Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Beginning of Winter

As the days have become colder, our time outside has gotten shorter. About a month ago we started noticing the early morning frost all around the yard. What started as toys stuck to a bucket or frosted leaves/ blades of grass has progressed to frozen puddles and snow fall.

Cohort 10 has always loved water, so it only makes sense that they would have an interest in ice! This past month we have done a lot of exploration of ice; looking closely, touching it, and using words to describe what they notice.
LC: “Brr! Cold!”
SWS: “It’s heavy!” as she throws a chunk of ice onto the black top.

As they move to different parts of the yard, on different days new things are discovered.
As the cold started the frost appeared, and LC realized that the boats she wanted to pick up were, “Stuck.” She tried for a while to pick them up and push them, but they wouldn’t budge, so she asked, “Help?” Initially, when I tried to pick one up, the bucket lifted off the ground slightly before it detached.

Our favorite mixing bucket that was filled with sand and water could no longer be mixed as it had a layer of ice on top. After I removed a piece of wood from it, SWS worked to break off pieces of ice, exclaiming, “Ice!” every time a piece came free.

Colder days came and with them more ice. We found a coating of ice on the bricks along the side of our patch of grass in the back, and JS and LC took note of how slippery it was. An experiment also took place, one in which we filled various bowls with water and left them over night. This made for lots of ice available to be explored the next day. Once the pieces were removed, it was easy to throw or drop them and pick up and collect all of the pieces.

Some of the ice remained in the bowls, while other chunks got carried around and thrown… During this time, they were watching as these chunks were breaking into smaller and smaller pieces.

With all of this ice handling it left their hands cold and bright red. We talked a lot about putting their hands in pockets and I offered hand holding and hot breaths, but once they got to that point it was time to move inside. They were ready to warm up.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Supporting Toddlers in Independence

Cohort 10 is approaching toddlerhood. That magical time when children begin to become aware of their ability and prefer to act independently, regardless of ability. During this time there is also a language explosion, it’s a time where they are mimicking noises we make and words we say but not knowing when to use what words and how to use the words they do know to express any big feelings they are having. This can also be a time of great frustration. We observe behaviors such as hitting and pushing as a way for the children to communicate their needs. It is important at this time to pause, evaluate, and give options.

The power of the pause. Children need time to process things; by offering a pause in between words and action it gives them that time. You narrate what you see or stop an action (such as hitting or pushing) then pause; allow them time to process what just happened or what was said before trying to correct or give solutions. Children can often resolve conflict between peers, when given time.

When we notice strong feelings arise we turn to our observational skills in deducing what is true for each child. Are they tired? Hungry? Do they need space of their own right now? Do they want to see why everyone is standing up on the steps? Is there a favorite toy that another child is playing with? Maybe they don’t need anything at all right now, and are exploring the limits.  For example, they might be thinking: “If I pull the back of your shirt, you fall down and cry; and my person (adult) comes closer.”  Or maybe “If I hit your face you cry and my person comes closer to check out what I did.” It’s a pretty powerful thing to be able to take an action and cause this big scene to play out. When you know the child, as we get to know them at Tumbleweed, it makes it easier to evaluate the situation and determine what they need from us.

We can best support this behavior of exploring limits by giving choices that always work.  Here are a few ideas:
* Avoid labeling children as a victim or aggressor, as these can only cause the children to seek more attention through fulfilling these roles.
*Simple language that creates a limit: “It doesn’t work for you to hit."  Then offers choices: "You can ask for space or stomp the ground if you feel frustrated.” 
*Narrating conflict encourages communication, “You were playing with that train. Then they took it out of your hand!  That feels frustrating.  I won’t let you hit. You can say….” 

Cohort 8 and 10 is a group of confident kids and they are exploring the limits and boundaries of their power  We know that when we give them the tools to negotiate their power in positive ways. As carers and parents we wear many different hats, and have multiple roles in the children’s lives. Sometimes that means bring a presences, narrating what we see then pausing to see what the children do. Other times observation is key to better understand and evaluate a situation before taking action. Mostly though we are support for their development, because they are capable and still learning.

Workshop Reflections: Limits, Choice, and Authenticity

"I'm in it with you,
I’m not here to fix you,
I’m not here to feel it for you,
I’m here to feel with you and let you know you’re not alone.”
-Brene Brown

When we set limits with children, there are many things we must take into consideration: location, time, energy level, safety, etc. Each of these considerations becomes simpler when we take the time to connect and become attuned to our child's needs and emotions. When the goal is to create a loving relationship built on trust while avoiding power struggles, limits become a comfort for both child and adult.

Types of Limits

Always Limits – These are always true, regardless of outside factors; they are often safety based.

Sometimes Limits – These are situational, time based, and more flexible.

Rare Limits – These are set on special occasions, for things that seldom happen, and may be based on our own energy level.

What is a true Choice?

Choices are REAL, concrete, and finite (not open ended)
It often works well to give children two things to choose between. Giving too many choices can be overwhelming, or lead to your child making choices that don’t work for you.

Examples of concrete choices:
“You can climb into your car seat or I can help you.”
“Which hat would you like to wear, the red one or the yellow one?”
“Would you like to pick out your cup for dinner, or would you like me to?

You can add in lightness, humor and something that is interesting to your child.

"Would you like to walk or gallop like a horse to the bathroom?"

Phrases we Use at Tumbleweed:

It works when ___.
That works for me!
Let’s make a plan.
These are your options... You can choose when you’re ready
I won’t let you do ___. You can do ___.
It’s up to you!
It doesn’t work when you ___. You can ____ or ____ instead.

In emergency situations we use:
These are rare, and are only used when there is danger for your child. When we reserve these to be clear markers of emergency, the child knows they are important.

Tools for Gentle Leadership:

Empathy - offering nonjudgemental understanding.
Attunement - stepping back and building awareness of and with your child, while remaining aware of your own emotional state. "Tuning in" to their station.
Slowing Down and Staying Present - This is where we set our intention and create a sense of confidence for our children, using language to scaffold and narrate, offering verbal support.


Every family culture is different, and being in a home is different from being at school. What works for us at Tumbleweed may not work for you at home, and vice versa. The unique circumstances and personalities in your family will inform the way you set and maintain limits.

While we strive to be steady, zen, gentle leaders for our children, no one is steady all the time! It is also our job to model authenticity. When adults feel strong emotions such as frustration or anger in front of or with children, we can show children that all emotions are accepted, and that there are safe ways to process big feelings. This also gives us the opportunity to practice repairing our relationship with children, and model that hurt can be acknowledged and assuaged through connection.


It can feel important to verbally set a limit, or enforce the importance of that limit, in the heat of the moment after a limit has been breached. Often, however, this is not the most useful time for a child to hear the reasons why a limit is important. Children are more receptive to language and to logic when they are calm. This is why we want to initially set and discuss limits in placid moments together. If a child is upset after not following a limit, it can be beneficial to offer connection and wait until calm returns before discussing what happened. This will allow the child to be receptive and truly hear what you have to say, and why the limit is important.

“When a [child] feels understood, she senses the empathy behind our limits and corrections.  She still resists, cries, and complains, but at the end of the day, she knows we are with her, always in her corner."
-Janet Lansbury

Friday, January 13, 2017

Independence and Supported Choice: Care Activities With One-Year-Olds

Following the threads of a child's development from infancy to toddlerhood is one of the thrilling parts of teaching a Tumbleweed Cohort.  We teachers get to see interest in shapes, contrast, and colors become interest in books, language, and sounds, become interest in letters, story, and characters, become early literacy.  We get to see object permanence play meld with one-to-one correspondence, counting, and interest in numbers to become early numeracy.  And, just as importantly, we get to see growing independence, body awareness, coordination, and many other skills become competence in care activities such as dressing and undressing, toilet use, and hand-washing.

Cohort 12 has been showing me their desire to take on parts of our diapering routine since we started together.  Since they began to crawl, they all wanted to get to the bathroom on their own.  Early on, they each learned how to climb up the stool to the sink, turn on the water to wash hands, and get a towel to dry.  Recently, the children have been taking on more of their hand-washing routine - getting soap, rinsing their hands, and putting their towel in the used-towel basket when they are done.

Once the children were confidently standing, by holding onto a stool or independently, I began having them stand up for diaper changes.  This allows them to see more of what is going on, and to have hands free to help with pulling pants up and down, picking out wipes, and more.

A big part of wobblers exerting their independence in the bathroom is the opportunity to make choices about their bodies.  Would you like to wear a green diaper or a blue diaper?  Do you want to wipe yourself or shall I wipe you?  Do you want to sit on the toilet?

While these choices may seem small, they are true choices I am offering to the children - what they decide is what we will do - and this is part of giving them power in and ownership of their activities.  The important thing for me is that each child is given the ability to make choices about their own body.  The act of sitting on the toilet is less important than the act of making a decision of whether or not to sit on the toilet - this autonomy of choice will carry over into every phase of toilet readiness.  After all, no adult can choose for a child when to eliminate, and therefore offering children as much choice and power in their care activities as possible now sets them up to be confident in their decision making as they begin to use the toilet.

As with every area of learning, one of my roles as a teacher is to offer scaffolding to support and extend the children's growth and development.  The curious and eager-to-learn one-year-olds of Cohort 12 are in such an exciting time of growing awareness, language development, and increasing independence, and I am fascinated to see how each child continues to take over their care activities!