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Janice’s Note

December 14, 2020  

Image: Night sky borrowed from

This is a fun time of year to share the wonder of lights with your child.  There are so many lights this year – both in the sky and in the neighborhoods!  

Lots of homes have put up inflatables, lights and ornate decorations.  Our neighbors have gone all out and I will admit we added more lights this year as well.  

Nature is also putting on quite a show this year.  We have had a lot of conversations with Nick about what is happening in the sky.  Not only is this an event that fascinates him but it happens on his birthday!  So we are all excited to join in the sky gazing with him.

With it getting dark so early you will have time to go outside and look at stars, planets and the moon before bedtime.  It is one of the perks of it getting dark before supper time.  Zoe is so excited to see the moon in the evening and is always looking for it in the sky.

Children love flashlights.  At preschool we would have been going on flashlight explores in the climbing room.  I hang shiny stars on the wall and turn off the lights so they can find the stars with their flashlights.  You can go on an “Eye Spy” walk with your child both inside and outside.  Inside make a list of things to find with their flashlight.  Turn off the lights and hunt for things you have added to the room (like shiny stars and the moon) or items they already know are there (the lamp, their bed, stuffed animals, etc). Outside they can shine their flashlights on a tall tree, a fence, the grass, your car, a big rock, etc.  This is a fun time to talk about light and how it illuminates – make (something) visible or bright by shining light on it; light up.

They can take their lanterns and go on a walk and illuminate the path they take on that walk.  I love taking walks in the woods using flashlights.  The trees are so awesome when you shine your light on the branches and light them up.  Gazing through those same branches and getting glimpses of the stars in the sky is one of my favorite winter walk activities.

Have fun exploring your neighborhood using flashlights and lanterns!

~Teacher Janice

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This week we will introduce sounds.  There are a lot of ways you can include sounds in their everyday activities.  One of my favorite  activities is to go for a Sound Walk.  Of course, one of my favorite activities is to go for any kind of walk! HA!

On your walk ask your child what they hear.  Look for birds in the trees, vehicles on the street, airplanes in the sky, people talking and pets barking or meowing.  You can make a Bingo card and mark off the sounds you hear on your walk.  

If you have instruments in your home you can do the same with different instruments and have them identify what instrument makes what sound.

Another fun game is to make a recording of  sounds they hear during their day and identify them.  A vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher, water running, a lawn mower, the car engine, voices they know and sounds from the kitchen.  It is fun to have them think of sounds and make the recording so other family members can guess the sounds.  This is an activity they can do with family and friends they interact with on a video call and the other family members can do with them.  It is an interactive activity that works well on a screen.

We will be singing songs about bells this week and next.  We introduced the song Jingle Bells in class and will sing it as well as some other fun winter songs.  If you have a song your child likes to sing please let me know.  Frosty will be a song we will sing in January when we start our snow themes but we can add him now if your child is singing it at home.

A fun activity that includes Sight / Smell / Sound is making popcorn (or toast).  If you have an air-pop popcorn maker they can see the popcorn swirling around, smell it  and hear it as it pops.  Then taste it! Yum!

Making toast is similar as they can smell it as it toasts, see it come up out of the toaster and hear it as it ‘pops’ up.

Cooking activities are great science activities as well as fun memories you can make with your child.

The activities this week are activities all the children can do with minimal expense and preparation. If your class is not doing the activity you may want to do it with your child on your own. Children love making instruments and interacting with different materials that make noises.  Enjoy!

~Teacher Janice

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I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating with family this week.  There were many opportunities to Taste and Smell at our house even though it was a totally different Thanksgiving.  We were divided by a large window — we ate outside and Joel, Danielle, Ansel and Zoe ate inside.  Curt hung a plastic divider in the stairwell so I could be upstairs cooking and the kids could be downstairs playing with the model train.  We set the food in between in the doorway of the French doors on the deck.  Ansel loved getting to drink his cider in a stemmed glass and Zoe enjoyed playing with the pilgrim salt and pepper shakers we were given as a wedding present 42 years ago.  They had fun eating and we had fun watching them enjoy their food.  We had to talk loudly to be heard but I told Danielle it was just like if we were inside but at the two far ends of the table! Ha!

We had a 2 hour chat with Nick and Greta in Paris.  During the chat Nick made his first cappuccino with a little help from Greta (an amazingly artistic barista). It was fun to be a part of their day and to see Nick develop a new skill.  He was quite proud of himself.  They are cat-sitting for a friend that just finished renovating a 3 story loft home.  A kitchen that is full of all sorts of cooking toys!  A big upgrade from the teeny tiny apartment they live in that has a hot plate and a toaster.  We had sent them a Thanksgiving box and when I heard they would have an oven to use I sent a pumpkin muffin mix.  They had them for their Thanksgiving breakfast.  We will definitely add pumpkin muffin tops to our Thanksgiving menu from now on.

On our pre-dinner hike Ansel and Zoe had a gnome to add to the gnomes on a Hobbit Trail near the house.  I think we have found a new family tradition to add to our Thanksgivings.  We will take a Hobbit Trail hike before Thanksgiving dinner and then, hopefully by next year, we can end it as we always have with  a big family ping pong game called Round Robin by the Jacobsons and ‘Roundy Town by Greta’s family.  Nick was so surprised when he went to the big 3-day Hippensteel Thanksgiving event and got to play ping pong there as well.  Of course he did let them know that the proper way to play the game is to use our rules! 😉

It was a very different Thanksgiving for sure!  The important part was that we had time to enjoy family conversation and see each other.  

I hope you are able to find some fun activities to add to your family traditions during this completely different place in time and have some special memories to add to your thankful list for next year.

Some of the things we took for granted will be treasured blessings post-covid.

In the book I read the children last week one of the pages held such a different meaning for me than if I had read it a year ago.  I have always loved our walks on the beach and holding hands as we walk but now “Give thanks for the ocean, Give thanks for the sand.  The sweet, simple pleasure when we’re holding hands.” means so much more to me.  I look forward to walking the beach with Ansel and Zoe next Thanksgiving and holding their hands.  I will always remember to be thankful for our times spent with family. 

~Teacher Janice

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I have always enjoyed time in the kitchen.  For my 8th birthday I was given a cookbook and a cookie sheet.  I still have that cookbook and my sons used it often when they were learning to cook.  We have a lot of memories connected with food and family.
Joel loves to come up with new combinations of foods.  We have a wonderful camping story about Joel that involved fresh trout, bacon and a special apple chutney he whipped up to make a bacon wrapped stuffed trout for our dinner when I had planned canned chili! haha. Danielle enjoys cooking with Ansel and Zoe. This week she had the kids make applesauce with the apples from her parents tree.  Ansel and Zoe are so proud of their adventures in the kitchen.  When Ansel was two he would imitate the adults cooking in the kitchen at his little kitchen that was set up near the stove.  He would have us sample his delicious meals while we were making the evening meal.  Both of our sons enjoyed spending time with us in the kitchen.  They enjoyed eating what they made as well!  Being together preparing a meal makes a memory and the aromas from those foods will bring back memories when the smells come wafting through your kitchen again.  When Nick was in college he would come home and chat in the kitchen while we made cookies.  The smell of cookies baking in the oven brings back the memories of those times together in the kitchen.Children enjoy being part of the family meal planning and being involved in the making of that meal.Cooking with children can be a fun learning experience that can create some wonderful memories and develop family traditions.  

Here are five ways to enjoy cooking with your children while raising an adventurous eater along the way.

  1. Engage other senses. For a hesitant eater, tasting an unfamiliar food can sometimes be intimidating. You can help your child explore foods when cooking using other senses besides taste. This helps to build positive associations with food. Kneading dough, rinsing vegetables, and tearing lettuce all involve touching food and being comfortable with texture. The complex flavors we experience when eating food come from both taste sensations from the tongue AND smelling with the nose. While cooking with new ingredients, some children may feel too overwhelmed to taste. If this happens, you can try suggesting smelling a food first; this may provide a bridge to tasting in the future. 
  2. Use cooking to raise smart kids. There are so many lessons that can be taught while cooking. Math concepts like counting, measurement, and fractions naturally unfold when navigating a recipe with kids. Explaining how food changes with temperature or how certain foods can help our body be healthy provide great lessons in science. While cooking with your child, practice new vocabulary as you describe how food looks, feels, and tastes. Following a recipe from start to finish helps build the skills for planning and completing projects. 
  3. Make cooking part of the family culture. The family meal can start in the kitchen as you cook together. Family meal preparation is an opportunity to celebrate your cultural heritage by passing down recipes. Help your kids find new, seasonal recipes to add to your repertoire and family cookbook. Cooking together and prioritizing health over the convenience of processed food are great ways to lead by example and help your children buy into a culture of wellness. Building daily and seasonal traditions around cooking together helps strengthen your family’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle.  
  4. Keep it safe. Teach kids the importance of staying safe while cooking by showing them how to hold kitchen tools safely, how to use oven mitts to protect hands from heat, and  how to turn appliances on and off safely. Always supervise children when cooking to ensure they are sticking with safe and age-appropriate tasks. The best way to keep cooking safe is to know your child’s abilities and his or her stage of development. A four-year-old child, for example, may not be ready to sauté vegetables over a hot pan, but may have the fine motor skills to rinse fruits or tear salad leaves. Keeping safety in mind, it is not difficult to get kids—even toddlers—involved in the kitchen.  
  5. Ask for input. Children feel more included in mealtime when they are asked to be a part of meal preparation. Collaborate with your kids when selecting recipes for main dishes or sides. Let them help you make the shopping list and find groceries in the store or farmers market. When cooking together, let children offer a critique of the foods you are preparing. Together you can decide what ingredients you should add to enhance the flavor. Talk about how people enjoy different tastes, and share your preferences with each other. Letting children be “in charge” of details like how to set the table will help them feel invested in mealtime.

Along with cooking children develop a sense of belonging when given responsibilities at mealtime.  They can help set the table, tear the lettuce for a salad and bring the dishes to the kitchen after the meal.  With the table centerpiece they create they will be so proud of what they have contributed to the meal time table.  I hope you find ways to include your child in the meal preparations for your family.   The holiday season is a great time to create some family traditions in the kitchen.  Some of these traditions will become memories of activities that you will remember  with the scent of cookies coming out of the oven,  bread baking or the smell of pancakes on the griddle.I know I am transported back in time with a variety of aromas in the kitchen … yummy food, lots of laughter and family fun.  Enjoy making your own memories in the kitchen with your child.

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It is Farm Animal Week …. lots of animal sounds will be heard during class this week.  Growing up my boys spent three weeks each summer at my grandfather’s farm in Ohio.  Grandpa was actually an educator (teacher, principal and a Dean of Education) but he had what he called a “gentleman’s farm”.   A big garden, geese, chickens and a goat.  He had a tractor and a big barn to play in with hay and a rope swing. He enjoyed farming but loved being an educator and this was the best of both worlds for him — and for us!  There was a big pond to paddle around on and spend time fishing or just watching the geese as they landed on the water several times a day.  My uncle had the real farm with pigs, cows and a huge combine and tractor.  He had the big tree with the rope and wood seat swing that you see in classic midwest farm pictures.  You could swing so high on that swing!I can still see the clothes blowing in the wind on the line behind the garden and my aunt picking beans and putting them in her apron to carry into the kitchen for our dinner.  So many memories that we share with each other from those visits to the small town of Laura Ohio.
A trip to the farm was not complete until we visited the hardware store in West Milton.  Squeaky door and creaky wooden floors.  You could find anything and everything in that store and if it wasn’t in the hardware store you could find it in the Variety Store!  From canning jars to children’s toys and tools to mops … if you needed it you could find it in these two amazing stores.   We still have the tractors Joel and Nick bought at Wertze’s Hardware store.  All of the children in the small towns had tractors.  They kind of tractor you had depended on the owner of the hardware store.  They were either red Internationals or green John Deere tractors and trailers.  They had so many peices of farm equipment and accessories our sons were in farm heaven when they went down that aisle.  If you look on the bookshelf behind me during class you will be able to see what Mr. Wertze considered the proper type of farm equipment.I have to admit I googled Wertze’s this evening … still the same and I bet it still smells the same inside!
We will talk about farms, animals and what different kinds of food we can find on a farm.  During the week you can ask your child what animals live on a farm, what they eat and what they say.  It is also a time to talk about pets, wild animals and domesticated animals.  You can ask them where their food comes from and how food grows.  We will have conversations about animals, food and family for the next few weeks as we lead up to Thanksgiving.
Hope you have fun on the farm this week.  I know I will.

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This week is Turkey Week.  It is hard to believe we are moving into the holiday season.  I love Thanksgiving and, in fact, it is my favorite holiday.  This year will be a very different kind of Thanksgiving.  As I read over the newsletter from last year I was grieving some of the traditions and events from years past that won’t happen this year but I also realized how much of what Thanksgiving is about is still something we can focus on  this year.  It is a time to be thankful for what we have and appreciate all of our blessings.

We might not be celebrating with a big family gathering like we had in the past but we still have our immediate family to be with and to be thankful for the time spent together.  We, as a society, have had a chance to reevaluate what is important.  Time spent with each other has moved up the ‘what is really important’ list.  It has always been important but we had let other things move it off the priority list.  What I like about Thanksgiving is that it has always had a spotlight on relationships and thankfulness.  We have so much to be thankful for as we finish up the year.  

This is a time to look back at what has been important to you this year.  I am so thankful that our family has been able to connect online each Sunday with our Family Paris Chat.  I am thankful for the chance to hear Zoe and Ansel laugh.  I am thankful for the smiles I get to see during our preschool zoom sessions.  I miss being able to be with people in person but I appreciate the creative ways people are finding to connect with each other.  Life has definitely slowed down for some and this has given those people an opportunity to spend time doing things they wouldn’t have had time for otherwise.  Other people have had to reinvent their daily activities during this pandemic and are keeping quite busy.  No matter which one — busy or have more time — we have all had the time to discover what is really important to us.  There are so many things I took for granted that I will cherish once we are able to return to a portion of what was normal.  Hugs, snuggles and going to the grocery store without feeling nervous – ha!  Take time this month to count your blessings.  The biggest one for me is time with my family.

At preschool, for Turkey Week, we have always painted two big papier mache turkeys.  It is so much fun to watch the kids paint these turkeys.  They love it.  I will have the turkeys in The Garden space during November for some gobble gobble time.

During class we will be singing about turkeys and focussing on farms, animals, family and food.  We will start our Gobble Gobble songs this week and be gobbling for at least a month.  When you think you have heard enough gobbling we will start ringing our bells and some of you will be thankful you can turn down the volume when we sing Ring Ring Ring Your Bells! 

It is hard to believe but we are off — It is November!

~Teacher Janice

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When people think of spiders they do not always visualize a cozy home setting.  This week we will be talking about spiders and starting conversations about our homes.  For some of you the thought of a spider is unpleasant or uncomfortable.  Your child will pick up on that feeling.  If possible you can have someone else be the person that shares spiders (or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable) with your child.  My daughter-in-law has worked really hard to teach Zoe and Ansel about spiders and that they need to be careful with them even though she is scared of them herself. 

With the spider we will be talking about their webs and how a web is a home for a spider. We will talk about other homes for animals – nests, holes, caves, etc. As we talk about homes for animals we will talk about our homes and where people live.

When my sons were younger we had several pets that are not the typical pets.  They were allergic to dogs and birds, Curt is allergic to cats and it made me sad to see fish die so we had a tarantula, an iguana, gerbils, a hedgehog and a turtle.   Having pets is a way to teach children responsibility and empathy for living creatures.  Showing them how to “touch gently” whether it be a plant or an animal teaches them to be careful with living things.  If your family doesn’t have a pet your child can nurture a plant.  A way to teach responsibility is to let them feed the family pet or water a plant.  They can care for something and feel quite proud of their ability to take care of something that is alive.

How can you help your child develop that empathy for living creatures?  You can give them an opportunity to care for something.  Giving them something to care for will help them develop a variety of skills. 

Not only do pets provide children with entertainment and affection, but they also teach them about responsibility, compassion, trust, coping with loss, respect, and loyalty, and they help build children’s self-esteem, patience, and social skills 

If you don’t have the energy to have a pet — and it is a lot of energy to have a pet whether it is a dog, cat or snail — taking care of a plant develops several of the same traits as a pet animal.  They can also develop compassion for animals in the world by watching them, talking about where they live and caring for them by setting out feeders.  On your hikes in the woods you can teach them the importance of caring for all of nature. I loved going on hikes with the boys and having conversations about the trees — What kind of tree is it?  How old is the tree? Who lives in the tree?  What can we do to take care of the trees? Learning to respect all living things is an amazing gift you can give your child.

As you take your nature walks this week show your child the webs outside. An early morning walk, with the dew on the webs,  is a perfect time for finding spider webs. The dew drops will highlight the webs in the gardens and make it easier for the children to see them.  

It is also a good time to look for nests in the trees now that the leaves have fallen. Ask your child where he/she thinks the birds live during the winter.

You can ask them where they think the  spiders go when it is cold. 

We will be talking about homes for animals, and people, during the next few weeks.

~Teacher Janice

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Pumpkin Week!

During pumpkin week we will talk about the color, size, shape, texture and weight of pumpkins.  I will have some pumpkins on the screen to show the children.  We will explore the pumpkin and see what is inside one.

Learning through sensory experiences is one of the many ways your child develops their awareness of the world around them.  Talk to your child about the pumpkins you have at home and the ones you see growing in a garden/at the pumpkin farm.  If you go to a farm you have an opportunity to talk to them about where food comes from and how plants grow.  If you buy your pumpkin at the store you can find some books about farms and food or research it online.  When you cut open your pumpkin you have a great opportunity to teach your child new words.  Words that describe the texture of the inside of a pumpkin and words that describe their feelings while they are exploring a cut open pumpkin.  Remember that some kids love to get messy and others will just want to watch as you pull a handful of goopy seeds out of the pumpkin.  Either way your child is learning and creating new pathways of information in his/her brain.   These early learning experiences are stored and used to build their foundation for later learning.

We will talk about a variety of ways your child learns but one of them is through sensory play.

Touch. (from an article by Danielle Steinberg)

  • Play games or engage in activities that require the use of muscles: jump on a trampoline or the bed, crab walk, have a three-legged race, make a fort or an obstacle course, play leap frog or hopscotch, try tossing or catching games (use different objects like stuffed animals, water balloons or bean bags) and play tug-of-war.
  • Include your child in chores that encourage the use of muscles: let him push a laundry basket or grocery cart or clean together (wiping the counters, sweeping, mopping … every parent’s dream come true!).
  • Make use of stimulating textures or objects around your house. For example, in the kitchen, hammer ice cubes in a plastic bag, play with whipped cream or cookie dough, go on a texture scavenger hunt, sip seltzer or drink through a straw.
  • Partake in sensory activities that don’t require any objects: have a parade or march around the house, pet an animal or simply cuddle.

Enjoy creating some fun new memories as you enjoy introducing your child to pumpkins, farms and family traditions.

~Teacher Janice

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The leaves are falling from the trees and the spiders are everywhere!  It is foggy in the morning and cool and crisp in the evening.  I love going on walks and hikes during the fall.  There is so much to see and hear — one of my favorite things to do during this time of year is a ‘leaf crunch’ walk!
Trees are such a part of our lives.  I always was a tree climber as a kid.  NO tree was too tall for me to try to climb.  We had a beautiful tulip tree in our yard for our sons to climb.  It was the perfect size with easy to reach branches and nice cozy places to sit.  They loved that tree.  We would sit under it in the shade of it’s branches during the summer and read books on a blanket.  In the fall we would rake up the leaves and jump in them.  In the spring they would collect the seed pods and make potions with them.  In the winter the snow was lovely on the bare branches.  The tree is a part of Joel and Nick’s childhood memories.Even as high schoolers I could find them sitting in the tree reading a book.  Such wonderful memories of that tree.  When it got a disease and to be taken down we saved pieces of it for all of us to remember it by.
Is there a tree that is a part of your life?  We have a maple tree growing in the yard that is the exact same age as Ansel.  Danielle gave me the seed pod so we could watch it grow at preschool.  What we didn’t know was Ansel was growing as well!  Danaielle has a sequoia tree growing for Zoe.  Two big trees that will be the same age as they are but definitely different in size!
For Tree Week we will be looking at trees.  It is fun to have your child find a tree and watch it through the seasons.  One in your yard or at the park that they can claim as ‘their tree’.
We will make our Keepsake leaf handprint this week.  As well as a stand up apple tree.  This is the perfect time to find a tree when you are on your nature walk.  We will need a lot of natural materials for our projects this week.  Leaves, pine cones, bark, pine needles, maple tree ‘helicopter’ seeds and more!  Take some time to explore in your yard, the neighborhood and an outdoor hike.
I think it will be fun for all the classes to make the Pumpkin Banana Smoothie.  So if you would like to have the ingredients handy we can make them on Wednesday and Thursday for the older kids and in class with the toddlers on Friday.
See you in class!~Teacher Janice

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As we start the month of October we will be exploring leaves, trees, pumpkins and spiders.  I love being outside in the fall….well actually outside in any season.  

There is so much your child can learn when they are outside.  Just walking on the ground is a learning experience.  For many children walking on uneven ground is something that they do not experience on a regular basis.  They spend a lot of time walking on the level floor at home or on the sidewalk outside but they may not be out in the woods or walking on a trail with roots and rocks.  Giving them an opportunity to learn how to balance on uneven ground helps them to build core strength, develop a sense of how their body works and allows them to take safe risks.  When you allow your child to determine if it is something they feel safe doing it builds a sense of pride when they are successful.  You can set up safe risk with developmentally appropriate activities.  For the little ones just crossing over the tree root is a big accomplishment and for the older children climbing on the big rock may feel like they have scaled a mountain.  If they try and can’t do what they attempted then they have a chance to deal with disappointment and reassess what they are capable of doing.  When you are there to help them set up safe risks you are allowing them to build their self confidence, learn how their body works and how they can safely explore the world around them.  When they are outside they have an opportunity to discover how they are a part of this world we live in.

This week we will be investigating leaves.  We will talk about colors, size, shape and texture.  When you take your child on a leaf walk ask them questions about the trees.  You can ask what color are the leaves and what trees have changed colors.  You can listen to the wind and the sound the leaves make when they are walked on.  Compare a leaf that has fallen on the ground and one that is still on the tree.  You can talk about an evergreen tree versus a deciduous tree.

I found out an interesting fact about needles and leaves.  

It may not seem like it, but needles are leaves. They do the same job that broad leaves do—capture sunlight, “inhale” carbon dioxide, and “exhale” oxygen—providing the tree with food and air for us to breath. … Needles have a thick, waxy coating that retains more water than a regular leaf.

Learn something new everyday — it should be a goal for you because it is definitely something your child does every day!

Danielle had Ansel and Zoe make a fall picture for the cedar “leaves” they found today.  They were at OO Denny Park.

They made a beautiful picture collage using the leaves they found from the evergreen trees.  I had not thought of collecting the types of leaves they collected as I have always thought of fall leaves that are red, orange and yellow from deciduous trees.  We will be examining different leaves this week and I will add cedar tree ‘leaves’ to the mix.  You may want to make a collage out of them on the day we make our leaf collage by using cedar leaves instead of dried deciduous leaves.  Fall is so much fun!

(I sent a picture to show them the art project that Ansel did today)

Be sure to take a small bag or little treasure box to fill up on your nature walks.  We will have lots of activities this week that have natural items as part of the project.  A fun way to gather items is to go on a Color Walk and try to find something that matches a specific color — red leaves, brown pine cones, yellow dandelion and a grey rock.

Every leaf speaks bliss to me

Fluttering from an autumn tree.

Emily Bronte

Have fun walking in nature and listening to the leaves!

~Teacher Janice

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