Parent Involvement and Parent Success

Over the past few weeks several parents have stopped me in the hallways and asked me how they could determine whether their child was ready for kindergarten and what they can do to make sure that once they get there in the fall that they are successful. Making this transition from preschool to kindergarten can be difficult for both the child and the parents. I remember when my oldest went off to kindergarten and the line of cars that followed the bus to the school to watch the children get off the bus and enter for the first time; the tears in our eyes as we realized that our children had left the nest and were beginning to take flight.

As emotionally charged as this all seems, the biggest question was: are they going to be successful? The answer to that question is yes!! The love and support that we show our children through our actions and words are what is going to get them through those first few days and then move toward a greater love of learning. That is as long as we stay involved in our children’s school. Both the National PTA (2014) and the Center for Public Education (2011) state that when parents are involved with their children both at home and at school that the children are more likely to be successful.

So what can we do at home to make sure that we are guiding our children toward their full potential? As a parent and an educator, I have found it helpful to know what my child is learning every step of the way. It is through this knowledge that we can plan for experiences that will guide them toward further understanding and hone the skills that their teachers are building. For example, as my children were learning their alphabet and phonetics I would point out letters in their favorite foods, games, etc., and have them tell me about the letter (what it is, what it sounds like, what other words may contain that letter, etc.).

One of the biggest things that you can do for your child right now is to talk to them about the upcoming changes and prepare them for their first day of school. If the school is nearby take a walk or a bike ride to the school and spend time playing on the playground with your child. Through the process of building memories with your child at the school you will ease the transition period. On the first day of school remind your child of all the fun that you have had with them at the school and then when they are finished with the first day ask what kinds of memories that they have built. Making this connection between home and school will build their confidence and make the transitions easier.

Remember that although the first day of school can be scary and stressful that how we present ourselves and our positive attitude about our children’s education will help ease the way into this new period of their lives.


Center for Public Education. (2011, August 30). Back to school: How parent involvement affects student achievement (full report) – See more at: Retrieved July 24, 2014, from Center for Public Education:

National PTA. (n.d.). Report: The Positive Relationship Between Family Involvement and Student Success. Retrieved July 24, 2014, from National PTA:

Calling ALL families…..

Join us for FUN FILLED family events:

Thankful Feast: Please bring a dish to pass as we celebrate and are thankful for our families, our center/staff, and honoring God for all that He does for us!

Thankful Feast will be held on Friday, November 18 at 11:30 am

School Spirit week:

November 28: Pajama Day

November 29: Team Spirit Day

November 30: Crazy Hair Day

December 1: Mixed up Day

December 2: Superhero Day


Parent Teacher conferences will be held the week of November 28th. Please see your child’s teacher for sign up sheet

Sports Camp

We get our adrenaline pumping as we explore the fun-filled world of sports.  From July 14th to July 25th, your child will learn some sports from around the world, practice their favorite sports and participate is some wonderful activities.

Field trips for this camp include:

July 14th – Airtime

July 18th – Red Oaks Waterpark

July 22nd – Joe Dumar’s Fieldhouse

July 24th – Troy Lanes

Register your child today for these fun adventures!

Ten sentence starters….besides “good job”

Parents and teachers often say “good job” as an automatic response to a child’s action.
“You ate all of your peas. Good job!” “You did a good job putting away the toys.”
A “good job” now and then is fine, but it doesn’t help children understand why what they did was good. Preschoolers need to know what they did, why it worked, or why it shows they are capable. Try the following suggestions to give preschoolers specific, detailed information that recognizes their achievements and encourages their learning.

Use sentence starters. Say “I see you,” “I hear you,” or “I notice,” followed by a description. “I noticed you sorted the leaves into two piles. These ones are from an oak tree and those ones are from a maple tree.” Or try openers like “Tell me more about” or “You worked really hard to.”

Notice and give feedback about efforts. “Jocelyn, you spent a long time figuring out where to put the last two pieces of the puzzle. You kept working until you were done!”

Invite children to talk. Children’s learning is enhanced when they talk about their explorations and creations. “That looks really interesting. How did you do that?” “You wrote a lot of words on your paper. Would you tell me what they say?”

Pay attention to details. When talking about a painting, tell the artist what shapes, lines, colors, textures, and forms you see in the work. “Look at all of the green polka dots in the sky! You mixed many shades of green and blue to paint this picture.”

Say “thank you.” When children are helpful, thank them. “Thank you for opening the door for me. While you held the door, I could use both hands to carry our bag of balls into the classroom.”

Identify a goal before responding. Ask yourself: Do I want to acknowledge a positive behavior, an act of kindness, or use of problem-solving skills? To encourage self-regulation you might say, “How kind you are. You helped Jorge zip his coat, even though you wanted to run and play.”

Give nonverbal feedback. A gentle pat on the back, a smile, a wink, or a fist bump tells a child, “I see you are learning.” This is especially appropriate for children who are dual language learners.

Use mirroring. When a child goes up and down the slide on her own for the first time, notice her smile, then smile back with a specific comment. “Look at what you did! Just yesterday you asked me to help and now you can do it on your own.”

Highlight children’s work. Invite children to help find a place to hang a painting. Plan a time when children can share their work with classmates. Include photos that demonstrate children’s efforts and accomplishments in a blog or a family newsletter. “Petra and Janine, please help me choose some photos for our weekly update. I’d like all the families to see how you worked together to make a book about our trip to the nature center.”

Encourage next steps. After a child has one positive experience, suggest something that he or she can do that leads to another accomplishment. “The boat you drew has two masts and lots of portholes. What materials could you use to build it?” (Note the introduction of a new vocabulary word—portholes!) TYC

Planning for positive guidance

Guiding children’s behavior is something done throughout the day, not just when a child acts in a way that is unsafe or unacceptable. You guide behavior by establishing predictable routines, setting clear rules with children, and modeling kindness and respect. You are also attentive and aware of what is going on. Together, these actions help children feel noticed, confident, and secure. Children experience your attention and guidance as a caring embrace holding everything together. They know you’re on their team.
(Dombro, Jablon, & Stetson 2011, 58)

This excerpt shapes our thinking as we plan for positive guidance in our classroom at a preschool in Pahoa, Hawaii. Using the three steps of a Powerful Interaction—Be Present, Connect, and Extend Learning—helps us be more successful at building strong, caring relationships with children and families. Powerful Interactions are interactions in which a teacher intentionally connects with a child to extend his or her learning. We also actively plan for guidance, which keeps a positive climate in our classroom. This boosts how we feel at the end of the day and enhances each child’s success as a learner.
Here are some strategies we use to plan for positive guidance, keeping a Powerful Interactions approach in mind.

Teamwork makes positive guidance more effective and Powerful Interactions possible!

It took time for us to become an effective teaching team. We had never worked together and had to become acquainted with each other’s teaching style. However, we wanted to be a seamless team because children tune in to their significant adults. We strive to coordinate our messages to children and make them clear and consistent. By staying present (step one of a Powerful Interaction) with each other and connected with our eyes, words, laughter, and other cues, we extend children’s learning during group times and transitions. Our teamwork has positive effects on children’s behavior and the classroom climate. It also gives us more energy to guide children in positive ways and enjoy each day. Three tips help us ensure seamless teamwork:
1. Be clear about roles. When we plan together, we clarify who will do what and when. Our goal is to be predictable about our roles during routines so that the children can anticipate what’s going to happen and who to look to for directions. This reduces challenging behaviors significantly. For example, at arrival time, Deborah greets children in our lending library and talks with them about books. At the same time, Danielle greets children and families at the classroom door and then moves around the room to support them as they do morning activities.
2. Make two voices one, literally and figuratively. This helps us deliver clear and cohesive messages to children. Too often children check with one adult and if they don’t like the answer, ask the other one. When children hear our voices from different areas of the room, they are more relaxed. We’re playful and sometimes silly about how we make our two voices one. We might echo each other’s voices melodically, complete each other’s sentences when giving directions, or finish each other’s rhymes. Danielle says, “There was one little bat in one big cave,” while looking over at Deborah who immediately chimes in, “He was so alone and not so brave.” The children enjoy the predictability of listening for our voices bouncing back and forth. Sometimes they look at the other adult to see what she’ll say.
3. Use frequent check-ins. We continually check in with each other throughout the day about what children are doing and how they are responding to activities and other children. We give each other signals about how things are going. The more we stay present, the easier it is to connect with each other. The result is a calmer classroom and fewer episodes of challenging behaviors. These tips have worked for us:
  • Be on opposite sides of the room during indoor time to keep things running smoothly.
  • Scan the room frequently, looking at what children are doing and at one another. Quickly read each other’s cues, such as a thumbs-up, smile, nod, or lift of an eyebrow.
  • Update each other after an interaction with a child or family member. A quick summary or saying “Remind me to tell you about _____ later today” ensures consistency with each other, the children, and their families.
  • Tune in to those children who need a little more attention. This can prevent challenging situations by catching them before they start.

Use daily arrival time to set the tone for positive guidance.

At the beginning of the year, teachers get to know children and their families through home visits and an orientation period (when a few children come for a few hours each day). During the orientation we introduce our arrival time routines. Our goal is for parents to have positive interactions with their children and for us to have Powerful Interactions with children and family members. Our routine and roles allow us to be present and connect with each child and her family for at least a few minutes. We plan activities that address positive guidance as well as language and literacy and math learning. When the day begins well, most children stay engaged and focused. Our predictable routine has three parts:
1. Offer specific activities in learning centers. We display simple written directions for activities parents and children can do together. While completing the activities is not required, parents and children often do them because they are engaging and they spark ideas to use at home.
2. Write an interactive morning message. The daily message is for families to read to their child as the child points to each word. Part of the message specifically relates to positive guidance. In Hawaiian culture and in our program, we emphasize the values of aloha (kindness), malama (caring), and kuleana (responsibility). To engage families and children in discussion, one question invites reflection about one of these three values. For example, the message might ask, What’s one way that you will show malama today? A family member helps the child answer the question, records his answer on a Post-it note, and adds it to a message chart that is on display for the week. Additional messages might ask, “How many letters are in your name?” or “Who brought you to school today?” We discuss the daily message when we gather for group time later in the morning.

3. Create a library. To encourage Powerful Interactions at home, we set up a lending library. Books are arranged in categories (that change periodically) so children can return their book in the morning and make a new selection. Children enjoy talking with Deborah about the books they return and hearing her recommendations for new selections.

Ensure smooth transitions.

As a team, we sustain a warm and friendly classroom climate by planning for and using teamwork to ensure smooth transitions. Over time we have established a repertoire of successful strategies in three main categories:
1. Humor. A light tone gives us energy and invites positive responses from children. Whether it is simply laughing aloud, making up a silly rhyme to give a direction, or singing funny words to a familiar song, we keep our transition times light and engaging. Sometimes we’re laughing at each other and our own silliness, which makes the children laugh, too.
2. Puppets. When we gather on the rug between activities, we each wear a finger puppet. The puppets talk about what will happen next, what they observed about cleanup, or the behaviors expected in the next activity. The children know these puppets well and seem completely invested in listening to them. Daisy: Hey Fuzzy, I used my walking feet when I came over to large group. Fuzzy: Me too. We know our kuleana (responsibilities), don’t we!
3. Music. Songs and melodies add to the positive climate. When interacting with one child at a time, we use natural, authentic voices. However, when we want to engage the whole group, we find that singing directions captures their attention more than our normal voices. These strategies work for us:
  • Give verbal directions in a melodic voice.
  • Use call-and-response or rhymes or something that allows voices to alternate. When we sing songs that have an echo pattern—like “Down by the Bay”—the children know to expect our voices to alternate.
  • Give directions as lyrics to a familiar song and alternate voices. For example, as it gets close to cleanup, Deborah starts singing to Danielle to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
Deborah: Kumu (teacher) Danielle, are you ready to ring the chimes? (2x)
Danielle chimes in,
Yes I am and I’m walking over now
and I am ready to ring the chimes.  
Deborah then begins the next verse as she guides the children in cleaning up, and Danielle moves toward the rug to help settle children.
Remember what to do when you hear the chimes . . . (2x)
We clean up our activity,
and walk over to our name,
and sit right down and show Kumu Danielle that you’re ready.
We have shared the ways we plan for positive guidance and use Powerful Interactions in our classroom to create a positive climate that prevents many challenging behaviors. The result is an enjoyable, effective, and productive learning environment. We hope you find the suggestions effective and that they spark more ideas for helping children and families.

Summer Fun Activities

Summer has always been the joy of childhood as many children are out of school, attending camps and enjoying the world around them. It is also the time of year when we as parents let our guard down when it comes to our children’s education. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some fun learning activities to do with your child during the summer to keep them sharp and ready for the upcoming school year.

Many of us travel during the glorious summer months. These longer car rides can be a challenge for your child as they sit and wait for the fun to begin. Try some of the car games below to make the car ride go faster for your child and to boost their educational skills.

Alphabet Search

Preschool/School Age: Start a race with your child to see who can find the letters of the alphabet, in order, first using the signs, license plates and other environmental print outside of your car. This is also a great time to work with your preschooler on those letters that may be difficult for them. Relating the letter M to McDonald’s helps them to remember the letter.

Shape/Color Search

Toddlers: Start a race with your child to see who can find the most colors or shapes while riding in the car. Using signs, license plates and other environmental print is also a precursor to reading.

Check back next week for more fun activities to do with your child.

Space is the Place

Our second summer camp session blasts off June 30th and returns to earth on July 13th.  This exciting  space camp will have your child exploring the stars and walking on the moon.

Field trips on this exciting adventure include:

June 30th – Cranbrook Planetarium

July 8th – Sloan Museum

July 10th – Pump it Up

Call today to register your child for this great space adventure!

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Plan, Purchase and prepare

Planning meals, making a grocery list and finding quick and easy recipes online will help with your budgeting.  Plan on making ecofriendly dishes that you can eat for dinner, have for lunch the next day or even freeze it for later dates. Meals such as soups and pasta’s work well.

When you go grocery shopping, make sure you’re not hungry when you do so, this will help you avoid making unnecessary purchases.  Avoid going down aisles that don’t contain items on your list, you will be less likely to see something that taste good and buy it. When a choice arises between two brands, typically the store brand will be cheaper.  Some people prefer the name brand choices but if you read the labels, you may find that they have the same ingredients and should then choose the cheaper item.  Sometimes buying in bulk is the better choice, individual yogurts, macaroni and cheese, rice cups, etc. may be convenient with time but they are usually more money.

Preparing meals when you get home from work and getting your child/children settled in for the evening can be an extreme challenge, to help with time; here are a few ideas to help:

ü  Prepare the night before or in the morning by putting things into a crock pot

ü  Double or triple on recipes so you can save and/or freeze to have on hand meals

ü  Keep your pantry full

ü  Don’t be afraid to use frozen vegetables

ü  Prep meals in aluminum foil to save on cleaning time

ü  Reduce thawing time and make patties for burgers and then freeze them as is

Eating healthy and being on a budget can be tough at times but can be managed well by using the plan, purchase and prepare method.  Plan out your meals to make grocery shopping and meal preparation easier and faster, purchase off brand items and find things on sale and prepare meals ahead of time by freezing them or putting them in a crock pot.




Work cited

Tips for Toilet Training

Toilet training can be one of the most frustrating events in a child’s/parent’s lives.  There are several things you can do to make this a more relaxed process and help your child become successful.  If you have any other tips that might help other parents, or you want to share your toilet training stories please feel free to do so:

  1. Stay on a routine
  2. Remain with the child (take them to the bathroom, even if it is just to try)
  3. Wait until the child is physically and emotionally ready.
  4. Don’t be upset if your child regresses during the process, this is normal.
  5. Teach your child the words to use
  6. Be there to help.  Listen.  Put them on the potty.  Help with clothing and wiping.
  7. Have your child wear character underwear – they don’t want to dirty their favorite character.
  8. Create a consistent routine which can be followed at home and at school.
  9. Take your child to the bathroom before nap and bedtime or before any long periods where the bathroom will not be available.
  10. Talk to your child about how proud you are that they tried to use the potty, whether they were successful or not.
  11. Have a “no more diaper party” after they are trained.  Use extra diapers as hats and celebrate that special day for the child.
  12. Let the child tell you when he or she is ready.  Generally they will begin asking to use the toilet.
  13. Do not dress your child in restricted clothing such as overalls, bodysuits, etc.
  14. Make sure you are ready when your child is ready.  This is a big step and you need to be ready to let go when they are ready to try.
  15. Do not shame or get angry with your child when an accident occurs.  Reassure them that it is alright and then clean it up.
  16. Use Cheerios/Fruit Loops in the toilet for your child to aim at (boys)
  17. Use a blue liquid in the toilet so that your child can turn it green.


Most importantly, make sure that you are being supportive of your child and their efforts.  Your support will go a long way in making this a positive experience for your child.

Fun Activities for Learning Letters

There are many ways in which children can have fun learning their letters.  Below are some of the ways in which I have found that children enjoy this process.  If you have any other ideas that have worked for you please share them here.

  1. Use magnetic or felt letters or alphabet cards to sequence and match letters.
  2. Put plastic letters in a feel bag or box and let children guess shat letter they are feeling.
  3. Paint letters on an easel
  4. Finger paint letters
  5. Glue beans, noodles, cloth, cotton balls, miniature marshmallows, rice, or paper to make mosaics in the shape of letters.
  6. Build letters with Play dough, pretzel or bread dough
  7. Use letter stamps to sequence the alphabet or words
  8. Air write letters.  Use a dowel with colorful streamers attached
  9. Water paint letters on the blackboard
  10. Make letters with pipe cleaners
  11. Play alphabet bingo
  12. Play mystery writing:  take the child’s hand and write a letter with his/her hand while their eyes are closed.  Have them guess what letter it is.
  13. Cut out letters with scissors (great for building the muscles needed for writing)
  14. Provide wooden, cardboard, or paper shapes to build alphabet letters
  15. Use scrabble tiles to match letters
  16. Sort letters
  17. Play “go fish” with alphabet cards
  18. Fish for letters using a homemade fishing pole with a magnet hanging on a string.  Letter cards can have paperclips placed on them
  19. Make alphabet cards and cut them in half; have child match them.
  20. Have child match upper and lowercase letters.
  21. Find letters in magazines, books, on cereal boxes and other household items.
  22. Sponge paint letters
  23. Play “I Spy” with letters.  For example, “I see the letter x hiding on this page.” Then have the child find the letter

Write letters with your finger in the following items:

  • Cornmeal
  • Sand
  • Pudding (dry or prepared)
  • Foam soap
  • Shaving cream
  • Bird seed
  • Colored sand

Use masking tape or rope to make letters on the floor and have your child:

  • Trace letters with their feet
  • Walk or crawl on them following the path of the letter
  • Drive toy cars on them
  • Follow the shape of the letter by “painting” with a paint roller (free of paint of course!)
  • Roll them out with rolling pins
  • Hop or jump along the letter lines

Make alphabet cards for matching (visually or by touch) and tracing with:

  • Colored glue
  • Yarn & glue
  • Dry Jello & glue
  • Puff paint
  • Glue with sand, cornmeal, etc.

Write letters on:

  • Magna-doodles
  • Dry-erase boards
  • Paper with sandpaper under it


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