Rabbi Steven Foster Early Learning Center
Where discovery meets community.

Susan's Helpful Hints

Saying Goodbye at Drop-Off
For many children, going to school is a brand new experience. Children are all unique and react to new situations differently. Some may walk right in without a look back. Others will cling or cry. These are all normal responses. Your children need to know that you think school is a place where they will be safe. They also need to know you will always come back to pick them up. All of us (parent, child, and teacher) will work together to help your child make a positive adjustment to school. Here are a few hints that may help if your child experiences some separation anxiety: 1) Tell them that they are safe, that you love them and that you will return. 2) Be sure to say good-bye. 3) Once you have separated, resist temptation to come back into the classroom. 4) Make sure your child has had enough sleep, a good breakfast, and does not feel overly rushed. 5) Know that one child crying may cause your child to cry too. Crying is contagious. 6) Realize that children react to their parent’s moods and feelings and do not understand that you may feel sad about leaving them, too. 7) Give them something special of yours to keep until you return. 8) Send them with their favorite stuffed animal or security item to offer reassurance that they are safe. 9) Stay a few minutes until they have made contact with another child, teacher or become involved in play. 10) Use special goodbye phrases, rhymes or signs. Create a goodbye routine that is always followed. Children are comforted by familiar routines. 11) Notify the teacher about any special problems or changes occurring in your child’s life.

New to Camp or Transitioning Classrooms/Teachers
You and/or your child may be have some “big” feelings about this, whether it is their first school experience or transitioning to a new classroom. We understand and want to offer some helpful tips: 1) Stop by the school to say hi! Take pictures of your child on the playground, in the office, in a classroom and in front of the building. Put these pictures in a mini-photo album so that they can look through it. Having visual images helps create a felt sense of safety and can help your child cope with any apprehensions about this new journey. 2) With verbal children, talk about their feelings and ease any concerns they might have. 3) Tell your child that at school we keep them safe and that you always return to pick them up. 4) Create a goodbye ritual (if you don't already have one) to use every day that you drop off and practice it with your child prior. These tips won't resolve all feelings that may surface the first few days (or weeks) but may help calm your child's "Fight or Flight" response. 

Why biting occurs
A Few Reasons Why Biting Occurs: 1) Teething 2) Exploration 3) Frustration 4) Excitement/Over-Arousal
What You Can Do: 1) Avoid shaming 2) Be firm, clear and direct 3) Say to children “Ouch that hurts” in way that provides information instead of judgment 4) Keep your composure and stay calm 5) View it as information of the child’s internal state instead of “Bad Behavior” 6) Go to the victim first 7) Provide other strategies/items to relieve pain or tension 8) Never bite back; thinking this will teach a lesson 9) Provide the biter opportunities to help their victim

Screen Time for Kids
"Educational apps and TV shows are great ways for children to sharpen their developing brains and hone their communication skills—not to mention the break these gadgets provide harried parents. But tread carefully: A number of troubling studies connect delayed cognitive development in kids with extended exposure to electronic media," writes Liraz Margalit, PhD, in a Psychology Today article.
Margalit explains that "parents who jump to screen time in a bid to give their kids an educational edge may actually be doing significantly more harm than good—and they need to dole out future screen time in an age-appropriate matter...when a young child spends too much time in front of a screen and not enough getting required stimuli from the real world, her development becomes stunted...much of the issue lies with the fact that what makes tablets and iPhones so great—dozens of stimuli at your fingertips, and the ability to process multiple actions simultaneously—is exactly what young brains do not need. "
"Tablets are the ultimate shortcut tools: Unlike a mother reading a story to a child, for example, a smartphone-told story spoon-feeds images, words, and pictures all at once to a young reader. Rather than having to take the time to process a mother’s voice into words...kids who follow stories on their smartphones get lazy. The device does the thinking for them, and as a result, their own cognitive muscles remain weak." Source:  What Screen Time Can Really Do to Kids’ Brains, by Liraz Margalit, PhD., Psychology Today, April 17, 2016

Big Feelings: How do I handle my child's upset?
One of the biggest challenges for parents of infant or toddler-aged children is dealing with an upset child. Think about how you handle an upset child. Do these responses sound familiar: “You’re okay, can you give me a hug?” “Come look over here! Play with this!” “Shhhhush (accompanied by rocking or bouncing).” Though common, these responses rob the child of the opportunity to express his or her genuine emotion. These are reactive rather than responding statements. “You’re okay, can you give me a hug,” generally stems from the parent’s fear that the child isn’t okay, or that s/he is okay but is going to start wailing. “Come over here” and “Shhhhush” are both attempts to distract the child from his/her upset or pain. To respond to the child in a way that addresses his/her emotion, we must teach him/her how to handle the upset. We can do this by using active calming ourselves, helping the child to calm down and labeling the emotion to build the child’s self-awareness. Step 1: S.T.A.R. (Smile, Take a breath, And Relax). Actively calm yourself first so you can respond. Step 2: Wish the child well by continuing to breathe and thinking loving thoughts about the child. Step 3: Notice, “Your face is going like this (demonstrate the child’s expression). You’re safe, I’m here. Breathe with me.” Step 4: Label emotion the emotion for the child to build awareness, “You seem sad (angry, upset, frustrated).” Do your best to label the child’s emotion. The child may correct you if you say “sad” and they feel “angry.” Step 5: “You want ________.” Take a good guess at what the child wanted. Again, they may correct you. If the source of upset is a physical hurt (a fall, bump, etc.) describe what happened, “You were so busy playing that you didn’t see the coffee table until you ran into it.” Step 6: Commit to keeping them safe: “I’ll keep you safe.” Step 7: After the first six steps are complete and the child is calm, then you may offer redirection. “Let’s go play with the blocks. ”At first, the child’s upset may increase. This is healthy and occurs because you are allowing the child to feel the anger, upset or other emotion s/he is experiencing. Continue your active calming and move forward with the seven steps above. As parents, our impulse is to bend over backward to avoid having our children experience any kind of discomfort. However, experiencing their own emotion is necessary and healthy for your children’s development. Be present with your children and help them cope with difficult emotions rather than attempting to shield them. The payoff will come years later when your children are able to handle their own upset about life events, whether they be bigger ones like a death in the family or smaller ones like getting a ding in his/her first car. Whatever the event, you will have taught your children the skills necessary to calm themselves in times of emotional difficulty. –Dr. Becky Bailey, Conscious Discipline

The Brain-Changing Power of Conversation
A study in Psychological Science shows how conversation — the interplay between a parent or caregiver and a child — ignites the language centers in a child’s brain. It’s the first study to show a relationship between the words children hear at home and the growth of their neural processing capacities — showing, in effect, that how parents talk to their children changes children’s brains. Read more at https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/02/brain-changing-power-conversation

We take our kids to Target, the park, and their sister’s dance class in a single morning, and inevitably see meltdowns, hyperactivity, or outright resistance. Jam-packed schedules, overstimulation, and exhaustion are hallmarks of modern family life. Research suggests that 28 percent of Americans “always feel rushed” and 45 percent report having “no excess time” (Robinson, 2013). Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, argues that children experience a “cumulative stress reaction” from too much enrichment, activity, choice, and toys. He asserts that children need tons of “down time” to balance their “up time” (Payne, 2010). When we build in plenty of quiet time, playtime, and rest time, children’s behavior often improves dramatically.

"Whatever you want the children you care for to get out of their physical lives, resilience will be a part of it. Learning from mistakes, shaking off upsets, feeling ready to give something a try – resilience gives children access to the best that physical play can offer." So writes Jarrod Green in his book, I’m Ok! Building Resilience Through Physical Play. Here's one tip he offers that can help children feel in control after they’ve gotten a bump or scrape: "Balance the child’s need for comfort with his need for resilience by putting the child in control of the recovery process. Don't tell the child how to feel better...ask him. ‘What’s going to help you feel better?’ It’s an incredibly powerful question. It builds self-confidence, because it shows you believe in his ability to self-regulate...(Though if you ask too early in the process the child may not be done feeling upset...choose your moment carefully.) Sometimes a child won't know what will help him feel better, so you might give choices: 'Do you want to go get a Band-Aid, or would you rather just sit and rest for a few minutes?'"

11 Things To Say When Kids Cry
It’s no secret that hearing our kids cry makes us uncomfortable. Just think about how anxious you feel when your little one tears up without an obvious reason. We know that a newborn’s main way to communicate is to cry, yet we still look at it as something to be “fixed”. Once that infant becomes a walking, talking toddler, we sometimes expect them to process emotion the way we do, rather than the way they have always done: through crying. In fact, studies have found that our brains are hard-wired to have an instant reaction to a crying child, making us more attentive and ready to help — and fast! A crying infant triggers our fight or fight response, increasing our heart rate and pushing us into action… even if that child is not our own. It seems we have to react to a crying toddler, but how? Read and find out 11 things to say to your child: https://www.gozen.com/11-things-to-say-when-kids-cry/

Jewish Values at the Foster ELC
The spirit of our Jewish tradition and heritage rests at the heart of Rabbi Steven Foster Early Learning Center philosophy. Learning Jewish values and concepts are a very important part of our everyday practice within our early learning center. JECEI established a set of core Jewish values and ideas to guide our work in constructing Jewish early childhood centers. Understood as "lenses," they help create a framework for teachers and parents for study, discussion and development of a shared vision in the classroom. There is much room for interpretation but below is sample of how the lenses are used in our school: 1) Masa: Journey (Reflection, Return and Renewal) 2) B'rit: Covenant (Belonging and Commitment) 3) Tzelem Elokim: Divine Image (Dignity and Potential) 4) K'dushah: Holiness (Intentionality and Presence) 5) Hit'orerut: Awakening (Amazement and Gratitude) 6) D'rash: Interpretation (Inquiry, Dialogue, and Transmission) 7) Tikkun Olam:Repair of the World (Responsibility).

Positive Intent: Ways to See Children Differently
If you are anything like me, my children returning to school from Winter Break makes me happier than just about anything!  Then, as I analyze this thought, a twinge of guilt fills my brain. Why do I get to that point at the end of this break? Read more

How Young Children Process Information
Child development: Before age six, children process information 12 times slower than adults. We must slow down our speech and give only one or two commands at a time. If we speak at a normal pace and say, “Finish your snack, get your crayons and go color in the TV room.” The child may only process bits of information, hearing “crayons color the TV.” consciousdisclipline

A Child's Brain
A child’s brain comes preprogrammed to grow, but it takes a bit more than the first two decades of life to finish this task, making it the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature. -Daniel Goleman PhD.

Fundamentals of the Reggio Approach
From Bringing Reggio Emilia Home: An Innovative Approach to Early Childhood Education, by Louise Boyd Cadwell
• The child as protagonist. Children are strong, rich, and capable. All children have preparedness, potential, curiosity, and interest in constructing their learning, negotiating with everything their environment brings to them. Children, teachers, and parents are considered the three central protagonists in the educational process (Gandini, 1993).
• The child as collaborator. Education has to focus on each child in relation to other children, the family, the teachers, and the community rather than on each child in isolation (Gandini, 1993). There is an emphasis on work in small groups. The practice is based on the social constructivist model that supports the idea that we form ourselves through our interaction with peers, adults, things in the world, and symbols (Lewin, 1995).
• The child as communicator. This approach fosters children’s intellectual development through a systematic focus on symbolic representation, including words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play, and music, which leads children to surprising levels of communication, symbolic skills, and creativity (Edwards et al., 1993). Children have the right to use many materials in order to discover and communicate what they know, understand, wonder about, question, feel, and imagine. In this way, they make their thinking visible through their many natural “languages.” A studio teacher, trained in the visual arts, works closely with children and teachers in each school to enable children to explore many materials and to use a great number of languages to make their thinking visible.
• The environment as third teacher. The design and use of space encourage encounters, communication, and relationships (Gandini, 1993). There is an underlying order and beauty in the design and organization of all the space in a school and the equipment and materials within it (Lewin, 1995. Every corner of every space has an identity and a purpose, is rich in potential to engage and to communicate, and is valued and cared for by children and adults.
• The teacher as partner, nurturer, and guide (Edwards, 1993). Teachers facilitate children’s exploration of themes, work on short- and long-term projects, and guide experiences of joint, open-ended discovery and problem solving (Edwards et al., 1993). To know how to plan and proceed with their work, teachers listen and observe children closely. Teachers ask question; discover children’s ideas, hypotheses, and theories; and provide occasions for discovery and learning (Gandini, 1993).
• The teacher as researcher. Teachers work in pairs and maintain strong, collegial relationships with all other teachers and staff; they engage in continuous discussion and interpretation of their work and the work of children. These exchanges provide ongoing training and theoretical enrichment. Teachers see themselves as researchers preparing documentation of their work with children, whom they also consider researchers. The team is further supported by a pedagogista (pedagogical coordinator) who serves a group of school (Gandini, 1993).
• The documentation as communication. Careful consideration and attention are given to the presentation of the thinking of the children and the adults who work with them. Teachers’ commentary on the purposes of the study and the children’s learning process, transcriptions of children’s verbal language (i.e., words and dialogue) photographs of their activity, and representations of their thinking in many media are composed in carefully designed panels or books to present the process of learning in the schools. The documentation serves many purposes. It makes parents aware of their children’s experience. It allows teachers to better understand children, to evaluate their own work, and to exchange ideas with other educators. Documentation also shows children that their work is valued. Finally, it creates an archive that traces the history of the school and the pleasure in the process of learning experienced by many children and their teachers (Gandini, 1993).
• The parent as partner. Parent participation is considered essential and takes many forms. Parents play an active part in their children’s learning experience and help ensure the welfare of all the children in the school. The ideas and skills that the families bring to the school and, even more important, the exchange of ideas between parents and teachers, favor the development of a new way of educating, which helps teachers to view the participation of families not as a threat but as an intrinsic element of collegiality and as the integration of different wisdoms (Spaggiari)

How do I handle my child's temper tantrums? The core skill that will help you through a temper tantrum is keeping your cool. Your upset will only fuel your child’s fire. Instead, use active calming techniques such as deep breathing to help manage these difficult, but developmentally normal fits. As in any conflict situation, focus on what you want your child to do, model this behavior or state yourself, and notice any hint of success. In terms of tantrums, the behavior or state of being that you want from your child is “calm.” Your job is to focus on “calm” and model calmness yourself. This may sound particularly difficult in the face of a screaming 3-year-old, but can we really expect a 3-year-old to keep his cool if we can’t stay cool ourselves?

Here’s an example: Your toddler wants a bag of candy he’s spied in the grocery aisle. You say, “No.” He crashes to the floor, screaming. You're feeling angry, embarrassed, exhausted and at your wits end. You feel like everyone’s looking at you. First, take three deep breaths to help calm the stress response in your body. Then, discipline yourself with the affirmation, “I’m safe. Keep breathing. I can handle this.”  Way to go! You’ve just set the internal foundation needed to teach your child how to handle frustration and become calm! Now you can address your upset child. Be encouraging. Get down at eye level with him and say, "You can handle this. Breathe with me. You're safe." Scoop him up, hold him in your arms and breathe deeply with him. When his body relaxes a little, say, “There you go, you’re calming down.”  Then tell him he has a choice, "You can sit in the cart and hold the list, or you can sit in the cart and hold your truck." Once he makes his choice, celebrate your success together, "You did it! You calmed yourself down and that's hard to do."
-Dr. Becky Bailey http://consciousdiscipline.com/resources/discipline-tips.asp

Children's expression of big feelings:  As adults, we’ve been taught to tame and hide our big emotions, often by stuffing them, displacing them, or distracting from them. Kids can’t do that yet. Early childhood educator Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful feelings such as screaming, yelling, or crying. She suggests that parents “Let feelings be” by not reacting or punishing kids when they express powerful emotions. pyschologytoday

Don't forget to laugh: "Research shows that children laugh approximately 200 times a day, whereas adults laugh only 15-18 times. People who laugh more are healthier, experience less stress, are less likely to be depressed, and may even have an increased resistance to illness or physical problems. The children seem to be on to something that we adults have lost... "My observations of children support the research that shows that laughter is less about humor and more about creating social connections, where people build feelings of camaraderie and pay close attention to each other." -Deb Curtis (Author of Really Seeing Children)

Strategies for Biting:  Although biting might not feel good, it's a natural part of development. For babies and young children, exploring their world means putting everything in their mouth. Add teeth and you’re headed for some painful interactions! Stay calm but firmly let these teething infants and toddling explorers know that “Ouch, that hurts!” and give them something more appropriate to take a bite of. When they are over-excited and bite a friend, go to the victim first. This teaches young children that you value healing over hurting and they are not going to get connection from you first when this occurs. After you’ve bandaged and given empathy to the injured party, turn toward the biter and say, “Look at_______’s face. He face is saying, “I’m hurt or scared”. Next, set the limit: “You may not bite. Biting hurts. What could we do that is kind to help_______ right now?” (If they don’t know what to do, offer suggestions like getting them a bandage, asking what the child needs, offering a stuffed animal or ice pack, etc.) When they are frustrated and bite, stay calm and remember that they are currently utilizing the only skills they possess. Again, attend to the victim first. You can help the victim with assertive language skills by telling his attacker, “Stop! Don’t bite me. That hurts! When you are mad, tell me, I am mad at you. instead of biting me.” Offer empathy to the biter with a statement like, “You didn’t have the words to use. You were feeling frustrated.” Next, set a firm and clear limit, “You may not bite. Biting hurts. Tell your friend that you feel frustrated.” Have the child practice this problem solving strategy. By avoiding an over-reaction, you can help children develop different strategies to handle the frustration, exploration, excitement and teething…which, although occasionally painful, are a natural part of their development.

Managing Emotional Literacy: "I prefer to teach my child…to be emotionally literate. That is the skill the child will need in order to overcome stress, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, anger, hurt and despair. I would teach my child the difficult situations in life help to improve our self-esteem, courage and self-reliance, and enable us to handle life on our own terms." - Dalip Singh from Emotional Intelligence at Work; A Professional Guide.
We here at the Rabbi Steven Foster Early Learning Center agree with this idea! This is a place for children to grow in their understanding of emotions and develop skills and tools to then manage these feelings and emotions.

Children's Reactions to Parents' Moods: Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it (Goleman, 1991, Hatfield et al., 2014). Children especially pick up on their parents’ moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always-on-the-verge-of-frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, children model off that instead.

Holiday Resources

Learn About Sukkot with Shalom Sesame; Enjoying the Beauty of Nature

Sukkot and Simchat Torah Social Justice Guide

How to Ready Your Young Child for Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashana and the High Holiday Experience at Temple Emanuel