Children are mirrors; they reflect back to us everything we say and do. We now know that 95% of everything children learn, they learn from what is modeled for them. Only 5% of all they learn is from direct instruction. Human beings are like tape recorders. Every word we hear, everything we experience, is permanently recorded in our subconscious. Whenever adults speak, we are being role models for the children in our presence. What we speak is what we teach. Children record every word we ever say to them or in front of them. The language children grow up hearing is the language they will speak.

We often make the mistake of thinking that since children are smaller than we are and have less information and experience than we do, that they don’t have all the same feelings we do. But they do. The same kind of treatment that would embarrass, humiliate or hurt us, embarrasses, humiliates and hurts children. When human beings are being hurt emotionally, our thinking shuts down. When our thinking is shut down we cannot learn, we can only record. When adults try to “teach” children by criticizing, lecturing, shaming, ridiculing, giving orders, screaming, threatening and hitting, it shuts down their thinking so they can’t learn what the adult intended to teach them to do or not to do; they can only record what is being modeled.

shutterstock 105628505 Small

The most common criticism I hear of young people these days is, “they don’t treat anyone or anything with respect.” Ironically, adults often try to teach children to be respectful by treating them disrespectfully. Children learn respect or disrespect from how we treat them and how we treat each other. When children live with disrespect, they learn disrespect. We can teach respect only by modeling treating each other with respect and by giving children the same respect we expect.

Since children have long been treated as second class citizens, as “less than,” most adults carry “recordings” of disrespect we recorded when we were children. When children’s behavior challenges us, it pushes our recording’s play button and we find ourselves saying the very things that were said to us as children. Has any parent not had the experience of hearing their parents’ words coming out of their own mouths now that they are parents? Most disrespectful responses are so automatic, we have already said them before we even realize what we’ve said.

Learning to treat children with respect will require a change of heart, that can come only from a major shift in consciousness of how we view children and how we define respect. Children are born with human dignity. To treat a person with respect is to acknowledge and preserve their human dignity. To treat a person with disrespect is to attack their human dignity.

Treating children disrespectfully is like using physical punishment as discipline; it only “works” as long as we are bigger than they are. It behooves every adult who wants to be treated with respect to treat children respectfully.

Whether children grow up under our roof or not, they live in the same world we do and their behavior can and does impact our lives. However we treat the child, the child will treat the world.

How can we expect children to understand and practice the Golden Rule if we treat them with less respect than we give our peers? In saying that children deserve the same respect we would give our friends, I am not saying we should treat children like adults or that we should never get angry. I’m saying that there is nothing we ever have to say to a child that we need to say in a disrespectful way.

Yelling, “I’m angry, I don’t like this behavior” is not disrespectful; screaming at, belittling, embarrassing and humiliating children is.

If we question whether or not something we have said to a child is disrespectful, we can ask ourselves, “would I say those words, in that tone of voice, to my good friend?” If not, it was probably disrespectful. When we model disrespect, we must then model apologizing.

If we are sincere about teaching respect to children we must expose, acknowledge, and work on eliminating all the ways that we model disrespect. Even if we do not model the blatantly disrespectful behaviors of criticizing, lecturing, shaming, ridiculing, giving orders, screaming, threatening and hitting, there are many things we do and say to children, that have been said and done to children for so long, we aren’t even aware that they are disrespectful. Yet, if these same things were said or done to us we would identify them as disrespectful.

In my parenting class on treating children with respect, we read a brilliant piece by Erma Bombeck, titled ,”Treat Friends, Kids The Same.” She imagines having friends over for dinner and saying to them all those things that most of us heard growing up and therefore, say to children. “Shut the door. Were you born in a barn?” “I didn’t work over a hot stove all day to have you nibble like some bird.” “Sit up straight or your spine will grow that way.” Most parents roar with laughter at the thought of speaking to their friends that way, then realize it is just as disrespectful to say those things to children.

We don’t say, “What do you say?” or “What’s the magic word?” to our friends but children hear it all the time. If we expect children to always say please and thank- you, we must always say please and thank you to them and to each other, otherwise we are modeling that sometimes you say it and sometimes you don’t. Children imitate what we do. If we expect children to have manners, to share, to apologize, to be honest, kind, respectful, and loving, we must do and be those things so they will have that model to imitate.

Children imitate parents, family members, friends, caregivers, teachers, and television. The more children are out in the world, the more models they will be exposed to. While we can’t keep children from ever seeing models of the kind of behavior we don’t want them to imitate, we can be more selective of what models we expose them to, especially television. Since parents are the primary models in the early years, we must work on modeling the behavior we expect and not modeling behavior we don’t want to see in them.

The ancient wisdom “what goes around, comes around,” and, “as you sow, so shall you reap,” applies to how we teach children. To move from the disrespectful way of teaching through criticizing, lecturing and giving orders, to teaching children through conscious, intentional modeling , takes time and practice and a willingness to look at and sometimes change our own behavior. Gandhi said, “We must become the change we want to see in the world.” Joseph Chilton Pearce says, “We must become the people we want our children to be.”

Most of the disrespectful things we say and do to children aren’t even intentional. Our old “tapes” just automatically play when our buttons get pushed. Learning to teach respect by intentional modeling is simple; it’s unlearning the old ways that is difficult. When a child doesn’t behave in the ways we expect, we must ask ourselves, “Am I providing a model of the behavior I am expecting of my child?” When a child behaves in a way that we don’t like, we must ask ourselves, “Am I modeling that behavior?” If we can honestly answer, “No,” then something else is causing the behavior.

We can train ourselves to stop and think before we speak, by remembering that everything we say will be recorded and imitated. We can stop or at least interrupt those old recordings and intentionally model the kind of behavior we expect and will accept from our children. When we give children the same respect we expect, we teach children respect. How we treat them is what we teach them.

Leo, Pam. "Teaching Children Respect." Positive Parenting Connection., 05 Apr. 2016. Web. 19 June 2017.



How to Use Creative and Unconventional Containers in your Classroom


Containers are essential components to any early childhood classroom. Available in many sizes, shapes, and colors, containers are used to store, hold, and tote a variety of learning materials and supplies. In fact, they are such a commonplace classroom element that rarely a second thought is given to them, especially after being placed on the shelf. Containers, however, are much more than bins and baskets. This article will help you think about containers from a different perspective: What if the primary job of containers in the classroom is not to just hold learning materials and objects but rather to intentionally spark children’s interest and engagement with the contents? Use the 4 C’s of Container Selection below for guidelines, inspiration, and getting started in selecting your classroom containers.

4 C’s of Container Selection

#1: Select Containers that CAPTURE Children’s Attention

In order to generate children’s interest, the container’s contents must be visible. To promote visibility, try using containers with low or even no sides. Because these types of containers do not restrict the view of the contents, they are extremely effective in capturing children’s attention.

1   2

A good example of a no-sided container is a picture frame. Remove glass and backing and any wire or hardware from the frame. Place the empty frame on a table along with a basket of interesting objects for children to create their own masterpieces within the no-sided container.


You can also use empty frames as containers for 3-D objects that children have found or collected. Mount the empty frame to the wall using Commando™ or 3M picture-hanging Velcro™ strips. Then, inside the frame, hang child-found 3-D objects directly on the wall. Here are some easily found 3-D objects to place inside empty frames for the various areas in your classroom:

Classroom Area 3-D Object
Blocks Small multi-colored wood blocks
Home Living Spoons or other kitchen utensils
Library/Quiet Hard-cover books or book jackets from children's storybooks
Math/writing Giant-sized wood letters or numerals
Art Different sized and types of authentic paintbrushes

A similar idea is to encourage children to contribute their personally found objects to empty frames. Going on nature scavenger hunts at the local park, playground, or even at home for finding objects to fill empty frames is an exciting way to connect children with the classroom’s no-sided containers. Children can collect all sorts of interesting natural materials such as rocks and pebbles, pods and seeds, bark or twigs to add to empty frame containers. And, you don’t even need authentic frames—you can easily make frames with sticks and twigs.


#2: Select Containers that are CONVENIENT

In order for children’s engagement to be sustained, containers must be convenient. These types of containers have two important elements:

  1. The container is functional.
  2. The container’s contents are easily accessible.

Containers are functional when they are easy for children to access, manage, and transport their contents to other places and spaces in the classroom. If your objective is for children to be able to move the containers around the room, try using medium-sized and easy-to-handle containers made out of light-weight materials. Select containers with handles, holes, or places where children can get a good grasp. If, however, you do not want children to transport containers to different parts of the room, but want the children to take one item from the container to use, choose heavy containers with holes, slots, or spaces to hold individual objects.


Clay bricks make great non-moveable containers for small objects. The holes in the bricks make great places to store writing tools and art supplies such as scissors, pencils, markers, and paper punches. These types of containers work well when there are a large number of similar objects to be used by many children. For example, a large tin can weighted down with rocks, buckeyes, sand, dried popcorn kernels, or coffee beans can hold rulers or paintbrushes. The sheer weight, size, and shape of the container communicates to children that the container must remain in place.


#3: Select Containers that CONNECTActivities to Container

Another way to sustain children’s interest and engagement is to use containers not only for storage, but to use them as part of the classroom’s activities. Fill a strawberry basket or colander with pieces of weaving materials (i.e., fabric, ribbons, pipe cleaners, twine) and use the basket as a weaving base. Nested boxes with buttons stored in the smallest box triggers the hands-on activity of sorting and classifying in the different sized boxes. Cookie tins, muffin tins, or baking trays filled with assorted magnetic pieces are another example of how the container becomes a part of the children’s activity.

Containers that both hold materials and promote children’s interaction with their contents are very practical because they make direct suggestions to children about the ways in which the materials and the container can be used together. Since there is no need for adult instruction or demonstration, the child’s autonomy and initiative are stimulated. In a toddler room, for instance, a pre-service teacher offered an inclusive container of both the materials (pipe cleaners) and the container (colander). This inclusive container was designed for children to weave the pipe cleaners through the colander holes. She predicted that the activity would last for 5 or 10 minutes because of the limited attention span of this age group. The activity continued for a good 20 minutes of sustained and focused engagement with the container.


#4: Use CHILD-CREATED Containers

There are many types of containers children can make. Creating and gifting these containers to the classroom not only promotes children’s engagement with a variety of materials but honors their work when displayed and used by others.


Kindergartners enjoyed making the button bowl by gluing (with liquid glue) flat buttons onto a blown-up balloon. After the glue dried, the balloon was popped leaving behind a beautiful bowl. Another way to make a classroom container using buttons is to make a button tray. Simply mix liquid glue with sand and first press the glue into the bottom of the tray and then press buttons into the glue-coated bottom of the tray. You can also use Plaster of Paris™ for this project.


Another idea for child-created containers is to use clean microwave dinner trays and bowls. Children can glue on fabric, yarn, and twine to make wonderful classroom containers. Something important happens when child-created containers are actively used and enjoyed. Children experience self-satisfaction and a sense of pride when their containers become an important part of the classroom.

From Conventional to Unconventional Containers

All of the containers pictured in this article have one thing in common. They are unconventional. It is human nature to pay more attention to something that is different. Conventional containers create a sterile environment, while unconventional containers awaken a sense of energy and excitement. So, think critically about the containers in your classroom. Do the containers in your classroom primarily hold objects or do they also grab the children’s attention and entice them to explore the contents? Are they ordinary . . . or are they extraordinary?

To begin thinking out-of-the-box (no pun intended), survey your classroom using the following questions:

Do you have more primary colored plastic containers than containers made from natural materials? Yes      No       
Do you have more conventional containers (boxes, bins, baskets) than unconventional containers (no-sided, repurposed, and child-made containers)? Yes             No
Are there more containers similar in type (clear plastic totes with lids or no lids, coordinated sets of bins and baskets) than containers that have variety (assortment of varying sizes, shapes, colors, and materials)? Yes No

If you answered ‘yes’ to at least two of the questions, it is time to re-consider the purpose of the containers in your classroom. It’s time to find captivating and attention grabbing containers for your classroom. It’s easy to find non-traditional containers once you embrace the new perspective that the purpose of containers are for attracting children’s engagement with their contents rather than just holding objects. Use this new lens when rummaging through garage sales, thrift stores, or even your own basement or attic. Think about how you could reposition or repurpose found objects into useful and captivating containers. Here are some more ideas to help you think about containers from this new perspective and get you started:

10  11  12

Various shapes and sizes of dishes bottles Repurposed bottles and strawberry basket shells Large shells can hold other loose parts

An Invitation

You are cordially invited to a container party. Bring a unique and nontraditional container to your classroom—and put it in an unconventional place. Then, stand back and watch the fun begin.

Duncan, Sandra, and Pradnya Patet. "Sparking Young Children's Engagement." Containers. Community Playthings, 1 Nov. 2016. Web. 12 May 2017. Reprinted with permission


referralWhen it comes to parenting or working with toddlers, it’s hard to know what normal behavior is. Toddler brains and bodies are developing at such a fast pace it can be hard to keep up! Your toddler might be able to say full sentences and communicate his or her needs, but reasoning and rationalizing isn’t a part of their skill set quite yet. It can be challenging to predict your toddler’s wants, needs and behavior in this stage of development. One thing is certain, however: Toddlerhood brings a lot of exciting new skills and challenges.

During this phase of development, it’s important to keep in mind that the determination a toddler has to learn and take in new information can be a powerful influence on behavior as well. You might hear “I do it myself!” as your developing toddler wants to feel autonomy and empowerment as they work on building new skills. Parents and caregivers might want to plan for longer and slower transitions as the developing toddler tries out his or her independence while moving from one activity, or place, to another.

High levels of activity and short attention spans are typical behavior for the ever-growing and changing toddler. Parents and caregivers are often surprised to learn that the typical toddler has a much shorter attention span than one might assume.

Average attention span for Toddlers, according to age range:

  • 8-15 months: about 1 minute
  • 16-19 months: 2-3 minutes
  • 20-24 months: 3-6 minutes
  • 24-36 months: 5-8 minutes
  • 3-4 years: 8-10 minutes

The expectation for a toddler to sit and pay attention for long periods of time should be set aside while space to move and explore should be made.

Gross motor skills are coming into alignment as the younger toddler learns to walk, jump and run and the older toddler gains coordination in these skills. Plenty of safe opportunities to move and climb should be provided, including lots of outside time for toddlers of all ages.

Toddlers are also gaining the necessary social skills to build life-long relationships with family and friends. Sometimes toddlers express interest in interacting with other children in funny (and not so funny) ways. Have you ever observed a toddler walk up to a peer and bop them on the head? What adults might view as aggressive or inappropriate behavior could be interpreted as the toddler simply wanting the other child’s attention and friendship. When language is still developing, it might be challenging for toddlers to express interest in playing with other children without inserting themselves physically into another child’s world. Parents and caregivers can take these opportunities to model appropriate social interactions and open up conversations with their toddler about suitable ways to initiate friendships.

Make-believe and dramatic play blossoms at this age, too. Often children play out interests, curiosities and even fears through make-believe play. Toddlers love to imitate their caregivers and pretend to be adults. Parents and caregivers can encourage dramatic play by providing dress-up clothes and practical life materials so that toddlers can pretend to their heart’s content. Dramatic play can provide opportunities for parents to learn more about their toddlers and for toddlers to learn more about their place in the world.

The older toddler can really start to grasp story lines and related pictures, making reading and story-telling a super fun and exciting activity. Frequent visits to the library and daily reading encourage healthy development and a life-time love of reading. Toddlers often fall in love with books and ask for the same stories over and over again, sometimes even memorizing storylines so that they can “read” the stories themselves. Encourage your toddler’s interest in books by providing a wide variety of books and reading frequently. Reading aloud to your child is one of the best and most important gifts you can provide; reading offers important support in the development of social, cognitive, language and literacy skills.

The old adage, “The days are long but the years are short” can really ring true during the toddler years. Some days might feel like a futile fight just to get your toddler dressed and fed, while other days you might wonder how you were gifted with the most amazing child to ever walk this earth. Rest assured your toddler is just as confused and emotional as you might feel while parenting them. Practice patience and kindness not only with your toddler, but with yourself, as you parent. There is no one right way to parent a toddler, or a child of any age, so remember to go easy on yourself and have fun with your ever-changing and growing toddler!

STEM Video CYoung children cannot be taught STEM skills. For a five-year-old, the practical application of science, technology, engineering, and math is something they can only absorb through experience.

“You live STEM, when you engage with tools and materials,” explains Hal Melnick from Bank Street College of Education. “And, what better place to do that than the classroom with a knowledgeable teacher who sets up the environment so that kids can engage with scientific principles and ideas.”

There is no better material to engage a child in STEM learning than Caroline Pratt’s unit blocks. The unit is “one of the big ideas in mathematics. Math is the study of relationships and the science of pattern. There's a whole lot of abstract stuff we can talk about later on in life, but it builds from the experience that kids have had with well-organized, well-structured tools like the blocks.”

In this 3-minute video, Melnick and other educators explain why every school that is serious about STEM education needs to have a strong block play component in their curriculum. Watch now.

Rhonda. "Solid Foundation for STEM." Solid Foundation for STEM. Community Playthings, 16 June 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.  Reprinted with permission.

Winter can be long and cold in Wisconsin. One of the best ways to get through the winter months as a child care provider is to help the children get involved in some wintertime fun –inside and out. The following are activities to help you keep cabin fever away during the cold month of February.

Outdoor Activity Ideas

All outdoor activities can be found at:

Make Ice Art

Freeze water colored with food coloring into blocks and other shapes, using ice cube trays, muffin tins, Jell-O molds and old yogurt containers. (This step is more easily done in a freezer, but you can also try it outdoors.) Then bring your colorful ice blocks outside, along with any natural ice and snow you can collect, to create your own ice sculptures. In sub-freezing temperatures, you can stick the pieces together by dribbling water on them—it should quickly freeze them in place.

For the Birds

Hollow out an orange and fill with seeds to feed your feathered friends. Add sticks and string to hang it from a tree.

Bubble Ice Maker

When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, blow bubbles and watch them freeze on the wand.

Ice and Easy

Freeze colored water into ice cubes, then hide them around the yard for a wintertime scavenger hunt.

Create a Maze

Put on your hiking boots and stamp out a path for the children to follow.

Make Faces

Use handfuls of packed snow to create funny characters on a tree trunk.

Indoor Activity Ideas

Make Snow Jars

Materials Needed

  • small glass jar
  • a plastic figurine
  • glycerin or baby oil
  • glitter
  • water
  • glue (we used a hot glue gun, but superglue should work too) Instructions
  1. Decide what you would like to put in your snow globe.
  2. Glue, place and stick your plastic figurine/s to the inside of the jar lid.
  3. Fill your jar with water and glycerin or baby oil and add glitter—1-2 teaspoons
  4. Screw the lid on the jar and glue it shut for safety.
  5. Shake your jar or tip it upside down to make it snow!

Ice Art Sculptures

Materials Needed

  • liquid watercolors
  • salt
  • pipettes
  • ice Instructions 
  1. Fill a large bowl with water and left it overnight in the freezer.
  2. Pull the container out of the freezer awhile before the activity to ensure that the ice comes out easily.
  3. Put the ice out on a giant cookie sheet in order to catch the melting water.
  4. Have the children spread the salt over the ice. The children will love hearing the ice crack as the salt is absorbed.
  5. Have the children use pipettes to drip watercolors directly onto the ice. The excess water from the melting ice will make the colors swirl and blend beautifully.

Abstract Snowman Art

Materials Needed

  • Cotton balls
  • Googly eyes
  • Buttons
  • Blue construction paper
  • Brown construction paper (use to cut out hats) - optional Instructions
  1. Give each child a piece of blue construction paper and a brown construction paper hat.Have the children pick out their cotton balls (great fine motor practice!).
  2. Let the children choose their own googly eyes and buttons to decorate with.
  3. Give the children some glue and let the artistry begin!

Slippery Sledding Sensory Bin

Materials Needed

  • Large cookie sheet
  • Foil
  • Shaving cream
  • Round lids of different sizes and materials to use for sleds
  • Plastic play people
  • Two bowls (one large and one small)


  1. Begin by taking a big cookie sheet and covering it with tin foil.
  2. Take two bowls, one big and one small, and place them upside down on the cookie sheet.
  3. Cover everything with shaving cream.
  4. Give the children the “sleds” and plastic people and let them have some indoor winter fun!
  5. After a while, you could suggest that the little people have a race. The children may discover that they will slide down the hill faster if there was already a track to follow. They also might find that the sleds slide down the steep hill much faster than the gently sloping one. They also could discover that they could make the little people do face plants into the ‘snow’ from the top of the hill. You know, all your typical, important scientific discoveries!

White Play Dough

Make this bright white snow play dough recipe for hours of winter themed sensory play with children.


  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 cup boiling (or nearly boiling) water
  • A few drops liquid glycerin (not essential, but makes it even smoother!)
  • Silver glitter


  1. Heat the ingredients gently in a pan, stirring until it comes together to form a non-sticky ball. Leave it for a little while to cool down, in which time it will come together more
  2. Knead it until smooth and soft
  3. Add in glitter
  4. If it’s too sticky, add some more cornstarch

Play Ideas

  • Roll the white sparkly dough into balls to make snow balls!
  • Build snow men and snow castles and decorate them with buttons, twigs and beads
  • Roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cut out snowflakes and stars using cutters
  • Use it to form part of a small world play snow landscape and play with penguins, seals, polar bears etc.

Page 1 of 2