January 2015 SFF Newsletter


Happy new year. Thanks to all of you for being important parts of our community.

SALARIES – At School for Friends, this is the budget season. As you know salaries and benefits make up nearly 75% of our budget! Just so you’ll know what the range is, lead teacher salaries start at $42,000 and assistants start at approximately $33,000. We aim for our salaries to be in the 65% percentile of the salaries of teachers in similar schools.

Important Dates:

January 19 – School Closed, MLK Jr. Day

February 16 – School Closed, President’s Day

Coping with a Picky Eater

It can be frustrating when kids want to eat the same thing every day — but it’s not uncommon. According to nutritionists, a food has to be presented 10-15 times before children will accept it. Always encourage your child to try the new food, but never force them. If the food is rejected at first, reintroduce it in a few weeks. Try serving it a few different ways with various textures. To help encourage healthier eating habits, here are a few ways to help:

1.      Have your child prepare a grocery list by writing or drawing the list. Take your child grocery shopping and have them pick out fruits and veggies along with whole wheat crackers and other healthier eating options.

2.      Prepare meals together. Your child will able to see what goes into the meal and is able to taste their creation. They can assist by cutting the fruits and veggies, adding ingredients, stirring, measuring liquids, and helping to “read” a cookbook.

3.      Offer choices: Rather than asking, “Do you want spinach for dinner?”, ask “Would you like broccoli or spinach for dinner?”

4.      When trying to encourage healthier eating habits, reduce temptation by not keeping “junk” food in the house. Put healthy foods, such as a bowl of nuts, strawberries, cucumbers, etc, where your child can reach them so when they get hungry it is easily accessible. Use healthy dips such as yogurts, ketchup and low-fat dressings to encourage children to eat fruits, vegetables and meats/proteins.

5.      Jazz up and combine foods. Create vegetable animals, fruit kabobs or smoothies. It will catch your child’s eye and spark an interest. Combine foods that your child already loves with new foods. For example, if your child could eat peanut butter sandwiches every day try giving them celery and peanut butter.

6.      Make meal times enjoyable. Talk about fun and happy thing rather than just eating. Eat away from distractions such as the TVpets, games and toys. Distractions will make it more difficult for your child to concentrate on eating.

7.      Role model for your child! Make positive comments about the food you are eating such as, “These green beans are so yummy!” and your child may be more willing to try. Always remember to eat the same foods as your child. If you eat different foods at meal times your child will notice and wonder why.

Happy healthy eating!

The QH Teachers


Blue Room

Happy New Year! First off we would like to thank everyone who was able to attend the Blue Room Holiday Luncheon! It was a great way to end 2014 and for the families to get to know each other a little better. We hope that everyone had an enjoyable break. To kick off 2015 we will be starting our family of the week which gives us an opportunity to learn about you! We will also be learning about different parts of winter, the weather, animals, clothes etc.

Since the holidays have now passed, I, Staci, thought it would be a good idea to discuss play, every child’s right. As times are changing and technology is advancing, electronics are becoming a very prominent piece in everyone’s lives. Questions are posed like, when should children be introduced to screens? How much time should they spend in front of a screen? Is it helpful or harmful to their brain development?

In order for children to thrive they need positive interactions with people who love them, among other things. Children benefit most from being read to, talked to and played with, and they learn best through hands-on, creative play. An important aspect of all of this is also engaging outside with nature in some sort of play. All of the experiences in the early life of a child build important life skills like creativity, compassion, curiosity and constructive problem solving.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 years should avoid all screen time. They also recommend that children over the age of 2 years should be limited to 1-2 hours of screen time a day. Research shows that the more time young children spend in front of a screen, the less time they spend interacting with adults in hands-on, creative play which are proven to be very important for learning. It is also shown that too much screen time is linked to learning, attention and social problems. As well as childhood obesity and sleep disturbances. Screen time is very habit forming. When someone develops a habit with a screen, the brain has the same chemical reaction that it does when a person does drugs. That alone is something very important to think about. Is society creating addictions within young children that are comparable to someone with a drug addiction?

Think back to when you were a child and what some of your favorite activities were. Now think about whether or not your child has had any experience similar to that. Some suggestions to keep children entertained and for healthy brain development are to make sure they have a lot of time for hands-on, creative and active play. Involve your child in daily activities like baking, folding laundry or gardening. Play with dolls, stuffed animals or even cardboard boxes which will enhance imagination and logical thinking. Also keep track of your own screen time; a parent is a very powerful role model for their child.

Citations and more information are available at www.commercialfreechildhood.org/screendilemma.


Rainbow Room

In November, I [Makai] attended a workshop at the NAEYC Annual Conference titled “Eliminating the Gender Achievement Gap: Identifying and Dispelling Gender Inequities in an Early Childhood Classroom.” The presenter began with an overview of theories of gender construction and gender identity. This led to a discussion about merchandisers and their role in providing expectations children should conform to based on ideas of what boys and girls should do, have, and how to behave. The media also plays a huge role by passing along invisible stereotypes made apparent through language, displays, and interactions. In the classroom, ways we try to avoid gender stereotyping are:

-Avoid associating gender to specific occupations

-Help children cope with media messages by asking questions about what they have seen and heard.

-Avoid hidden messages such as “you’re pretty in that dress,” so that children don’t feel that their appearance is more valued than their skills.

-Using adjectives such as helpful, successful, thoughtful, and creative so that we are complimenting character traits that are in their control.

-Make sure there is an equal balance male and female characters in books

-Listen for gender stereotypes during dramatic play; instead of reacting strongly, expand the child’s thinking

Gender stereotypes are harmful to girls, boys, and those who are gender fluid. Stereotypes limit one’s capacity to develop personal abilities. Attributing characteristics and roles based on one’s membership in a group can lead to emotional harm by discouraging children to avoid certain toys, colors, and roles that society has not assigned to them. This workshop reminded me of a book I read a few years ago, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein.

Orenstein researched and discusses the influence of princesses and “girlie-girl” culture on young girls. The author also shares her experience as a mother raising a young daughter and the mindset of the companies marketing their products to girls. As an expert on girl behavior, Orenstein opens her book by describing her fears of having a daughter. From there she delves into her personal vendetta with Disney princesses, the color pink, when children begin to recognize gender differences, the life of child pageant contestants, the effects of the internet and many more topics. She branches out into the various influences girls are exposed to but the main idea of the book is that it is stressed from infancy that girls should look and act a certain way; that appearances are worth more than who you are as a person. Who better to serve as the perfect model of what a woman “should be” than a princess?

One of my biggest pet peeves (and normal part of child development) is exclusion. In every Disney princess film, there is only one princess. When I see girls engaging in dramatic princess play, the biggest argument that arises between friends is who can be the princess and why. It seems hard for them to consider the possibility of more than one but what bothers me most is their defense as to why one should be over the other. The reasons tend to be related to appearance such as clothing, hair, and even skin color. Also, the play is scripted; “rather than engaging in creative play, children begin imitating what they saw onscreen” or in a book. The main storylines fall along the lines of being “saved by a prince, get married, and be taken care of the rest of their lives.” Telling others what to do just because you’re the princess is another common play theme I’ve witnessed.   Overall, the movies, books, dolls, and other material displaying princesses (which rake in about $4 billion a year) have an impact on children. It may affect some more than others, but based on market research, companies hone in on the idea that “how you look is how you feel, as well as who you are.”

The moral of the story is that building positive self-image needs to start now. Role models, whether fictional characters, family members, or public figures, have an impact. They may not shape your child as a whole, but bits and pieces of their influence may linger throughout their development. The author’s advice is “stress what your daughter’s body can do over how it is decorated” and to “praise her accomplishments over her looks.” Also, it’s important to address boys’ perceptions of girls by asking questions. I strongly recommend “Cinderella Ate my Daughter.” Orenstein’s blunt commentary makes it an easy read and is helpful whether you are a parent of a son or daughter.


Green Room

Art in Early Childhood: Curriculum Connections
By Jill Englebright Fox, Ph.D., and Stacey Berry, M.Ed.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the importance of art in young children’s learning and development and to describe elements of an art program within a developmentally appropriate early childhood curriculum. In the Green Room before the holiday we introduced the topic Exploring Art Materials. The children are having fun gluing, finger painting, making collages, and more.

Art and Socio-Emotional Development
Young children feel a sense of emotional satisfaction when they are involved in making art, whether they are modeling with clay, drawing with crayons, or making a collage from recycled scraps. This satisfaction comes from the control children have over the materials they use and the autonomy they have in the decisions they make (Schirrmacher, 1998; Seefeldt, 1993). Deciding what they will make and what materials they will use may be the first opportunity children have to make independent choices and decisions.

Making art also builds children’s self-esteem by giving them the opportunities to express what they are thinking and feeling (Klein, 1991; Sautter, 1994). Sautter (1994) stated that when children participate in art activities with classmates, the feedback they give to each other builds self-esteem by helping them learn to accept criticism and praise from others. Small group art activities also help children practice important social skills like taking turns, sharing, and negotiating for materials.

Art and Cognitive Development
For very young children, making art is a sensory exploration activity. They enjoy the feeling of a crayon moving across paper and seeing a blob of colored paint grow larger. Kamii and DeVries (1993) suggested that exploring materials is very important because it is through exploration that children build knowledge of the objects in the world around them.

As children grow and develop, their art-making activities move beyond exploring with their senses and begin to involve the use of symbols. Children begin to represent real objects, events, and feelings in their artwork. Drawing, in particular, becomes an activity that allows them to symbolize what they know and feel. It is a needed outlet for children whose vocabulary, written or verbal, may be limited (de la Roche, 1996). This early use of symbols in artwork is very important because it provides a foundation for children’s later use of words to symbolize objects and actions in formal writing.

Art and Motor Development
While making art, young children develop control of large and small muscle groups (Koster, 1997). The large arm movements required for painting or drawing at an easel or on large paper on the floor build coordination and strength. The smaller movements of fingers, hands, and wrists required to cut with scissors, model clay, or draw or paint on smaller surfaces develop fine motor dexterity and control. With repeated opportunities for practice, young children gain confidence in their use of tools for making art and later for writing.

Making art also helps children develop eye-hand coordination (Koster, 1997). As children decide how to make parts fit together into a whole, where to place objects, and what details to include, they learn to coordinate what they see with the movements of their hands and fingers. This eye-hand coordination is essential for many activities, including forming letters and spacing words in formal writing.

Art Experiences in Classrooms for Young Children
Although art activities help children develop in many areas, teachers must recognize that art also has value in and of itself. Fostering the development of children’s aesthetic sense and engaging children in creative experiences should be the objectives of an early childhood art program.

Activities that involve children in both making and enjoying art are essential if programs are to meet the needs of the whole child. The challenge for early childhood teachers is to provide these activities in an art program that is developmentally appropriate and that can be integrated throughout the curriculum. Such a program should include:

  • providing access to a classroom art center in which children choose their own topics and media
  • displaying children’s artwork in a classroom

Through the art activities described in this article, young children will develop abilities and skills that have application in many other areas of the curriculum. Most importantly, however, children will also develop an appreciation for the art of other people and cultures, and the confidence to express their own thoughts and feelings through art. Far from creating individual prodigies, this integration of making and enjoying art in the early childhood classroom will result in the “all-sided development” of the children participating.

Jill Englebright Fox, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of early childhood education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Stacey Berry, M.Ed., is a kindergarten teacher at Mary Munford Model School in Richmond, Virginia.