On the Topic of a Furry Friend

Posted December 15, 2014

By Sarah Kern


The Toddlers meet Piggy


I must preface this blog by saying I am an animal lover. If my husband had a nickel for every time I asked him for a new dog or called him from a pet adoption event, he’d be a rich man. You may have noticed that I’m not alone in this at All Seasons. We are all animal lovers. After our beloved Miss Chick passed in November of last year, many tears were shed. You also may have noticed her absence was filled with not one, but two chickens.

We lost our beloved Rex the day after the last day of school in June. Rex had been ill for months, but he seemingly held on so our students wouldn’t have to grieve the loss of another pet before the year’s end. And, perhaps you’ve heard, his absence was filled with not one, but two guinea pigs.  Now the Winter Room has almost as many pets as it does toddlers. But there is a method to our madness!

Every preschool teacher has certain standards that she holds highest in her classroom. For me, what’s most important is that my students are nurturing and kind. Beyond modeling the kind of behavior I expect from my students and encouraging caring interactions between children, having pets provides another way to grow these skills.

Research shows that having classroom pets encourages children to be nurturing. With an animal, there tends to be a swift natural consequence for behavior that is too rough, startling or unkind. A pet might run away, hide, or even nip when threatened. Children quickly learn that if they want to spend time with a pet, they must be careful and they must be kind. Isn’t that the message we want them to learn about people, too?

One of my favorite things I read about the benefits of pets in a classroom is that while having a pet benefits all children, it is especially important to young boys, who often don’t have the chance to practice the nurturing skills girls do in our society.


Quietly observing Piggy and Oink

In addition, having a pet teaches responsibility. We have already talked about how important it is that we feed and water the guinea pigs and keep their home safe and clean. Judging by how well the toddlers remember to feed our Betta and Danio fish, I don’t think our piggies will be neglected.

There’s one more awesome benefit to having pets in the classroom. Research show that pets and humans can actually become friends. Guinea pigs love human contact, and these interactions can lead to deep bonds. Human-animal friendships strengthen social skills and increase self-esteem in young children.

So stop by and visit our new friends in the Winter Room! I think you’ll like them.

Source: http://www.petsintheclassroom.org/teachers/benefits-of-classroom-animals/

The Holidays: Family Memories or Family Stress?

Posted December 5, 2014


by Jenny Kleppe, Autumn Room Teacher

A survey done by the American Psychological Association reported that more than eight out of ten Americans anticipate stress during the holiday season. Households with children were more likely to report experiencing stress during the holidays than those without. Families want their holidays to be happy, especially for children. Many parents do not realize that the holiday season is a time of hustle, bustle, and a never-ending whirlwind of stress for their children.

Where do these stressors come from? Results from the same survey indicated that for adults, increased costs around the holidays is a major stressor, but the biggest stressor is the pressure Americans feel around this time of year; pressure to buy “enough” gifts, serve the perfect meal, buy the right gifts, meet others’ expectations, and feel merry throughout the season. It does not help that we are bombarded with messages from the media that we have not done enough, i.e. “only X more shopping days!”

The vast majority of children’s stress at holiday time can be linked to one simple matter: their normal routine is disrupted. Bedtimes are pushed back, naps are forgone, meals and snack times are changed. Adults often forget that extended family can feel like strangers to young children and places like a great aunt’s house can feel foreign and intimidating. Children are often warned to be on “their best behavior” at relatives’ houses or religious services. Formal clothes are worn, which can be uncomfortable and not conducive to normal play. Playtime and regular family time is shortened as errands must be done, decorations must be hung and parties attended.

It is important to remember that children (and parents) need time to relax in order to enjoy this wonderful time of the year. Children are not at ease when they see their parents running around frantically shopping, baking, decorating and trying to meet unrealistic expectations.

Last Christmas, my husband and I drove ourselves crazy with how much we tried to cram in over the holidays.  We had a new baby girl we wanted to show off, as well as out-of-town relatives who all wanted to meet her.  We attended five family parties, two friends’ parties, hosted an event ourselves, appeared at an office party, volunteered at our church and attempted a trip for New Year’s.  We shifted our baby’s schedule to match all the commitments we’d made and had no time for our first family Christmas.  The results were not fun, relaxed, or merry.  Our five month old, who had previously been sleeping through the night, began waking every two hours.  We were sleep-deprived, ornery and stressed.  This year will be different.

Here at All Seasons, we teachers often remind each other that while we do many wonderful things, it is not necessary to do every wonderful thing every single day. This same idea can be applied to the holiday season. Instead of making an insurmountable list of holiday chores, do what’s most important. Try to stick as close as possible to your family’s routine, even if that means saying no to some of the festivities.
Here are some signs your child might be feeling holiday stress:
• Tears for seemingly minor reasons
• Nervous behaviours such as nail biting, nose picking, and hair twirling
• Physical complaints including headaches and stomach-aches
• Regression to younger behaviours: bedwetting, temper tantrums
• Withdrawal from school, friends and family

For families, gift giving AND receiving contributes to the unnecessary flurry and chaos. Gift giving does not need to be about quantity over quality. Many families have found success in this quality over quantity gift giving mantra: “Something I want, something I need, something to wear, something to read.”  Four gifts. Not fourteen. No outfits that will never be worn, not several “some assembly required” projects, not a pile of plastic toys that will be broken or cast aside as soon as the next thing comes along. Four special presents. Not only will this reduce stress for the entire family, this mantra can also be helpful to teach young children the importance of quality over quantity.

Simple ways to reduce stress for the entire family:
• Stick with routines as much as possible.
• Say no. You don’t have to accept every invitation to cookie swaps, parties and gift exchanges.
• Nutrition; everywhere you go, there are treats. Treats are “sometimes foods.”  Kids need the essential “every day foods”.
• Stay healthy. During the season of mingling, wash your hands and your children’s hands. Teach your child the importance of using tissues and covering coughs.
• Rest and relaxation; everyone, especially a child, needs time over the holiday season to rest and relax. A well-rested child will be much happier on a trip and better behaved for visits than one who is overtired.
• Favorite things; if you are traveling for the holidays, bring your child’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal. A bit of home will help your child feel more comfortable.

Do less to gain richer and more meaningful experiences with your children. This will help ensure that rather than creating holiday stress you’ll create cherished holiday memories.

*Source, U.S. Department of Health, 2012http://www.aahealth.org/programs/behav-hlth/adolescent/child-holiday-stress