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Why we love Eric Carle books to promote early literacy

in loving memory of Eric Carle

One of our favourite books to promote early literacy at Alpha’s Discovery Kids is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. In fact, it was the inspiration for our metamorphosis project last month. Amid our metamorphosis project, author and illustrator of this iconic children’s book, Eric Carle passed away on May 23rd, 2021, at the age of 91. Eric Carle will live on in our hearts and through his legacy of great literature.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was among many fantastic Eric Carle books known around the world. Other beloved titles from Eric Carle include The Very Busy SpiderBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse.

For many educators, parents and children of all ages, his works have been a staple in their children’s literature collection. Carle’s incredible collection of work has earned him a variety of accolades, including the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

hungry caterpillar book

Here are three reasons why we love Eric Carle books!

1. Predictive Text

Predictive text builds confidence in young readers. In most of his early literacy books, the designated format repeats throughout the text and allows children to predict it. When young readers pick up on the pattern, you see the sparkle in their eyes. At first, they read along with you. Then, they use the pictures along with the pattern to feel like they are “reading”. This develops confidence right from the start. Be sure to point to each word as you read it to demonstrate one-to-one correspondence.

love eric carle

2. Life and Life Lessons

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is amazingly useful in so many ways. It creates a sensorial early literacy experience when children touch the holes on each page. When children engage their senses beyond listening during a literacy experience, they retain more knowledge. Any time that children are touching, feeling, and interacting with the text, is a win!  Additionally, the very hungry caterpillar can be tied into many real-life topics and teachable moments such as the life cycle of a butterfly, eating healthy and the days of the week.

  • The Grouchy Ladybug – teaches about manners and encouraging prosocial interaction to build connections with others in an appropriate way.
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is an all time classic that teaches children colours, and animal names in an abstract and imaginative way using unexpected colours like “purple cat” or “blue horse”
  • Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?  have the same predictable patterns. Panda Bear addresses endangered animals, which can be a great way to tie in social studies. You can identify where the animals in the book live on a map and talk about ways to help these animals by doing things like taking care of the environment.

butterfly

3. The Illustrations are AMAZING!

Eric Carle’s art is distinctive and instantly recognizable. His artwork is created in collage technique, using hand-painted papers, which he cuts and layers to form bright and cheerful images. The brush strokes show texture and dimension and a signature creation that can only be connected to his unique style. A true work of art on every page!

These books inspired us to create our own book using his technique. Here’s what we did, and you can do this at home too!

  1. Paint an open-ended abstract picture.
  2. Ask the child to name their favorite animal.
  3. Cut out the painted picture into strips or shapes.
  4. Glue the pieces together in the shape of their favourite animal. They may need some assistance with this part.
  5. Add the text in the format “Child’s Name, Child’s Name, what do you see?
  6. Record the name of the animal and colour with the text. “I see a Colour Animal looking at me!”
  7. You can laminate the page and create more pages to make a book. Assemble the pages with a hole punch and binder ring.

Voila! You have your own homemade “Eric Carle” style book that your family will treasure! Our children love to make homemade books and keep going back to read them over and over again!

reading books

Take a look at our metamorphosis project video.

Mindful Mud – An Essential Play Experience!

Mindful Mud – An Essential Play Experience!

While the idea of getting messy to some may be unappealing, especially a parent or caregiver that has to clean up the mess! For those that may be skeptical, consider all the benefits of playing in the dirt.

 

The earthy goodness of mud gives our kids an opportunity to engage in messy play, practice mindfulness and connect with nature.  Think of a time when you made a sandcastle and suddenly lost track of an hour. That was you, feeling the effects of mycobacterium vacate. This is a big word for the microscopic bacteria in dirt that increases the serotonin level in our brains, making us feel happy and relaxed.

Our young technologically savvy generation of kids are just not getting enough time to play outside – especially with online learning and technological distractions. While you can simulate many experiences virtually these days, playing in the dirt is not on that list.

Have you ever noticed that children who play outside laugh more? And laughter leads to feeling good! Kids who play outside also grow in their character development: they become more adventurous, more self-motivated, and they are better able to understand and assess risk.

       mindful mud

      THE SCIENCE OF MUD

  • MUD INCREASES BRAIN ACTIVITY– When children play with mud they use all of their senses, resulting in a highly stimulated and active brain.
  • MUD INCREASES PHYSICAL ACTIVITY-When children play outdoors, and in mud, the incidental movement and physical activity increases, helping children maintain a healthy lifestyle and develop their physical literacy.
  • MUD REDUCES ALLERGIES & ASTHMA SYMPTOMS -Dirt is also great for the immune system, especially in children. Research has shown that early exposure to naturally occurring microbes in soil will help build stronger, more disease-resistant kids.
  • MUD PLAY BUILDS CREATIVITY – The open-ended nature of mud play is perfect for the developing brain. There is no end to the creations, ideas and games children will invent. During this type of unstructured, outdoor play, children are not only exercising but are building their ability to form ideas, problem solve, and think critically, as well as be innovative and inventive.

Here are some ideas for your children:

  1. If you want to control the mess a bit or have limited space, try a mud kitchen !
  2. Give your child a bucket and a shovel and set them in the dirt. See what happens.

mud kitchen

If you really want to control the mess, you can also create a DIY mud sensory bin. Check out our blog on how to create DIY sensory bins.

BabySafe Project – Pregnancy and Wireless Radiation

BabySafe Project – Pregnancy and Wireless Radiation

Have you head of the Babysafe Project? I recently became aware of this project which addresses a very serious issue affecting our future generations of children. What is the impact of widely used wireless technology on the unborn?

I have always been in awe of the process by which humans come into existence. From a single cell to a growing fetus to a baby born into this world full of life! Many women who learn that they are pregnant start to eat differently, take care of themselves and feel a strong sense of responsibility for this new life inside them.

Over time, we have learned more about environmental impacts to children within the womb. From the food you eat to the water you drink to even the air you breathe can all have an impact to that new life growing inside you. It may seem overwhelming but knowing the risks and things you can do to reduce harmful exposures is within your control.

pregnant mom

The Babysafe project focuses on one key environmental influence – wireless radiation. They point to scientific research that indicates that wireless radiation exposure can be harmful – even carcinogenic – to your baby and therefore should be avoided or reduced. Visit www.babysafeproject.org to learn more about the science and research and the effects of wireless radiation on both you and your child.

So, what can you do to reduce or eliminate your wireless radiation exposure risk? First and foremost, is awareness of the issue. Spread awareness to everyone you know about the risks and steps you can take to protect yourselves and your little ones.

Here’s some simple steps to reduce exposure to wireless radiation:
1) Do not carry your cell phone on your body – not in your bra or pocket
2) Don’t hold the cell phone, tablet or other wireless electronic device against your abdomen
3) Avoid cordless phones – especially in your bedroom – phones with a cord don’t emit radiation!
4) Streaming results in higher levels of radiation exposure – try to download and then use it in “Airplane mode”
5) Use connected wired devices for your computers instead of wireless
6) Unplug your WiFi router at home when not in use (e.g. at bedtime)

We’re fortunate to have two locally-based national not-for-profit organizations that collaborate with The BabySafe Project in raising awareness about the Project. Canadians For Safe Technology (C4ST) is based in Oakville, online at c4st.org. Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) is based in southwest Etobicoke, online at iexistworld.org. These organizations welcome questions, have a wide variety of resources (electronic and printed materials), and meet online with parent groups who want to learn more.

More resources:
In this video, women talk about how they reduce their risk. 

Imagination – Exercise your Creative Muscle

Imagination – Exercise your Creative Muscle

Imagination is so important – especially during this pandemic – given the many thing we can’t do and would like to do! At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we foster children’s’ natural curiosity and imagination.

Recently, we did an art/music activity which encouraged children to imagine. We played child-friendly Beatles music and of course the John Lennon song” Imagine”. The children were given oil pastels to trace the outline of the iconic John Lennon scribble face. This was a free and open process but also was a great fine motor activity as the children followed the lines of the original piece. Then, they used dry tissue to rub the paper and blend the colors. The effect was so simple and so beautiful!  

One of our curious students asked about the singer John Lennon. The teacher explained that he was an artist who made music and tried to help people to see the world in a beautiful way. He sang about equality, kindness, and a world where there was peace and harmony. We talked about imagining the world to be a better place. We used this as an opportunity to reframe the pandemic through our imaginations. While some of us are simply counting the days until the pandemic to be over, others have chosen to try to imagine and dream of all the things they will do when the pandemic is finally behind us. It’s about using our imagination to look at the world in a positive way – even during a pandemic.

Children are used to looking at things for what they can be, instead of what they are at face value. A cardboard box can be a rocket ship, or a robot costume. We can learn a lot from how children think. As adults, when we experience criticism and feedback, we become less open to playful and creative thinking. And, in turn, we lose our creative freedom. Creativity is a skill you can learn. It is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. This pandemic is the perfect opportunity to use that creative muscle and just imagine! It is often in times of constraints, that we become the most creative!

Try this activity with your child and have some fun!.

#1 Think of 2 things you did to survive during the Pandemic with the restrictions in place.

#2 IMAGINE what you will do when restrictions are lifted. There are no limits!

Click on our curriculum page to see more about how we foster curiosity and creativity through our Four Pillars of Learning. 

Early Childhood Educators – THE Most Important Job in the World

Early Childhood Educators – THE Most Important Job in the World

I was once told that being an Early Childhood Educator was THE most important job in the world. I must agree, especially after so many years of seeing the rewards of my hard work. The relationships and bonds you build with the children and families are long lasting and they create an impact for the family and the educator alike. These relationship are often what inspires educators to continue in their chosen field because they feel rewarded and valued. However, this a bold statement to some and not all agree..

It is widely known that Early Childhood Educators are often viewed as “babysitters” and their expertise and knowledge is often undervalued in society. As we engage with children during this pandemic reopening period,  I want to remind educators how valuable they are not only to the children and families, but to society in general.

Our Early Childhood Educators put a lot of thought, effort, and genuine passion into their children’s education and well-being each day. This not only has a direct effect on the family but also impacts the economy as well. By simply having child care allows families to work and sustain themselves and their families. Statistics show that parents with a solid support system and quality child care consistently reflect higher levels of productivity in the workplace. During this pandemic, the issue of child care has become paramount as parents and government begin to realize how important it is to a well functioning economy.  So perhaps maybe its not as bold of a statement after all?

Studies conducted by Dr. Fraser Mustard, who established the institute of human development, head-start programs and spearheaded the Ontario early years programs, have changed the world or at least changed a few minds. I was fortunate to be able to see him speak in 1999 and was profoundly moved by his research and body of work. Many of his studies helped gain the financial backing and convince government that early childhood intervention and education was crucial to the economy.

He conducted a study that followed two groups of children over a 27-year period. One group had early childhood interventions, parent supports and educational opportunities starting at birth. The other group had less opportunity, advantages, and resources such as early childhood education. This research indicated that the first group not only achieved higher levels of success in their academics, but showed to be in long term committed relationships, and were self sufficient with established careers in their adulthood. The second group showed lower levels of success across the board as well as having significant drains on the economy and social systems.

https://www.oasw.org/Public/SocialWorkNow/A_Bold_Answer_to_an_Unmet_Need_in_Child_Development.aspx

The 1999 statistics showed that for every dollar directed towards early childhood development resulted in nine dollars saved in tax dollars for public welfare, health care, rehabilitation, and correctional institutional costs.

As you can see, the benefits of the services provided by Early Childhood Educators far exceeds just meeting the basic needs of a child, these educators are changing the world, one child at a time!

For more information about our programs and services click here.

 

 

 

 

E is for Engineering

At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we understand the importance of educating children using a wholistic approach. Engineering is a key component of our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program which is one of our four pillars of learning. You may be wondering how we teach young children engineering skills. This may seem like an abstract concept that young children wouldn’t understand. So first, let’s define engineering and then discuss how we teach those skills to young children.

Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge to solving problems in the real world. Therefore, people use engineering skills to solve problems, which may include learning how things work and building things that we will solve problems in our daily life. So, if you look at it that way, young children are constantly in the process of engineering. They are so inquisitive and they are constantly trying to figure out how things work. It starts with simple tasks, like opening a closed cupboard door or moving a car up and down a ramp. Every activity that they are participating in, is giving them the opportunity to problem solve. One day, these simple little tasks will teach them to solve bigger problems. Teaching children how to think creatively and learning to solve problems prepares them for the future.

Engineering is the process by which young children discover how the things in their world are built and how they work. Whether it is building a block tower, or it is exploring a simple pendulum, engineering is a natural part of everyday, early learning.

Now that we understand what engineering is and how it relates to young children, how do we foster the development of engineering skills. Exploration is a major component when it comes to engineering, so we need to give children opportunities to explore. The ability to freely explore something is important while avoiding too many rules and instructions. This will help the children to solve a problem creatively and lead to understanding and insight.

Another way to foster engineering skills is to let the children play. As parents and educators, we can be over-protective of this generation of children as we try to eliminate any area of risk for them. We fear the slide is too high, that they shouldn’t climb up it. We begin to instill fear in them that isn’t there. Let them play in mud and make mud pies, let them play with sticks and blocks and shovels. Let them be kids and explore. Playing in mud won’t hurt them, it only creates opportunities to problem-solve, create and imagine.

At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we provide planned activities to the children every day that builds on engineering skills. We provide specific materials to let them build and engineer with. It is important to have a plan and purpose, as well as have the freedom to play and explore. It is okay to create challenges for young children to engineer and build.

Here’s some things you can try at home. Give your child a basket of blocks and challenge them to see how high they can create a tower. Gather rocks outside and create a rock tower. Provide different shapes and sizes of these materials so that they learn what order to place the items in, from biggest to smallest, from fattest to thinnest. It is important to allow the space needed for when the tower does fall, or they make it too tall or too wide.

Provide children with random material in a basket and see what they can build and create. You can put paper, glue, scissors, random craft supplies and let them create and imagine. It is important to ask thought provoking questions along the way. The key is to have one-on-one conversation with your child throughout the engineering process.

Visit our curriculum page for more information about how we incorporate engineering into our four pillars of learning through STEAM curriculum. We have truly developed an exceptional program that focuses on the child as a whole. We believe that language, literacy, STEAM and mindfulness can provide children a path for continuous growth.

How To Transition From Home to Daycare

How To Transition from Home to Daycare

How To Transition from Home to Daycare by Nichole Folino, RECE

Having been in the childcare industry for almost 20 years, I can tell you honestly that enrolling your child into a quality childcare facility, is truly one of the best things that you can do for them. Is it scary for you and them? Yes, of course, but the experience they will have there is invaluable. Childcare teaches them sharing, patience, teamwork, empathy and so much more. It was always easy to stand in a kindergarten classroom and tell which children had been in childcare and which had not.

There are important steps that you can take when deciding to put your child into a childcare program. First and foremost, make sure you feel comfortable there. After taking a tour of the facility make sure you understand and agree with their values, ask questions and feel confident in your decision. Those few things will help to ease some of the anxiety that you will feel.

When it comes to helping your child adjust and be prepared for the first time in childcare, there are many things that you can do.

1. Transition together

Most childcare centres have a transition period to some degree. Take advantage of it. Spend time with your child in their classroom and with the teachers. This will help you and your child to feel comfortable while they explore the new environment. If you feel that your child may need additional transition time, don’t be afraid to speak to the supervisor.

2. Be Honest

Be honest with them about what to expect during their time there. Give them examples like, when you get to school you will see Ms. Jones, then you will play inside with the toys, then you will go outside on the playground, have lunch, a nap and finally you will have another snack before I pick you up. Setting realistic timelines for your child will help them understand their day and when to expect you.

3. Drive by the Centre

When driving by the childcare centre, point it out to your child. Remind them that they will be going there and provide them with days. You can say, in two days you will get to go and see Ms. Jones. It is important to speak fondly of the teacher and the childcare.

4. Say Goodbye

Lastly, but almost the most important is that you say a quick and confident goodbye to your child. Saying goodbye with confidence shows your child that they are safe. Most children will stop crying shortly after their parents leave. If you are concerned, you can also call the centre and find out how they are doing. Sending a comfort toy from home, whether it be a blanket or stuffed animal can help.

As a mother, I firmly believe that one of the best things I did for my children, was to put them in childcare. I believe it helped them to be prepared for the school system in ways I couldn’t have imagined. They were confident and not scared to leave me the first day of Kindergarten. It was me that cried when they went inside. It provided them a social experience that I could not have given them. They made friends easier and knew how to take turns. They were creative and could express themselves in healthy ways. Finding childcare is easy, finding a childcare that aligns with your vision is rewarding.

Conclusion: How To Transition From Home to Daycare

At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we offer three free transition days prior to starting full-time to help you and the child adjust to our program and routine. If you would like more information about our centre, click here to book a tour.

Minimize First Day of Kindergarten Jitters

Minimize First Day of Kindergarten Jitters

Minimize First Day of Kindergarten Jitters – By Susie Beghin

Every September a new wave of children is introduced to the Kindergarten classroom. This transition from home or daycare to the elementary school system can be easy and seamless when you take the right steps. There are many things parent and the daycare professionals can do to help ease the transition.

Preparedness for Kindergarten is not about the knowledge your child has—whether they can read, or even if they know their letters or numbers—it’s about how much independence and confidence they have and how well socialized they are. These key skills play a role in how well they might adapt to the classroom. Helping your child develop these characteristics can be accomplished at home and daycare leading up to the first day of school. But how can parents and caregivers do this?

At Alpha’s Discovery Kids we provide our families with a readiness checklist, but parents can develop their own, based on their child’s needs and abilities. There is a consensus amongst experts of five key things you can do to prepare your child for this important life event.

1. Encourage Self-Care

• Teach self-help skills like dressing—learning zippers and buttons, shoes and boots, coats, mittens.
• Teach them how to put things into, and take them out of, a backpack, and how to use all types of lunch containers. Teach them to tidy up their things and keep track of their belongings.
• Ensure your child is capable when addressing their bathroom needs. In Kindergarten they will not get assistance, and this could result in a child being sent home.

2. Follow regular routines

• Make sure there is a consistent bed time that provides your child with enough sleep to ensure they are attentive and productive in the classroom. In general, the consensus is 10 hours a night for Kindergarten-aged child.
• A regular morning routine is also critical. It is recommended you get your child used to waking up at the same time every day, getting dressed and eating breakfast, all with plenty of time before they have to be ready to leave for school without being rushed.
• Build free play time into your daily schedule, both with parent involvement and without. Individual playtime helps develop creativity and allows the child time to decompress without any expectations or influence from others.
• Part of having a routine is having a schedule and keeping it. At home it would be easy to give in if your child wants to dawdle through lunch. A school schedule is much more rigid, and if 30 minutes is allotted for eating, then that’s what they will get. Teach your child to transition from one activity to another when it is time. Continue reading “Minimize First Day of Kindergarten Jitters” below.

3. Encourage Socialization

• Register your kids in parent-free activities. Art classes, dance, and sports are all excellent opportunities to create a sense of independence and comfort. They will learn that their caregivers will always come back for them.
• Participation in team sports is a great way for children to learn cooperation and teamwork, which will really help them in a school setting, both in the classroom and on the playground.
• Children who regularly attend preschool and daycare are automatically socialized due to their group environment and don’t really need other types of group activities until Kindergarten.

4. Develop healthy habits

• Eat healthy foods. Teach your children about the difference between healthy food and treats (sometimes food).
• Start the day off with a healthy breakfast to make your child is alert and ready for learning.
• Drink lots of water to keep the brain and body hydrated to optimize learning. Keep fruit juice as a sometimes food, and minimize soda consumption as much as possible.
• Get plenty of sleep. Experts recommend 10 hours of sleep a night, but if your child needs a nap to recharge when they get home from Kindergarten, especially in the early months, don’t discourage them. If the nap interferes with their ability to get to sleep at night, limit the length of the nap.
• Make sure your child has regular physical examinations and is up to date with their immunizations. Remember, many school systems will suspend attendance if the immunization record is not up to date.

 

5. Talk to your child about Kindergarten

• Visit the school. Take advantage of all events offered that allow you to bring your child to the school—open houses, Meet the Teacher events, and orientation sessions.
• Travel the route your child will be taking to school, whether they’re walking, driving, or taking the school bus. If you’re walking, learn how long it will take you to get to school, and plan that into your routine. Give your child the opportunity in advance to look at all the interesting things along the route so they will be less distracted when school actually starts. If taking the school bus, drive the route with them so they can develop familiarity with their surroundings and will be able to recognize landmarks when they are nearing their bus stop. Talk about school bus safety—staying seated when the bus is moving, keeping track of their belongings, and only leaving the bus stop with their designated caregiver.
• Take them to the school to play in the playground. Learn some playground games like hopscotch or Four Square so they will not feel lost or overwhelmed during those first few recesses.
• There are some really good books you can borrow from your local library that explore the kindergarten transition. Read them with your child and encourage them to ask questions.

Parents also have expectations of their child when entering Kindergarten, but it’s important to remember that all children reach milestones at different times and not to measure your child against anyone else. It doesn’t matter if your 4 year old can’t read yet. Work with them at home to support their preschool’s efforts, learning letters, numbers, colours, and shapes.

Whether a child has stayed home with parents or other caregivers or has attended a daycare or preschool, there are steps you can take to lessen your child’s anxieties related to starting school. Following these suggestions will help ease the transition into the structured, often overwhelming world of kindergarten. With love and support, everything will be fine for everyone involved.

Thanks for reading: Minimize First Day Of Kindergarten Jitters

Thanks for reading: Minimize First Day of Kindergarten Jitters

 

Daycare in Mississauga: The Do’s and Don’ts of Dropping off your Child

Dropping Off Your Child At Daycare

Dropping Off Your Child At Daycare – It’s almost time to head back to school or daycare in Mississauga for many kids who have been at home with their parents. Some kids may be experiencing separation from their parents for the first time. Many parents struggle with the separation of an anxious child when dropping off at school or daycare. You may be worried and heartbroken when you see them crying right when it’s time for you to leave. You are not alone. At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare in Mississauga, we have seen this many times and we can help you make the transition from home to preschool or daycare as smooth as possible. 

  1. DO – Say goodbye to your child and give them a hug and kiss. Let them know you love them and you will be back. 
  2. DO – explain that you will be back after a certain activity such as (after outside time) or (when they wake up from nap time) etc. it’s good to make a plan so the child can relate the time of day you will return. 
  3. DO – make a plan for a special activity you will do with them after you pick them up and stick to it. It could be something simple like reading a favorite book together or playing a favorite game or going to the park. This serves as a great distraction that the teacher can talk about after you leave. 
  4. DO – remind them that they will have fun and show them some of the fun stuff they will do. 
  5. DON’T – sneak out when they are not looking. This never works and usually leaves the child more anxious and fearful. 
  6. DON’T – look scared and sad to leave your child. Your child is looking at you and needs to know that they are safe and there is nothing for them to worry about. This may take a bit of acting on your part, especially if it is your first child and they are separating for the first time.
  7. DON’T – linger or watch by the door or window. Make your goodbye brief and don’t stay too long. It’s better for you to leave and let the child start the process of becoming independent. I can assure you that the longer you stay, the longer the child will cry. 
  8. DO – Call the preschool or daycare and check on your child. You will feel better when you know your child has calmed down. They eventually calm down and get distracted by all the fun they are going to have. 
  9. DO – understand that a transition takes times and your child will not adjust right away. They need time to get used to a new teacher and a new environment. Some children can adapt quickly while others need more time – sometimes weeks or months. Each child is unique but they will eventually make the adjustment. 

We know it is difficult to walk away when your child is in tears, but if you follow these do’s and don’ts, we can almost guarantee that the child you pick up will be smiling, happy, and excited to tell you about their day at school. And remember that you are teaching independence and that is an important skill for life!

 

Chores! What can kids do to help?

For most people, chores are a hassle and getting your children to help out might as well be the end of the world! It doesn’t have to be that way. How can we involve our kids in chores without making it seem like a lot of work? In this article, we have some tips that can help build a household where everyone helps out so that there is time for both work and play! Read more ›