Spring Into Now

Posted April 18, 2019

by, Kylen Glassman

It’s that time of year again – winter has come and gone and another Minnesota spring is upon us. This inevitably means that spring fever is setting in and thoughts of the future are clouding my brain! The itch to think ahead and immediately jump into the next thing is ever present. I almost find myself wishing away time – I’m anxious and excited for summer sunshine and new projects. It also means the end of the school year, which is jam-packed with activities, conferences, and limited time to spend with our students, many of whom will be off to new adventures next year.

 

To say the least, I am finding it tricky to stay in the moment, and I’m not the only one. The children are feeling the spring itch, and it translates into the classroom. Things that used to be engaging for most kids, making popcorn or playdough for example, don’t have the same appeal they once did. Some children are also nearing the end of their second or third year of preschool, and as much as I may not want to admit it, they’re ready for a change! Dare I even say it – they’re bored! This has got me thinking, what does it mean to be bored, and is boredom a bad thing?  

 

To piggy-back off of Jenny’s most recent blog, we live in a an age where screens and immediate gratification dominate our lives. We’ve become so accustomed to having everything at our fingertips. I am as guilty of this as the next person; we don’t know how to handle moments of boredom. If our brain isn’t experiencing continuous stimulation, we feel uncomfortable. But, feeling bored has led to my most creative moments! The same can be said for children, and nature-based play is the perfect example of this. When children are put into a less-structured environment with open-ended materials, they have the opportunity to use their creativity and imagination. Imagination is vital to play, and play is “the work of childhood,” as beautifully stated by Fred Rogers.  

 

While we strive to keep children engaged, interested, and learning, it is also just as important, to help them problem solve and make discoveries on their own. We should not be afraid of our kids feeling bored at times – this is good for developing brains. We all need to struggle, make mistakes, and grapple with feelings of discomfort in order to be comfortable trying new things, taking risks, and getting creative!

 

As our school year comes to a close and you’re feeling overwhelmed with end of the year to-do list, summer plans, and whatever else might by clouding your brain, remember to slow down and value the present. During a time of transition, struggling with the uncertainty of what comes next is normal. We don’t need to rescue children every moment. Challenge your child to look for new ways to play and tackle problems. All the while, know that we are there with you, continuing to scaffold popcorn-making into a deeper lesson about counting to help your child get ready for the next thing. Big changes are around the corner; we will get there and it will be glorious! For now, let’s enjoy our time together and embrace the process!

No, I Really Don’t Own a Tablet

Posted April 2, 2019

By Jenny Kleppe

It all happened one day at my daughter’s gymnastics class,  another event where my then three-year-old son was taken along for an activity that did not involve him. As usual, I brought along his backpack full of books, toy cars, and a Magna Doodle. I noticed early in the class another dad watching us, as I alternately read a novel and watched my daughter’s not-quite coordinated attempts at somersaults and cartwheels. My son was engrossed in his take-along bag.

Eventually it must have become too much for the father, as he moved to sit next to me and asked, “How do you manage that? My youngest would be begging for the iPad or my phone way before now!” I responded, “Well, it probably helps that we don’t own a tablet.” Immediately, two other moms sitting near us whipped around to join the conversation. “What?” asked one. “We have two!” exclaimed the other. “One for each kid. It’s the only way I get any peace. Then you must give them your phone!?”

I am not sure that anyone believed me when I reassured them that, no, I really don’t own a tablet and only under the direst circumstance do my children get to touch my phone. I do not have any apps for children on my phone. I do not have Netflix on my phone.

A caveat to this blog: I am not the “all-screens-are-evil” hippie that these parents may have assumed me to be. My children watch cartoons on weekend mornings, when they are sick, or when they just need a short break but don’t nap anymore. Almost all are shows that can be found on PBS. We frequently take five hour road trips where my children must agree on a movie to watch  during the second half of the drive. We love a great family movie night complete with pizza or popcorn. However, my husband and I expect our children to entertain themselves, observe their surroundings, or engage in conversation with us while waiting for something. This is something we have expected from day one. This is something we try and model to them whenever possible. That, I believe, is the real kicker.

 

 

In a restaurant, we play “I Spy” games, or “I’m thinking of an animal,” or make up stories as a family. At the grocery store, the kids are responsible for holding the list, helping remember what is on it, and deciding which kinds of fruit to buy. We bring books to the doctor’s office or children’s lessons and let our children see us reading instead of letting them see us playing on our phones. As our young children become more literate, easy word searches have become my new favorite portable activity to keep them quiet and settled when necessary.

Screen time is not my favorite conversation these days. It seems that we all recognize the negative effects it can have on young developing minds, yet it is often treated as a necessary evil to “get through” something or to have peace and quiet. We are stressed adults, and do deserve a break and a bit of quiet. But we might have to wait to go on our screens until after bedtime. Then, by all means, break out whatever device strikes your fancy. And of course, there are many children with special needs and challenging behaviors who use devices on a daily basis for communication, for token reward systems, and for educational purposes. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all model.

What I’m encouraging is mom and dad to put down their phones. Put away the tablet. You do not habitually need that crutch. Strike up a conversation. Sing if you have to! (Or in my case, because, why not?) Pick up a book or a coloring book. Let them see you doing the things you want them to be doing. I promise you will be rewarded for your efforts.