Monday, December 31, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sleepover Tips

Last week we explored Sleepover Readiness. This week it's some tips for a great sleepover experience and things to know when you are the host family. Let's start by getting real about a sleepover - we all know very little sleep actually occurs. I used to call them Up Overs - it was a fun name for what really happens. The younger the children the more sleep they actually get - well, usually.

Size of the Party
Are you doing a best-friend coming over or is this a group event? If sleepovers are new to your child (and to you) you may want to do a few "one guest" invites before moving onto a group. Keep groups to 3 or 4 guests before trying any larger groups. It’s usually best if you don’t have odd numbers but sometimes that can’t be helped – just be aware odd numbers can lead to one person feeling left out. Knowing the children well can help you with planning and preparation. If you don’t know the child it can be a bit more challenging.

Timing is Everything
Not only do you need to consider the best evening – usually Friday or Saturday nights are best for most families – but you also need to think about start and end time. Traditionally children arrive around dinner time and leave mid-morning. So something like 6 PM to 10:30 AM is typical. You can make the start later so that guests have had dinner at home and arrive in time for activities and an evening snack. Some children may need to leave earlier in the morning because of other activities – sports or lessons or church – which means planning for that option as well. Don’t pick a weekend with a lot of other activities going on. Sleepovers or Up Overs are often exhausting for children and they may need some recovery time at home. Also, I was careful not to choose a weekend when I knew that there was a lot of school work or school projects that needed attention.

Family on Alert
All family members need to be alerted about a planned sleepover. Younger siblings may want to participate. I don’t recommend this. Your child, as the host, is already feeling some pressure to provide a fun time for their friends. Having to cope with their younger sibling is a recipe for unhappiness all around. I tried to find something special for the younger ones while the sleepover party was happening – a fun video, project, story, allow them to sleep in sleeping bags, etc.

PREPARATIONS

Food
Dinner should be easy and child friendly. The "go to" meal is often pizza, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve served hotdogs, mac-n-cheese, tacos, chicken nuggets, etc. Yes, we also offered fruit or veggies with the meal but didn’t make a big deal out of it when children passed them up.
When you talk with the parents prior to the big night be sure to ask about food allergies or preferences. It will save you a lot of time and headache. True story: one of the boys coming for a sleepover only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread! That’s right, every meal. His parents told us he wouldn’t eat anything else. Sure enough he refused everything else including popcorn and other snack foods. We were glad to be prepared.
Evening snacks are often popcorn, chips, pretzels, etc. We also offered fruit and veggies with dips. A few liked to have the choices and as the children got older they really liked the variety.
Keep breakfast choices easy. I’ve hosted ten girls at a sleepover where we were serving pancakes, fruit and milk – nice hearty meal. I made well over 70 pancakes for these little eating machines. Future sleepovers we offered several cereals, muffins, juice and milk. Easier for them to eat when they were ready and less cooking time for the adults.

Schedule
While a sleepover is a relaxed event having a plan can help everyone pace themselves, including you. Along with choosing an appropriate start and end time, consider the flow of the evening. Have something to do as everyone arrives including where they put their sleeping bags and personal items. If there is a game or activity going then people can be directed to that area. This is particularly true if this is a first sleepover or if the children are younger. We always had the child who was the host of the party come to the door to greet each person and help them get settled.
Pace out the other activities, videos, snacks over the evening. Start with more active play earlier in the evening so that there is a sense of quieting down as the activities wrap up. Children left without some direction will find things to do - - - not always a good thing. However, you don’t need to over plan either. Downtime is a positive thing as well. Keep early risers busy with quiet activities in the morning.
Set a "lights out" time. Younger children will eventually fall asleep with quiet, darker conditions. I would give them a 15 minute warning about lights out and follow up with 5 minute warning. Then I would enforce lights out. Other than a few night lights strategically placed it was dark. I’d have some quiet music in the background and set myself up with a book just outside the “sleeping” area. A few reminders to settle down were usually all it took. Older children can manage on their own but I still set a quiet time for the house. I didn’t mind preteens and teens staying up all night but it’s not fair for everyone in the house to be disturbed.
Here is a general plan that I found helpful: arrival of free play inside or out, once everyone has arrived move to an active game or outing, dinner, quieter games or projects, snack and videos, lights out and quiet time, quiet morning activity for early risers, breakfast, clean-up and goodbyes. This is often followed by nap time for those of us who needed it!

Household Rules
Early on in the evening house rules need to be presented and reviewed. Making a list of rules is a good project for you and your child to do together. As the adult you are the one to review the rules and expectations with the whole group. You are also the enforcer. Be prepared for any child who wants to push the boundaries. I found it a good idea to share the house rules with all the parents when I contacted them so there were no surprises later.

Difficult Situations
Not all children are ready for a sleepover and you may have those that are homesick or upset. If you can comfort and reassure them, that’s wonderful. Usually they will want to go home. Simply call the parents for pick up. I made sure that I had each child’s parent contact information and had talked with each parent personally. They knew that I’d call them if there was any issue. If a child wanted to call home just to touch base I'd certainly let them do that. Parents would sometimes call to see if everything was OK. I was happy to give them an update.
What if it is your child that is overwhelmed or frustrated? This happened to us a few times. Often taking them aside to help you in the kitchen or setting up another activity helped. They want all their friends to get along and have a good time. It’s disappointing then when one or two of them are complaining or not friendly. If I felt they had too much downtime which was causing friction then we'd switch it up for a treasure hunt  or another activity – something to shake up the group dynamics.
Disagreements can happen. Do your best to let them work it out for themselves, but be ready to intervene if needed. This could be an opportunity to teach about compromise and problem solving. You may need to be the “heavy” and redirect their energy to something else or provide them with a solution.
Check in with them from time to time. Make sure everyone is ok and things are going well. Sometimes just doing this will ward off other behavior issues.

Sleepovers are a social, bonding experience for children and their peer group. Both boys and girls can benefit from these events. Hosting the event is a project but it also allows you to know your child's friends and see them in a different light.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows - Sticky Fun for Everyone!


Homemade marshmallows is a fun, sticky and delightful activity. Children, depending on their age and abilities, can be included in a variety of steps throughout the process. Roll up your sleeves, get on your aprons and enjoy the process as well as the outcome.
WARNING: this is a sticky business!

Ingredients
3/4 cup cold water
2 packets of powdered gelatin (each 1/4 ounce)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or seeds from 2 vanilla beans


Directions
Combine 3/4 cup cold water and two 1/4-ounce packets powdered gelatin in a small bowl and set aside. Mix 1/2 cup each confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a separate bowl. Sprinkle half of the cornstarch mixture in an 8-inch square pan*, set the remaining mixture aside. I've also used parchment paper inserted into the pan but sticking over the sides and sprinkled with the sugar/cornstarch mixture - it usually comes out quite easily.
Cook 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until 235 degrees on a candy thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes. Use a saucepan with high sides so you don't have bubbling over issues. Once it hits 235 remove from heat.
Combine the syrup mixture with the gelatin mixture. Add either seeds from 2 vanilla beans or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl. Make sure your bowl has plenty of room for whipping everything together - believe me you'll need it.
Beat with a mixer on medium high until thick and fluffy, about 6 - 8  minutes. This is the marshmallow fluff stage which is yummy as well!
Scrape mixture into your pan and spread evenly with a buttered spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining cornstarch mixture.
Let dry overnight, then slice into squares**. I like using a pizza cutter with more of the cornstarch/powdered sugar mix so it doesn't stick to the cutter or cutting surface. Store unused marshmallows in a airtight container - that is if you have any left to store.

*This recipe calls for an 8X8 inch pan, but we frequently spread the marshmallow mixture into a 13X9 inch pan for thinner marshmallows which were easier to cut - particularly if you want to cut out shapes.
**If you want to go beyond the basic squares spread the mixture in a larger pan for easy cutting. Use metal, sharp edged, cookie cutters dipped in more of the corn starch confectioner's sugar mix. You may need to coax them out of pan a little. Simple shapes work best - hearts, circles, stars, etc. - you will not be able to get detailed cuts from this very sticky, but delightful treat.
You can also add flavors to your marshmallows or dip them in a chocolate coating for added fun as well as colored sugar or sprinkles for something special.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Is Your Child Sleepover Ready?


The first sleepover is a rite of passage for most children but knowing when your child is ready for this special event can be tricky. Here are a few things to consider when deciding if your child is sleepover ready. And just as importantly are you a sleepover ready parent.

No Magic Age - There really is no magic age when a child is ready for their first sleepover. Most often sleepovers with friends start when children enter the school years. Your child should be comfortable with staying overnight away from home. Feeling nervous and excited are to be expected but being fearful isn't the way to start. Children who have traveled with their families frequently, often have an easier time with sleepover opportunities. Staying over at grandparents or other family member's homes is also a good introduction to the sleepover.

Child Driven - Your child should be the one to let you know they are interested. Pushing your child into anything like this is usually a mistake. They may be talking about this with friends or have an older sibling who is a sleepover pro and they want to know when they can have a sleepover. Even if your child is a sleepover pro they may not always want to participate when invited. Finding out why is important as well as respecting their reasons to "pass" on an invitation.

Trial Run - Your home is a good place for a trial run sleepover. Make it special night where you host a family sleepover - fun food options, activity, video. Do some role playing about how a sleepover could go? Think about options and variations to explore. Part of the process is to sleep somewhere else in the house - not in their own bed.
Making a Plan - Share with your child your own sleepover experiences. Open the door to have them share their concerns with you. Discuss a plan for you and your child with details like drop off process, when you'll pick them up the next day and what would happen if they needed you to pick them up during the night. Sometimes that first sleepover is a false start. They need to know that you'll be there to pick them up as planned. This gives them confidence in you and that next time they may have more success.

Parent Approved - Your comfort is vital to success. For any sleepover, but more specifically the first, knowing some information will help you. Talk with the hosting parents/adults/guardians personally. Who will be home during the sleepover? How many children are participating? What are the plans for the event - including food and activities, bedtime expectations, sleeping arrangements, etc.? If your household has rules about what your children can watch (movies or television) and they don't match the rules or plans of the hosting home - are you ok with this? Make sure that the host family has your contact information and understand that their child can call you at anytime.                          If you are hosting then you want to be proactive and talk with each child's parents to let them know your plans and expectations. They need to feel confident in you as the hosting family. Making a few calls before your child invites their friends can go a long way to a sucessful event.

*Look for next week's Sleepover Tips*

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow Painting


snow painting of smiley face

by Kelly Miller

Now that we have all that fresh new snow outside, it is a perfect time to gather up old spray bottles and make snow paint!  Just fill spray bottles with water and food coloring (you will need one spray bottle for each color).  I have done this activity with many children over the years, and it is always a favorite winter activity. 

Step 1:  Gather spray bottles
Step 2:  Fill bottles with water.  Add food coloring.  Shake and be sure cap is tightly secured!
Step 3:  Have fun painting the snow!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finding the Gifts in Your Gifted Child


by Samantha Sawyer
 
 
You're proud of your gifted child's achievements, but whenever you hear the words from other parents' lips, "You are so lucky," you inwardly cringe. They have no idea how hard you work to do simple things like run errands, go to events and eat a peaceful dinner. It's hard reconciling the "gift" of a highly intelligent child and the challenge of every day life with one. Read on for ways to outsmart your smarty-pants and enjoy more peace and calm in your home.
Despite providing your gifted child every possible opportunity to succeed in life, he throws fits and has intense outbursts of anger. Your positive parenting attempts don’t seem to matter when he’s caught up trying to entangle you in a power struggle. Parents want the best for their child, but when it comes to gifted, intense children it can be tricky to know exactly what is best. There’s a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow (or so you’ve heard) but what about right now?
When a child’s intensity spills over into their social-emotional interactions it tests our nerves, to say the least. It takes all the control we, as adults, can muster to stay calm and logical when the little one is yelling, fussing and demanding that we follow his rules instead of the other way around. How can you shift this behavior so that he learns to get along with others, a true prediction of success and happiness in life?
We mistakenly assume that children born with intense, sharp minds come wired with the corresponding social skills. However, a child born with muscles isn’t born an athlete. Skills develop when they are targeted with intention, consistency and repetition. Let’s shake up this super-serious “me” behavior by giving your child large doses of “we.”
  Set the rules of your household along with your child
  Post the rules at your child’s eye-level in a common room
  When a rule is broken enforce a short 30-second break (this applies to all family members, grown-ups included)
  Catch moments when your child is obeying a rule he doesn’t usually follow (e.g. no yelling) and provide heartfelt appreciation

Setting house rules allows your child to know what the limits are within your family, which gives him internal security, especially since he had a voice in creating the rules. Providing deep, heartfelt reinforcement for good behavior floods his brain with intense happy chemicals, which makes him more likely to repeat the behavior you praised and less likely to lash out in anger.

Your intense, gifted child is well on his way to developing a strong self-identity so use the best platform you have available – your family - to nurture his sense of unity and cohesion. Being intentional and consistent about house rules allows you and your child to respond in more predictable and peaceful ways. So grab hold of the tail end of that rainbow and ride it high into the sky! Let the opportunities you provide nurture your child’s emotional skills as much as his academic skills, and he will successfully mature into his natural giftedness.
You can believe this!
Samantha Sawyer, M.A. CCC-SLPOwner, Brightening Connections LLC651.785.3059www.BrighteningConnections.com

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bundle Up: It's Cold Out There


It's Minnesota and we won't let the cold keep us inside. Knowing how to bundle up properly will help you stay warm and dry no matter the temperature. Layers are the way to go - layers trap body heat and help insulate you from the cold. In addition, you can remove layers to let heat escape to prevent overheating. Using light and medium layer is better at regulating your body temperature than just going with a heavy winter coat or jacket.

First Layer - Avoid Cotton
The fabrics you choose are important since some can actually make the cold worse. Outdoor experts say that natural fibers aren't a good choice for a first layer. Synthetics do a better job of wicking away moisture from the body. Cotton can actually hold onto mositure and keep you colder. Wool and wool blends are a good choices because it is known to retain the ability to insulate even when wet. Synthetics that are designed to wick way moisture are the best. This first layer should be light and comfortable.

Second Layer: Warmth
The second layer is to keep your body's natural heat in. This insulating layer could be a fleece or synthetic layer or a light weight down jacket - all do a good job of keeping you warm and again they are light and comfortable.
Your activity can determine the weight of your layers. The more active you are outdoors the thinner the layer and conversly the less active you are thicker is better. Fleece is effective in all situations.

Top Layer: Sheilding
The top layer's function is to act like a shield, reflecting the elements away from the body. The outer "shell" layer protects from wind, rain and heavy wet snow. Many of today's jackets come with several layers zipped into each other allowing for you to make adjustments as needed. The outer shell has that protective property that it needed.

Keep Your Head Warm
I can still hear my mom telling me, "get your hat on so you don't get cold!" She was right. You can lose a lot of body heat if your extremities aren't covered properly. A good hat, mittens or gloves and warm boots will go a long way to keeping you warm and comfortable. Once your head, hands or feet are cold your outdoor time is over - so "get your hat on!"



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Card and Decorations

The holidays are such an exciting time for everyone! Children want to be involved in all kinds of projects and here are three to get you started. Great for a variety of ages, these three projects include creativity and the spirit of the season. Next week . . . more ideas!!

Homemade Holiday Cards

Holiday cards are a wonderful creative project that need only a few basic items which you probably already have in your art supplies. Paper, crayons, markers, glue sticks get things started. You may want to add seasonal stickers, glitter glue or other specialty items to your supplies for this project. You'll also want envelopes if you plan to send the cards out in the mail. This is one of those projects that you can get out and work on for one day or over several weeks.  I liked to keep this project at the ready in a plastic storage box so that we could pull it out when we were feeling like working on it. I had cut the paper for the base cards, usually out of card stock, sized for the envelopes. You can also purchase blank cards with envelopes ready to use. We sent the cards along with a photo of the children to family and close friends and also used them with holiday gifts. Learning concepts include: creative expression, small motor skills - cutting / gluing / assembly, previewing, planning and writing skills.

Paper Chains

This classic activity is aways fun. We enjoyed using all types of papers - construction paper, craft paper, heavy duty wrapping paper, etc. Although we traditionally made the chains for the winter holiday season we would also make them for other occasions throughout the year. The children enjoyed decorating the plain paper with drawings and we also liked to write messages that reflected the season - holiday wishes, words of gratitude, hopes and dreams. Sometimes the chains graced our tree or staircase banister. The children really loved to decorate their rooms with these cheerful chains. Learning concepts include: small motor skills - cutting / gluing / assembly, patterns, planning and construction, creative expression and writing skills.

Beaded Ornaments

This simple activity uses colored pipe cleaners and large sized pony beads. Obviously this isn't recommended for the very young child but we started making these when the children were about three. As with most of our projects I was right there with them. Part of the activity was sorting out the beads they wanted to use. We used a muffin tin to keep the colors separated. This is another project that can be worked on as time allows. I had a plastic bead storage container to keep the beads ready to use. Each child had their own zip lock bag with their creations safely stored.  These designs look wonderful as gift box decorations, on the tree or around the house. We've used this idea to make napkin rings and brought these out to create other shapes for other holidays and seasons. Learning concepts include: sorting, patterns, small motor skills - loading beads onto pipe cleaners and shaping, previewing and planning skills, creative expression.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Keys to Long Term Placements


The majority of families and nannies are looking for successful, long term placements. The continuity and consistency of care is one of the driving forces in maintaining the relationship between family and nanny. Studies have shown that this consistency between parents and caregivers help children develop a strong sense of self, improve academic skills and build confidence.

Parents cite several benefits of having developed a partnership with the nanny over time. There is the comfort in knowing that the nanny maintains the children's routines as well as being prepared to meet each new stage of development. Any challenges with children's behavior or concerns about developmental issues receive full attention and observation. Discipline styles, expectations of behavior and children's individual interests receive continuity of attention from all the adults in the child's life. Parents also mention having another adult, a "child specialist", involved with their care has helped with early detection of developmental issues, suggestions about activities or classes that encourage a child's interests or talents, and a team member with which to share ideas.

Nannies appreciate a long term situation for its inherent stability. A component of any nanny position is the emotional investment, not only in the children, but in the family as a whole. Feeling that you have years to enjoy and develop the relationships leads to a greater sense of job satisfaction and keeps the nanny feeling energized about the job itself. The concept of partnership is highly valued by nannies.

Keys to successful long term situation have a great deal to do with mutual respect, appreciation of hard work, appreciation of the roles played by everyone in the child's life, and mutual flexibility. Parents view respect and appreciation as acknowledgment that their role in the child's life is number one. Decisions made regarding the children are theirs to make but parents who realize the value of the nanny will undoubtedly seek their input. Nannies highly value an appreciative employer family. Appreciation can be verbal acknowledgement as well as in the compensation or benefits offered. When nannies are asked about making long term commitments to families, almost without exception, they will cite appreciation by parents as top of their list for continuing employment with a family. Flexibility in schedule and sensitivity about special circumstances are important to both parents and nannies.

Being a nanny who had a 20+ year employment with one family, I understand the challenges and rewards to long term placements. Building long term relationships requires patience and a positive attitude. It's easy to love the children, even when they are testing boundaries - because they are children and that's what they do. The relationship with the parents needs to be thoughtfully and purposefully nurtured. As adults we all have "our way" and we need to open ourselves to new possibilities.

The unique nature of the nanny-family relationship can be challenging at times but with thoughtful consideration of one another a long term placement is possible. Children have the most to gain from development a committed relationship between the nanny and family - their well being is everyone's goal.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dramatic Play - Valuable Learning Opportunity



Dramatic play allows children to explore their own interests and knowledge and place it into the reality of their world. Play that includes this type of exploration is known to contribute to intellectual and language development. In early childhood, drama needs no written lines to memorize, structured behavior patterns to imitate or the presence of an audience. Children need only a safe, rich environment and the freedom to experiment with roles, conflict and problem solving.

Opportunities for dramatic play are spontaneous, child-initiated and open ended. Individual expression is pivotal to all dramatic play which means that it appeals to all cognitive and physical abilities – it is inclusive to all young children. As with most learning opportunities for the young child, it is the process not the product that is the most important aspect. Dramatic play includes role playing, puppetry and does not require interaction with another person. It can also include the society of others and social interaction, but it is the child who determines how the play develops. Children will then direct, interact and develop story lines with others which can be peers or adults. Children frequently reenact a scene or story from their own lives or from other media (books, videos, TV, etc.). Play is the child's scope of work and dramatic play is one of the more vital types of play that should be available to children every day.

While dramatic play is typically most active in the toddler through preschool years, many children continue to use this type of play well into early grade school. Not only is the play a way to explore and problem solve their world it also is a way to destress. So the Kindergartner, first or second grader may need to use play to release the pressures of their day.

So now that we understand the value of dramatic play it's time to think about providing children with some space and props. This doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, simple is best because it allows children to manipulate their own materials. You can purchase all kinds of dress up sets, child-sized kitchens or other settings, gizmos and gadgets that are made just for children. However, you may want to have some very simple items on hand that work just as well and promote multiple uses. These could include a variety of sizes of cardboard boxes, old clothing and accessories that are clean (adult size clothing adds to the fun), kitchen or household tools that are safe and clean, an old luggage set, a mirror, old phone, plastic dishes or small sized pots, stuffed animals and dolls - these are just some of the ideas. Then they need some space to store props plus an area to really play and explore. A corner of the room with a small table and chairs could be a great place to start. I liked to use the luggage not only as a prop but as places to store items when not in use.

You'll be amazed what they can do with some cardboard, simple costume pieces and their imagination!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Few Holiday Happenings for the Whole Family

Santa Train

Date(s): Dec 1, 2012 - Dec 2, 2012, Dec 7, 2012 - Dec 9, 2012, Dec 15, 2012 - Dec 16, 2012
193 Pennsylvania Avenue East
St. Paul, MN 55130
Visit website
Phone: (651) 228-0263
info@trainride.org
Type: Festivals & Events, Other Events
Event Location: Jackson Street Roundhouse
December 2012 marks the 10th year for the Santa Train at the Jackson Street Roundhouse in St. Paul.

The train will run for three weekends in December (1-2, 7-9 and 15-16). The weekend of December 7,8 & 9, Pies and Aprons, an original Minnesota creative entrepreneur, will be on-site for the first annual Holiday Happening. The Holiday Happening will feature vintage and upcycled wares, organic and sustainable floral selections and unique foodie gifts for that special holiday gift.

Music, crafts and refreshments will be provided along with meeting “the man” himself… Santa Clause. Take free pictures with Santa using your own camera or $5 if you use our professional photographer.

The Jackson Street Roundhouse is an official drop site for Toys for Tots. Please consider donating a new, unwrapped toy this holiday season.

Rates

  • Additional Rate Information: $10 for adults, $8 for students (5-15 yrs.) and seniors, and $5 for kids 5 and under 
  • Accessible to Disabled
 
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Target Holidazzle

  • Date(s): Nov 29, 2012 - Dec 2, 2012, Dec 6, 2012 - Dec 9, 2012, Dec 13, 2012 - Dec 16, 2012, Dec 20, 2012 - Dec 23, 2012
    Minneapolis, MN 55402
    Visit website

Phone: (612) 376-7669
Alternate Phone: 612-338-3807
info@downtownminneapolis.com
Type: Festivals & Events, Other Events
Event Location: Nicollet Mall from 12th Street to 4th Street

Other Date Information

  • Additional Date Information: Target Holidazzle occurs every Thursday - Sunday starting Friday, November 25th through Sunday. Each parade begins at 6:30 p.m. and lasts approx. 30 minutes.
  • Additional Rate Information: Free and open to the public.
  • Accessible to Disabled

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Night Trains

Date(s): Nov 23, 2012 - Feb 23, 2013
1021 Bandana Boulevard East
Suite 222
St Paul, MN 55108
Visit website
Phone: 651-647-9628
Fax: 651-644-5805
tcmrm@tcmrm.org
Type: Arts & Exhibits, Special Exhibit
Event Location: Bandana Square
Night Trains Season is a special Holidays tradition at the Twin City Model Railroad Museum beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving (November 24, 2012) and running every Saturday evening from 6:00 to 9:00 pm through the last Saturday in February (February 23, 2013). New this year will be two Night Trains Extras, a season premiere on Friday, November 23rd and a New Year’s Eve special on December 31st.

Night Trains Season comes to the dozens of model railroad layouts in a magical way, the lights are turned down, the buildings and street lights glow warmly, setting the scene for specially lighted models of vintage passenger trains. The make believe town of Matlin is buried in a blizzard, and throughout the Museum the layouts are adorned with miniature Christmas lights and decorations.
This year Santa will be hanging out the Museum each Saturday from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm on December 8th he will have sack of goodies for good girls and boys. Bring your camera and tell him about the train you want for Christmas. There’s no additional admission to see Santa!
Night Trains takes place at historic Bandana Square, 1021 Bandana Boulevard East, Suite 222, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Originally a Northern Pacific Railway car repair shop, Bandana Square has been home to the Twin City Model Railroad Museum’s O-scale model railroad since 1984. Added in 2009 is the Museum’s Toy Train Division in the historic Chimneys Building just north of Bandana Square. On display there are many model railroad layouts in a variety of scales. Many are new since last year’s Night Trains season and allow kids (and adults!) hands-on experience operating select trains and many great operating accessories.

Directions to the Twin City Model Railroad Museum can be found on the Museum’s web site, www.tcmrm.org. Admission to this special show is $8.00 per person, $25.00 for immediate families and $30 for extended families (max. 10)—FREE for children age four and under.

For information about Night Trains and other upcoming events, please visit the Museum web site at www.tcmrm.org, or contact Chad Kono at PR@tcmrm.org or 612-220-3384.

Other Date Information

  • Additional Date Information: Every Saturday, 6-9pm;except Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Why?" The Question That Opens Opportunities


Children are experts on asking “Why” and have a natural curiosity. Although sometimes frustrating, “why” questions are vital for stretching and growing. Encouraging questions is an excellent way to promote exploration and understanding.

Your response to the question should be straightforward and simple. Two and three-year olds constantly ask questions because they are beginning to understand logic and reasoning. They are starting to realize that concepts are connected. When you're tired, it's time to go to sleep; when the sky is dark it means it's nighttime. Toddlers and preschoolers are looking for answers that make sense to them not a dissertation on the theme. Keeping your responses clear and to the point is helpful.

You don’t need to have all the answers. If you don’t know the answer to the question then you have a wonderful opportunity to work together to investigate using books, DVDs or the internet as resources. A trip to the children’s library to do research is a great activity that can lead to a lifetime of exploration.

Often asking children what they know about the subject can help you formulate the information to share with them. Turning the question back to them can offer greater insight into their thinking process. You might just be amazed! Then you have an idea of what you can bring to the conversation.

Sometimes our interpretation about what a child is asking is off-base. Asking them to give you more information helps to identify what they truly would like to know about. For example the question, “Where did I come from?” may not be what you think it is. The child might be looking for “Was I born in Minnesota or Wisconsin?” an entirely different topic.

Don’t wait for the child to quiz you, take advantage of opportunities to ask them questions. If you notice a child has an interest on a particular subject, you can take the initiative to ask probing questions. Plan projects that revolve around their interest and seek out books, DVDs or websites that have more to offer on the subject. As you are enjoying a walk or playing at the park or any other daily activity there are many opportunities to open up conversations and ask questions. Enjoy those teachable moments!
“Why?” is THE question to get further information, gain understanding and give us a sense of how all the pieces fit together. It doesn’t need to lead to frustration. Remember next time you hear “Why is my goldfish gold?” get excited about the prospect of having a dynamic exploration of the subject.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Behavior Management: Tips You Can Use


Behavior Management: Tips You Can Use

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ben Franklin

Ben had it right. I’d rather put in effort to prevent issues than work at having to put out the flames of misbehavior. Behavior management is more than discipline it’s setting up children for successes and being proactive in providing those opportunities.

PREVENTION
Be Observant – Be aware of what is going on in each child’s age and stage of development. Know what new challenges are before them and how they are managing those challenges. Take an assessment of their physical needs – sleep, nutrition, activity level or general comfort. Do adjustments need to be made? Be watchful for stressors – irritations, frustrations, worries or changes in schedule. These can make a big difference to how children react to situations. Are you noticing a child who is over or under stimulated, overly rushed or bored? These can be signs pointing to schedule issues. A child who is well rested, hydrated, eating nutritious meals, participating in a varied routine and at a minimum stress level has a much easier time coping with their world.

Environment – The physical environment can contribute to the child’s success or struggles. Assess play spaces. Is there enough space to engage in activities and play, access to age appropriate toys or activities, system for keeping toys or activities stored and organized, play space is clean and safe? Is there a place for active play that won’t interfere with another child choosing a quiet activity? Can a child find a quiet spot to read with an adult comfortably for both? Is the lighting appropriate for chosen tasks? Many children are sensitive to bright lights, textures, sound or other environmental components that can affect their behavior. You may find that some very simple changes will make all the difference.

Routines – Schedules ground children. Knowing what they can expect from the day is important and for some children it is critical. Regular meals and snacks, rest time, active time and quiet play, are all important in establishing the daily routine. When special activities or outings are planned keep the child’s routine in mind. Try to maintain meal time as close to normal as possible. Provide for some rest or nap time as close to their usual schedule as possible. Pace your outing so that no one, including you, becomes over tired or exhausted. Prepare children for outings or special activities. This could be as easy as simply introducing the plan at the start of your day. Briefly outline the activity, when you are leaving, when you’ll return home, some details about what they can expect from the activity, and answering their questions. Reminders throughout the activity about the plan can help everything flow well.

Recognize Good Behavior – When children are behaving well we need to give them positive feedback to confirm to them they are on the right track. They need to get positive reinforcement so those behaviors are firmly established. It’s as easy as saying “I like the way you are playing with your Legos!” It might be tempting to just leave them to it while they are doing well, but this is the time to pour on the praise. Make sure that your recognition is real and sincere. Children can spot “phony” a mile away. Even after the fact you can provide positive comments – “I was just thinking about how well you shared with your sister yesterday. It was so nice to see that!” This kind of feedback empowers better behavior.

TECHNIQUES
Choices – Children are building autonomy starting in those early toddler years, but they need our guidance. Providing them with appropriate choices lets them have some control within limits. The younger the child the fewer the choices offered to them. Start with two and build from there. You are encouraging decision making and problem solving skills while limiting tantrums and breakdowns. Make sure that the choices you offer are reasonable and appropriate, and that you can back them up.


When you offer options you are telling the child that their opinion matters, you value their decision and that you can be counted on to follow through.

Redirection – This proactive technique is very effective for young children, especially toddler and young preschoolers. I have to admit to also using it on school age and teenagers as well. To use redirection effectively, you must be observant of the child for signs that their behavior is about to change (and not for the better). Once you hone in on their behavior signals you’ll be able to redirect the child to other activity choices or to shift your routine to accommodate them. If playing with a particular toy is frustrating to a child offer a more pleasing option that provides them with a sense of accomplishment. If you see that they are more tired than usual suggest a quiet activity that will allow them to recharge. If they need to blow off some steam then shift gears to a more physically active choice. As the children got older I explained how I could see their behavior changing and asked for their ideas to help things turn around. They often had great ideas that were easily implemented, and even better they were beginning to recognize their own behavior patterns.

Limits that Make Sense – Setting limits that make sense allows for cooperative behavior. Obviously when children are very young limits are set by the adults in their lives. It’s vital that all the adults are agreed about what those parameters are; nothing is more frustrating to a child stretching and experimenting with their boundaries to find that there are different rules depending on who is “in charge.” Children are adaptable and can accept differences in caregivers styles but it really helps them to have consistent expectations regarding behavior. Limits should be clear and simple. Boundaries need to be modified as children get older. Including the older child’s views in the modification of boundaries encourages cooperation.

Listening – Good listening habits start early. We expect children to listen to us, but we also need to model listening skills. You may hear some important feedback about things that are working or not working in relation to expectations. This feedback can help to rethink limits and boundaries that will work best. The children in my care got to know that if they came to me with a suggestion or idea that I would honestly listen and consider their point. They felt valued and appreciated which led to better behavior. Being heard has power.

Take 5 – This technique uses either giving children a break or having children take a break when an infraction has occurred or better yet before it happens. I introduced "take 5" to young toddlers as a way to take a break after we've tried other things like redirection or changing activities. Toddlers often demonstrate their frustrations with tantrums. If possible I would have them take a break before we got to that point. A break really is just a time to breath deeply and move away from the action but not out of the room. They needed time to regroup and start again so I never put a time limit on the break. Usually just a few seconds to maybe a minute was all they needed. Once they got used to the "take 5" they would sometimes annouce they were going to "take 5" without my input at all. I can still remember the middle child, he'd just turned 3, announcing to me that he was getting "flusterated" (a good description of his situation) and needed to "take 5". As they got older they would sometimes want to "take 5" in their room or in another location. When they rejoined the activities we moved on and didn't dwell on past behavior but moved forward with a positive attitude.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Celebrations Anytime

While this is the season for all kinds of holiday celebrations, traditions and special events to enjoy, there are celebrations that you can have anytime of year. You don't have to wait for a special event to have a party. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about making ordinary days unique.

Puppy Drama
Puppy Party - Whether celebration your pet or a favorite stuffed animal this party has gone to the dogs. Pin-the-tail on the Pup game, "pupcakes", puppy chow snack, pups on parade (which could include a neighborhood walk), and 101 Dalmatians video time are just a few fun ideas. We've even eaten our meal or snack from clean new plastic pet dishes.
Ready to Build!
Construction Party - This is great for the child who lives trucks, building or digging. Snacks can be served from new plastic dump trucks, everyone can wear a kid sized construction hat and enjoy Dirt Cake. We've taken over the family room with Lego buildings and craft foam roadways. We had a video about construction vehicles that fascinated them when they were younger. Also there are great books out there for all ages on the theme and makes for a nice quiet time activity.

Under the Sea Party - Create an ocean scene under the kitchen table with streamers, fish cutouts and a tropical beach towel. Just laying on the floor under the table was fun to do. A card table can be a nice alternative to using the main table. Enjoy magnetic fishing game, create an ocean scene using crayon relief with watercolor, followed by fish cracker snacks served from a clean new fishbowl, and quiet time with the Little Mermaid storybook.

Magnetic Fishing Game
What other creative themes can you come up with to may an ordinary day extraordinary? Have fun and share your idea with us hear!!






Party Idea Details:
Pupcakes - frost your favorite cupcake with white frosting top with peppermint patty and chocolate chips for a paw print. Simple but delicious as a fun treat.

Dirt Cake
Ingredients:
   1 package (15-1/2 ounces) Oreo cookies (or other sandwich cookie)
   Option: Clean dump truck toy or other container
   1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
   1/2 cup butter
   1 cup confectioners' sugar
   1 teaspoon vanilla
   3 cups milk
   2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix or you can use chocolate pudding.
   1 carton (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
Crush cookies until they resemble potting soil. Divide the crumbs - half go in the bottom of the container and half are used on the top. Reserve top half for finish.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. In another bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes (mixture will be thick). Fold in whipped topping. Gently fold into cream cheese mixture until blended.
Add filling to containers; top with reserved crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.  Yield: 12 servings
This is also a great recipe for a Garden Party - serve in new clean pot and "garnish" with garden tool or silk flower (both new of course).

Magnetic Fishing - attach a small magnet to the end of a string that has been tied to a wooden dowel or wooden skewer. Cut out fish or other ocean creatures from construction paper or felt. Place a paper clip on the fish near the mouth area and go fishing! If you want to make a "pond" from a container or mat that adds to the fun. This game has many teaching options as well - letters, numbers, shapes, etc.

Monday, November 26, 2012

First Teacher - That's You!


Do you remember your first teacher? I'd be willing to bet that you are thinking of your Kindergarten or first grade teacher. But did you think of your parents, preschool teacher or nanny? In fact our parents and caregivers were our first teachers, and now we are teachers ourselves. Teachable moments abound in those early years and we have the privilege of taking advantage of them.

Teaching the children in your care doesn't need to have a formal feel. What's so wonderful about teaching young children is that much of it is done spontaneously or incorporated into activities we are normally doing with them. Encouraging the natural curiosity of children is a great place to start. Taking their interests to new levels is where we can incorporate trips to the library, museums or events, projects in art or science, use of dramatic play and even snack time.

Although you don't need a formal lesson plan or curriculum, planning is needed. Using themes can be helpful to your plan. You also want to consider the children's ages, abilities and interests. Including a balance of activities supports learning and keeps the child's attention (and ours as well). Have movement activities or games balanced with quiet time. Offer both large and small muscle development, creative expression and specific skill practice along with the inclusion of music, literature, food fun and experimentation provides for enjoyable learning for everyone. Children will undoubtedly offer plenty of input as you expose them to new ideas and concepts. Being ready to change gears and take advantage of the "spark" of interest can bring even greater enrichment.

Modeling is another way that children learn. Sometimes we don't realize how much they watch us until we hear them use on of our expressions or quote us. We often think of modeling good eating habits or appropriate speech, but remember that they are watching us under all situations. What are you modeling when you are stressed or frustrated? How we express emotions, spend our free time, interact with others are all being carefully observed. If this gives you pause, it should. Children are like sponges and we should be continually asking ourselves what are they absorbing from us. Sometimes the most important life lessons are ones we learned just from watching others.

What a privilege it is to be a teacher. Embrace this opportunity and see the wonderful difference you make in a child's life.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Music is for Everyone



Although every culture has had a highly valued musical history, it has only been through the research of recent decades that we have come to understand the greater value of music in our own lives. Music has been linked to increased verbal skills, better test scores and stronger memory. And while we may look at this data as a positive vote for music in our lives, it is  perhaps the emotional connection with music that we can relate to best.

As infants we were soothed with quiet tunes and lullabies that sent us off to sleep. As young children we discovered the pure job of simple songs that we could sing ourselves. The rhythm, pitch and lyrics drew us into the music with an undeniable emotional component that lingers into adulthood. I'm sure you've had the experience of hearing a tune or song that reaches back into your memory recalling events, people, feelings, and it brings a smile to your face just to hear it. Music has a power all its own.

While music is entertaining for children it is also helping mold their mental, emotional, social and physical development. This is evidenced when we see the happy face of a child bouncing, dancing, clapping, and singing with someone they trust and love. While they are having a wonderful time they are also heightening spatial awareness, improving listening, concentration and speech. Music has also been linked to jump starting reading and language skills.

Music can:
  • Stimulate brain growth prenatally and is the first form of communication
  • Be the basis for understanding the physical world through sound patterns
  • Reduce stress or physical pain, even in infancy
  • Enhance motor development
  • Strengthen and improve language and communication skills
  • Open emotional expression and creativity
  • Improve pre-academic and academic skills - particularly reading, writing, mathematics and memorization
  • Introduce the joy of community and strengthen self identity
Regular music instruction has been particularly linked to increased test scores throughout the school years. Early childhood programs rely on a strong musical component to each day. As a nanny I have made concerted efforts to expose the children to a variety of music daily.

We have been known to sing through our whole day, all verbal communication was in song (we thought it was fun to create our own opera). Music has been a tool to encourage quiet time. It was a great transition to nap time and as they grew out of naps a way to allow for quiet activities such as reading or working a puzzle with gentle music in the background. Even now as young adults they use music to relax or de-stress and so do I.
All the children that I've nannied for have been enrolled in instrument instruction from an early age which has given them another tool of communication and is a source of real joy to them. Music instruction can start with fun programs designed for infants, toddlers and preschoolers which expose children to rhythm, pitch and patterns in a playful environment. If children show an interest in playing an instrument there are a number of child friendly methods and teachers available. Although, interest in an instrument should be child initiated it often falls to the adults to encourage the required practice. Music programs that work with the whole family are helpful in offering strategies to make practice time more fun with games, goal setting and positive reinforcement techniques. For some children and families formal instruction comes to an end for various reasons, but the value of that experience stays with the child well into adulthood.

I find it amazing that music, which has been available to us our whole lives, can have such a powerful effect on the mind and body. Truly music is for everyone!