School for Young Children

Inquiring Minds February 2019

Big picture

From the Director, Sue O'Donnell

People are often surprised that we do not have children exchange cards on Valentine’s Day. We made the decision many years ago after reflecting upon how relevant this practice was for preschool children. Many children in our school have not developed the fine motor skills necessary to write their name. Others have begun to strengthen these skills, but the act of writing 17 cards presents a challenge with a bit of frustration during the process. In the classroom setting, children aren’t able to hand out the cards independently to their peers since they can’t read the names on the envelopes. I can recall card exchanges on Valentine’s Day and it was a chaotic time to say the least. We work to reduce chaos and stress!

Throughout the year classrooms engage in activities and conversations that help children develop compassion, empathy, and kindness towards others. They may make cards for someone that’s visited our program or bake bread for Isaura who cleans our school. Teachers also model and recognize kindness and compassion in their words and actions. You can often hear comments such as “Tessa, that was so kind of you to help your friend finish the puzzle.” That specific acknowledgement of a behavior helps children connect their actions with emotions. Our hope is that these small acts occurring throughout each day and week make children aware of other’s feelings and how to engage in acts of kindness and compassion.

Winter Gear and Weather

It's that time of year..snow, rain, and yes, mud! Our playground stays wet through to the spring so please send your child to school with the right gear for outdoor play. We go outside in most weather. Please LABEL all of your child's boots, hats, jackets, snow pants, and mittens. Also, please use your SYC bag to hold all the gear.

If your child is in backpack, please send in extra mittens and socks for the afternoon.

If your child has borrowed any boots, mittens, socks etc from SYC, please return them to your classroom teacher.

Thank you!

Valentine's Day at SYC

Looking ahead to Valentine's day... At SYC we believe young children develop compassion and empathy through modeling and lived experiences. Considering this, we think of the day as an opportunity to promote acts and words of kindness instead of exchanging Valentines. In keeping the School’s philosophy, we ask that you not send Valentine cards.

Dates to Remember:

Feb 18-19: Winter Break: NO Preschool/Backpack is OPEN

Feb 23: Open House for Prospective Families, 10-11:30am


Thank you to all of the families who brought in snacks for the teachers and staff on Family Conference Day. All the food was much appreciated and helped to keep the teachers going all day.

Our KidCity meet up on Conference Day was a success. Children loved playing at the museum with SYC classmates and siblings. With the bitter temps that day, it was a perfect morning to spend inside with friends.

Planning for the biggest fundraiser of the year is officially underway! The SYC annual spring auction will be held on Saturday, April 27th at 6:30pm at the school. Book your babysitters now! It’s a fun night out for parents with food, drinks, raffles, silent and live auctions! Thank you to those who have already volunteered for the committees. Spots still remain for some of our auction committees, including donations, checkout and decorations, which are all very important to our auction’s success. There will be many more opportunities to be involved, so keep an eye out for more information or contact us to find out more.

The next PAC Meeting is scheduled for March 6th at 7pm. Even if you have never attended a PAC meeting, join us! We hope to see many of you there.

Melissa Bowman and Stephanie Dominello PAC Co-Chairs

Self Help Skills and Chores Build Children's Identity and Confidence

At birth each of us is completely dependent on others. Childhood is then an apprenticeship that gradually prepares us to handle adulthood — its freedoms, pleasures, and responsibilities. From infancy, children naturally reach out to the world; beginning with mom and dad. As that attachment is cemented, children seek more achievements and competence.

By the time kids are age two, controlling their body, making it do what they want it to, and getting what they want are major goals. Gradually they practice skills to help them reach those goals, such as walking and talking.

Pride in achievement and desire to please parents motivate children’s self-help skills. When a child beams, “Look what I can do!” he is carving out a personal identity. He is also learning to be a cooperative, able member of the family and community.

Sometimes parents have mixed feelings about children’s flowering abilities. On one hand, we applaud their determination to spread their wings. On the other, we cling to the closeness dependence offers. But encouraging developmentally appropriate self-help skills helps children in the long run. They become more self-assured, accountable, and responsible as they forge toward adulthood.

There’s no magic to teaching children self-help skills. It’s most often a matter of patience and following a child’s lead. A two year old’s chant is often, “Me do it!” And so you begin.

Take your child’s age and abilities into account as you allow your child greater independence. If your expectations are unrealistic, you could set children up for failure and frustration by expecting too much or too little. Parenting books, relatives, other parents, child care professionals, and teachers can help you determine readiness for particular skills.

As children approach self-help skills, it’s guaranteed they’ll do things differently, and messier than you. But as children gain finesse through trial and error, they’ll achieve mastery and build pride. Meanwhile, your patience and gentle guidance will mean a lot.

Consistently coach children toward mastery, guiding with small, manageable steps. Encourage by giving positive and specific feedback. Show appreciation for individual effort, concentration, and attention to detail. Resist being overly critical of self-help attempts. Early negative responses squelch kids’ initiative. With time, children will become more coordinated. And they’ll be more observant as they gradually learn to meet accepted standards.

I’ll give you an example. Let’s say your child is three. You’ve noticed he tags along by your side as you make beds. So you capitalize on the teachable moment by showing him how to help out by pulling up sheets and blankets and placing pillows at the bed head. As he helps,“ohhh” and “ahhh” at each step he completes; but don’t go overboard. Children can spot fake praise quickly.

In the beginning, Junior’s self-made bed will have a few (okay, a lot) of wrinkles. The pillows will be askew, and they probably won’t be fluffed to their plumpest perfection. Here’s what you do: Overlook it! And don’t remake the bed in front of Junior. If you absolutely MUST smooth the sheets, wait until Junior’s around the corner and can’t see he didn’t do the job as good as you.

Other steps toward self-help begin with basic daily routines. Children can use utensils to feed themselves. Moving from a high-chair to a booster chair supports independence. Except on marathon shopping days when strollers are a blessing, children over age two years can walk on their own most of the time.

Simple self-help skills for children include attending to their own cleanliness, grooming, clothing, and toys. Following is a list of self-help skills children ages two years and older can typically handle, regardless of gender. After that, I list household chores most children age four and older can carry out. By including children in these activities, children will learn to contribute to the family, and to care for themselves and their personal belongings. It’s standard curriculum in an apprenticeship for adulthood.

Self-Help Skills for Children

• Wash hands before eating, after toileting and playing outside

• Use toilet as development allows, including flushing and wiping

• Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue

• Use grooming supplies, such as a toothbrush and comb, help bathe self

• Eat independently, using utensils and cup as abilities allow

• Clean up own spills and messes with paper towel, sponge or child-sized broom

• Put own garbage into trash container

• Help make bed

• Choose clothes from two choices; dress self, at least partially

• Put dirty clothes in laundry basket, clean ones in drawers or on low hooks

• Get personal toys and books from child-height shelves

• Play with toys, such as puzzles and blocks and put away after play

• Keep track of favorite blanket or stuffed animal

• Help with simple toy repair, like taping torn pages in a book

• Cooperate getting into safety seat or belt

• Cooperate with medical care, like taking temperature

• Help put items in child care cubby

Home Chore Options for Children Age 4 and Up

Morning preparation: help with tasks such as loading child care/school backpack items or clearing breakfast dishes

Evening preparation: put on pajamas, lay out clothes for morning, help make sack lunches, turn off TV • Meals: help set table, help with simple food preparation like cleaning celery, clear dishes, help unload dishwasher

Household cleaning: dust, shake rugs, help water plants, rinse bathtub with water, wipe down counter top, put bath mats in hamper

Garage care: sort recyclables, sweep garage, dust car interior and wash outside with sponge and water

Pet care: feed, water, groom, exercise, put clean litter in cat box, help calm pets at vet visits

Yard care: rake leaves, sweep walk, fill birdbaths with hose, shovel snow

Clothing care: collect dirty laundry, sort and fold dry laundry, deliver laundry, clean and organize shoes

Errands: get mail or newspaper, help make shopping list, help grocery shop, carry light bags

• Gardening: hoe, plant, water, weed, harvest, clean fruits and vegetables

Celebrations: make gifts or gift wrap, decorate, write invitations and thank-yous, help plan and prepare snacks, clean up after party

by Karen Stephens, Parenting Exchange Parenting Books Child development books by Louise Bates Ames and her colleagues at the Gesell Institute of Human Development can be found at Institute’s web site: They offer nine separate books that cover child development for each year, spanning ages 1 to 9. Development for ages 10-14 years is combined together in one

Self Help Skills and Helping Out at SYC!


The SYC staff would like to thank all families who donated food for our conference day. The treats were delicious and kept us energized throughout the day!

Thank you for your generosity!


SYC will be offering Summer Camp in 4 sessions:

Session 1: June 17-June 28: Open the Door, Let's Explore

Session 2: July 1-12 (no camp 7/4/19): On the Move

Session 3: July 15-26: Let's Get Creative

Session 4: July 29-August 9: Mix It Up

Brochures and registration forms will be available March 1st.

Please see Jackie Sanderson if you have any questions

jsanderson 860.231.6669

Parking Lot Reminders: VERY IMPORTANT

  • Please remember to drive very slowly in our parking lot. There are lots of children and adults coming and going and safety is our biggest concern.
  • Please do not leave your child's siblings in the car when you come into the building to drop of your preschool aged child. USJ Public Safety performs routine safety checks and will call the police if they see a child alone in the car. Also, SYC staff are mandated reporters and are required to report children left unattended.

Coming Up!

March 1: Summer Camp Registration

March 6: PAC Meeting, 7-8pm

March 11: Keefe-Bruyette Symposium, NO Preschool and Backpack

The School for Young Children at The University of Saint Joseph

Sue O'Donnell, Director