Archive for the ‘Guidance’ Category

Let’s Talk…Friendship Kit

May 9th, 2014

imagesJ2X5A0IRLove this Friendship Kit idea from the Head Start Center for Inclusion! What a super way to promote pro-social behavior among children in your group. Find this and more teacher tools & classroom visual supports for building social skills at  Be sure to check out the visuals that go along with the Friendship Kit!

Creating a classroom Friendship Kit is a great way to promote the idea of children helping each other. The Friendship Kit is an accessible container that holds all of the necessary items for providing support to a sad or lonely classmate. When children notice a classmate is feeling sad, they can be encouraged to go to the Friendship Kit for ideas to comfort their friend. Teachers may demonstrate how to use the kit at a large or small group time and keep the kit in a visible, easy to access location so children are able to comfort a friend at a moment’s notice! Provide specific examples of when children might use the kit (when a child is sad because he didn’t want his mom to leave, when a child scrapes her knee on the playground, when a child doesn’t have anyone to play with, etc.).

Below are some ideas for items to include in your classroom Friendship Kit:

  • A small package of tissues: to give to a friend to wipe away tears
  • A small stuffed animal: to give to a friend to cuddle
  • A box of Band-Aids: to give to a friend with an owie
  • A couple of sheets of stickers: to put on the shirt of a friend who needs some cheer
  • A pair of silly glasses with moustaches, a funny finger puppet, or other funny prop: to give a sad friend a smile
  • A set of sticky notes and a pencil or crayons: to write a friend in need a happy note for her cubby, table place, etc.
  • Blank, cheerful greeting cards: to write and deliver to a friend
    • A visual reminder for the following actions
    • Ask a friend if he wants a hug
    • Ask a friend if he wants a high five
    • Ask a friend if she is OK
    • Ask a friend if he wants me to get a teacher for help
    • Ask a friend if she wants to play with me

What other resources like this one from Head Start Center for Inclusion do you use to promote pro-social behavior among children? Malisa

Early Learning, Environment, Guidance, Inclusion

Let’s Talk…I’m Waiting

February 14th, 2014

I am excited to introduce a guest blogger this week – Kris Corrigan, ISU Extension & Outreach Environment Rating Scale Assessor. Malisa

WaitingThe time we spend transitioning children between daily routines can be a very busy time for us, but, too often, it is just “unnecessary” wait time for the children in our care.  As an Environment Rating Scale Assessor, I often see these wait times occur when children have to wait in line to go outside, wash hands, or sit idly at a table as they wait for others to sit down for meals. Since young children have not developed the self-control to be able to stand or still for long periods, they will often fidget and “invent” their own activity. Sometimes this is activity that can lead to behavior problems that require intervention from already busy teachers.  For these reasons, the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales require that there is no long waiting period between transitions during daily routines.  They define a long waiting period as more than three minutes.  There are many strategies that teachers can implement to avoid “unnecessary” wait time, and these require no additional preparation for teachers.  Consider giving children something to do so that transition times can be productive time for them too.

Reducing children’s “wait” time can reduce behavior problems in your program. Check out these resources for transition activity ideas -

What are your favorite transition activities? Share with us at


Environment, Guidance

Let’s Talk…Teacher Tools

November 11th, 2013

wooden_tool_boxNew tools to add to your teacher toolbox! I learned last week about Head Start’s Center for Inclusion teacher tools thanks to Early Childhood Iowa PBIS. :) At Head Start’s Center for Inclusion teacher tools, you will find visual support templates for classroom expectations, schedules, emotional regulation, transitions and problem-solving. They also share a scripted story for initiating play with a friend.

Visual strategies can be very helpful with all children in knowing (and following) the structure that is beneficial to children in group care.

Here are some other “tools” you will find helpful in your work with young children if you haven’t discovered them already:

Why reinvent the wheel when wheels are available for your use? What other online tools do you use to support children with challenging behavior? Share with us at


Guidance, Inclusion ,

Let’s Talk…Punishment by Rewards

October 28th, 2013

reward-star-hi“In a reward-oriented classroom, including one that is characterized by praise, kids are led to ask, ‘What do they want me to do, and what will I get for doing it?‘ fundamentally different from ‘What kind of person do I want to be?’ or ‘What kind of classroom do we want to have?‘”

So many of us have been trained that to motivate children we need to be rewarding them – either with tangible items like stickers or with verbal praise. I hope you will take a brief moment to read the article Punished by Rewards: A Conversation with Alfie Kohn.  It will cause you to pause and consider how we manipulate children even with our well-intended praise. One of the things that I found most interesting is that research shows when we reward children for tasks that they are intrinsically motivated to accomplish, they lose interest in that activity and we place the emphasis on pleasing us as the adult. Ouch.

Who among us hasn’t used the words, “I like the way Tommy is sitting with his hands in lap waiting for my story”? Kohn gives four reasons why he is opposed to this type of manipulation. Take a peek at the article to learn what those are. A few other quotes I hope you will give thought to -

  • What these kids need is unconditional support and encouragement and love. Praise is not just different from that; it’s the opposite of that. Praise is, “Jump through my hoops, and only then will I tell you what a great job you did and how proud I am of you.”
  • Kohn advocates providing an engaging curriculum and a caring atmosphere “so kids can act on their natural desire to find out.”
  • You show me a school that really has those three Cs in place (content, community, choice)—where students are working with one another in a caring environment to engage with interesting tasks that they have some say in choosing—and I’ll show you a place where you don’t need to use punishments or rewards.

Hope you give the research-based information he shares some thought! I will not deny that for the short term, rewards work to get the results we are seeking, but are we doing more damage than good in the long run? Do we need to be giving more attention to the natural interests of our children and less attention on how to please us? Share with us your thoughts at



Let’s Talk…Potty Bear

September 3rd, 2013

imagesDo you ever have kids that don’t want to leave what they are doing to use the restroom? Heard the best idea the other day at a child care training – try using a Potty Bear. The stuffed animal becomes a “placeholder” at that activity helping that child leave that area and providing a visual cue for friends that someone is there.

What other “tools” do you use to support children while learning to use the toilet? To share, visit


Early Learning, Environment, Guidance

Let’s Talk…Temperament Tool

August 29th, 2013

images I ran across a “new to me” tool related to temperament today. As a reminder, temperament describes those nine inborn traits that impact how a child reacts to others and his or her environment. We as adults also fall somewhere on each of the nine temperament traits continuum that impact how we react to others – including children in our care.

The Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation has created an online tool to use to think about a child’s temperament along with your temperament and activities related to each of the nine traits that are good fits. Love it!  You can find the temperament tool here –

I encourage you to complete the temperament tool on a child that might be exhibiting some behaviors that you find challenging. You will likely get some activity ideas (based upon both of your temperament traits) that will help build your positive relationship with that young child. Hard copies are also available for download (great for sharing with parents!) including Spanish versions.


P.S. To share your thoughts on temperament or the temperament tool, go to

Family Relationships, Guidance

Let’s Talk…Mister Rogers and Feelings

February 28th, 2013

It has been ten years since Mister Rogers passed away. He had such a wonderful nature with children – calming and accepting and educating. One of my favorite sayings of his is on feelings:

“There’s no ‘should’ or ‘should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.”
This thought seems so applicable to children and adults. Feelings are what they are – hurt, angry, sad, happy, excited – no right or wrong. It is how we respond to those feelings where we get into the right or wrong. We have to learn to provide children the support and tools they need to appropriately handle their feelings just like we “teach” more cognitive skills like pre-literacy, pre-math, and science.
Here are some resources related to “teaching” feelings:
Do you use a specific curriculum to teach children about their feelings and appropriate ways to handle them? If not, give thought to putting something in place as a regular part of your program. What we know is in the heat of the meltdown moment, little learning can take place. But if you can acknowledge a child’s right to his or her feelings and then remind the child of tools you have shared to support him or her like deep breathing or holding a calming toy, you might find shorter and even less frequent meltdowns.
P.S. I ran across these “How It’s Made” clips from the Mister Rogers show. My favorite is him meeting the Incredible Hulk! Enjoy!
To share your favorite ‘How It’s Made” clip, thoughts on Mister Rogers, or how you teach children about feelings, please visit

Early Learning, Guidance , , ,

Let’s Talk…Exploration

July 18th, 2012

Have you ever had a child start in your program and appear to have no experience with art materials? It seems the first thing they do is squeeze the glue bottle until the page is nearly filled with glue and the bottle is near empty. Give thought to WHY the child did this. If we have never experienced a material, we likely don’t understand its use and purpose – even something as common to us as adults as glue.

So, is the next step to deny future opportunities with glue so that no more is wasted? No teacher (particularly one on a tight budget!) likes to see “wasted” glue, but we have to see this as a teaching opportunity with something like, “Glue can help us attach one thing to another. It works best when we squeeze gently and use small dots like this.” A visual cue card might also be needed as a reminder.

I am always surprised to hear early childhood staff share with me things like, “I could never have a garden. My children would just destroy it” or even “I can’t keep my books out because children will rip the pages.” While I understand the feeling, we must challenge ourselves to see the initial experience as exploration (so not a time to scold a child) and then support the child in learning more appropriate use of materials.


P.S. To respond with your thoughts, visit

Ages & Stages, Environment, Guidance

Let’s Talk…Time Out

June 11th, 2012

In early childhood, we have a love/hate relationship with time out. Some of us see it as an opportunity for children to calm down and re-enter the group once they are in better control of their emotions. Yet it is likely many of us have overused it – a crutch that becomes a quick fix in our busy day rather than a reflective look at what might be the real concern. An interesting read is Dr. Peter Haiman’s case against time out for The Natural Child Project.

In the state of Iowa, we are working diligently to support early childhood professionals with methods that will be proactive and reduce discipline issues in early childhood classrooms. Having a state partnership with the Center for Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning in order to share the Pyramid Model is one such example. Some programs also use the Committee for Children’s Second Step curriculum as an intentional way to positively build children’s social-emotional skills.

Give some thought  to guidance methods you are using in your early learning program. You should have written policies (that you follow!) that share with parents and others how you are being proactive and how issues are handled when they do arise. Give thought to if you are using time out (a break away from the group – no matter what you call it) too much. Child Care Resource and Referral offers some great suggestions related to time out in their position statement, and Cooperative Extension also has some recommendations. A fabulous resource to share with parents on this topic is Understanding Children: Disciplining Your Preschooler.

What is the guidance policy for your program? Do you believe time out has a place in an early childhood program? What other methods have you found to be effective in supporting positive children’s positive social skills? We hope to hear from you at


Guidance ,

Let’s Talk…Temper Tantrums

March 20th, 2012

We received the following question from a blog follower:

In my child care I have one little guy (3 1/2 yr old) that has started throwing fits when asked to pick up toys or anything.  He literally throws himself on the floor, kicking, screaming, yelling, he spits on my floor or me and I am just not sure what else to try.  This makes for a very stressful day for me and the other kids.  He thinks everything is funny!  I am not sure what I can do to change this.  It just is getting worse every day!  Please help!  Thanks!

From Malisa:

Handling meltdown situations such as these can be challenging and stressful. However, know that when I look back on my experiences as an early educator it is often the children that challenged me the most that I feel the strongest connection to! Here are some thoughts/suggestions:

  • Schedule a time to talk with the child’s parents when it is convenient for both of you. Be open and honest about the challenge you are facing while also sharing with them the strengths you see in their child. See what suggestions they might have and if it is possible for you to give those a try in your child care setting.
  • Chart when the meltdowns are happening and what you observed before it happened. This may give you some clues about what is triggering the undesired behavior. Is it during transitions or when meals are getting close? Does the frustration come about when trying to interact socially with other children? Does it happen when there has been a long period without attention from you or at a time where over-stimulation might be occurring? Remember that every behavior has a function! And we have to be detectives to try and figure out what the function of this behavior is in order to help the child better manage his or her needs.
  • Think of a tantrum such as this like surfing a huge wave. When the child is at the peak of that ride is not the time where any teaching can occur. We have to try our best just before the wave or in those initial stages to redirect or give needed attention. Once the child hits a certain point in the wave, s/he is emotionally not able to come back until s/he rides it through. Stay calm and try your best to keep him or her safe. Once the ride is over, children are usually shaken by the release of emotion. Try to be reassuring that you care and that the two of you will work through this. This does not mean you approve of the behavior, but helps the child know s/he is still worthy of love. Remind yourself that most children only release this type of emotion with people they feel safe and comfortable with. The more calm you can stay, the quicker the episode will de-escalate.
  • Have you considered taking a Positive Behavior Intervention Support course? If you are in Iowa, check with your local CCR&R or AEA organization about classes in your area. This resource will provide you with specific strategies to teach children with challenging behaviors social and emotional skills. It will provide you with a “toolbox” of ideas such as scripted stories, the turtle technique, steps to solve problems, and giving names to feelings.
  • ISU Extension and Outreach has a publication on temper tantrums that is FREE to download. It offers some excellent suggestions!

Keep in mind that if you recognized a child in your program was struggling with motor or cognitive skills, you would provide positive opportunities for the child to develop those skills. We as early childhood professionals have to strive to work with a child struggling in the social/emotional area in the same way.

Suggestions from Lori:

  • A ‘heads up’ of what is coming next… ie in 10 min we will clean up, in 5 min we will clean up – in the long run giving him warnings about what is going to happen next will take less time than the tantrum.
  • Also when you give the heads up let him know what your expectation will be…. in 10 minutes we will clean up and your job will be the ‘x’… be specific and make sure it is smaller and manageable.
  • Vary your warnings so that each time he has to ‘think’ about what you said…. in 5 min I can’t wait to give you a high five for picking up ‘x’.

These steps may not work every time but don’t give up… he will soon come to realize that you have expectations and that you give him more positive attention when he follows through.

Hope this has been helpful and has provided you with the encouragement you need to help this child (and you!) through this challenge. Blog readers, do you have suggestions for our colleague? We would love for you to share your ideas in the comment section!

Guidance , , , , ,