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Infants and Toddlers: Happy Spring!

April 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Happy April I/T Families! It seems as though spring has finally arrived. We have been enjoying some time outside. The children have been excited to see the daffodils and tulips coming up on our playground. Outside time has been preceded with choruses of, “We don’t need our snow pants!” The birds and squirrels have been very active and busy around our playground, which the children love to see!

We have been celebrating Month of the Young Child. We enjoyed a popsicle snack. We have been doing a lot of art for a special project and for our Art Show that is located in the upper level of the barn (the larger building behind the main building). On Thursday, April 23, we will be having a “showing” in the barn from 4-5. Parents and other family members are welcome to join us for a snack and to check out the art from all the classrooms. You are also welcome to view the the art at any other time that the center is open if this time does not work for you. Just let us know, so that we can give you the code to the barn door.

Finally, we still have many days available for mystery readers. The only time of the day that doesn’t work is from 1-3 when the toddlers are resting. We would love to have some parents sign up and come in to read. Feel free to bring your own books!


Praise vs. Encouragement in the Infant/Toddler Room

February 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Happy February everyone! I would like to share some ideas from one of the most valuable trainings that I have had here at Gretchen’s House. It was about praise versus encouragement.

How many times have you overheard a parent say,  “Good job!”? How often might this be something that you say to your child? Not that often? I would have answered the same way before the training.  It can often be a “go to” phrase when we want children to feel proud and validated. However, I learned that there are better ways to make our words meaningful and validating in a more concrete way.

Imagine you have been asked to write a really important report for work. You work really hard on the report. You put in overtime and really do your research. You are extremely proud of your work.  How would you feel if your boss only said, “Good job”? How would you feel if your boss said, “That was a great report. It was well researched and thorough. You worked really hard on it, and I can tell you put in some extra hours”? The first comment is praise, and the latter is encouragement. The encouragement feels a lot better, doesn’t it?

According to an article by John F. Taylor (1979), the differences in outcomes for children between praise and encouragement are as follows:

Praise Encouragement
stimulates rivalry and competition stimulates cooperation and contribution for the good of all
focuses on quality of performance focuses on amount of effort and joy
evaluative and judgmental; person feels “judged” little or no evaluation of person or act; person feels “accepted”
emphasis on global evaluation of the person-“You are better than others” emphasis on specific contributions-“You have helped this way”
creates quitters creates ‘triers’ and persistence
 fosters fear of failure and dependence fosters acceptance of being imperfect; fosters self sufficiency and independence

Children who are often praised can come to depend on it. They are often less willing to take risks. If they are already doing a good job, they don’t want to try something different and fail, thus losing their “good job” status. Children who are encouraged may be open to trying new and different things because the focus is on their effort not the outcome. Picture two toddlers of similar age and ability. One child finds their shoes and takes them to their parent. They hear, “Good job,” and the parent puts their shoes on for them. The other child finds their shoes and takes them to their parent. They hear, “You found your shoes.” The child then unsuccessfully attempts to put their shoes on and hears, “You worked really hard to put your shoes on.” The parent then helps with the shoes. The second child is much more likely to continue to try to put their shoes on by themselves because their effort is being acknowledged.

One of the best examples I’ve heard came from a mom when we did this training at Curriculum Night a few years ago. Her older daughter was drawing a picture. The mom told her, “Good job.” The daughter responded with, “But mom, I’m not even done yet!” The compliment was not meaningful to the child. Perhaps she thought, “I just got a good job for something that isn’t even done yet. Do they even mean it when they tell me good job?” A comment such as, “You’re working really hard on your picture,” would have meant a lot more to her.

I never realized how much I said, “Good Job,” until I had this training. It takes some time to break the habit. Think about how you can rephrase your “Good Job” statements. Be specific and acknowledge effort. Some examples: “You put your coat on all by yourself.” “You used a lot of different colors on your marker drawing.” “You tried your green beans.” “Snow pants are really hard to put on. You’ve been trying so hard to get yours on. Are you ready for some help?”

A “Good job” every now and then is completely fine, but a little encouragement goes a long way!


Welcome Back Infant/Toddler Families!

January 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

We hope everyone had a relaxing winter break! December seemed balmy compared to our frigid January weather. We have not had as much time outside lately due to the subzero temperatures, and we are feeling a bit stir crazy! I would like to share some suggestions of inside activities we do here at Gretchen’s House that support our need to move, even when we can’t get outside!

One of our go-to activities is to put on some music and dance. Take turns doing moves and try to copy each other.  Another favorite is seeing how many different ways you can think of to move across the room (walk backwards, crawl, jump, roll, etc.). You can read a book about animals and move your bodies like them. If you have a yoga ball, you can bounce together on it. If you have an older infant, you can crawl around next to them or line up different sturdy items for them to cruise along. Younger infants can practice tummy time and sitting up. Give them interesting things to look at and explore like laminated pictures or a shiny metal bowl.

Here is a link to a few more ideas of movement activities you can do with your infants and toddlers at home.

See how many different activities you can think of to move your body inside. We hope the rest of the winter brings us many days of outside time!