Dads & Babies in Babies to Three!

**This post was written by Cole, a regular attender in our Babies to Three program**

I suppose I’m partially responsible for the change of name from ‘Mommy and Me’ to Babies to Three; otherwise it simply would have been inaccurate, as daddy and baby became a fixture of the program as much as any mommy. But really that’s besides the point.

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The Babies to Three program at A House on Beekman has really been an unexpected blessing to my family. It’s provided a place for us to learn, grow,  and share with other parents within our community – so for that I’m grateful.

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I discovered the program this past fall when my wife was student teaching in Manhattan, and so for the first time it was just me and baby all day, everyday. I was very intimidated at first by this new situation I found myself in, wondering how I was going to do it. Fortunately I was walking past the storefront like facade of A House on Beekman one early fall morning when a woman whose son is in the the pre-kindergarten program there managed to convince me to come inside and meet the Directors of  Babies to Three. Right away I connected with them and right away I felt comfortable there. I began to attend frequently and consistently after that, and it really helped me in that season just to know that there was a place where I could go where there was community, support, and acceptance.

Make A Joyful Noise!

Music is an extremely important part of a preschooler’s day-singing, chanting, moving to music and learning finger plays are all fun ways to learn and reinforce concepts of all kinds. Our kids love music!

Many of our preschoolers have never had the opportunity to be exposed to instruments outside of the drum or guitar. Imagine their delight when our own Ms. Lauren and Ms. Sarah brought real instruments to demonstrate!

We learned that string instruments make sounds when a bow is pulled across the strings, causing them to vibrate. The children were astounded to hear the beautiful sound Ms. Lauren made as she began playing! After performing a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” Lauren gave each child a turn to play themselves. They felt like true musicians as they used the bow to play fast, slow, smooth and choppy!

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The next family of instruments we talked about was the wind family. The students loved demonstrating how blowing air into these instruments creates sound! Our own Ms. Sarah plays the clarinet, and she beautifully demonstrated its rich sound through scales and short songs. The children loved having an opportunity to experiment with button-pushing as Sarah blew air into the instrument. “It goes up!” “It goes down!” “It’s really fast!”

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With their confidence soaring, we decided to let the students themselves demonstrate the last family of instruments. They learned that percussion instruments are those you strike or shake to create sound. We had our own little band of percussion players as they experimented with cowbells, egg shakers, tambourines, jingle bells, and more!

 

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God knew what He was doing when He commanded us to “make joyful noises” unto Him! The gift of music enlarges our hearts and souls. Thank you, Lord, for music!


A Morning at the Museum

Over the past few weeks at Babies to Three, we have been talking about the importance of healthy eating and exercise for optimum development in early childhood.

Although, we, as parents are aware of this, the easy access to fast, cheap food that is poor in nutrients and the temptation for children to become preoccupied with game apps on phones and tablets means that ensuring a healthy lifestyle becomes a huge challenge in the parenting of even very young children.

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is helping families to address this issue through its collaboration in the national health initiative EatSleepPlay. This initiative uses creative and fun ways to engage children and support parents in making simple changes in the areas of nutrition, sleep and active play to build a healthy mindset and positive, lifelong habits.

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So, at the end of April, after a long and bitter winter, it was great to venture out from our space on Jackson Avenue and catch the train to the Museum in Manhattan where we spent a morning exploring the interactive exhibits that they had on show.

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Some of the things we learnt were: how different food groups influence growth and development in various parts of the body, how and why our bodies regenerate during sleep and how that impacts on learning, and how regular exercise strengthens our bodies and prevents chronic long term illness.

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Before we left the museum we spent some time on the ever popular ‘Dora the Explorer’ floor and then finished up with some water and sand play and a very entertaining story and song time delivered by two wonderful and long-suffering young ladies on the staff of CMOM!

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We at Babies to Three are fortunate to have such resources in the city and while navigating several subway stations with strollers and babies is never straightforward (!), this was another valuable trip in the journey that our children and parents are taking.

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Discovering a Passion for Sports!

Since September, we have urged the after-school kids to value their passions.  In the fall, we gave them a new menu of activity options every Friday—all kinds of arts, crafts, performance, sports and other activities.  Then in January they each chose one of four projects offered by their leaders—performing a dance or play, writing a cookbook and designing original board games.  Each child worked on his or her project for the next two months of Fridays.  We wanted them to see what was possible when you pursue something with commitment.  After much practice, the kids presented to their families.  They proudly showed the way they had stewarded their passions to create vibrant and joyful projects.

In late March, the kids were invited to do the decision-making for themselves.  Their leaders asked them, “What passions do you want to explore in this final month?”  They shared their ideas, debated the options, voted to narrow them down and eventually landed on three projects.

One of these projects is a sports group.  As much as possible, the leaders have tried to place the planning and execution in the kids’ hands.  The athletes spent time brainstorming about what exactly they wanted to achieve in their time.  They considered the pros and cons of committing to one sport versus dabbling in many.  They discussed how to divide leadership and how to gather the needed materials.  They planned what to present to their families at the final Passion Project Party.  Throughout this process, they were learning to express themselves and listen to each other, make compromises, set priorities and plan ahead—all incredibly important life skills.

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Ultimately, they decided to use each Friday’s 90 minutes to explore two sports per week.  They made a schedule and divvied up leadership, each getting a sport for which they would be “captain.”

They have been out on the field for the past month.  So far they have tried out kickball, hiking, four-corners, football, soccer and basketball.  Next up is baseball and handball!  Their group kids from 1st to 4th grade.  They are mostly boys, but 1st-grader Kailynn is representing the girl power well, along with Tanya, the after-school leader that is supporting them.

On the surface, their time together on Fridays can look like simple free play—but so much growth is happening.  Several times 2nd-grader Alex has become frustrated, feeling like he can’t keep up with the older boys.  Elijah, one of our 4th-graders has encouraged him, drawing him in to include him in huddles, encouraging the others to pass Alex the ball.  Kailynn started to melt down about not scoring any goals in our soccer scrimmage, but her team urged her to keep trying, and helped her discover and appreciate what an incredible defender she was, blocking and stealing the ball from boys twice her size.

Elijah brings his team in for a huddle

Elijah brings his team in for a huddle!

Kailynn's fierce game face!

Kailynn’s fierce game face!

We look forward to the games to come and to the big photo slideshow that the kids plan to present to their families in a few weeks (wearing hand-decorated jerseys, of course!).  We’re grateful for all they are learning. They are discovering what they are capable of when given the opportunity and means to put their passions into action.

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Math Can Be Fun?!?!

Ask any group of people what their least favorite subject in school was, and chances are the majority of them will say “math.” For many people, math conjures up images of complicated equations, hard-to-remember formulas, speed drills and anxiety-ridden tests.

 But here at A House on Beekman Preschool, we think math is fun! Colors, shapes, patterns and objects of all sizes can be found around our classroom. When children are allowed to create, experiment and freely explore, they discover amazing math concepts that become the foundation of lifelong learning.

Skyla, Ashanti and Harmony work together to make a human triangle.

Skyla, Ashanti and Harmony work together to make a human triangle.

Researchers have found that young children are, by nature, curious about math. They have good evidence that math becomes real to young children as they use it by talking, reasoning, playing, and doing. They also have a better understanding of how preschoolers’ early exploration of math helps them make sense of their world and what kinds of instruction and practice are needed to help them build new skills and deepen their knowledge.

Mistah chooses different sizes of magnet blocks to create a giraffe

Mistah chooses different sizes of magnet blocks to create a giraffe

One somewhat surprising research finding is that preschoolers appear to learn math concepts and operations in a much less predictable sequence than they do when learning to read. Most young children acquire reading awareness and skills in an orderly fashion, building upon a foundation of print awareness with higher level skills such as letter and sound recognition. Early math learning, on the other hand, is more like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, with children mastering math concepts in no set sequence but still managing to assemble the complete picture over time.

Harmony discovers that a “Slow” Sign is the shape of a diamond

Harmony discovers that a “Slow” Sign is the shape of a diamond

We believe that making math real by discovering its importance in everyday life is a great way to help kids develop their skills in a fun, engaging way. Finding shapes of signs as we walk to the playground, using blocks to measure items, predicting how many steps it will take to reach the lunch table, and counting the number of cups of water it takes to fill a pitcher are all ways to explore everyday math!

Tija, Le’Lani, Reannah and Mahogany discover it takes 4 people to make a bridge on the bars!

Tija, Le’Lani, Reannah and Mahogany discover it takes 4 people to make a bridge on the bars!

We want our kids to love learning…and who knows? Maybe one day when asked, they will respond with, “Math was one of my favorite subjects!”