School for Young Children

Inquiring Minds December 2019

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From the Director: Sue O'Donnell

The fall and early winter months bring different holidays and celebrations. Preschool children are just starting to develop an understanding of what holidays mean within their family unit. For the three year old, everything is new, exciting and sometimes overwhelming. Most three's are not able to remember specific details about last year's celebrations. With an additional year's growth the four year old is able to recount some of the events and routines from last year's celebrations.

Preschool children are forming an understanding of the concept of the calendar year and time. It is an abstract and mindboggling concept for young children. This becomes evident when children announce what costume they will definitely wear next Halloween on November 1 or that they are going to Disney World this weekend, when actually the trip is months away. The waiting and anticipation prior to a holiday or their birthday can be difficult, as well as the let down after it is all over!

We often say at SYC we celebrate the seasons instead of focusing on holidays. Concentration on the seasons provides children with a deeper understanding of time and almost invariably gives them a sense of calm. This practice is also an intentional focus of respecting each families culture, tradition and celebrations. Another important factor in this approach around the holidays allows classrooms to continue to provide curriculum that engages children in the important concepts (literacy, science, math) and developmental skills (fine motor, gross motor, language development) that you see teaching staff integrating into lesson plans each week.

At School for Young Children we enjoy inviting family members into the classrooms to share special songs, food, books or traditions that are part of your celebrations. Children are able to experience celebrations different from their own that are shared with authenticity. They are also able to compare traditions and routines that might be similar to those they see within their own family. The invitation to share something with your child's class can occur throughout the year. For example, your family may have something special that you do to celebrate the first day of spring. Please connect with your child's teacher if you or another family member would like to come into the classroom to share something with the class.

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Coat Drive

SYC will be collecting gently used coats for adults and children. French Cleaners will clean the coats and distribute them to various social service agencies in the Greater Hartford area.

Donation bins will be in the foyer and

will be accepted until Dec 13th.

Thank you for helping to keep others warm this winter season!

PAC Meeting

Thursday, Dec. 12th, 7-8pm

SYC Conference Room

Join SYC parents for this month's PAC meeting in the conference room.

Contact information:

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PJ Day for the Kids!

Friday, Dec. 13th, 7:45am-5:30pm

SYC Classrooms

Donate a $1 or more and wear your PJS to school! Join SYC teachers and staff as we raise funds to support children at the CT Children's Medical Center. Canisters will be in each classroom. All funds collected will be donated to CCMC to benefit the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Thank you for your support!

Pizza Friday

Session 2 of Pizza Friday will be January 3- June 5, 2020. The cost of session 2 is $76.

Forms can be found in the main office. Please make checks payable to The University of Saint Joseph .

If you have already paid for the full year of Pizza Friday, then you are all set!

Questions? Contact Deidre, 860.231.5562


Everyone had a blast at our Fall Family Fun Night earlier this month! Thank you to everyone who attended, and a special thank you to Cristina Periello, a West Hartford teacher and room 5 parent, for running this event. It was a fun evening and we look forward to our next Family Fun Night February/March!

The classroom place mats have been created by our classroom volunteers and are at the printers as we speak. A huge thank you goes out to those class volunteers who helped create and design placemats. A special thank you to Kate Pascucci and Sarah Colonese for co-chairing the place mats project. These are such a special keepsake for the kids, we are excited to share them with the kids! Place mats will be ready for distribution in your classroom in the next couple of weeks.

Our Sweet Frog fundraiser was a fun afternoon event for SYC families. It was great to see friends and classmates enjoying their sweet treats together! We will have another fundraiser in the spring at Chipotle, so stay tuned for the date and more info soon.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the Lyman Orchard Pie fundraiser and to the parent volunteers who were there bright and early on pick-up day to help organize and distribute the pies. We raised nearly $1,600 for SYC! We hope everyone enjoyed their pies over the holiday.

In the spirit of giving this Holiday season, SYC is organizing a few community service drives. Not only does it help those in need, but it is also an excellent opportunity for our children to learn more about the world around them and how they can contribute. This year we will be collecting coats for children and adults. French Cleaners will clean them and then distribute to social service agencies within with Greater Hartford area. Drop-off boxes are in the vestibule through Friday December 13. Thank you Sue O’Donnell for organizing this drive!

We will be kicking off a new community service drive for the Salvation Army for the first two weeks of December. This year, SYC will be sponsoring a family to help make their holiday season a little brighter. Needed items will be displayed on the PAC board on a “giving tree”, with information on how to contribute. We encourage you to help in any way you can. A special thank you to the Echavarria family for organizing this drive!

Our next PAC meeting will take place on Thursday Dec12th at 7pm in the SYC Resource Room. We will discuss some of the fundraisers and service projects coming up in the new year, and begin planning for the Spring Auction/Fundraiser in April 2020. Please join us to hear more about how you can get involved with this or other PAC activities, and provide suggestions and feedback for other PAC events. We hope to see you there, and we wish you and your family a happy and healthy Holiday season!

Stephanie Dominello and Kelly Pellegato, PAC Co-Chairs


  • Dec 23rd-Jan 2nd: SYC CLOSED for the holiday break
  • Jan 2nd: SYC CLOSED for Professional Development
  • Jan 3rd: Preschool and BackPack REOPEN
  • Jan 8th: PAC meeting 7-8pm
  • Jan 20th: Martin Luther King Jr Day: Preschool CLOSED, BackPack OPEN
  • Jan 21st: Family Conference Day: Preschool and BackPack CLOSED


Please have your child's FLU Shot paperwork submitted to

the main office by December 20, 2019.

If we do not have the paperwork,

your child will not be able to return to school until April 1, 2020

Please see Kharisha in the main office with any questions.

Thank you!

Fun Easy Ways to Play with Math at Home

Sing songs and chant! Many songs, chants, and verses have patterns. Learning a song’s pattern helps children remember the song. Patterns repeat in a predictable way that helps children know what comes next. Songs and chants, like “Five Green and Speckled Frogs,” “Five Little Monkeys,” “Hokey Pokey,” and “Ten Little Fingers,” teach number order—children count up or down from a number. They also teach spatial words, like on, in, out, and around.

2. Read picture books. Visit your local library and check out great picture books about counting, numbers, patterns, measurement, shapes, and engineering. For ideas, take a look at the book lists at and

3. Use your fingers. When children count on their fingers, they are strengthening their number knowledge and their ability to visualize numbers in their minds. You and your child can play these two games with fingers, toys, and other objects—or even people!

How Many Do You See? Have your child count your fingers and see how many different ways you can “show 5” on two hands. Then, you can show numbers up to 10. Eventually, add your child’s hands and go up to 20.

How Many Are Hiding? Start with your whole hand and “hide” some fingers. Ask children, “How many fingers are hiding?”

4. Do puzzles. Playing with puzzles helps children to think about spatial relationships, identify shapes, look for patterns, and find solutions. Start with easy jigsaw puzzles and add more challenging ones when your child is ready. You can even make your own puzzles by drawing a picture and cutting it into two, three, four, or more pieces!

5. Build together. Building with materials like blocks, cardboard boxes, Legos, K’nex, Magna-Tiles, or Lincoln Logs helps children develop strong spatial skills.

6. Try origami. The creations children make by folding paper help them develop strong spatial skills as well as logical and sequential thinking. In addition to being art, origami can be found in packaging all around us—pizza boxes, paper bags, envelopes, and take-out containers. Folding (and unfolding) paper helps children think in two and three dimensions and see how the sequence of steps affects the final design.

7. Play board games. While playing games like Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, HiHo Cherry-O, and Sorry, children move a game piece one space at a time while counting the number of spaces (an important math skill). Your child will practice recognizing the numbers of dots showing on the die without counting them. She’ll also develop perseverance, engage in problem solving, and learn from mistakes.

8. Play card games. Games like Memory, Go Fish, War, Slap Jack, Crazy Eights, Uno, and Sleeping Queens give children practice in recognizing and comparing numbers. They also help children learn to pay attention to things like shape, number, and color.

Parent Tips:

  • Mistakes are OK! Making mistakes is a part of learning new things. When your child makes a mistake, ask questions like, “What happened?,” “What would you do differently next time?,” to help him see it, and talk about what he can learn from the experience.
  • Children tend to mimic parents’ attitudes about math. As you play these games, have fun! If you are having fun, they will too! Working through a challenge is also what makes games enjoyable. It’s no fun to play a game that’s too easy. If things get tough, you can remind children that sometimes math makes us think hard, but that challenges are good for our brains.

This information has been adapted from Games for Young Mathematicians, a program of research in early mathematics at the Education Development Center (EDC), supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation.

Jessica Mercer Young is a research scientist and developmental and educational psychologist specializing in early learning at Education Development Center.

Kristen E. Reed, project director at EDC, has worked as a teacher, curriculum developer, professional development facilitator, and researcher. For more ways to make math engaging, challenging, and fun, visit

S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Reader Volunteers

We are truly lucky at SYC to have SPECIAL Reader volunteers! SPECIAL stands for:

Seniors and Preschoolers Engaging Collaboratively In All Learning.

Volunteers come into the classrooms once a week to read stories with the children. They also engage in activities that are happening in the classrooms. Please say "hi" and "thank you" if you ever get the chance to meet our very SPECIAL Readers!


As the holidays draw near, we would like to take a moment to remind families of our holiday philosophy. At the School for Young Children, we strive to preserve our normal routines during holiday times. We approach the holidays by focusing on the essence of the holiday season. Groups may spend time exploring the concept of generosity during the winter holiday season and friendships during the Valentine season.

In keeping with SYC's focus on science and nature, we study seasonal changes and explore various elements of nature such as snow during the winter. We welcome families to visit classrooms and teach children about cultural or family traditions at any time of the school year. Please talk to your child's teacher if this interests you. For more information about SYC's holiday philosophy and for our full curriculum document, please visit the Families section of our website.


In the event of inclement weather or a non-weather related emergency, the SYC closing/delayed opening announcement will be sent out on the USJ emergency alert system. We recommend that you sign up for text message and /or email alerts for SYC. Please visit School may close for non-weather related emergencies (power outage, no water, etc) so be prepared!


Please consult the following TV stations or their websites for closing or delayed opening announcements:

NBC 30 TV or

WFSB Channel 3 TV or

We are listed as Sch. For Young Child and/or School for Young Children, West Hartford

If you signed up last year, please check to see that your contact information is updated.

Please be advised that when school is delayed, all schedules are delayed. For example, in the case of a one-hour delay, Backpack would open at 8:45am and Preschool would begin at 10:00am.

Cold Weather is Here!!

We play outside every day during the cold weather. Please make sure to send your child to school each day with :

  • a warm coat
  • a hat
  • a pair of mittens or gloves
  • snowboots
  • a snowsuit or snowpants

Even after the snow melts, our playground can still be muddy enough to require a snowsuit. Winter gear must be taken home each day and returned to school the next day. Carry snow clothing to and from school in your SYC reusable bag. Please make sure to LABEL everything with your child's name in order to prevent lost items.

Afternoon Backpack Families: Please send in an extra set of labeled mittens for the afternoon, as mittens used in the morning tend to be too wet for reuse in the afternoon.

Main Door

Please remind your children to open the door manually during the cold season. We are trying to conserve heat and energy.

Thank you!

Family Snack

Thank you to all families who have donated snack to their child's classroom. The children and teachers appreciate this gesture of kindness. If you would like to bring in snack or a birthday treat, please check with your child's teacher. We are asking families to please remember to provide healthy, low sugar snacks. Some ideas are:

  • bite sized fresh fruit
  • veggies
  • cheese and crackers
  • low sugar baked items
  • raisins
  • rice cakes and nut butter

Please provide your teacher with the original packaging or list of ingredients of a home baked item, for allergy purposes.

When in doubt about what to bring, ask your classroom teacher for guidance, thank you!

The School for Young Children at The University of Saint Joseph

Sue O'Donnell, Director