Thank you for visiting the Blog of All Seasons Preschool

Spring Blooms

Posted May 10, 2022

Spring Blooms
By Sarah Kern

After an incredibly long winter, it seems that spring is finally here. We’ve gone from snow pants to shorts in record time. And as the waiting buds finally burst open, relationships are blossoming at All Seasons.

Our beloved grandma readers, once strangers to some, are now members of our All Seasons family. Marion, Bette, and Pat are seamlessly folded into classroom routines and events. A couple of weeks ago, both preschool classes had pancake breakfasts, during which families could stay and sample syrup made from our very own maple trees. Of course our grandma readers were invited, and they were thrilled to taste the syrup.

In the toddler class, visits to Grandma Stella’s apartment have become routine. Children are eager to show her their fancy dress up clothes, try out her real flashlight, and peek out her window.

In the classroom, too, true friendships are everywhere. Even our youngest students are beginning to seek one another for play and reach out a hand to help.

A treat this spring has been to join together our older and younger classes. The full day preschool class and our toddler class have met a couple of mornings on the playground to play together. Immediately the older children welcomed the youngest into their play. Toddlers crawled like kitties with an older group, and groups worked together in the sandbox to dig holes and build castles. When a large rain gutter was added to the hill, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds alike gathered to send various sizes of balls down the ramp.

The seeds that we’ve been sowing all winter long are blooming inside and out, and now is the precious time of the year that we’ve been waiting for. It’s time to soak it up.

Where the Clues Lead

Posted April 27, 2022

Where the Clues Lead

By Amanda Janquart

“I’m thinking of an animal that has no feet.”

This was the beginning of an exciting, weeks-long look at snakes. During lunch, children love to be challenged with Guess the Animal clues. There have been requests for extra tricky clues, and while I didn’t anticipate “no feet” to be on the difficult end, it certainly left the class wondering. They made guesses ranging from “a marshmallow” to “a monkey,” while classmates called out the contradictions. “Monkeys have four feet…or maybe just two?” A worm was the closest guess before it was time to rest. The children were left wondering while lying on their cots. More clues were shared after everyone was awake, getting excruciatingly specific.

“They can live in water and on land…even in trees…even in Minnesota,” which was followed by choruses of, “I live in Minnesota, too.”
“They have all sorts of patterns on their skin.”
“Maybe a cheetah?”
“Nooo; remember, no legs.”
The guesses kept coming until the final clue, “They can smell with their tongues.”
“Snakes!”

Knowing the answer wasn’t the end of their interest, though. Children wanted to learn more about snakes and share past experiences. “I held one at the zoo once!” This is what emergent curriculum can look like: something catches the children’s attention; teachers grab hold of their inquiry and take it deeper. These sparks of interest can be easy to miss, and teachers must be ready and willing to hop aboard. Where they go will inevitably vary; the rides could be short or cross country, but the travel is always thrilling.

The children excitedly made quick visits to the art studio, and they sketched out versions of snakes from their memories. Books were brought in, and the class talked through the details over and over. They wanted facts and were astounded by many: squishy eggs and forked tongues and eating prey headfirst?!? Wowsers. They pretended to be snakes, forming families, going hunting, and curling up together to keep warm.

With new information gleaned, children returned to the studio. They chose images of multiple species from the internet to print and use as models. As they drew or traced or sculpted with clay, the focus was on the details. Just having learned that snakes can swim, some chose sea snakes. Others liked the challenge of drawing a snake skeleton. It is a good day indeed when curiosity leads to confidence, pride and understanding – and it’s all visible in their faces.

The Joy of Spring for the Winter Room

Posted April 12, 2022

The Joy of Spring for the Winter Room

By Rita Thoemke

(Rita is one of the teachers of the toddlers, children who are two years old at the beginning of the year.)

A neighbor friend once told me that spring was created for mothers. She said this after observing me outside with my three little girls on one of the first nice days of spring. Today, I would add that spring was also made for teachers.

While All Seasons teachers enjoy the outdoors all year round, there are things about spring that we look forward to: longer outside times, less time needed to put on outdoor gear, enjoying snack outside on a blanket. Watching kids rediscover new magic in their familiar play areas is a joy. Mud puddles prove irresistible, and taking gear home to wash becomes routine.

There are other gifts that spring presents. Reflecting back on just how far these kids have come since fall is amazing. Drop-off time, once full of worry and concern, is now full of anticipation and curiosity about what awaits them in our classroom. Snack time used to be full of little challenges, from opening a lunch box or small container, to cleaning up and putting items away. Even conversations are different. Instead of asking teachers when their moms will be back, they now ask, “What will we do outside today?”

There is amazing confidence that comes to each child by the end of our school year. As their confidence has grown, teachers have made adjustments to how we support the children. Early in the year we would give step-by-step directions to get ready for going outside. “First, take off your shoes. Then find your snowpants.” Now we give them more space to do what they know how to do independently. Once outside, they no longer feel the need to stay close to a teacher. We watch from a greater distance as they explore the things of their choosing.

Throughout the year, we have also seen friendships develop. When a classmate is absent, it does not go unnoticed. The children ask about each other and want to know when their friend will be back. Children remember who enjoyed various activities with them and seek each other out to continue unfinished play. This is just the beginning of making connections outside of their family.

For toddler teachers, one of the biggest joys is that we don’t have to say goodbye at the end of the year. We are not sending any of our children off to kindergarten. We have just begun the early childhood education years, and we are eager to watch the journey continue as many of the children return for preschool in our Spring and Autumn preschool rooms.

Managing Disappointment

Posted March 29, 2022

Managing Disappointment
By Roxie Zeller

Disappointment is a big part of life. You may feel disappointed when a sports team loses, when seeds do not sprout, when the snow takes too long to melt, or when plans fall through. The higher your anticipation, the more it can hurt.
As adults, we have learned to manage our expectations and disappointment to protect us from the emotional impact, so we are not overwhelmed with sorrow, nor do we lash out in anger. Children, however, are still building the tools needed to handle disappointment, learning from their own experiences and from watching adults in their lives.


The preschoolers in the Autumn Room at Eagan have experienced a lot of disappointment this spring as we tapped our box elder trees, trying to collect sap to boil into syrup. Those who were here last year approached tapping this year with caution, after their efforts to get sap were fruitless in the past. Children who were new to our school were filled with excitement. They were eager to help drill into the trees, hammer in the spiles, and remind us to check on the buckets every school day. Day after day, their excitement dwindled as they carefully lifted the lids and found empty buckets.


That is, until the big rainstorm came through at the beginning of March. About a cup of rainwater found its way into the sap buckets, fueling their excitement again. It wasn’t until we were indoors filtering the liquid that we discovered that it was rainwater instead of sap. (A teacher tasted the liquid to test it.) The preschoolers were disappointed, as many were excited to taste the sap, expecting it would taste like syrup.


After that, many children lost hope that we would end up with sap. We talked about getting some from the Inver Glen preschool’s trees so we could still taste it, but most of the excitement around tree tapping was gone.


The week before spring break, on our daily hike to check the buckets, we were surprised to find some liquid sitting in one of the buckets. “Do you think it’s really sap?” “Maybe it’s just water, and we should dump it out. Can I dump it out?” “You found water in the buckets again?” Even the teachers were skeptical, assuming it was just melted snow from the Monday prior. The whole class had learned to manage their expectations about the sap buckets. From the rainwater debacle, they discovered that the lids over the buckets don’t keep out everything, and instead of getting their hopes up again, they cautiously approached the newfound liquid we collected.


Finally, the day came to give the sap a taste. Upon arrival at school, the preschoolers signed in by answering the question: “Today, we will taste sap! What do you think it will taste like?” They could choose to put their name cards under “water,” “syrup,” or “not sure;” the majority answered “syrup.” We combined what little sap we had collected over two days, filtered it through a coffee filter, then poured a small sample for all who wanted to try it, including our senior reader, Grandma Shirley. Many preschoolers were disappointed to discover that sap tastes nothing like the syrup they are familiar with. I would describe tree sap as earthy, or like mineral water, with a very subtle, sweet aftertaste. We now have a pot boiling away on the stove well on its way to becoming maple syrup but getting to this point took a long time and was full of disappointments and learning moments. Hopefully, managing all the ups and downs of the experience will make our upcoming pancake pajama party even sweeter.


Preschoolers are constantly working through disappointment, whether it comes from not being able to finish a puzzle or project before clean-up time, having a game go in an unexpected direction, dropping a treat from home on the floor, having your blocks knocked over, or having an experiment fail. As uncomfortable as disappointment can be, it is a big part of life. The more practice that preschoolers get acknowledging and moving through disappointment, the better they will be able to manage it as adults who, in turn, can be great models for future generations.

What the Research Tells Us

Posted March 8, 2022

WHAT THE RESEARCH TELLS US
By Joanne Esser

Picture this: A group of 4-year-olds is clustered together outdoors, busily stirring a mixture of sand, pebbles, water, and wood chips they have poured into old pots. Their conversation is animated as they debate about what ingredients should be added to their “potions.” They make up stories about how they will use their potions to shrink an imaginary giant, each child adding some details to the growing story.

Down the street at a different childcare center, another group of 4-year-olds is sitting at a table. The teacher is telling them to repeat after her a rhyme about the sounds of an alphabet letter. Their task is to color in a series of worksheets about the letter and copy the letter on the lines with a pencil.

Which group of 4-year-olds will be more prepared to succeed in school?

You have probably heard All Seasons Preschool staff talk about the importance of play as the main way young children learn. This is not only our opinion; it is supported by solid research evidence.

Parents may or may not be aware of new research studies about young children and learning, though. This kind of research may or may not be featured in the popular media. But when a new well-controlled, long-term research study comes out, early childhood educators pay attention to it.

In February 2022, a groundbreaking study on Tennessee’s statewide Pre-K program released its findings: Children who attended academically-focused preschools actually did worse over the long term than peers who did not attend that kind of program. Researchers discovered the harm such programs do to children over time: poorer scores on academic tests, more children showing learning disorders and more behavioral problems at school.

Other earlier studies, such as the well-known Perry Preschool Project in the mid-1960’s, have consistently found that children from “academic” preschool programs do enter kindergarten with some short-term advantages over children who have spent their early years engaged in play. They are typically more advanced in skills like letter-recognition and print awareness because these skills were explicitly over-emphasized in their preschool. However, whenever researchers have studied the long-term impacts, these academic advantages disappear over the course of only a few years, and the children are worse off by other measures, compared to their peers who spent their early years engaged in social, self-directed play.

The recent Tennessee study, conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University, looked at a group of high-poverty children randomly selected (by lottery) to attend a free, “high quality” preschool that focused on early academic training – up to five hours a day of instruction. The program’s intention was to give these low-income children a boost so they would be better equipped to succeed in school. Same-age children who did not attend that kind of preschool served as a control group. It was a well-designed study of nearly 3,000 children, following them through sixth grade.

What the data showed was that at the beginning of kindergarten, the academic Pre-K group performed better on all academic measures than the control group. But the control group soon caught up and generally surpassed their peers. By third grade, the control group performed significantly better on all academic measures than the children who attended the academic Pre-K. In addition, those in the academic Pre-K group were significantly more likely to have diagnosed learning disorders and had a higher rate of behavior issues (school rule violations) than the control group.

By sixth grade, the advantages to the group that did not have the academic preschool “training” were even greater: higher scores on all achievement tests, fewer special education placements and far fewer behavioral offenses committed at school. This study reinforces other research that shows children who have rich opportunities to play rather than being pushed into heavy academic instruction at young ages do better later in school.

These clear results surprised the researchers. What explains the harmful effects of early academic training in preschool?

Some analysts speculate that early academic instruction results in shallow learning of skills: enough to pass tests in kindergarten, but that interferes with deeper learning later. Early pressure and the grind of drilling inappropriate academics might also lead to a dislike of school, or a rebellious attitude that shows up in school later. One expert researcher commenting on possible reasons for the disturbing results described “too much whole-group instruction, rigid behavioral controls, not enough time spent outside,” and said, “Ideally Pre-K should involve more play.”

The main concern for us as early childhood educators is: what are young children missing when they are spending hours a day on academic training? Four- and five-year-olds need lots of time to practice taking initiative, socializing, negotiating with others, solving problems on their own and learning how to take care of themselves. These are all things that truly “prepare them for school.” The Tennessee study is confirmation that those of us who are focused on creating caring learning environments that are play-based, language- and social skills-heavy are on the right track.

References:

Durkin, K., Lipsey, M.W., Farran, D.C., & Wiesen, S.E. (2022, January 10). “Effects of a Statewide Pre-Kindergarten Program on Children’s Achievement and Behavior Through Sixth Grade.” Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0001301

Lipsey, M.W., Farran, D.C., & Durkin, K. (2018). “Effects of the Tennessee Prekindergarten Program on Children’s Achievement and Behavior Through the Third Grade.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 45, 155-176.

Gray, Peter. (2022, January 31). “Research Reveals Long-Term Harm of State Pre-K Program.” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/202201/research-reveals-long-term-harm-state-pre-k-program

Kamenetz, Anya. (2022, February 10) “A Top Researcher Says It’s Time to Rethink Our Entire Approach to Preschool.” NPR News. https://www.npr.org/2022/02/10/1079406041/researcher-says-rethink-prek-preschool-prekindergarten

The Kitty Cat Hill

Posted February 23, 2022

The Kitty Cat Hill

By Calley Roering

This year our group of preschoolers named the beloved hill in the Boulders area “The Kitty Cat Hill.”

It all started this fall when the children discovered that they could slide down the hill like penguins. They were eager to get back up the hill but struggled to do so. The children were heard yelling, “Help! Help me get up this hill!” As teachers, our first impulse was to jump into action and pull them all up the hill ourselves, but we didn’t do that. The teachers slid down the hill, sat with the children and brainstormed together ways to get back up the steep hill. Collectively, we thought that it would be easier to crawl like a kitty cat. Crawling up the steep hill like a kitty cat worked and the name has stuck ever since!

During the fall months, it was much easier crawling up Kitty Cat Hill because it was only dirt. By winter, it was covered in snow, which proved to be trickier to climb up. The children struggled getting up the snow-covered hill. After struggling for a while to climb up the icy, slippery hill, we went inside and once again brainstormed ways to get up the hill. We came to the conclusion that perhaps a rope would help us.

That afternoon, we brought a rope to the Boulders and discussed how it would be used. A few children slid down Kitty Cat Hill and yelled, “I need the rope!” The children who were standing at the top grabbed the rope and threw it to the children at the bottom of the hill. The children at the top of the hill yelled, “Grab onto the rope,” and “Pull!” in unison. The child holding onto the rope was able to walk up the hill or belly slide with the help of the children pulling at the top.

The children relish the idea of being the rescuer as well as being rescued. One morning, a child was at the bottom of the hill and yelled for the child at the top of the hill. Their conversation went like this:
“Please throw the rope to me. I need it!”
“I’ll help you! Come on, you got it. You’re almost to the rope.”
“Thanks for helping me up The Kitty Cat Hill. You rescued me!”

The Kitty Cat Hill in the Boulders has become one of the children’s favorite spots to play. This type of play has allowed the children to problem solve and work together. Playing on Kitty Cat Hill has naturally become a community building activity where all can all join in and help each other.

Cooking With Young Children

Posted February 8, 2022

Cooking With Young Children

By Brigid Henry

There are many benefits of cooking with your preschooler. It can build self-confidence, help children learn and practice basic math skills, lay the foundation for healthy eating habits and of course, it can be a lot of fun! With a little preparation and flexibility, and with the right expectations, time in the kitchen with your preschooler can be educational and joyful!

Counting eggs, measuring ingredients into measuring cups, going through the sequence of steps in a recipe are all great hands-on experiences that teach various skills. Count together while scooping cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. Introduce new words from a recipe to expand your child’s vocabulary and promote literacy. Following steps in the recipe can help develop listening skills.

Having your child help with the preparation of meals can also help encourage an adventurous palate. Preschoolers can be picky eaters; by bringing them into the kitchen to help with cooking, you can open them up to new ideas. Children who get involved in preparation are more likely to try the food. You can talk about what foods and flavors they like and how eating healthy food makes a body grow strong.

The kitchen is a great place for exploring the senses. Listen to the sound of the mixer; feel the bread dough as you knead it and watch it rise. Smell it cooking in the oven and enjoy tasting it when it’s done.

Preschoolers love to show off their work and being able to show off their creations at the dinner table is such a satisfying way to demonstrate their growing abilities! The more they practice, the better their skills become, and they show a real sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Give them jobs suited to their age and developmental level, such as:
• stirring batter
• tearing lettuce
• adding ingredients
• assembling a pizza


I recommend using a step stool so children can easily reach the task at hand. Set them up for success. Remember, it’s about the process more than the end product. Praise their efforts! Many children enjoy the warm soapy water and the task of doing the dishes afterward, too.

Meal prep is a very social activity. A child must learn to share tools, work collaboratively, and help others. Discuss everyone’s roles as you engage in the process together.

Quality time spent contributing in the kitchen can begin a lifelong interest in cooking. It is a task you can build on over time and continue to enjoy with your children throughout your whole lifetime.

Snow Gear as Part of the Curriculum

Posted January 25, 2022

Snow Gear as Part of the Curriculum

By Tracy Riekenberg

I remember when my own children were preschoolers. Getting them dressed to play outside in the snow was such a … CHORE. With two tots the same age, I felt like I was competing in an Olympic sport called Snow Gear Race: see how fast you can get everyone dressed, and if you get outside before anyone gets too hot or has to go to the bathroom or starts to cry, you win the gold medal!

So, I empathize with my preschool families now. It is hard work and seems never-ending this time of year. But, I have good news for you! Here at All Seasons, we spend a significant portion of our day intentionally teaching kids how to put on and take off their snow gear. Come spring, the children will be whizzes at getting dressed for the snow (ironically, just in time to not need gear anymore).

We intentionally take the time – sometimes up to 30 or 40 minutes – to let kids dress themselves because we know the long term benefits. Children who are successful in everyday tasks like dressing develop great self-confidence. They feel a sense of independence and achievement, even when mastering a small portion of the tasks. We often hear exclamations of “Yes! I got my boots on!” from children.

Benefits go beyond self-confidence, though. When children practice dressing themselves, they practice gross-motor skills like balancing and fine-motor skills like zipping. Their cognitive skills are developing as they remember the order in which to put on their gear. And maybe most important, they are continually growing in their spatial awareness. Especially at school, where up to 16 kids are getting dressed at the same time, children work on noticing where they are in relation to other children and how to recover or make amends if bumps happen.

The best thing we have seen in the Spring Room this year, though, is that children help each other with getting dressed. Children have reminded friends about which order to put things on. They have helped with buckling or zipping. They put on or take off boots and shoes for other children. The teamwork that is created when we allow children to help each other is so rewarding.

I’m not a fool, though; I know how much easier and faster it goes to simply dress your children at home. As the parent, you can make sure everything is on correctly and is tight and warm. But, if you can make the time to let your child work on it on their own from time to time, you will see the growth and be amazed at what they can do!

Music In The Preschool

Posted January 11, 2022

By Brigid Henry

No doubt you have heard of the many benefits of music for children. The list is long, ranging from helping children with language, math, concentration, memory and social skills!

According to current brain development research, music can enhance brain function in children. Playing an instrument, singing or listening to music stimulates the brain. This leads to improved brain structure with the formation of new neural connections.

Studies also show that young children’s involvement in musical activities improves their speech development. Learning music helps to develop the left side of the brain, which is related to language and reasoning. It helps with sound recognition, teaches rhythm and rhyme, and can help children remember information.

In addition, music can help with the development of math skills. By listening to musical beats, your child can get a sense of basic fractions and recognize patterns. Children who study music have improved spatial intelligence and improved ability to form mental pictures of objects.

Music can help with coordination, too. Playing and dancing to music helps children develop their motor skills. They must use their ears and eyes as well as large and small muscles all at the same time. This helps the body and mind work together.

Perhaps most importantly, music builds community. Connecting with the elders through music is something that is natural and creates a special bond. For the seniors, the ability to recall songs from their childhood is profound.

The list of the benefits of music goes on and on! In the classroom, it works almost magically to signal a transition or new direction. It is amazing to see the difference in children’s attention in response to an instruction spoken versus sung. I am proof that you don’t have to have a great voice for this to happen; children are very forgiving and respond well regardless!

A favorite activity in our classroom is painting with watercolors to classical music. The music is calming and relaxing. It can be used to relieve stress. We are always talking about and helping children learn the words to recognize and describe how they are feeling, and using music helps us do that. We give the children tools such as breathing techniques for dealing with strong emotions. We practice deep breathing with the use of a musical chime.

Music can also lift the mood dramatically. A highlight of our week is “Music with Gregg.” Gregg is a volunteer grandpa who comes to Inver Glen weekly to lead interactive music sessions. The children often ask, “Is it is a Gregg day?!” Gregg entertains and engages us with various guitars, banjos and songs. The expressions on the children’s faces as they participate clearly show their joyful engagement. Children who may otherwise be somewhat reserved lose themselves in the fun. When they recognize a song from previous weeks and are able to sing along, they are so enthusiastic and proud! When Gregg offers an instrument such as bells for them to use, the children are all in. One of the first times that we had music with Gregg, he allowed each child to come up and strum his guitar with his guitar pick at the end of his session. This has become a ritual; the children did not forget about this the next time Gregg came, and they eagerly line up for their turn every time!

A day at All Seasons Preschool is filled with all kinds of musical experiences. It gives children a way to express themselves and unleashes their creativity. The proof is in their laughter and smiles!

Where The Children Lead Us

Posted December 21, 2021

Where The Children Lead Us

By Amber Scheibel

As teachers, we often come up with great ideas, projects or units of learning that we want to introduce to the children. Sometimes those ideas fly and other times they don’t, so we just move on and try again. But sometimes it’s the children who come up with the ideas or inspiration.


Our exploration of ramps began with the children’s fascination with rolling down the hill outside. Every day, no matter what area of our outdoor space we visited, they would start by running to the top of the hill at our playground and rolling down. One day a few children discovered they could push logs up the hill and watch them roll down. Sometimes the logs rolled fast, and other times, if they were not positioned correctly on their sides, they got stuck. Another day they decided to try rolling UP the hill. This proved much more difficult and led to a discussion about ramps and inclines vs. declines. We recognized their enthusiasm and saw that this was a great way to introduce early mathematical concepts into their learning, so we decided to expand on their interest.


We explored the outdoors looking for more ramps in nature and things that we could roll down them. We found hills, a slide in the woods, old tubes, rain gutters, fallen trees, flat pieces of wood… there were ramps everywhere! We found objects of different sizes and shapes, different textures and weights, and we experimented by sliding them down ramps positioned at different angles. Did the weight affect how fast or slow it rolled or slid down? Did certain shapes roll faster than other shapes? Did the object or the ramp need to be adjusted so that the object would roll down? After our outdoor experiments, we took the learning into our classroom where my co-worker, Brigid, set up ramps for the children to find and test. This led to them to building their own. The students were learning problem solving, spatial reasoning, distance calculation and prediction, cause and effect… so many math and science concepts through activities inspired by their free play.

This was a fulfilling experience for everyone. We enjoyed searching for and setting up challenges, and the children loved the activities. But none of this would have happened if we had just stuck with our original, teacher-led plan. By remaining flexible and letting the kids drive the direction of the class, we were able to let the ideas blossom organically, follow their interests, and have a lot of fun, too.