April 7, 2020
Montrose staff and I really miss your children!
I hope that you and your loved ones are well, safe and finding a pace that works for your family. I hope that each moment brings you more strength, courage and patience than you need.
Although we would much rather be in school following our regular daily routines, we too are managing major changes in daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much like you, we are experiencing significant challenges, learning new skills and sharing gratitude. Day by day we look for the positives. In the midst of the unknown and the "new normal", we continue to find ways to connect with loved ones and create new memories. This is getting us through.
Connecting with you and your children is important to us. We hope that with the latest "work packets" and guidance, you are seeing a shift in the ways in which you can provide the structure you need using organic, whole-child experiences throughout the day. Staff will continue to communicate with you to lay out strategies and accommodations geared for your child.
This edition of the Montrose Messenger is designed to help you with questioning that promotes creative and critical thinking. I hope that it is helpful in the days ahead.
Wishing you strength and peace,
The information below is from © National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The information below is from © National Association for the Education of Young Children
Spark Creative Thinking with Open-Ended Questions
It’s easy to fall into a routine of asking your child simple questions. Many yes, no, or other one-word response questions are necessary—but to help your child learn and develop, open-ended questions
Questions that ask children to share their ideas and feelings are much more engaging. They stimulate curiosity, inspire creativity, develop language skills, and build vocabulary.
Here are some prompts to help you build open-ended questions into your routine:
Every area of development can be expanded upon while the children are eating! Let's focus on MEALTIME!
Motor and coordination skills
Mealtimes give children plenty of opportunities to build their motor skills. Providing appropriate serving dishes and utensils, such as small bowls, measuring cups, and clear pitchers, will help children successfully serve themselves. Having large plastic serving spoons ready for the children to put yogurt in a bowl can help build essential motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination. (It’s also crucial to have extras on hand for children who decide to lick the spoon or who forget that the serving spoon is not their individual spoon.) When they serve themselves, children improve hand strength and dexterity. Plus, deciding which foods and how much of each they want helps give children the sense of autonomy they desire!
When everything needed for a family-style meal is already on the table, you can sit down and enjoy the meal with the children. This provides time to observe the children’s skills, note new developments (“Juan, you poured your glass of milk without spilling a single drop!”), and determine the additional supports individual children may need.
Many building blocks of mathematics can be taught during family-style meals. Simple concepts like counting and one-to-one correspondence can be practiced by encouraging children to count out crackers during snack time. You can continue to build on those concepts with simple questions about addition and subtraction using food. For example, you can show the children they took two crackers and then ask what happens when two more crackers are added.
Geometric concepts like shapes and their breakdown can also be discussed using peas, apples, and crackers. For example, a graham cracker is a large rectangle, but you can break it into two squares and then into four small rectangles. While preschoolers aren’t likely to tell their families that they learned about fractions, they will begin to understand shapes better.
Literacy, Science, and Social Studies
Sitting down with the children for mealtimes provides many opportunities for deeper and longer conversations than are normally possible during other parts of the day. Conversations can be child-driven, like when a child shares about taking the family’s cat to the vet and it rolls into a 10-minute conversation about pets, shots, and dinosaurs. When children participate in this kind of casual conversation, they are developing oral language and social skills such as self-expression, listening, interpreting voice tones, taking turns, and respecting others. You can further stimulate children’s thinking by asking open-ended questions like “What kind of dinosaur would you pick for a pet? Why?”
You can also use mealtimes to introduce new concepts or build on established ideas. (This is important for all children, especially emerging bilingual children.) Conversations about the origins of food will help children gain a basic understanding of the environment and the different roles people such as farmers, cooks, and truck drivers play in our community.
Family-style meals are also good for discussing the nutritional value of different foods. I’ve overheard teachers say things like “You can’t have more fruit until you eat your peas” without explaining the benefits of eating a variety of healthy foods. Young children love big words, so don’t be afraid to talk about vitamins and nutrients!
One not so obvious benefit of engaging in conversation with children during meals is that they tend to eat at a slower pace. Eating too fast often leads to overeating, so children should be allowed to take their time at lunch (within reason, of course). As children finish eating, you can prompt them to understand their bodily cues by asking questions such as “Does your stomach feel full?” When a child says that she is finished eating, you should trust the child’s judgment of her own body (again, within reason). I have heard teachers say some variation of “Eat your peas first and then you can get up.” Although it is important to encourage children to eat vegetables, requirements like these can devalue the children’s autonomy and their understanding of their bodies.
Social and emotional skills
Because you are eating with the children, family-style dining is ideal for teaching and modeling social and emotional skills while also building strong, stable relationships with children. By asking “Will you pass the peas, please?” you show children a polite way to ask for something. You can also help children learn to start with small portions and ask for seconds (instead of taking too much initially and wasting food), encourage children to try new foods, and provide social cues and prompts. Having routines in place like a daily song for the children to sing at the start of each meal will help them learn to regulate themselves; the song provides a cue for children to adjust their behavior for what’s going to happen next.
Encouraging children to clean up when finished will also give them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment while allowing you to focus more on interactions with and among the children. Young children love being independent and helping, so it’s perfect!