Friday, July 29, 2016

Challenging Behavior in Preschool

What IS challenging behavior?  And is it our issue?  A child's behavior "problem"?  And, what's a teacher to do?

When I attended the NAEYC Conference in Florida this past November, I took part in a research project that Yale University was working on.  

It was, in part, to study how teachers identify challenging behavior.  There was a written survey with several preschool behavior scenarios to respond to.  There was also a computer-based portion of the survey.

During the computer based portion, I was given a hand held device with a button on it and was instructed to watch a few video scenarios of preschoolers at play and to press the button any time I saw what I considered a challenging behavior take place.

The computer program they used actually tracked my eye movement so they could track and identify what portion of the video was playing when I presssed the button (sounds pretty sci-fi-ish!  ;) )

During the video portion (which took approximately 10 minutes), I only pressed the button once.  In speaking with other teachers who participated, some shared that they pressed the button once or twice where others said the pressed it far more times than that.

For example, in one scene 3 children were playing with toy cars at a table having a grand ole time.  And then, one child took the car from another child.

My hand was hovering over that button, but I didn't press it yet.  I wanted to see how the other child responded first.  She just looked at the "taker", then looked at the other child, then shrugged her shoulders and kept playing with what she had.  The other child then gave her one of his cars.  The taker continued playing.

I never pressed the button.  Two other teachers said they did not either.  Three other teachers said they did.  

This got us all thinking about how differently we all are when labeling behavior as challenging.  

Sometimes we insert ourselves into situations with children that do not need our help. Sometimes we let things go that we should have interceded in.  It can be a fine balance of knowing when to step in and when to let the situation unfold.

The scenario in the video I watched was a pretty benign one.  

However, we have all experience the above scenario where the result was wildly different!  One in which the result was the "takee" getting upset and crying, screaming or hitting the "taker".  One in which the "taker" either yelled back, laughed or even cried because he/she doesn't understand why they could not play with that car!

NOW who do you help first?? And how?  And which child is in the wrong?

A lot of how we respond to this will depend on how we define challenging behaviors.  In this later example and in the one in the video I watched, we all might react differently. And many times that is because of what we think needs to be controlled and needs attention.

We need to approach every challenge as an opportunity to teach problem solving skills. Children can not learn to negotiate problems if they are not allowed to have them.  As for how we react--Steve Gross M.S.W. said:

"...You can't spread what you don't have.  So the first person you need to learn how to control is yourself.  And actually that's the only person that you need to learn how to control..."  Why?  He explains that "...jumping to a reaction--it's like throwing gasoline on a fire."  

Wow!  Yes!  We've all felt like this.  One teacher actually emailed me using a similar analogy--that she feels like she spends all day running around, putting out behavior fires!

So, again:  What's a teacher to do?
I have a video (with no science-fiction like eye movement tracking involved! ;) ) and a an article to share with you that are all specifically about challenging preschool behavior.

1.  A link to a video from ChildCareExchange that helps us look at our role and how we look at, and react to, challenging behavior.  It is an awesome (under 10 minute) video that you really need to watch!

2.  Information on de-escalating challenging behaviors based on The Pyramid Model.

3.  A link to an article that covers the 4 steps to proper behavior guidance.

Get your favorite beverage and check those articles and the ChildCare Exchange Video Out!  You'll be glad you did!

Do you have resources you can share with us about challenging preschool behavior?  Put them in the comments below!
About the author
Cheryl Hatch has taught and directed preschool programs for over 20 years.  She is the Creator and Owner of Preschool Plan It, a website dedicated to sharing preschool themes, activities, articles and training with early childhood educators.  She volunteers as the coordinator and teacher of the MOPPETS program in her town (a preschool program for the M.O.P.S.--Mothers of Preschoolers Program).  She has her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education.  Cheryl has been an active, integral member and leader within the Teachers.Net Early Childhood community for many years, moderating live chats and providing peer support on the Preschool Teachers Chatboard.  You can read Cheryl’s articles, activities and themed preschool lesson plans at 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Music - Where? When? Why? How?

         MUSIC BELONGS IN SCHOOL.  Yada, yada, yada.

No one even pays attention anymore.  It's just a mantra.  Even many classroom teachers - with all the extras they have to get in - aren't totally behind music needing to be part of curriculum - except for it is a free period for them.  Let's take another quick look at why MUSIC BELONGS IN SCHOOL

*Music education works 3 areas of the brain at the same time ~ ~ 
                  Motor, visual and auditory cortices.  It is an exercise for the brain
 *Allows for higher memory functions
 *Helps us be comfortable with discomfort
 *All born musically – have to be to understand language

What is meant by 'musical training' and when should it start?

To be developmentally appropriate, 'formal' lessons should wait until a child is reading and until their finger muscles are large enough and strong enough.  Exposure to music (parent / child music classes  - ie Music with Mar. Classes or just singing and dancing with your child ) and having instruments around to explore is the best way to start a child's interest (LOVE) of music.

Vocal lessons should wait until a child's vocal cords are mature enough - usually around 11 or 12.  Starting too early can be compared to letting a child play sports but not bringing them to the gym to work out.  Enjoy the game and let the muscles mature. Until then, sing in choir or chorus.  Sing along to your favorite songs.  Encourage your child's talent and give them opportunities to use it.

Some things to consider:

Classroom teachers should be one of the biggest advocates for music being part of curriculum because music helps children learn better and more easily, which makes your job easier.  Support music in your schools.  Besides the cognitive benefits, it adds pleasure to the day.  That, in itself, is valuable.

If you still need more convincing, please visit:

Friday, July 22, 2016

What's Bugging You? Summertime Dance Activities About Bugs and Insects!

Happy Summer!

Here are some fun movement activities that are based on bugs and insects.*  Many of them can be done outside, and would work well for a school or day camp activity for young children.  They can be used as brain breaks, transitions, or a whole morning or afternoon's theme for creative play.


Several lively musical selections, and/or songs about bugs

Paper and crayons 

Craft Project:   Plastic headbands, pipe cleaners, beads,  curling ribbon, and/or other items to decorate antennae
(See photo below)

1.  Bug Dance and Freeze

Play one of the musical selections

Ask the children to dance while the music is playing

Stop the music throughout the song.  Call out a different bug each time, and ask the children to freeze in the shape of that bug.

Finish the game by asking the children to freeze in the shape of their favorite bug.

2.  Warm Up

Sitting on the floor in a circle:

Curl in and out like a pill bug.  Then try it lying down.

Roll onto your back, and imagine you are a bug that is stuck.  Move your arms and legs as many ways as you can.
Imagine you are a bug that is stuck on its back!

Roll from side to side like a role-poly bug, then bring yourself back up to sitting.

Inch around the circle like a caterpillar, and end up back where you started

Imagine you are a spider, going up and down (from floor to standing) on your silver thread.  Do it several times, finishing standing.

Imagine you are a little cricket.  First do small bounces, then do little bouncy jumps.  Always bend your knees when you land from a jump!

3.  Large Motor Skills Practice

March like hard-working ants!

Tiptoe like a very quiet bug

Walk fast in a zigzag pattern like a spider

Turn around like a caterpillar spinning a cocoon

Hop and jump like a grasshopper as it goes from one blade of grass to another

Run and swoop like a moth as it flies around a bright light at night

Skip and gallop like a water bug skimming across a pond

Leap like a butterfly taking off and landing 

4.  Opposites

Play another musical selection.  Ask the children:

Can you dance slowly like a caterpillar?  Now can you dance fast like a bumblebee?

Can you dance smoothly and gracefully like a butterfly, then in a zigzag, herky-jerky way like a housefly?

Can you dance quietly like a spider, the loudly like a buzzing mosquito?

Can you glide like a centipede, then bounce and hop like a jumping water bug?

Can you move like you have little tiny legs like a small spider, and then as if you have great big legs like a daddy longlegs?

Can you hop like a small cricket?  Now can you hop like a giant grasshopper?

5.  Craft Project

Take a break from dancing to make colorful and fun antennae.  Use the materials described above.  Help each child to string beads on two pipe cleaners and then twist them onto the headband.  Use whatever other materials you have to add extra decorations.

Draw a Bug and Dance!

Ask the children to think about all of the bugs they have danced about.  Then, ask each child to draw an imaginary bug, with all of his or her favorite ideas combined into one bug!

Play a musical selection, and prompt the children to dance like their imaginary bug would move, while wearing the antennae they made.

Finish the activity by asking:  How would a bug bow?

I hope your little ones had fun dancing about bugs!

Keep on dancin'!


Moving is Learning!

*Ideas based on the 5-session unit called Busy Bugs: A Multilayered Movement Study, from my book One, Two, What Can I Do?  Dance and Music for the Whole Day, published by Redleaf Press.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Montessori-Inspired Ant Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

Young children often have mixed feelings about ants. They're fascinated by ants, while at the same time many of those children find ants a bit frightening. So today, I want to share some ant activities and printables that are high interest and will hopefully help ease children's fears of ants. 

You'll find lots of free ant printables in my Free Ant Printables and Montessori-Inspired Ant Activities. Here, I'm sharing some Montessori-inspired ant activities using free printables for preschoolers through first graders. 

You'll find many activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing. You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities

At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  

Ant Pin Poking Activity

  Ant Pin Poking Activity 

Free Printable: Ant Pattern from Pattern Universe from Pattern Universe or Printable Ant Shape from Printable Treats 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft Tray, colored construction paper, Wood-Handled Puncher from Montessori Services (Read the push pin warning and why I recommend using the wood-handled puncher.), and a Felt Pad from Montessori Services (Note: The Montessori Services felt pads are now black so they don’t get dirty as easily.) 

This is similar to my snail pin poking activity last month. You can't see the ant image in the photo, but it does show up. If you wanted it clearer, you could simply print out the template and trace around it with white ink. 

Punching out the ant is a good way for young child to develop fine motor coordination and work on the pencil grip needed for writing. It's also a wonderful activity for developing the ability to concentrate.  

Ant Mazes Ant Maze Activity Free Printable: Ant Mazes from Gift of Curiosity, which I laminated to use with the erasable crayon. 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, miniature ant, erasable crayon, and chalk eraser. I love this for an early writing activity. It doesn't take a lot of coordination but is a good way to practice holding a writing instrument. There are more difficult ant mazes in the pack for older children, too. And a child could "walk" the ant through the maze for a simple fine-motor activity. 

 Counting Ants Picnic Activity Counting Ants Picnic Activity Free Printable: Counting Ants Game from Glued to My Crafts 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, Montessori Services basket, napkin from our tea party picnic, 10 miniature ants, and a small bamboo condiment cup to hold the ants. I just used 10 ants. If you'd like to lay this out like Montessori cards and counters, you'll have enough ants (55 are needed). There are supposed to be 50+ ants, although there were 73 in my package. Counting Ants Picnic LayoutYou could also take turns picking a piece of picnic food and counting out the appropriate number of ants. 

Ant and Anteater Subtraction Activity Ant and Anteater Subtraction Activity Free Printable: Ant Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

Free Printable: Mathematics Operations Buttons from Flaticon 


Free Printable: Giant Anteater Photo from Flickr Creative Commons 

For this activity, I used a a Multicraft tray, miniature ants (totally fun), tweezers (to add a fine-motor activity), and small bamboo condiment cups to hold the pieces. 

Ant and Anteater Subtraction Layout 

Here's a possible layout for the activity with the photo. For our floor layouts, I always use a Montessori Services hemmed work rug. Ant and Anteater Subtraction Activity with Ants Beanie Baby 
I added Ants the Anteater Beanie Baby to this tray for a fun home learning activity. (Yes, we still have lots of Beanie Babies from when my kids were young!) 

Anteater and Ants Hands-on Subraction Activity 

You could introduce younger children to hands-on subtraction by counting out the ants for a number card. Then have the anteater eat however many ants you want to "take away." You don't need to use equations or focus specifically on subtraction other than the concept of taking away from a number. Zoey had lots of fun with this! 

Letter A Basket and Writing Tray

  Letter A Basket and Writing Tray 

Free Printables: Ant Letters for A Letter Basket and Writing Tray (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For the letter a basket, I used a basket with small objects beginning with /ă/ sound (short a sound). I like introducing the cursive letter along with the manuscript one, so I included the cursive a card. I used a variety of objects starting with /ă/. You could just say the phonetic sound as you or your child removes an item from the basket: for example, "/ă/ anteater, /ă/ alligator..." 

Some of the objects are ones I had at home (such as Antsy the Anteater Teenie Beanie), although most are from Montessori Services (they have individual phonetic objects or a whole set available). 

 Ant Life Cycle Activities 

  Life Cycle of an Ant ActivityFree Printable: Animal Life Cycles from The Pinay Homeschooler 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, Montessori services basket, and Safari Ltd. Life Cycle of an Ant. There are a number of activities you can prepare with this printable. A simple one is for the child to match each stage of the ant life cycle.  

More Free Ant Printables  

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free ant printables from around the blogosphere: Free Ant Printables and Montessori-Inspired Ant Activities. And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables.  

You'll find find animal classification resources in this post at Living Montessori Now: Montessori-Inspired Animal Classification.  

You'll find many more insect resources at Living Montessori Now:
Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBookIf you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!
I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer! :)

Deb - Siganture
Deb Chitwood
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in San Diego with her husband of 41 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and toddler granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.
Living Montessori Now Button

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Art of Living - How we guide children and build community


It was a Sunday morning with our two children 
peacefully asleep...

Sam and Nick, amazing then, and amazing now
but it was unlike any other Sunday morning in my life.  On this morning I would find out if the love of my life would live.  The doctor told me she had experienced a heart attack.  

Marie Sierra, Mom, Pianist, Dancer, Friend, Love of my Life
Driving to the hospital, I thought of of this amazing woman in my life and our 2 children... and slowly and silently began to weep, from both a sense of profound love and simultaneously the fear of potentially having to let go.  Today Marie is 100% recovered and after 23 years of marriage we are completely and madly in love.

It was a moment of opportunity... for both of us. When Marie suffered her heart attack, I was much heavier, weighing 300 lbs., and Marie was in very good shape.  

300lb Enrique on the left
Neither of us were eating in a healthy manner. On our first visit to her heart doctor, he looked at me and said, "You should have been the one with the heart attack," and I nodded in agreement. Since then, Marie and I have embraced life at a new level. Part of this journey includes cooking with coconut oil, and creating healthy and delicious meals with super foods. We both feel so much younger.

 Prior to that moment, if someone had asked me, “Do you embrace living?” I would have responded… “absolutely!”  Today I can tell that back then I was on my journey of developing my potential to reveal my own purpose to myself, and I continue on this journey. Today I can also share with you that I have, with the support of many, including Marie, truly embraced the Art of Living.  

 Many people have experienced being afraid of being alone, but can we ever really be alone?  We may sense loneliness, but can we ever truly be alone?  I ask you to consider, “To truly live, do we not need to at least recognize our connection to our community?”  The community we are born into, the community we choose, and the community we create.

Does community create a sense of unity?
Does unity create momentum?
What do you choose to create?
How do you choose to live?
My Mentor, Dr. Carroll Rinehart, on the left and on the right, my colleague and friend, Corey Ferrugia
Marie has taught me a lot, as have my  many mentors, including my Nana, Victoria Cañez.  There was no such thing as an “ordinary moment” with her.  With my brother in spirit, Corey Ferrugia, founder of MyTown Music, our shared mentor Dr. Carroll Rinehart, and our inner circle of colleagues, we have taken this idea to new heights.  In 2000, I founded the non-profit education organization, the Fostering Arts-Mind Education Foundation.  Today its new name is the Global Learning Foundation and my closest circle of colleagues, artists, educators and thought leaders have reverse engineered the Art of Living.  

I’m sharing the first 3 steps with you right now.  Enjoy and consider living, loving, and learning like a child!

When do feel the most connected?  What prompts this?

An example of The Art of the Question with Preschool children from the Benson Center of Child-Parent Centers Inc.

What kinds of questions do you ask your friends?  
Your colleagues?  Your family?  

Perhaps even more important, 
“What kinds of questions do you ask yourself?”  

Are they questions with a specific answer in mind or are they questions that truly seek to find out what the person across from you has experienced and would like to experience?

For those of us who work directly with children, the use of great questions leads to breathtaking results related to improved creative and critical thinking. Above you see one simple example of a question, a positive provocation, that was used with preschool children. This led to children learning a great many things about life and learning via the creating of maps.

A map drawn by a preschool child at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers Inc.

A map of home and school drawn by a preschool child at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

As the former Associate Director of Bands at the University of Arizona, I made a lot of statements.  Little did I realize that statements didn’t create the kind of response I was hoping for, no matter how dramatic the delivery. After I left the University of Arizona, I received a call from educational icon Dr. Carroll Rinehart.  He offered me an invitation…. To have coffee with him and talk.  I met him for an early breakfast and kept doing so for many years.  He told me stories and asked me questions...three questions… over and over again and over time, I began to realize why. While I founded the Foundation, I am not the Foundation.  The Global Learning Foundation is a hub of thought leaders who seek to not only think, but to take action, and we already have.  With over 100,000 children and families impacted by our educational approach, the Context Method®, we are now poised to expand our sphere of guidance in the world of learning, business, and entertainment. Here are some questions for you :)

I invite you to experience this 15 second video and allow yourself a moment to consider your thoughts on:
“When are you most engaged, and why?”

When are we most energized by what we are doing?

4 yr old creating a piece of Art based on quarter notes, half notes and whole notes...he was definitely inspired!  I remember because I was there! From the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.
  • When we are able to inspire ourselves, can we inspire others to inspire themselves?
  • When others inspire themselves, can a community be inspired?
  • When a community is inspired, can a nation be inspired?
  • When nations are inspired, can a civilization be inspired?

I used to wake up knowing which day of the week it was.  Today, most everyday feels like a weekend to me.  “How do you do that?” I am asked.  I have shifted from the idea of surviving to thriving… from staying grounded to flying…. from trusting only in others to trusting in myself.  It has taken some time, and what I have figured out is…

It’s not the thing, it’s how you do the thing.

A self-portrait by a 5 yr old... what is amazing is how the child when about creating the portrait, which began with a very good teacher asking some very good questions.  In other words, what this is a real self-portrait by the child. Taken from the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.
Whether it be conducting an orchestra, guiding young children in play-based learning environments or creating innovative technology to impact learning, inspiration can be found when we realize it is our intent that can leave legacy.  What is your intent with every action you take, and from how many perspectives?  Do you realize you can choose your intent, and multiple perspectives? Below you see a couple of images from the behind the scenes making of the children's album "Kaleidoscope." It was inspired because we asked so many wonderful questions of ourselves and we at all times thought about the intent of the music.

Alice Pringle on the right, Enrique and Ricardo creating inspired music for children.
Matt Mitchell on Guitar for album "Kaleidoscope"

Enjoy this 30 second video and contemplate your response to 

“When am I most connected to the inner energy of any activity?”

                                                 THE ART OF STRIVING
When do we strive?  
Why do we strive? 
When do we sense community and how does this impact our emotional bucket?

Find a child's interest and that road will lead to striving. Image taken at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

An original Clay piece of Art by a preschool child. Image taken at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

A description of the clay home and family above. Image taken at the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

Where is your energy level at today?  
What makes it so?  
Who decides?

In your life would you… 

*prefer to wake up needing that cup of coffee to energize you
*prefer to wake up already feeling energized

possible is everywhere when we are striving...
an original piece of clay Art by a preschool child. Image taken
at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

When I sense community being elevated, connected to thoughts and actions I am a part of, to strive becomes as natural as breathing.

"Creating" creates a community of those who strive. Image taken from the Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

Everyone has the capacity to strive... here is a child striving in the creating of an original doll with wire and other materials. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.
When I used to think about the word community, I would think about my city or my neighborhood.  Today I think about my own internal sense of community and the community that I build with other individual, groups, and with the natural world.  The result in my life is that I have noticed a direct correlation between my energy and how much community I choose to build.  The relationship is a very positive one and whether I am involved in the creating of Art, the creating of business ideas or the creating of entertainment ideas, the overarching concept is always related to “What kind of community will result from this idea?”   Below is a study preschool children created that was focused on creating Art from dried flowers. While the product is certainly beautiful, the process included the building of community with discussion with others and an awareness that we live in a larger community that includes nature. A huge thank you to the Sunnyside Center from Child-Parent Centers Inc. for their continued partnership... truly inspired!

Dried Flowers put into categories by preschool children. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

One category of dried flowers. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

Sunnyside Head Start preschool child begins to crush the dried flowers. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers. Inc.

Sunnyside Head Start preschool child begins to place the dried flowers onto their "canvas". Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.

Sunnyside Head Start preschool child's finished work of dried flower Art. Image taken at Sunnyside Center of Child-Parent Centers, Inc.
I encourage you to ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I create a sense of internal community with myself?  Or is there an internal struggle between my actions and thoughts?
  • Do I take advantage of the moments in my life to build community with others?
  • What does it mean to build community?
  • Are you willing to first attempt to build community and then think about your  definition of community?

Click here to see the full 3 minute video and consider your own thoughts related to how you embrace your own life…  and the fostering of community.

Creator, iBG (Intellectual Brainwave Games)
Co-Creator, The Inner Journey Theatrical Show
Producer, Kaleidoscope

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...