You may have recently heard your child talking about taking a trip to Tulip Tree, and if not, my guess is that you will soon!
For awhile our stroller was out of commission because we were unable to unlock it from the fence. The stroller was recently liberated and the children were overjoyed to hear the news Monday morning. I let my cohort know they would be going for a walk, and their first question was, “Where?!?”
I reflected the question back to them, empowering them to choose a destination.
“Where will we go?!? I’m not sure! I was thinking maybe you could decide. Where would YOU like to go?”
MS: “Maybe, I want to go to the park.”
FD: “Yeah, a park.”
Bee: “Hm. A park. I know a park that is nearby. We could walk past it.”
The children quickly finished their morning snack, eagerly anticipating their foray into the neighborhood.
We dashed upstairs, geared up, and headed to our limo.
I gave the children agency to choose their own seat and encouraged them to climb in on their own, which they were more than willing to do.
We checked in about stroller agreements (We need to stay buckled, the straps in front of us are for eyes – not hands – because we don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, and even though we are right next to people we still must ask their consent before touching their bodies) and off we went!
Immediately I was surrounded by yips of joy and the sounds of laughter rippling against itself. The children were delighted.
Frantically happy is the only apt description I can come up with.
“So many flowers…” gasped SM
“We have those at Elm House!” squealed LR, excitedly pointing out the same yellow irises that do in fact grace our backyard.
“I like the soft ones.” said MS, reaching towards the lamb’s ear growing nearby.
We made our way slowly to the park as the children absorbed anything and everything they could lay their eyes on.
At the park we watched people mill about, laughed at some dogs, and talked about the different plants we saw.
I walked to the front of the stroller and said,
“You know friends, we are quite close to a special place, and I am wondering if you might like to visit it.”
“Where, Bee?” inquired MS.
“We are near Tulip Tree! Would you like to go over and see the teachers and children?”
“Tulip Tree!” yelled SM. “I’m going to go there. I want to see! And ZS too!”
“Thats right, SM! Tulip Tree is where you will be going soon, and our friend ZS is there right now. Shall we go?”
The answer was a resounding, YES!
We walked by Franklin High and SM informed us, “This is where teenagers go to school! See! One right there!” She pointed quickly to a student and the other children laughed. “A teenager!”
We got to the crosswalk and I pushed the button.
“What is he saying?” MS wondered aloud.
“‘Caution, vehicles may not stop.’ This message is a warning that the cars might not see us and stop. We need to wait and use our eyes to make sure it is safe for us to cross.”
“But, Bee! They did stop, see?” MC countered, sounding mildly concerned. Perhaps he worried that our efforts to get to Tulip Tree might be thwarted by inconsiderate motorists.
“Oh, yes! They did! Thank you for noticing and letting us know it is safe. Now that everyone has stopped we can walk across.”
It was only moments before we arrived. I had alerted the Tulip Tree teachers of our intentions to visit, and they were ready. Children poured out of the school on to the porch to wave to us.
A chorus of greetings and friendly waves enveloped us. The toddlers soaked up the attention of their older peers like blossoms freshly turned towards the sunlight. ZS briefly poked up his head, but was quickly overwhelmed seeing his old friends at his new school, and hid away behind companions and teachers. We called out return greetings regardless, happy to see both new and familiar faces.
We turned around, Elm House bound.
The children were processing their visit with such excitement that I couldn’t tease out individual statements to record. Their voices were folding in and out of one another. No one was frustrated to be talked over, and that is when I knew.
This. Is. Important.
“Would you guys like to come back and visit Tulip Tree again?”
When I got back to Elm House I spoke with the teachers here and the teachers at Tulip Tree and decided to make our visits a daily occurrence.
Aside from the fact that it is clearly what the children desire, I believe this will serve both of our communities in several ways:
It allows children who are moving up to Tulip Tree a chance to familiarize themselves with the faces of their future peers and teachers.
It allows children who are missing their older friends a chance to see them again.
It allows children who are missing their younger peers a chance to see them again as well.
For children who might be feeling trepidation about moving up, it shows them that Tulip Tree is quite close to us, just right down the block, and it enables us to say, “When you’re at Tulip Tree, we will come and visit you too! We will never be far away.”
It puts both our communities in the minds of all the children, and I am curious to see what this brings up for them. For instance, this morning we walked over for the third time, and the Tulip Tree children immediately told us what they ate for snack, and then inquired as to what we ate. Previously, questions were not a part of our exchange. We simply said hello, goodbye, and then left. Now that the children know this will be a daily occurrence, they will certainly have thoughts, ideas, and questions about one another. I simply cannot wait to hear what they are!
It was my intention to tell you about our other walks to Tulip Tree this week, as both of them brought up exciting developments for us, but alas, I am out of time. You can look forward to more blogs about our walks soon! Please feel free to add any wonderings, comments, questions, or tidbits from your children down below!
Toddlers do not learn to share by having grown-ups make them do it. Having to give up a toy makes a toddler feel angry, not loving. At the toddler center children play with toys until they’re ready to give them up on their own. Caregivers may point out other toys, but they don’t make them share or take turns. -1..2..3 The Toddler Years.
At Elm House we also do not force children to share a toy they’re using or work that they’re independently engaging in. We may give a suggestion.
“I can see that you have two balls, and __ has none..”
“It looks like __ really wants to sit on that pillow with you. Maybe you guys could share..”
In my experience 9 times out of 10 a child will want to share anyway, but for those times that we encounter strong resistance, we might say: Can you let __ know WHEN they can have a turn? The usual response is “in 2 minutes.” The child is still able to make a choice about when their turn is over.
Most of the pictures below are unprompted sharing
SM: MS told me I could have a turn with her glasses and when my mom comes I will give them back to her!
Megan: How does that make you feel SM?
I to MS: I noticed to you gave SM a turn with your glasses. How did that make you feel?
When it comes to consent and the children, something I need to remind myself of occasionally is that consent is for more than rough-housing. We should ask for consent before engaging in gentle touches, before helping another person, before hugging, and in other situations, too…
During our music time on Wednesday, Heidi reminded us about practicing consent when we sang and played footsie. She said, “We will play footsie with a partner by touching our feet together. First, we will ask a partner for consent to put our feet together. Here, I’ll show you like this!” She asked a partner “may I touch my feet to your feet?” and when she got consent, they played footsie. When it was our turn, the children asked one another for consent.
SM asked MS, “Can I touch my feet to your feet?” MS responded, “No.” So SM turned to another partner, FBD, and asked “Can I touch my feet to your feet?” And FBD said, “Yes!” Then OC asked CMG, “Can I touch my feet to your feet?” CMG put her feet out toward OC’s feet, saying yes with her body language.
Before this, I’d been in the Nest with the children, and we were drawing with crayons. As the children finished up, I remembered a recent training our staff did together on process-based art. Something that was significant to me in that training was the idea of asking children if they want their name on their papers and where they want it, as this is one way to honor the process of making art over the product. So I asked the children if they wanted their names, and where, and I also asked if it was OK to put other information on their papers (like the date or a message). In this way, we were practicing consent.
Consent is one of the 100 languages that children use to communicate.
By Lauren: During my planning time, I have been reading the book “Extending the Dance in Infant and Toddler Caregiving” by Helen H. Raikes and Carolyn Pope Edwards. This book uses a beautiful metaphor to describe relationships during the early years of life, that relationships are a dance. “The rhythms of close relationships with parents, caregivers and teachers—back and forth, need and response, with gentle rhythms moving to a synchronous inner beat—support emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development” (Raikes & Edwards, p. 2).
The book discusses three relationships, or dances. The child-parent relationship or the first dance, the child-teacher relationship or the extended dance, and the teacher-parent relationship or the supportive dance.
The child-teacher relationship is often characterized as a secondary attachment, with child-parent relationships being the primary attachment. However, many of the signs of a secure primary attachment can be used to define a secure secondary attachment. And, secure attachments to both parents and teachers are essential to healthy development in the toddler years. As I enter my second month at Elm House, I have been focusing much of my attention on learning the steps of the extended dance with the children so that we can form secure secondary attachments. Each child is such an individual, and therefore I have been learning many different dances. Here are some of the steps I have been learning about as I work towards better supporting the development of all the Elm House children:
I have learned that SM delights in being asked, “What are you doing?” and eagerly awaits any opportunity to share her creative ideas.
I have learned that JL, on the other hand, loves being the one to ask “What doing?” or “What that?” and seems to blossom during the teacher-child interaction that unfolds after these questions.
I have learned that WS always has a smile ready and finds great joy in the reciprocity of smiles from teachers. He often smiles, leaves to play, and then returns for another round of smiles.
I’ve delighted in ML’s daily check ins. He always says “Good morning!” and asks how I’m doing.
I’m learning that FBA delights in joint-attention. Often pointing to things around our yard and smiling as he receives acknowledgement for his observations.
Although these seem like small moments in the overall lives of the children in my care, and although this is just a small snap-shot of the children at Elm House, these small moments create the foundation of a secure caregiver attachment. I can’t wait to continue learning about your children and finding ways to support my relationships with them! What have you noticed about your child and the way they seek relationship with you? What would you like to learn about the dance of relationship in toddlerhood?
Here, at Elm House, we have so many beautiful flowers blooming and plants growing! Sometimes it’s hard to remember all of our agreements about our garden and our living plant friends. Those flowers are just SO bright and big we need to grab them or pick them! I get it!
Instead of saying “don’t grab the flowers” we can redirect and show our dear little ones how to care for our plant friends and flowers; How to nourish and support them so they can grow big, beautiful and strong—just like them!
We provide the children with two big buckets of water and they find any toy/tool that is able to hold water, and they’re off to water all of our amazing gardens.
Yesterday during our staff meeting, Bee brought to our attention that some of the parents in our community may not be aware of why we close early on Wednesdays and what is happening during that time. We were all a little surprised, and decided that we should make sure everyone is aware of what is happening. This was also a good reminder for me (or really, the kick in the pants I needed) that I’d been telling myself that this year I would write blog posts about our staff meetings regularly. I’d been taking photos and keeping documents for this purpose, but must admit that I haven’t prioritized blog posting for myself.
When we close at 4 pm on Wednesdays, it is so we can have staff meetings from 4-6 pm. These meetings are usually held at Elm House, though once every month or two we have an all staff meeting at the preschool, and once in awhile we go off-site for a change of headspace or for inspiration. We talk extensively about the children at these meetings, and much of our curriculum and documentation is drawn from our conversations at these meetings. We also have staff trainings, because our license requires at least 16 hours of trainings for each teacher per year. I recently became a certified trainer, so that means I can conduct many of these trainings so teachers won’t have to pay for trainings in our community and go to them in their much-needed downtime. This is also an opportunity for us to discuss logistics and agreements–that’s how things run smoothly and we can provide the consistency the children deserve.
At our most recent meeting, which was yesterday, we discussed the upcoming Culminating Documentation Party that will be held on May 30th at 5 pm. We chose one theme to focus on as a group this year, an interest that the children have had all year long: balance. We hashed out some ideas for what topics to cover in our documentation, and ways to involve the families so you can experience the learning for yourselves. Lauren talked about making mobiles or having other kinetic work available. Bee talked about setting up the backyard for opportunities to construct obstacle courses. Megan and Iternity were more interested in exploring concepts of emotional balance, such as how relationships change and create a balanced school community.
Looking forward to sharing more with you on our future staff meetings. And of course, can’t wait to share our documentation with you later this month.
By Lauren: In a recent staff meeting, the teachers discussed process art versus product oriented art. In process art, the emphasis is placed upon the experience children have making the art rather than the final product. As we discussed process art, we brainstormed what art means to us. Ideas such as healing, self-reflection, intersection of the inner and outer world, multisensory experiences and the validity of all art cropped up during this process. At Elm House, we look to emphasize process art as it supports the child in expressing themselves creatively without worrying about what people may think about a final product. As children are developing their own personal voice and sense of self, I find that process art supports positive self concept and creative self expression. During process art, instead of asking “What is it?” we might ask, “How does that make you feel?” or “What do you want to add to it next?”
As we explore process art more deeply in our community, we look to using creative materials and encouraging children to think outside of the typical use of art materials. One way we have been exploring this is through our rock painting. An idea that was sparked during the meeting was to provide the children with bubble wrap and paint and encourage them to use their feet to explore the materials. On Tuesday, we busted out the bubble wrap and paint and watched to see what unfolded. Our one rule was that children must be barefoot and as soon as that was communicated the shoes flew off and the children dove right in!
As we move into the spring and summer months we enter a transitional period; some people are leaving our community, some people are joining a different portion of our community, and new people are joining us for the first time.
The past three days FBA has been visiting us in the morning.
If you see him around, please feel free to introduce yourself. FBA is a dual language learner, speaking both German and English at home, and he enjoys expressing himself through sign language as well.
Upon seeing FBA Monday, ML was immediately enamored. He asked for introductions as he jumped up and down at the gate. ML asked for hugs and then for a “family hug”. Family hugs are a part of ZS’s home culture and the children absolutely delight in them. The children define a “Family Hug” as a hug involving more than two people. Consent was given all around and a great big family hug happened in the cubby room with ML, FBA, and FBA’s father, Flo.
Yesterday, ML was equally excited to see FBA. He asked if Flo would be staying all day, and was told no, that he would just be dropping off FBA and then leaving. ML immediately turned to FBA and assured him, “Mommys and Daddys ALWAYS come back.” I felt myself smiling to hear that familiar reassurance being passed from child to child instead of from adult to child.
The rest of the morning ML kept FBA under his wing. He taught him some of our agreements. “We stand on the blue line in the kitchen. See? Right here!” “We wash our hands after the bathroom.” “The sand stays in the sandbox.”
Everywhere FBA turned he was met by MLs reassuring presence.
It isn’t like ML to stay in one spot for too long, or even to spend his time playing with a singular child. ML is always on the go hunting out wherever the most activity is happening. Observing him with FBA, it was immediately clear to me that he was making a conscious choice to forgo his normal engagements in order to be available to support his new friend.
Twice I observed ML pat FBA on gently on the back while saying, “You’re safe!”
Morning snack was full of hugs that left both children in a fit of giggles.
It seems like ML’s warm welcome has been quite impactful. FBA was happy to return to Elm House today and explored the school confidently and enthusiastically, despite this being his first experience with care outside of his home. With ML’s help he is already learning that we are his community, that his parents will always come back, that people are available to help him learn how things work, that he is safe, that he is wanted and welcome here. This has been such a huge reminder to me that every child at Elm House is also a teacher, and that every lesson we need is firmly tucked into the incredibly huge hearts that these little bodies carry around.
Welcome to Elm House, FBA, and thank you for the lessons, ML. <3
With graduation just around the corner, there has been a lot of conversation about what will happen afterwards. For the summer, we all have different plans. Some will stay at Tulip Tree some will go on trips or be at home with their families. Today at circle we talked about what would happen after the summer, in the fall time. Many of the children will be moving on to kindergarten, some after being at Tulip Tree for 3 whole years. Some of the children will be staying at Tulip Tree, continuing on to be preschool experts and elders of our school. Change can be scary and we try to do everything we can to help ease the anxiety by giving them opportunities to discuss their feelings with us. We have had some (and will have more) alumni come visit and give their expert kindergarten advice, read books about kindergarten, and had lots of conversation. While there’s a lot about the unknown that is scary, it can also be very exciting and fun! Today at circle time, each child child focused on their excitement for the future as they placed their photo blocks one by one at the place they will be going to school in the fall.
Some children found out that they will be attending kindergarten with other children from Tulip Tree, some noticed they were the only child from Tulip Tree at their kindergarten. The children who are continuing at Tulip Tree in the fall, learned who they will be elders with next year. Whatever they learned, excitement seemed to be the feeling in air for everyone.