Learn To Play: The Four Pillars Learning System
My mission is to give children the best start in life. – Susie Beghin
Did you know that children between the ages of 0 and 6 years old learn more in those early years than they ever will again in their lives?
That’s why it’s so important to teach them well during those early years! Those early years will have an impact on them like no other time of their lives.
Our founder, Susie Beghin, just released a new book called “Learn to Play: The Four Pillars Learning System“. In the book, she talks about the important role that parents play in the education of their young children during this critical period of their lives.
“I wrote this book during the pandemic because I saw parents struggling with educating their kids. I want parents to know their crucial role in the education of their children – and I’m here to help them. I want to give parents and educators the tools they need to educate those kiddos using a proven system! In the book, I share the Four Pillars learning system we use in the daycare environment and how parents can use those same strategies at home. Essentially, I want to help parents become the educators and play partners that their children need them to be!”
Susie will be signing her books at her official book launch in Mississauga on September 25th from 2-4 pm. There are limited tickets (only 100 tickets available) and the event is free! Refreshments will be provided. Books are available for purchase at the event at a discount. Click here to book your tickets to the event on Eventbrite.
The book is now available in Canada on Amazon if you want to purchase an advance copy.
U.S. or International can purchase here.
10 Years – A Reflection
By Susie Beghin
As we approach the 10-year anniversary of Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, this is a great opportunity to reflect on the past 10 years and recognize those who have made it all possible.
When I first started the business in 2004, which was originally called Alpha’s Discovery Club, it was an indoor playground that provided educational entertainment and extra-curricular programs for children up to 10 years old. The business evolved over time, and it became clear to me that my dream was to open an education-focused child care facility for young children.
I realized that dream in 2012 – 10 years ago – with the first location in Mississauga called Alpha’s Preschool Academy and Child Care Centre. Over the years, the name changed slightly to what is now known as Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare.
When we first opened our doors in September 2012, we had 8 children enrolled. Over the years, we have grown to our full capacity of 69 kids and expanded to open other locations in Oakville and Mississauga.
It wasn’t easy to leave my previous “corporate” job and start a new business. But I felt almost compelled to do it and haven’t looked back! It was the best decision of my life. I would say that my inspiration for starting Alpha’s was my son Gabriel, born in 2002. It was by being his mom that I learned that my true passion in life was to work with kids. In 2007, my son John-Michael was born, and he inspired me to pursue the dream of owning my own daycare – which came to reality a few years later in 2012.
We have had some very special educators that have been with us throughout these 10 years that have made a huge impact on our organization. Amanda, Roda, Meg are educators who were with me from the very beginning and are still educating children at Alpha’s. I am so thankful to all our educators – past and present! They have helped us create a unique curriculum called The Four Pillars of Learning. Through their hard work, they have contributed to make Alpha’s a place that I am truly proud of!
When I look back over these years, I can’t help but smile. I think about how lucky I am to be doing something that I love every day. I am truly honoured to be involved in the formation of these precious “Alpha’s kids” in our care. We are so grateful to the parents for their trust and support over the years. These little ones have made me smile and laugh – it is truly a joy to watch them learn!
Finally, I want to give special recognition to my husband, Adriano, who has supported me throughout these 10 years, both financially and emotionally. He has made it possible for me to follow my dream! Without him, Alpha’s would never exist!
Join me on August 27th as we celebrate this special 10th anniversary with a huge carnival theme party!
Here’s the details:
Saturday August 27, 2022
11:00 – 2:00 pm
Meal planning for Busy Parents: 5 tips for budget-friendly meals
As busy parents, it may be difficult to get a nutritious meal on the dinner table each night. And with food costs rising, it may be difficult to do so with a limited budget. I am sure that you have often thought, “What am I going to make for dinner tonight?”. Rest assured, you are not alone. It is possible to feed your family nutritious meals almost every day. Here’s five tips to help you offer nutritious meals for your family on a budget!
I’m sure you have heard that planning is the key to healthy eating. When we fail to plan, we often choose less nutritious food choices. This doesn’t mean you need to map out each meal and snack for the entire week and stick to it. This approach is probably doomed to fail for most of us. It’s difficult to stick to a rigid meal plan. Instead, try to plan out the week by sketching out a rough meal plan centered around your proteins and think about how you will prepare the meals each week. You can start by choosing to plan the dinners only. Remember to make allowances for your schedule and obligations. For example, if you know that you will be working late one night, you will choose any easy dinner that might include leftovers from a previous meal or something that is simple to make.
Shopping for food also involves some planning. It’s best to plan out what you will buy before going to the grocery store. To extend your food dollar further, try planning your meals around the weekly sale and promotional items. Use coupons and price matching to purchase items that you need. Purchase off the reduced racks if you can use the items quickly. It will save you money if you check your fridge/freezer/pantry at home prior to shopping. Many times, we buy items that we already have at home because we failed to check what we have. Most importantly, stick to the shopping list and avoid shopping when hungry or emotional. Stay clear of those eye-catching food displays too! This will help you to avoid impulse buying which often adds up at the cash register. Another budget friendly tip is to know how grocery stores place their products. The most expensive items are usually at eye level on the shelf. Try to look above and below eye level for better deals.
Choose One Plant-based Protein Meal each week
You will save money by choosing one plant-based protein meal each week such as lentils, beans, or other legumes. These foods are also jam packed with fiber which we all need! Here’s a few great websites with lots of recipe ideas:
Make a Balanced Meal
According to the Canada Food Guide, your food plate should have a balance of protein, fruit, veggies, and grains. Fruits and veggies should make up half your plate. The other half is split equally between protein and whole grains. Choose foods that are in season to get the best value for your money and the best nutrition and taste. You can find out when foods are in season in Ontario by visiting https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/page/availability-guide. When you can’t buy items in season, you can choose frozen food options that were picked at the peak of the season.
Having good cooking appliances, utensils and tools will make cooking easier. Invest in good quality appliances that can reduce cooking time or can be used hands-off, such as a slow cooker, instant pot, or air fryer. This will free up your time to do other things. Invest in good utensils and tools that make chopping and slicing easy too! When the cooking process is easy, you will be more motivated to make healthy meals.
You can involve your whole family (even the kids) in the entire process – from planning to shopping to cooking! Teaching about nutrition is one of our Four Pillars of Learning at Alpha’s Discovery Kids. You can find out more about our program and curriculum here.
Gardening With Kids: 7 Lessons They Learn
At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, encouraging growth and development is what we do best. Our students have become very involved in tending to classroom plants. We have made it a seasonal tradition to create an outdoor garden with our preschoolers. They love digging and planting at the beginning of the season, watching the growth and then picking the vegetables during the middle of the season. All the knowledge they gain throughout the process will stay with them for years to come. The learnings will shape them as they grow into adults who will one day be responsible for their own little place in the world. When children help in the garden, they begin to understand what it takes to grow. They begin to understand that plants need water and food just like they do.
7 Lessons children learn from gardening
Engages all the senses–Gardening can be a complete sensory experience for kids. Growing plants isn’t about just digging in dirt, although that’s a great way to experience using the touch sense, but kids can use all their other senses while learning how to grow their own food. Sight, taste and smell comes into play when they get to experience the aromas and tastes of what they have harvested.
Encourages healthy eating–Learning to grow your own food encourages you to eat it. As you and your family eat more and more fruits and vegetables as your garden produces, they may be experiencing new foods for the first time and discovering new favorite foods too.
Life cycles-Big lessons can be learned in the garden about life and the lifecycle of plants, bugs and animals. From new baby rabbits (that you want to keep out) to mature bees carrying honey back to the hive and to the life of the plants themselves, they can literally watch life happen in the garden.
Bugs are useful-Gardening shows kids how useful bugs are in the world. They begin to understand that even earthworms have a place in the circle of life. Learning these things can help make bugs seem less scary.
Nurturing & Responsibility-These two are technically different skills but they really go hand-in-hand. Helping plants grow teaches kids how to nurture a little life and it teaches them responsibility since they will have to help water and feed the plants. Remembering to do this and helping adults keep an eye on the plants is a big responsibility for children. They love to watch as their hard work pays off and the garden vegetables grow.
Family bonding– Gardening is a family experience. Everyone can gets involved on some level. It’s fun for us to do it together and experience growing food or plants. Not only is it fun but it gives us a chance to teach kids so much and that’s fulfilling for us and them.
Gardening is good for the soul-Gardening gives us a chance to pause and get back to nature. Nature has a way of calming us. No screens are involved so that’s a big bonus. It’s a time out from the rest of life when they just get to concentrate on the dirt between their fingers.
Daycare and Summer Camp Open House 2022
We are so excited to showcase our beautifully expanded and renovated facility in Oakville at our Open House this weekend. We want to give you a little sneak peek of the activities that will be offered for children during this event.
As families wander our hallways, classrooms, and outdoor playground area, they will see featured activities on display as well as engage in some hands-on activities with their children. This will give prospective families an opportunity to experience our Four Pillars of Learning curriculum first hand.
We will be offering some yummy snacks, treats and refreshments to enjoy during this event. We welcome children of all age groups to explore each room and participate in what is being offered along with their parents.
Our program grows with your child and because we know that your families are growing too, we have offerings that begin as early as infants all the way up to 12 years of age.
The founder of Alpha’s Discovery Kids and owner of all three Alpha’s locations, Ms. Susie will be here to meet and greet all guests. Our centre Supervisor Ms. Shannon will also be onsite ready to greet you with a smile, answer questions and offer a personal tour. Our talented team of core educators will be waiting for you in our classrooms ready to represent and showcase our proprietary holistic curriculum.
This event offers a unique opportunity for our existing parents to engage with each other and share their experiences with new families too. Even though we are a well-known award-winning location with a 5-star rating and amazing reviews, nothing beats a real parent to parent chat. We know that education, cleanliness, safety, food and nutrition, love and comfort are the top priorities of all parents. We can’t wait to open our doors and share what we have to offer. With a variety of programs and flexible options, there is sure to be something for everyone.
We offer Full-time, Part -time, Toddler, Nursery school, Jr. & Sr Preschool, Kindergarten, Before and After School – Age programs and Summer Camps.
Spring Cleaning for the Mind
Spring is all about fresh starts and new beginnings, symbolized by growth and new life. It’s a time when we are encouraged to clean our homes and organize our lives. It’s also a great time to give a little attention to renewing your mental health.
At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we place equal focus on teaching children about mindful awareness and physical health as we do with teaching them academic skills. We do this because we know how important mental health is to the learning process. Engaging in self-care is fundamental to having a clear and refreshed mind. We often forget to take care of ourselves when busy schedules and caring for others is prioritized. We must actively listen to our mind and body and understand that taking time for oneself is not a luxury or an act of selfishness, but rather a critical element for self-growth and fulfillment. Doing this for ourselves is good for those around you too: your family, your co-workers, and it sets a good example for your children. You may wonder how we calm the busyness and begin the self -care process.
Here are 5 steps that can help you clear and refresh your mind, spirit and body.
5 steps to spring cleaning of the mind, spirit and body
A clear mind begins with self-love and self-reflection. Self-love starts with taking the time to do the work that is needed to be healthier, happier, and more at peace with yourself. Once you have gifted yourself the time, then reflection can begin. How can we connect with what our mind and body are telling us if we don’t pause and listen first? Renewal of the mind, body and spirit is a journey, and is successful when practiced gradually. The good news is that you have already begun by taking the time to read this blog.
Here’s a little activity you can do to start the reflection process:
- Imagine yourself sitting beside the water and the waves are crashing. Try to find your reflection in the water.
- Now, imagine yourself sitting beside the water and there are no waves, and the water is still. Try to find your reflection in the water.
The waves represent your active and stressed mind. You can not see your reflection when the waves are crashing. You must calm the waves and your mind to reflect, refresh and renew. Each of these steps require a mind free of clutter and distractions. Find a quiet place at home or in nature and just take some time for yourself to reflect, without thinking about anything on your to-do list and make sure you don’t have a phone with you or anything else that may distract you.
2.Re-write short-term and long-term goals
It does not matter how big or small. Having a set of goals can give you a sense of purpose in life and guide you toward your desired path.
Short term goals that can bring you joy, and happiness can be as simple as:
- Reconnecting with an old friend by phone or in person.
- Taking more time to do enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea alone
- Getting a fresh new haircut
- Forgiving someone who has done you wrong
Long term goals that can bring you joy, and happiness can be as simple as:
- Planning or completing a project at home
- Starting a new hobby
- Booking a trip
- Read a book
- Improving a relationship with someone you care about
3.Refresh Physical health
Engaging in physical activity has been scientifically proven to play an important role in sustaining mental health and well-being. This can be as simple as adding one healthy habit to your routine. or removing one unhealthy habit.
Here’s some ideas:
- Drink more water
- Park father away so you get a few more steps
- Put it away – Tidy up as you go
- Make your bed
- Opting for fresh over processed food
- Cutting back on sugar or salt
- Cut back on caffeine or Alcohol
- Take the dog out for a walk or run
- Sign up for a sport you enjoy
4.Renew your spiritual health
Practicing your faith can do wonders for cleansing of the mind. According to wellness coach and author of “The Adrenal Fatigue Solution”, there is a strong connection between faith and mental health. She states “There is one age-old method that can reduce stress levels. It’s free, doesn’t require a prescription, and has zero side effects or drug interactions. You will know it as faith, and millions of people around the world rely on it to see them through hard times. The results are not just anecdotal, there is evidence that it works. Faith and spirituality are abstract concepts, but they can lead to concrete results in mental health improvement and stress reduction.”
Whatever your faith is, spend more time with it. Really connect with it to engage your mind and spirit.
5. Rethink your stress management skills
Learning coping skills that allow you to accept any given situation is an important skill in reducing stress. Knowing which situations make you uncomfortable can minimize distress and encourage better coping behaviors. Making a conscious effort to notice and understand your inner and outer world at this very moment can improve your mental health. Living in the present moment is difficult when you are distracted with tasks and responsibilities. We forget to appreciate life’s precious moments.
Taking time to develop the skills needed to better manage your stress and anxiety can be as simple as:
- Take a brief pause in your day to indulge in a sensory experience (Smell something pleasant or touch something soft)
- Try your best not to dwell on what you can’t control or what is in the past
- Pay attention to what triggers your stress responses and avoid those things if possible
- Take a moment to notice the sun and wind on your face
- Remove physical clutter to clear mental clutter and stress
With these 5 steps to spring cleaning the mind, body and spirit, let’s take a moment to spring into action and be good to ourselves.
GOAL SETTING FOR KIDS:
5 SIMPLE STEPS TO TURN A WISH INTO A GOAL
We all love to dream! In the beloved fairy tale, Cinderella said, “A Dream is a wish your heart makes” but what if we want to turn those wishes into reality. How can we teach our kids to do that? We can teach them to set goals. A goal is like magically turning that dream into reality by setting an intention to achieve that very wish. Teaching children the difference between a wish and a goal is essential and will help your child become a goal-oriented and mindful individual. Here’s 5 simple steps to turn a wish into a goal:
You will need:
• A wish to cultivate from a young dreamer
• Fairy tale movies or books
• A marker
• Language and literacy
• Fine motor
• Self awareness
• Problem solving and troubleshooting
• Self esteem
• Exploring strategic planning
MANAGE POSITIVE OUTCOMES
Brainstorm with your child on a possible wishes that can become goals. Be realistic and both age and developmentally appropriate. By doing this, you will set them up for success and they will not give up on goal setting.
When helping your child set a goal or put a dream in motion:
• Take your time
• Keep it simple!
• Play along and make a goal of your own
• Acknowledge each idea and use open ended and encouraging language and tone.
• Do not discourage but set aside goals that may not be attainable right away i.e. Driving a car
REMOVE THE MAGIC WAND!
Help children understand there is nothing wrong with having a wish. But waiting for a wish to come true is unrealistic unless of course you have a little “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” magic up your sleeve.
• Show your child examples of how people make their wishes come true through action.
• Explore some fairy tale books or videos where this is evident.
• Have fun with this!
ENGAGE & EXPLORE
At the start of a brand-new year, we often set resolutions for ourselves but often do not create an action plan to achieve those goals. We need to replace the word “wish” with an intention. Use an action word that will help to accomplish the goal.
• introduce … Action words!
• Set intentions.
• Try to help your child imagine what it will be like when the goal is met with success. How will they feel?
INTRODUCE THE MAGIC OF COMMITTING GOALS TO PAPER
It is indisputable that committing our goals to paper and reviewing them regularly gives us a higher chance of achieving them.
• Write the child’s intentions down on paper. You can also cut out pictures and paste them on the paper so that you have a visual of the goal in addition to the words.
• Make a plan of action and answer the questions: Who, what, where, when and why. Knowing why you want something plays a big part in motivation. And more importantly HOW? There may be many HOW’s in the process of getting to one’s goal.
• Help your child set a deadline by asking them how long they think it will take them to achieve their goal.
• Set a reminder on a digital device or calendar with the deadline.
Remember to do this at every step along the way. A goal isn’t achieved in one day. It takes time and usually a lot of little steps to make it happen. Celebrate those little achievements along the way!
Toilet Training – How To Achieve Success
by Shannon Speers
From the moment of birth, humans strive toward independence. Young children especially feel the need to do things for themselves. Given guidance and opportunity, our children will achieve many things. At Alpha’s, we believe that by fostering independence, children can be active agents in their own development, including toilet training. Self-help, wellness routines such as washing their hands and face, dressing themselves and becoming independent in the washroom are all routines that can be mastered independently with increasing levels of self-reliance.
As a Centre Supervisor, one of the most popular questions parents ask involves toilet training. Our Toilet Training Reference Guide was designed to assist parents as they embark on one of the most challenging tasks that parents of young children will face. This can be challenging for many reasons. Acknowledging this whole heartedly will be the first step for any parent. We must first understand that we trained our children to wear diapers and now we must guide and un-train them from what they have always known. Before we can start, we need to recognize the difference between “toilet training” and “toilet learning”.
How does “Toilet Learning” differ from “toilet Training”?
- Toilet training is something that is adult directed. It may involve a time pressure for your child. Toilet training involves an attitude of having to do it now because the adult chooses so and creates a power struggle situation.
- Toilet learning is when the child is involved in their own learning. Toilet learning starts with readiness signs. Toileting is a skill that needs to be learned; it cannot be taught overnight. The key to toilet learning is teaching, not training.
One of the main differences between toilet learning and toilet training is the adult’s attitude which can have a big impact for the child. By allowing the child to learn on their own with a bit of support and help from the adult, you are providing an opportunity for empowerment.
Parents will often ask us if “we do potty training”. The answer is “No, we do toilet learning” and when I say “we”, I mean we do this together with the parents as a team and not strictly during school hours. This process is simply impossible without a joint effort between home and school. Often the issue lies with the commitment to the process. This can be avoided by developing an understanding of the importance of being as devoted to the process as you are to the end goal.
At Alpha’s, we work with families and help them to become prepared by offering guidance and support through active communication and set up plans together to achieve positive developmental achievements. Part of this is working together to determine developmentally appropriate time lines and monitor signs of readiness to begin the steps toward the children achieving autonomy of their bodies with respect to toileting.
If you have questions about this process, please reach out to us.
SLEEP SAFETY TIPS FOR INFANTS
Parents often ask us about sleep safety for their children and especially for infants. Here’s our top sleep safety tips for infants:
Safe sleep is as easy as A B C
- Don’t sleep in the same bed as baby.
- The safest place for baby to sleep is the same room as their caregiver.
- You can place crib next to the bed.
- Keep the room smoke and pollutant-free.
- Keep the room cool to prevent overheating.
- Always place baby on their back to sleep.
- Help to prevent flat spots on the head by changing sleep direction daily and it also helps them to build strength by activating muscles on both sides of their neck.
- Because baby sleeps on their back, Tummy Time is essential! Tummy Time should begin as soon as baby comes home.
- Baby should always sleep in a crib.
- Use a crib or bassinet that meets current safety standards.
- Provide your baby with a firm sleep surface.
- Keep crib empty. No toys or blankets!
- Remove loose bedding, bumpers, and toys as they can put safety as risk.
- Avoid using sleep positioning devices.
To learn more about Tummy Time, Sleep Sacks and healthy sleep for babies. Click here.
Sleep Tips for Young Children: How to get a good night’s rest
Some say “never wake a sleeping baby” but what if the baby won’t sleep at all? What if they sleep too much? Knowing how much sleep your child needs can be confusing because it seems everyone has an opinion on the topic and there is so much information to sift through about sleep tips.
Keep in mind that what works for some may not work for all. While some of you may be simply exhausted because your child doesn’t sleep enough, other parents may be experiencing worry about children who sleep too much. Some children will naturally fall below the recommended or typical sleep amounts for their age group and can function well on less sleep. Some children may need extra sleep, but it’s something to monitor because that means less awake time to learn and play. You’ll want to check with your pediatrician if your child’s sleep needs are excessively high or low.
If these topics are keeping you up at night and your child too, you are not alone. Sleep is a big topic among parents and it’s important to remember to stick to the facts. Always use reputable sources of information online, books or consult with your doctor rather then using the advice in a mommy’s group, from a friend or family member. Although the latter may be a trusted source, it’s best to check on that advice with a professional to make sure it is sound.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
This chart is a general guide to the amount of sleep children need over a 24-hour period, including nighttime sleep and daytime naps.
|Infants (4 to 12 months old)||12-16 hours|
|Toddlers (1 to 2 years old)||11-14 hours|
|Children (3 to 5 years old)||10-13 hours|
|Children (6-12 years)||9-12 hours|
|Teenagers (13-18 years old)||8-10 hours|
Here’s some handy sleep tips that may help your child (and you) get the sleep you need:
Establish a regular sleep pattern
Establishing a regular sleep pattern is important. It will help your child understand when it is time to sleep. Also, your child will have better sleep. Bedtime shouldn’t vary by more than an hour across all days of the week (even weekends) – whether your child has an early start the next morning or not. The same goes for waking time.
A consistent bedtime routine
It is good to have the same routine before bed each night. This will help prepare for sleep. Quiet activities are good, such as reading a book or having a bath or shower. In the half hour before bed, there are some things you want to avoid such as active games, playing outside, TV, internet or mobile phone games. These activities will stimulate the child and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Make sure the bedroom is comfortable
The bedroom should be quiet, comfortable, and dark. Some children like a night light. This is fine. Make sure your child sees the bedroom as a good place to be.
Bed is for sleeping, not entertainment
Devices and games will distract your child and are not good for their sleep. Keep them out of the bedroom. “Needing” to watch a screen to fall asleep is a bad habit. This can easily develop, but you don’t want it to happen.
Some foods can disturb sleep
A high intake of sugary or fatty foods has been linked with more restless sleep. Avoid sugary or high fat snacks before bedtime, as well as large meals. A small healthy savoury snack, one hour before bedtime, would be fine.
Take care with daytime naps
It is normal for young children to nap during the day. As your child gets older, they will need less sleep. This means they will need to nap less. The number and length of naps depends on your child. If your child is not going to sleep at a reasonable time at night, it may be time to shorten or stop daytime napping.
Exercise and time outside
Daily exercise is an important part of healthy living. It also promotes good sleep. Time spent in bright daylight does the same. Outdoor exercise achieves both these things. It’s best for young children to go outside for at least 2 hours throughout the day to get the physical activity they need. However, it is best to steer clear of vigorous activity in the hour before sleep.
Work with your doctor
If your child is sick or isn’t comfortable, their sleep will suffer. Some children suffer from specific sleep problems such as frequent nightmares, snoring or sleep apnoea. It is important that these problems are dealt with. If you think ill health is involved, discuss this with your family doctor.
Specific sleep-related issues in children
The Sleep Health Foundation has a range of helpful fact sheets for children with sleep issues. These include tips on sleep issues for children with ADHD (see ADHD and Sleep in Children) or autism (see Autism in Children and Sleep), as well as more general topics such as bedwetting (see Bedwetting), childhood snoring (see Childhood Snoring and Sleep Apnea) and behavioural problems with settling to sleep (see Behavioural Sleep Problems in School Aged Children).
Sleep is important, not only for your child’s well-being, but yours too! For more information about how we promote children’s well being, check out our programs!