Going “Old School” to Build Peer Relationships


Leah Zabari

Yesterday I was in a toddler classroom when two children slowly walked by me. One of the toddlers went up to the other and gently took hold of his friend’s hand. They proceeded to walk around the room together holding hands and interacting. It was such a sweet moment that was only captured by me, the observer. It’s not often I get to see those subtle and sweet peer relationships and it truly made me smile the rest of the day.

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Let’s Talk Quality! On-site Assessments

update concept

The Program Quality Assessment (PQA) Team is available to support you in the Internal Assessment Process (IAP) by completing an on-site assessment in your program. In addition to the Environment Rating Scales® (ERS) and Classroom Observation Scoring System® (CLASS®) this opportunity is available for all Program Observation Instruments (POIs) listed in the Keystone STARS Standards.

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Finding Time for Classroom Observations


Natalie Grebe

A key component of a program’s sustained quality that may not receive consistent attention is the director’s observations of classrooms. It is best practice for directors to observe classrooms and review their findings with teachers. Most directors will say the biggest reason for not being able to do this as well as they would like is time. While room observations may be scheduled, the constant interruptions of staff shortages, ill children, broken equipment, and parents’ needs make this difficult to complete. Some teachers may feel uncomfortable with their director in the classroom for an extended period of time or get more nervous at the thought of being “watched.” By implementing a few ideas and staying consistent, both directors and teachers can benefit from these observations.

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Musings of a Mimi: Conversations with a Five-Year-Old – Fairies, Tomatoes and Hedgehogs


By Lisa Mulliken

I sometimes drive my five-year-old granddaughter to preschool early in the morning. During our short drive she usually starts off a conversation with, “Mimi, did you know….?” Recently our conversation started with, “Mimi, did you know that fairies are real?” I responded with, “Wow! I’ve never seen a fairy. What do you know about them?” As she talked, I learned so much from her: they hatch from different color eggs and come out the color of the egg they grew in, they can’t fly when they hatch because their wings are too small, they eat crystals and hide from humans. So, how did I learn so much about her interest in fairies? By actively listening and asking open-ended questions that encouraged her to use her imagination and go deeper as she responded.

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Fun times on a budget


By Regina Wright

I may be confessing my age, but let’s let our imaginations wander. Think about the time in your life when you were a child. What made your free time fun time? When I imagine, I think about long summer days and how I spent endless hours jumping rope. I had so much fun. Just one simple object, and of course friends, made my summers the best summers ever.

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Real World Conversations


Beth Simon 

Why are real world conversations important to children? Children learn best when adults don’t talk to them about abstract concepts. Numbers and letters are part of the “abstract” world. Do we need numbers and letters? YES, absolutely! But children will learn about those things in due course. Children learn best when adults use concrete concepts that they can relate to in the world around them. 

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Musings of a Mimi: Giraffes and Sharks and Dinosaurs, Oh My!


by Lisa Mulliken

From toddler to preschooler, my granddaughter has amassed a sizeable collection of plastic animals including farm and jungle animals, sea creatures, dinosaurs, and insects. Throughout the years, the collection has remained her favorite and most used toy. From sharks and whales in the bathtub to a cheetah in her pocket as we go for a walk, they have been constant companions. The cheetah and a squirrel have long been her favorites. Her dinosaur collection joined us for a recent family beach trip where she lined them up in the window sills and invited aunts and cousins to join her play. She can name all of her animals and knows many of their characteristics.

Plastic animals are wonderful, open ended learning materials that lead children into creative and imaginative child led play. They are easily incorporated into play with small building toys (Magna-Tiles are a current favorite at Mimi’s house!). We spend time building homes (or castles, zoos, and ice cream stores) for her animals which leads to great conversations and new vocabulary as we discuss where animals live or she shares her knowledge of dinosaurs. Playdough is used to make animal body or foot prints and animals join her water play outside on warm, sunny days.

Here are some other fun ideas for play with plastic animals:

  • Play a matching game by matching a photo or sound with the correct animal. Or line up animals and have the child close their eyes while you take one away. Guess which one is missing.
  • Sort animals by similarities or differences, land or water, pet or wild animal or omnivore, carnivore or herbivore.
  • Name animal body parts to introduce new vocabulary such as antennae, hooves, fins, beak, tusk.
  • Turn off the light and use a flashlight to make animal shadows on a wall or take them outside on a sunny day and trace their shadows.
  • Take some plastic animals with you on a zoo or farm field trip and see how many you can find.
  • Use a large floor map and place animals on the continent where they live.
  • Read stories or sing songs about favorite animals, using the plastic animals as props.
  • Add plastic creatures to a sea life sensory bottle.

Although plastic animals are often thought of as block accessories, put them in the hands of a child and they can be so much more! So, if you are looking for toys that provide a variety of learning opportunities and can grow with children through the years, pull out those plastic animals and let the fun begin!

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