Let Them Struggle

Posted February 21, 2019

by Sarah Kern

Many parents ask me how we handle getting ten toddlers outside in the winter. It’s true that it isn’t easy. Many days it takes longer to get them dressed than we spend outside. We call in help from Amy, Tracy, or Sarah when we can. But like any skill a child must learn, dressing oneself for outside is a skill that slowly builds. Perhaps one day a child can take off their own shoes or put on their own boots. Perhaps they figure out how to get their hat on correctly, or take their snowsuit off the hook in their cubby. The ability to dress oneself for outside it not a simple box to check, but rather made up of many smaller tasks that build upon one another.

A visual aid is posted on the classroom wall for the children to refer to as they dress. This helps with sequencing — snow pants must go on first, mittens must go on last. We also do a lot of coaching, step by step. Sit down… put your feet through your snow pants… stand up… put your arms through the straps…zip up the zipper… is often what it takes. “Put on your snow pants” is too vague and doesn’t help with the HOW of it all.


Another key piece is time. We never rush out the door in our class. Those who get ready quickly go outside to play sooner, but those who take longer are allowed the time. Rushing the process doesn’t help the children learn any faster, and while we love to play outside, there is equal value in giving children time when they are so often rushed.

Perhaps the mantra that comes to me most often as we are working through this process is let them struggle. It’s okay for it to be hard and frustrating. It’s okay to have to try over and over again. It’s okay if today you can’t; maybe next time you can. When we swoop in and rescue kids from these moments of safe struggle, we deny them the opportunity to learn not just how to put on their snow pants, but how to cope with frustration and develop persistence. We want to send the message to the children that we believe they can do this, if we only give them the time.

It’s about much more than snow pants.

Dance to the Music

Posted February 7, 2019

by, Tracy Riekenberg

I don’t know how transitions go at your home, but at my home (and at All Seasons), they can be a little hairy. Young children often have a hard time stopping one activity to begin another. Even with 5-minute warnings, countdowns, and visual cues, children can get frustrated being told to move to the next game, activity, lesson, chore, or heck, even the next aisle at Target!

One trick for easier transitions is using music. When my kids were young and we attended ECFE, the teacher had a clean up song: “Bye-bye toys. Bye-bye Toys. Big toys, little toys. Bye-bye toys.” Years later, it’s an earworm that gets stuck in my head at home when we are cleaning up. I recently sang it to my 8-year old twins and they first laughed, but then joined in and sang along (and continued cleaning!)

All the teachers at All Seasons also use music and special songs to help with transitions. When group time starts in the Autumn Room, the teachers lead a song that begins with saying hello to friends and ends with everyone sitting down. The Spring Room uses made-up transition songs like “Come on over here” to gather children for directions. Even the youngest All Seasons students in the Winter Room know that when they hear their name in the dismissal song, it’s time to go.

One of the trickiest parts of the day at All Seasons is the transition with the all-day students from  lunch (high energy) to rest time (desired low energy). Like a group of adult friends eating lunch together, the children are excited to share stories, tell jokes, and have downtime with their friends. And this is great for social development!

But the hardest part comes when we move to the resting room right after lunch. Kids are still wired and chatty. The mood doesn’t immediately turn restful. Staggered entrance to the resting room, which depends on when children finish eating and cleaning up, doesn’t help the transition as everyone is busy looking to see who comes in the room.

One day on a whim, I decided to play some Beatles music as the preschoolers entered the room. I encouraged children to dance to the music. I set guidelines about what the dancing should look like: dance alone, no lying down, stay on the floor, jumping is ok, and most importantly: HAVE FUN!


It has been working like a charm, of course! It’s just another musical transition that helps the kids move from one activity to another. As counter-intuitive as it seems to adults, having

a bit of high energy dancing is the perfect transition to resting. The children are eager to come to the resting room on time so they have a chance to dance. They get some of their wiggles out so lying down is easier to do. They have fun — and get to hear fun music!

So far we’ve danced to “Twist and Shout” and “Birthday” by the Beatles, “ABC” by the Jackson Five, “Hound Dog” by Elvis,” and “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone. The rest time dance parties may just be an excuse to work my way through my favorites in my music catalog, but it’s working transition magic I didn’t expect! And we sure have some kids with awesome dance moves at All Seasons!








Dining Without Reservations

Posted February 4, 2019

by, Amanda Janquart

Knowing where to sit in a communal dining room is intimidating. Think back to grade school, middle school, high school, perhaps college. What about stools at a bar, and even picnic tables at a reunion. One would hope it gets easier, but residents in senior living aren’t immune to hesitation. It took time, but the seniors at Inver Glen have found their regular seats. So imagine showing up with multiple preschoolers looking for places to sit and eat lunch alongside their beloved grandmas and grandpas!

We looked for friendly faces and asked if there was room at the men’s table. With a little startle, they moved around water glasses and menus and created spots for chairs to be added. It was quiet while the children pulled out their lunch boxes, but at the first sign of a struggle, the grandpas were there – offering to help open Tupperware and passing napkins to wipe mouths.


It was hard to read their minds. Did they enjoy the children squirming in their seats, spilling on occasion and at one point a child attempting to butter his grapes? The answer was slowly teased out. One grandpa told his family at the Christmas party that eating with the children was the highlight of his week. Another asked when we’d be back. And one made his first appearance in the preschool ever, “Just wanted to check out where the kids are.”


And so the lunches continue. Not every day, but just frequently enough to keep it special. The residents’ requests for company at their tables keep coming. One teacher brings three to five children at a time. They look forward to their turns to eat with the seniors and are prepped with encouragement to converse. Stories from their peers, such as when a grandpa shared his lemon meringue pie certainly helps build up the excitement!