Twin Parks Montessori - Largest Accredited Montessori Program in Manhattan

Kathy’s Insights

Insights on the Montessori method and Early Childhood Education from Dr. Kathy Roemer

Managing Infectious Diseases

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At Twin Parks Montessori Schools,

our faculty and staff kicked off the year with an informative session about managing infectious diseases with Kim Van Atta. Kim is a registered nurse with more than 35 years of health care experience. Since 2003, he has specialized in the care of children in early childhood programs. We met Kim in 2004, when one of our staff participated in an infectious disease course he was teaching. Since then, Kim has been a regular instructor of CPR and First Aid training for all of our faculty and staff.

Kim Van Atta teaches about infectious diseases

Our favorite health instructor, Kim Van Atta

Over the past week, Kim has presented his discussion about managing infectious diseases to groups of our parents.

Participants learned how home and school can work together to ensure that children arriving to school are well and ready to participate in the full days program. Those of our parents fortunate to learn from Kim experienced an informative, fun session.

 

Our common goal is to provide a safe, nurturing educational environment for all of our students. Parents want to be assured of these basic tenants when choosing our school. Parents also have obligations to their own work away from home. In an ideal situation, home and school follow the same guidelines when deciding if a child should not come to school.

 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child should remain at home if the illness:

  • prevents the child from participating comfortably in activities, or
  • results in a need for care that is greater than the staff can provide without compromising the health and safety of other children.

Hand washing is an important tool to prevent diseases

Best way to prevent disease – wash your hands!

 

One simple tool that everyone can practice at home, school, work and play is to wash hands – thoroughly. Here is a great video that will teach you how to wash your hands.

 

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Establishing a Culture of Gratitude

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Gratitude Is Learned In the Classroom.

The culture of gratitude at Twin Parks Montessori Schools begins with every classroom’s focus on ways to master Grace and Courtesy skills. Maria Montessori emphasized this skill set with the disorderly children she began working with in the slums of San Lorenzo, Italy. Her first students were under 7 years old and left to their own devises while their parents were earning money to feed their families. In one of Montessori’s early writings, she wrote about her experience when teaching a child to blow her nose. She was amazed at the wonderment express by the other children observing and the sense of pride in the individual participating in the lesson.

Grace and Courtesy Goes Beyond Good Manners

Grace and courtesy goes beyond having good manners and saying please and thank you. It goes beyond saying “I am sorry” for a transgression. It includes being kind, helpful, empathetic and expressing kindnesses for one another. A kindness can be as small as picking up a pencil someone dropped to large like helping to clean up spilled materials from an activity, without being asked. It is seeing a need and responding with a helpful spirit. Learning to have these skills is a process, and one that we work towards daily in our schools.

Children Giving to City Harvest

Each year Twin Parks Montessori Schools children bring canned and packaged food items to school for a donation to City Harvest. The teachers also talk about people who are hungry. One parent relayed that her son observed a homeless person and asked, “Is he hungry? If he is, he should come to my school and pick up some food. My class is feeding hungry people in New York City!” City Harvest is an organization that helps feed 1.3 million New Yorkers that face hunger every year. This number includes almost 1 out of every 4 children in our city.

Our classrooms incorporate this philanthropy project into the curriculum. They sort the items by food groups, and count the number of items. My favorite part is when the children carry one can or box at a time, walking in a line together to the communal collection place. They see the stacks and boxes of food growing. They understand that their cans, when added to the contributions of all the others, really amounts to a lot of food that can make a difference to others.

 

Giving Thanks Together is Important

This is the time of year when most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Often this time off can be full of the hustle and bustle of life. It is a perfect time to count our blessings, demonstrate appreciation, and be thankful for our basic needs, like food, shelter, and clothing. In addition, we are thankful for the people in our lives, the love we give to and receive from those who make our lives happier, better and easier. It is important for parents and teachers to role-model grace and courtesy, and appreciation for others. Adults who practice grace and courtesy and appreciation all the time, not just in the presence of children, have the greatest impact on children. Showing gratitude is an important part of who we are as wonderful humans.

We are thankful for our family and the food we eat.

At circle time, children talk about what they are grateful for. The range in responses to the question of what they are thankful for can include; parents, siblings, ice cream, friends, Central Park, play dough, teachers, pizza, pets, new shoes or even leaves. The range of responses tells us that children understand the concept of being thankful. Enjoy this time together with your family and friends and remember to share that for which you are thankful.

 

 

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When Bad Things Happen What do You Share With Children?

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Written by Dr. Anne Colantuoni

When bad things happen, children notice.

If a child cries on a Monday morning at drop-off, all the little faces and eyes in the room take note.  At lunchtime, if there is a big spill, there is a moment of quiet, and then a desire to help.

We have been struck in the last two weeks with terrible tragedies.  One very close and the other far away, but we are all noticing and so are our children in some way.

I want to share with you a few ideas to keep in mind when bad things happen and how we should approach talking about and sharing the news with our young children.

Talking with children is time well-spent.

1)  Limit screen time and visual exposure.

When children see an event multiple times on a screen or in print, it is as if it is happening in real time, over and over again.  Also with very young children, the boundary between fantasy and reality is fluid.  A picture can trigger and flood a child’s imagination, making it hard for them to distinguish between what is real and/or fantasy.

2)  Use language that is honest and not frightening.

Be aware of your tone and emotional state, taking time to prepare yourself when you have to share the news.  Containing your own anxiety is key.  Use language that is developmentally appropriate and stay close to the facts.  You don’t have to share every detail!  Too much information can be very disorganizing to a child.  Answer questions as honestly as you can, placing emphasis on the child’s safety.  Reassure them that their immediate world is safe.

Reassure your child.

3)  Be mindful that regression may occur after a traumatic event.

Sleeping, eating, toileting issues may revisit your household.   Offer reassurance and be open to talking through things a few times.  These are teachable moments during which time our children truly learn that any question may be asked and that their loving adults will be reservoirs of honesty.

Anne Colantuoni, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Consulting Psychologist, Twin Parks Montessori Schools

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Tips on how to get out of the house without a meltdown

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Several parents have shared that they need parenting tips from our organized Montessori teachers. One put it this way, “How do we get out of the house in the morning without a meltdown?” Here are tips that work for other parents.

One of the key and most difficult components of a schedule is consistency.

After the adults finish their workday and come home, their homework begins. Chores like shopping, cooking, bedtime and preparing for the next day, are what keep parents up late at night. We all need nourishment and plenty of rest to help us live full lives. Children need these things too. Often the difficulty comes in when there is not enough time between every one returning home and going to bed. What I hear mostly from parents are two things: We get home so late but still want to spend time with our children so we keep them up later at night. Then our children cannot fall asleep or wake up on time in the morning; or, because our children take naps at school, they are not tired and don’t fall asleep until long past our bedtime.

First, establish a reasonable bedtime for your children.

Our sleep coach, Christina Gantcher*, tells us that young children do need naps during the day and the time they go to bed at night should not be more than 5 hours from the time they wake from their afternoon nap.

If you start with the end goal in mind, for example, a 7:30 bedtime, you can back up everything you need to do in the hours you are home to bedtime. If you get home at 5:30, that gives your family 2 hours to eat, clean, and prepare for bed. The preparation for the next day including packing lunches can happen after the children are in bed. See my previous blog post about sleeping.

A bedtime routine should be the same every evening. Dinner, wash up, brush teeth, read books and snuggle, lights out. Children do best when they can predict what comes next in their day. If you usually have time to read 3 books, then set the limit to 3 and stick with it. Your child can choose the 3 books from a group of acceptable books that you make available. This is also a great time for your older child to practice reading skills with you or siblings.

In the morning get up first.

The morning routine flows much better if the parents are first up, showered, and dressed before the children get up. You may need to organize your clothing and work bag the night before. Set the breakfast table with two choices. The goal is to have a relaxing breakfast with your child.

Breakfast together can be the best part of the day!

No TV,  tablets or telephones at the table. Try conversation instead. Everyone’s day flows better with breakfast before leaving the house. Consider breakfast as your most important mealtime together.

Time to get dressed – only have appropriate choices available.

Around about 3 years of age children start dressing themselves. This is a great step towards independence. Allow it to happen. Don’t worry about mix-matched clothing, shoes or socks. But, you must make sure that all choices are appropriate for the weather. Put the summer clothing away now. Tutus over pants or tights are acceptable if your child is comfortable working and playing in them. Sandals and shorts are not available in the winter.

Independence begins with taking care of myself.

Some children may pick out their clothing the night before. Check the weather with your child, discuss what will work for the weather predicted for the next day. If this is something you want to try, have some ground rules about the possibility of a change of mind. Is that going to work for you?

Allow plenty of time.

Mornings cannot be rushed. You have to be organized and know just how long each task requires. Make a schedule with your child and discuss the sequence of activities. Rushing causes some meltdowns. Your child really does want to get to school on time.

Many organized parents also do these things:

  • cook meals ahead on the weekend, prepare cut up vegetables for dinners and have plenty of fresh fruit on hand
  • pack lunches the night before or choose the catered school lunch option
  • pack backpacks with your child the night before
  • turn off all electronics an hour before bedtime
  • be disciplined about how much work you will do after the children are in bed

Change and organization are hard but so very worth it!

Just chose one item that you want to change and slowly move towards it. It takes about 2 weeks for a change to become part of routine. Don’t give up! The reward is manageable evenings and mornings without meltdowns! You can do it!

Enjoy your commute to school with your child.

 

 

 

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Sleep Coaching for Everyone

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Each year Christina Gantcher comes to Twin Parks Montessori Schools and talks about sleep coaching our children to enable them to become great sleepers. Christina helps families get a good night’s sleep. Sleeping is a learned skill. The ability to fall asleep and get back to sleep is taught by children’s caregivers.

Happy sleeping child.

Sleep Cycles
We all have sleep cycles that are of two types: Non-REM and REM. We don’t actually sleep through the night. WE have periods of deep, restorative sleep (non-REM) and light sleep. As adults we can usually put ourselves back to sleep. Children, however, have to learn how to put themselves back to sleep.

One parent told me that her 14 month old goes to bed at 5:45 PM and wakes around 6:00 AM. That is fantastic! This child yearns for sleep and gives cues he is ready. His parents know his sensitive time to fall asleep and they are not prolonging his awake time so that he would get a second wind.

A second wind occurs when the body secretes cortisol and then the body has to process it through the systems to feel sleepy again. This second wind is often the cause of parents inability to have a consistent bedtime routine for their child. They miss the sensitive period for children to fall asleep on their own.

Another interesting thing I learned from reading Christina’s blog was that putting children to sleep by rocking them and then laying them down in their beds is often disconcerting to children. This may cause a child to wake up later and wonder how he got into bed. He may look for the “thing” that put him to sleep in the first place. Not falling asleep independently makes it hard to fall back asleep without adult help.

What about adults and sleep?

I often hear that colleagues are not sleeping well. They have a lot on their minds. I often wake early in the morning and find that I am thinking about an issue at work or a family member. How do we soothe ourselves back to sleep? There are several health problems that can cause insomnia such as pain, sleep apnea or acid reflux. These are issues to consult with a doctor, however what about those of us who awaken because we are worried or thinking too much?

Is this you sometimes; sleepless and watching the clock?

According to the Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorder Center:
• Stop watching the clock.
• Try relaxing your body to fall asleep again – from toes to forehead, make it tense and then relax.
• If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed. Go to another room and do something uninteresting. You don’t want to associate your bedroom with not sleeping well. Try the couch!
• Find an uninteresting activity – boring reading, relaxing music set on a timer, then get back to sleep.

The right combination of pillow, comfortable bedding, air flow and quiet or white noise machine already waiting for you takes some organization. Make sure it is not too bright. Also, it is very important to stop working and using technology an hour before bedtime; instead read a book. Do not watch television or play electronic devices while lying in bed.

When images of work or a stressful situation comes into your thoughts, think of a relaxing, favorite place you have visited. Think of every detail of the moment of being there. Keep this happy, peaceful place in your mind and soon you will find yourself drifting off to slee. . . Sweet dreams!

We are all happier and healthier with good sleep.

Yes! A great night’s sleep!

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How Parents Teach Children about Philanthropy

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There have been so many opportunities for parents to teach children about giving a part of themselves to others around the world and locally. There are local organizations collecting toiletry items for survivors of the hurricanes in Texas and other southern states, as well as the Caribbean Islands.

Philanthropy is a big word for a child to pronounce and it may seem like a challenging concept to comprehend. Quite simply, it is a gift of yourself that you give to others. It can take the form of simple acts of kindness, cleaning a neighborhood park, sharing food, or giving money to an organization. Philanthropy programs for young people provide authentic, positive opportunities for children to develop skills and knowledge that will make them better students and human beings. Teaching young children about philanthropy is also about demonstrating and teaching empathy and justice. Empathy comes from imagining what life would be like in other circumstances and being humble for the privileges that one enjoys.

No-one has ever become poor by giving. ~ Anne Frank

Parents who want to raise philanthropic children are teaching them to be aware of others’ needs, but also to be in tune with their own shareable abilities. Parents who talk about their own passions and philanthropic giving with their young children are helping to create a lifelong habit. In addition, children learn other executive functioning skills such as organization, communication, teamwork, collaboration and problem-solving skills. Children receive a boost in self-esteem when they perform selfless tasks. This begins the development and growth of empathy.

At Twin Parks Montessori School, we strive to develop classroom communities where feelings are validated, and empathy is modeled, learned and shared. Teaching children to be empathetic now, whether offering an upset friend a tissue, or inviting others to play, will have a lasting effect on their citizenship in our global community. Each year at Twin Parks Montessori Schools, children participate in two philanthropy projects; one local and one global.

Little gifts mean a lot!

Twin Parks Montessori School’s local philanthropic project will be happening in just a few weeks. We will collect food for City Harvest. This project is very relatable to young children. They can imagine what it feels like to be hungry. Children enjoy choosing non-perishable food items to give to others. They watch the classroom and schools’ collection grow. This is a clear demonstration of how one small donation can become a larger gift.

Giving can be a year-round activity for your family. If everyone demonstrated empathy and helped others, our community would be a wonderful place to be.

Sharing a bit of yourself can change your world.

One must know not just how to accept a gift, but with what grace to share it.
-Maya Angelou

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How Does a Growth Mindset Help Student Achievement?

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Thanks to Dr. Carol Dweck and her colleagues for their research on students’ attitudes about failure. They questioned why some students rebound and try again while others are devastated by small setbacks. After studying thousands of children, Dr. Dweck came up with the terms Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset to define some thoughts about learning and intelligence.

When children think they can get smarter, and they will put in extra effort to help themselves – this is a Growth Mindset. Dr. JoAnn Deak also said that the brain is malleable and flexible like stretching rubber bands. The more you work at something, the connectivity between neurons increase and change. Dr. Deak’s book, The Fantastic Elastic Brain describes how the brain works and how you can work your brain!

Practice, along with using good strategies, asking questions, and eating and sleeping well do help us become smarter. If you believe your brain can grow, you will increase your motivation and achievement.

The following chart gives examples of what children can be taught to think and say to themselves during times of challenge and frustration. I also think they are wonderful messages adults can use, too.

Growth Mindset statements for everyone!

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The Day I Pushed an Empty Stroller Home

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“My daughter’s phase-in is going really well. I have been released. I am going home. This is the first time I am pushing an empty stroller home,” as told to me by a parent of a two-year-old. “Congratulations! She did it!” was my response.

A happy child waves goodbye to his parent.

We know about separation anxiety in children. The symptoms are:
• distress and reluctance to do anything when separated from a primary caregiver
• trouble sleeping, eating, toileting
• physical complaints like stomach or headache

Adults may also feel separation anxiety. The most common age range for separation anxiety in adults is between 30 and 44 years and some between the ages of 18 and 29 years across all genders.
What are the symptoms for adults?
• excessive stress when separating from home or loved ones
• persistent worry about potential harm to a loved one
• troubling sleeping
• repeated headaches, stomach aches when separated from a loved one

At the start of a new school year we see separation anxiety in both children and adults. You are not alone if you cry or cannot concentrate after dropping off your child at school. One in 6 parents are feeling stressed and 1 in 4 children are feeling stressed. One way that we help individuals is to teach coping skills.
Here are some ways to help:
• talking about feelings is a good way to alleviate anxiety
• preparing children ahead of time
• don’t drag out goodbyes, parents holding their emotions in check helps the child separate
• gradually widen your community of friends so your child get used to a variety of people
• practice separation for a short time building up to a full day
• let your child know when you will return, not in hours, but in activities, “after your rest and snack, I will come for you”
• get to know your caregivers/teachers well
• have faith in your child and take a deep breath

At Twin Parks Montessori School, please trust that we will comfort your child when you leave and that your child is safe. This is the first opportunity for your family and our teaching team to work together to make your child’s school experience a joyful one!

Saying goodbye at the door is a great start to the day!

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First Days of School

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The bus was crowded this morning. It was a sign that schools all over the city are opening. Children are visiting classrooms or attending their first day – for some it is their first time ever attending school. The buzz on the bus was definitely one of excitement. Friends were greeting one another, parents were reacquainting themselves with other parents. There is a dual language school on the route so conversations were happening in French, Spanish and English. The bus driver was telling us to “move on back”, just like the song “Wheels on the Bus”! It was an interesting commute to school.

There were some also anxious feelings. I observed one elementary student in tears trying to explain something to her mother while her mother was conversing with someone else on guess what? Yes, her cellphone. There are better ways to help an upset child rather than give the strong message that the person on the cell phone is more important than the child. But that is another topic.

At Twin Parks Montessori School we offer parents multiple opportunities to learn more about first days of school, what separation will be like, and how we conduct phase-in for new students. Phase-In refers to the initial time period of transition for children as they begin to attend school. During this time children become familiar with the new environment, new people and new routines. The key to a successful phase-in process is that it’s done gradually. It may begin with you and your child spending an hour in the classroom and gradually working up to the full work cycle, lunch, rest and then the full day. Teachers observe the children carefully to see what interests they have and remind them of the activity the next day. Building connections early is essential.

Give an encouraging message before the day begins.


Depending on the age of the child, the phase-in process will differ. Babies sense the warmth and caring emanating from other adults and feel content when their needs are met. Young toddlers are experiencing a newfound sense of independence and are learning that they are not a physical part of their parents. Object permanence is a lesson that is not fully mastered at this age. Toddlers do not have a sense of time to know their parent will come back after rest or at the end of the workday. Children who are in the 3-6-age range are eager to try new things, meet new friends and discover how things work. Their acclimation often takes a short amount of time.

At Twin Parks Montessori School, we phase-in children slowly and follow the child’s lead and comfort level. Parents are notified that phase-in may take two weeks or longer. Teachers make home visits for babies and toddlers to become familiar with the physical space the child lives in. Attention is paid to noise level, feeding schedule, lighting in the room when the child sleeps. It is also helpful for the child to see the teachers for the first time in their own home with their parents and get the sense that teachers are friends.

For all children, returning and new, we email a picture of the teaching team. It helps to learn names and faces before school begins. One parent shared that they framed the teachers’ picture and each night the child said goodnight to teachers before going to sleep.

A few key tips for successful separation:

• Walk by the school before the school year starts so your child becomes familiar with the route and hears the words, “your school”.
• Schedule some down time before school begins, family time to be together taking walks, reading books, playing together will help ensure your child is well-rested and ready for a new beginning.
• Tell a personal, positive story about your experience in school.
• Be positive; your child can sense your own separation anxieties; if you’re enthusiastic,
your child will be too.
• Read books about school when you’re home.
• If your child cries, remain calm. Instead of saying, “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” or,
“There’s no reason to cry.” It’s best to address your child in a positive way: “It’s
okay to be afraid. Your teachers will take care of you.”
• Never sneak out or “slip away.” Tell your child that you’re leaving the classroom.
Make sure you are consistent and give one quick goodbye, each time you leave.
• When you leave, tell your child where you’re going, when you’ll be coming back, and
what you’ll be doing. Please follow the teacher’s instructions on when to come back,
when to leave, etc.
• Do not ask your child for permission to leave the classroom. For example, “Is it okay if I go now?” This can be confusing to your child. Be matter of fact instead.
• Please trust that we will comfort your child when you leave and that your child is
safe.

Sometimes separation is harder for parents than it is for children.

You and your child are not alone in experiencing some trepidation. The first days of school are exciting and full of unknowns for everyone, children, parents, teachers, and administration. Teachers have told me they pick out their clothes the night before, have their bag all ready to go, and still they lose sleep thinking about the first day of school! You are in great company!

Some people are happy on the first day of school.

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Is Your Family Over-scheduled?

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Well-intentioned parents want their children to learn life skills, build confidence and experience new opportunities. We all want the best we can provide for our children. When you live in a bustling community you fear your child may fall behind. And yes, we want to impress others with the success of our children. It is natural! We all do it!

Ask yourself, “how many days a week is the whole family having dinner or breakfast together?” If the answer is less than 4, your family is overscheduled. If your family fits the less than 4 family meals you may wonder, so what’s the big deal about eating together, anyway?

The benefits of eating a meal together are numerous. Young children learn the art of conversation at the dinner or breakfast table. Conversations are a group project with each person interspersing a tidbit here and there. Even babies will interject a babble or two. Children learn to take turns listening, really listening, and talking. They learn what interruption means. People reflect on their day, share their hopes and verbalize their fears of what’s to come.

Babies join the conversation, too!

Eating together becomes more important as your child ages. In addition to maintaining relationships, it enhances empathy, understanding and love. Children learn to make positive dietary choices that last well into the future. It also provides time to be together – QUALITY TIME.

Children and families become overscheduled. There are detrimental outcomes of children being overscheduled including:
• not having time to do nothing, to think, or be creative
• just not feeling well, or sleeping well, moody or anxious
• less enthusiasm for life in general
• older children dropping grade point averages
• no time for best friends
• YOU are tired, too!

What can you do? Start by eliminating one activity a week. Limit the extra-curricular activities during the school year to be two per person. Let your children make the choices to make sure the motivation is from them and not entirely from you. Make a commitment for one session or one semester at a time.

Learning the art of conversation is a life skill.

Make your family meals an activity. Each can take a turn planning the meal, making a list and shopping for ingredients. Preschool children learn executive function skills and math concepts by planning, and organizing a meal and by setting the table. Making table linens choices, matching patterns, and organizing utensils is all preparation for reading and math. Family meals can become a highlight of the week. Your family will be healthier and happier as a result.

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Kathy’s Insights