7. Connect with peers. Find children that can engage with your child in ways that nurture your child's strengths.
According to Maureen Healy, "Sensitive children need especially good role models because they are learning to use their incredible gifts in a world that sometimes does not value their inherent worth."
We know otherwise. All children bring gifts and lessons; we do our best to meet them where they are, give them what they need and celebrate their growth.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How Can you Support your Child at the Rose Garden?

What can a Rose Garden parent do to support your child?

Once you have chosen the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center as the place for your child to learn and grow, a big decision has been made.  The next question is: how can I support my child’s learning and development at the Rose Garden?  You have probably heard it said in regards to child rearing that “it takes a village”, but I think there is more to this adage. That is, “it takes a village that is in agreement about how to support child development”.


The Rose Garden is a representative LifeWays site, so we are guided by the LifeWays principles in our practices. These are the LifeWays principles:

1.    Young children thrive in the presence of parents and other devoted caregivers who enjoy life and caring for children. They learn primarily through imitation/empathy and therefore need to be cared for by people with integrity and warmth who are worthy of being imitated.  This is the foundation for learning and healthy development.  

2.    Having consistent caregivers, especially from birth to three years old and, preferably, up to primary school age, is essential for establishing a sense of trust and well-being.

3.    Children need relationship with people of all ages. Infants and toddlers thrive in family-style blended-age care, while older children see nurturing modeled by the adults and experience their own place in the continuum of growing up.  Children of all ages can both give and receive special blessing when in the company of elders and youth who enjoy children.  

4.    Each person is uniquely valuable, gifted with purpose and worthy of respect throughout all phases of his or her life’s journey.

5.    Human relationship and activity are the essential tools for teaching the young child all foundational skills for life.   Infants and toddlers develop most healthily when allowed to have freedom of movement in a safe environment.   For three- to six-year-olds, creative play, not technology or early academics, forms the best foundation for school work and for life-long learning.

6.    In infancy and early childhood, daily life experience is the “curriculum.”  The child’s relationships to the caregivers and to the environment are the two most important aspects through which the child can experience healthy life rhythms/routines.  These include the “nurturing arts” of rest and play, regular meal times, exploring nature, practical/domestic activities, social creativity, music and simple artistic activities.

7.    Young children thrive in a home or home-like environment that offers beauty, comfort and security, and connection to the living world of nature.  Healthy sense development is fostered when most of their clothing and playthings are of non-synthetic materials and their toys allow for open-ended, imaginative play.

8.    Childhood is a valid and authentic time unto itself and not just a preparation for schooling.   Skipping or hurrying developmental phases can undermine a child’s healthy and balanced development.  

9.    Parents of young children need and deserve support in their path of parenting—from professionals, family, and one another. They thrive in a setting where they are loved, respected and helped to feel love and understanding for their children.

10. Caregivers also have an intrinsic purpose and need to be recognized and appropriately compensated for the value of their work. They need an environment where they can create an atmosphere of “home,” build true relationship to the children, and feel autonomous and appreciated.


Knowing our guiding principles, you might ask what you can do to assist your child in being prepared and ready to reap the benefits of our program.  Although child rearing practices have changed, children have not. What we once intuitively knew and passed along from generation to generation, has been questioned by our culture and then studied and subsequently scientifically proven to be true. These suggestions appear simple yet their impact on a child’s well- being is profound.


These are what you can provide to support your child at the Rose Garden:

Sufficient sleep: According to sleep experts, toddlers need eleven to fourteen hours of sleep a night and preschoolers need ten to thirteen hours of sleep a night.

Nutrition: Children need to eat every few hours in order to maintain their active lifestyles. At the Rose Garden, they eat a morning snack around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m., lunch around noon and then an afternoon snack after lunch around 3:30 p.m.. It’s best if they have something in their stomachs when they arrive in the morning.

Rhythms: Children live in the moment and do not know what day or time it is, so they rely on the adults to show them the way in regards to bedtime, mealtime and clothing choices. If mornings at home are predictable, children will gain security in the rhythms of the day and learn them quickly. Then when they arrive at the Rose Garden, they will begin the day with a strong, secure foundation.

Proper clothing: Children not only do not know the weather forecast, but they are not adept at reading their own thermostats. Asking a child if she is cold, is likely to produce an affirmative answer so she does not have to stop playing to put on a jacket (that is even a child whose lips are blue from the cold), so it is up to the adults to determine weather-appropriate clothing to protect your child from the elements.


Many thanks for your support!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Transitions with Young Children

Transitions. Passages. Good-bye and hello. How do we negotiate them with young children? Begin with the awareness that they can be difficult. Rather than denying the challenge, plan for success beginning with mornings, for example.

In the morning, we transition from sleep to wakefulness, from the comfort of our cozy beds to the larger room, from stillness to activity. First of all, give yourself enough time to avoid rushing, but not too much. Keep the focus singular so you don't have to add additional transitions as in into and out of playtime.

Use the concept of framing in order to plan. Knowing what time you need to leave the house, work backwards to decide what time you need to wake up. Anything you can prepare the night before, i.e. backpacks or lunches, clothes, even setting the breakfast table can help keep the morning on course.

Seasonal changes affect us as well as daily ones. With young children at the Rose Garden, we acknowledge the seasons artistically through music, indoor nature displays and activities. Honoring the seasonal transitions provides a way to meet and celebrate what is. We cannot change the earth's annual revolution around the sun, we cannot change the earth's daily rotation on its axis, nor would we want to. These are the givens we work with.

Summer turns to fall. night turns to day. The question is not if transitions happen, they do, so the question is how do we meet them.

Be prepared. Be patient. Persist; what is now difficult will get easier with practice.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Childhood described by the Alliance for Childhood

Childhood is a time for learning about the essentials -
about the heavenly world and the earthly,
about goodness, beauty and truth.

Childhood is a time to be loved and to love -
to express fear and to learn trust -
to be allowed to be serious and calm
and to celebrate with laughter and joy.

Children have a right to dream,
and they need time to grow at their own pace.
They have the right to make mistakes
and the right to be forgiven.

Children need help to develop self-mastery,
to transform themselves and bring forth their highest capacities.
Children have a right to be spared violence and hunger,
to have a home and protection.
They need help to grow up healthy,
with good habits and sound nutrition.

Children need people to respect,
adults whose example and loving authority they follow.
They need a range of experience - tenderness and kindness,
boldness and courage, and even mischief and misbehavior.

Children need time for receiving and giving,
for belonging and participating.
They need to be part of a community, and they need to be individuals.
They need privacy and sociability.
They need time to rest and time to play,
time to do nothing and time to work.

They need moments for devotion and room for curiosity.
They need protective boundaries and freedom for creativity.
They need to be introduced to a life of principles,
and given the freedom to discover their own.
They need a relationship to the earth -
to animals and to nature;
and they need to unfold as human beings within the community.

The spirit of childhood is to be protected and nurtured.
It is an essential part of every human being
and needs to be kept alive.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Create a "loose parts" play area in your Back Yard

Create a “Loose Parts” Playground for Young Children in your Back Yard

One of the benefits of summer is the array of outdoor activities to participate in any day of the week. One of the drawbacks of summer is the array of outdoor activities to participate in any day of the week. Usually at some point during the season, if we have young children and we are going out a lot, we notice they have reached their saturation point. Too much activity and not enough sleep are draining; running on empty is no fun for anyone and children let us know by their behavior, i.e. meltdowns.

What can we do? Dare to schedule home time; put it on the calendar and celebrate it. Summer is happening in our back yards just like anywhere else, only with less people, less stimulation and more opportunities for self- directed play. In the beginning, if a child is accustomed to adult-directed activities, it might take a moment to make the shift. There are things you can do to assist the child in finding their way into creative exploration of their own environment.

Since the late 1800’s when we first started creating outdoor play areas, their design has evolved along with continuing research about play, but one thing has stayed the same: children’s work is play. Children learn by doing, so we want them to be actively engaged in their environment, to learn about how it works and to develop their physical bodies to meet the demands of ongoing engagement in the world. Give a child a box, a stick, or a pile of sand and they will figure out a creative way to play with it, learning all the while.

In the 1960’s, “adventure” playgrounds were launched in Europe and moved to America. We now refer to the same concept as “loose parts” or “imagination” playgrounds and they are prevalent in Europe and most public parks in major cities in America. How about your back yard? According to this concept, any scrap material lying around (that is safe for handling), is fair game for children’s play. Logs from a downed tree, mulch or leaf piles, mud and sand, etc. serve as raw materials for creations.  Buckets, measuring cups, old sheets or blankets, shovels and a source of water are plenty to keep a young child constructively experimenting with the laws of nature as well as developing their imaginations and confidence.

The other day, I watched a young child (perhaps three years old) digging in the sand at the beach.  He had no tools, only his hands and his active body with which he created a mound of sand and then about a foot away from it, a whole in the sand as deep as the mound was high. Then he practiced jumping from the mound to the ground, then into the whole and back out again. He did this over and over again, delighted each time to witness the effects of gravity and his ability to land on his feet.

His parents relaxed on lounge chairs behind him where he went to check in periodically when he made a big circle around the space between them and his play area. His siblings occasionally joined in the fun but the little boy did not need anyone else in order to engage in his game. He was self- directed. I would be willing to bet that he ate and slept well that night after all that physical movement. Come to think of it, I rarely see a bored child at the beach or in any unstructured play area, especially amongst children who have not grown accustomed to only external directives.  Active participation is the key to healthy development and ultimately success in life, so practice is important.  Let’s consider why “loose parts” play areas serve child development.

According to research available (Kable 2010), these are some reasons:

-          Children can use the parts in any way they choose.

-          Children can use and change the parts in many ways.

-          Loose parts help a child develop more skill and competence than most modern toys.

-          Loose parts encourage creativity and a child’s imagination.

-          Loose parts can be used in combination with other materials to support more balanced play.

Although the loose parts plays areas do have a “loose” quality, there is some upkeep involved. Children benefit from starting and finishing their play in an orderly environment. Each item has its place in a container or shed, the sand is covered to keep cats out and there is a quality of being settled when the child’s play ends. The clean-up ritual not only restores order but it announces the transition to the end of playtime.

Consider preparing an outdoor area for your young child to encourage the creative free play that supports development and say goodbye to boredom or overstimulation that may come from too many adult directed outings. Summer is sweet and ephemeral like childhood; refrain from overdoing it with young children but rather let them apply their energy and enthusiasm to explore their world in the way that only they can!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When the Sun goes to Sleep after the Children's Bedtime

The longest day of the year is fast approaching. How do parents of young children meet their child's need for twelve to fourteen hours of sleep when night falls after their bedtime in the summer?

Here are some suggestions. Get room darkening shades or curtains to block the sun. Stick to your rhythms. If you usually have dinner, bath, bedtime snack, teeth-brushing, then book-reading before lights out in bed, then do it in the summertime, too. Fortunately with the large amount of outdoor play in summer, children tend to be exhausted in the evening.

If your child does not appear tired at the end of the day, don't misread a second wind as healthy energy; it's overdrive fueled by stress hormones. Keep your child from experiencing this; stress hormones wear down the body and disrupt neurological connections from building. While children are growing and moving so much, they need restorative sleep and stress hormones can keep them from falling asleep and staying asleep during the night. Especially, avoid asking your child if he or she is tired; children are not capable of reading the signs but they do know what an admission of fatigue leads to.

If you stick to a regular bedtime rhythm most of the time, you can probably stretch it by staying up later on holidays or special events during the summer, especially if those evenings are followed by leisurely mornings.

Considering that tired children have more accidents and less positive social encounters with others, you will want to think seriously about your child's sleep schedule. Start with the time you need to get up in the morning and work backwards from there. If you get up at 7:00 a.m., plan on a 7:00 p.m. bedtime, 6:30 p.m. snack, 6:00 p.m. bath and perhaps dinner at 5:15 or 5:30 p.m..

If that sounds too restrictive for you, remember that your child will not be young forever; it is actually a short period of time. Although each day may feel long (and it is if your child's bedtime is late), the early childhood years are short. You will be doing an act of kindness to yourself (think of what you can do with childfree evenings), your child (who will be happier and healthier), and anyone your child encounters during the day.

If you need assistance or more information, talk to your child's teacher or contact a sleep consultant. Others can provide support if you provide the motivation. It's well worth the effort.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Springtime, Children and Mornings

Springtime, young children and mornings, they share a lot. They are all young, fresh, and full of growth potential. With the future and all it's possibilities ahead, they exude hope.

If you are reading this, you might be interested in young children. How do your mornings look? Since morning has the power to set the tone for the day like early childhood sets the tone for a person's life, what are your habits?

Many wisdom traditions suggest movement, meditation or centering, whole foods and a calm setting to reawaken the body, mind, and soul and get ready to greet the day. Often young children wake up early and the adults might not be ready to wake up yet. What can you do?

Begin with the reality of being woken up and decide when it's acceptable to start the day, anytime before that, it is still night so time to sleep. If you establish morning rhythms, you will find mornings are more manageable and you can begin while still groggy with sleep. If you prefer moments alone before your child wakes up, plan accordingly or consider it a shared experience.

If you stretch and move to awaken your body, children love to move, you might find yourself with a willing partner, although be careful to not expect adult-like performance. Quiet meditation might not work in the presence of a child, but a meditative song or verse might. As far as food goes, having a plan is helpful. My father used to set the table at night so when we came downstairs, the bowls, cups and spoons were sitting out ready for us. Time is precious in the morning and every little bit that can be done in advance helps.

Having a plan of what to eat for breakfast takes away the need to figure it out in the morning. You might stick to the same meal; oats can cook in the crockpot overnight and be ready for us when we come to the table with perhaps various fruits available as toppings. With repeated weekday breakfasts, that makes weekend breakfasts special with their potential for variety, although I know people who prefer to eat the same thing everyday regardless of the day of the week. As a matter of fact, I've read that President Obama chooses to eat the same thing everyday to reduce the number of decisions he needs to make.

Preparing clothes, bags and anything else you can get ready the night before helps. Having enough time in the morning helps to reduce stress. Given that morning sets the tone for the day, avoiding stress and the body chemistry impacting hormones that go along with it, you will want to have a plan to make mornings as smooth as possible. When stress hormones trigger survival mode, it makes it impossible to take in and digest information, to learn. It can take hours for the body to achieve homeostasis again, energy that is better spent on other things.

Take time to think it through. Like planning for a successful garden, or in the case of a young child a successful life, you can plan for a good start to the day. Once you have a plan, try it out and see what the impact is on your day and on your child's life. If it works, do it again.