Vibrant and Sweet: Celebrating Diwali

by Teresa Narey

Introduction and Background

A quick Internet search for Diwali (pronounced dee-VAH-lee) yields many results that compare this Indian holiday to Christmas. While the bright colors and flowers associated with India’s most cherished festival may not immediately draw up images of a snowy Christmas, its emphasis on sweets, gift-giving, and spirituality will certainly resonate with you.

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Not Halloween: An Introduction to Dia de los Muertos

by Teresa Narey

Introduction and Background:

In the U.S., the end of October is traditionally marked by the celebration of Halloween. In greater America, however, another holiday emphasizing fun, food, and costumes calls attention to the passing of time. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico and throughout Latin America on November 1 and 2, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, respectively (click here for help pronouncing Spanish words). On the surface, Dia de los Muertos and Halloween appear to have much in common, but a closer look at customs tells us otherwise.

The purpose of Dia de los Muertos is to honor the memories of deceased loved ones by having parties, displaying their favorite items in ofrendas (altars), and participating in activities they once enjoyed. Celebrations highlight the idea that our ancestors are still with us in spirit. Acknowledging Dia de los Muertos in your setting provides children with a multicultural experience that extends autumn’s greatest lesson—the circle of life.

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Promoting Play Through Independent Activity Centers

by Katie Brazerol

Children benefit from choosing and freely exploring materials in interactive learning centers throughout your setting. Providing a space that encourages children to explore, interact with others, and use critical thinking skills without constant adult direction allows them to gain independence. Children can use independent activity centers during free play or as transition activities while waiting for others to finish a task.

Set Up the Centers

  • Include materials to support current concepts and topics of interest to the children.
  • Offer age-appropriate materials that can be used with minimal adult supervision.
  • Promote multiple learning domains. Rotate activities that focus on language/literacy, math, science, social studies, social/emotional well-being, physical development, and creative arts (music, art, and dramatic play).

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Shana Tova: Bringing Rosh Hashanah into the Early Childhood Classroom

by Teresa Narey

The beginning of the school year signals the beginning of many things: meeting new children and families, observing children becoming friends, setting rules and expectations, implementing new ideas and activities—the list goes on. It’s fitting, then, that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs during September. Rosh Hashanah literally translates to “Head of the Year.” (For help pronouncing Jewish holidays and Hebrew words, search here.) In addition to praying and attending services, Rosh Hashanah is a time when Jewish people reflect on their feelings and actions and consider how they may enter the new year with the best of intentions.

Like most holidays, Rosh Hashanah is associated with certain symbols, all of which can be used to inspire extended activities. Symbols of Rosh Hashanah include apples, honey, challah, pomegranates, and the shofar, a horn that is sounded following the reading of the Torah and services. Continue reading

Meeting Standards Using Themes

by Judy Mullican

More and more states are now publishing standards for early childhood programs. These lists are often long and may look intimidating! But when you dig deeper, most often you will find that the standards just put into words the good practices that you have been using for years.

Depending on where you live, your state standards may cover a few basic learning domains or a long list of domains, subdomains, goals, and indicators. Using themes can make it easier for you to plan activities that will address all areas of learning. Themes also help you build connections from one learning domain to another. High-interest themes can also promote excitement about learning and inspire both care givers and children to express creativity and joy!

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The Importance of a Preschool Curriculum

by Katie Brazerol

Preschool education requirements are not the same for every state. While some states have specific guidelines, many states do not set mandatory guidelines for preschool education. A frequent question asked among child care providers and stay-at-home parents is: “Should I use a preschool curriculum?”

When I first opened my child care, I had only three children and they were all under the age of 2. (At this time the early learning guidelines in North Dakota are voluntary for child care providers.) As the children became more comfortable in my setting, I noticed frequent boredom and tension among them. After several months, it became apparent that we all needed some structure in our day. I ordered a kit from FunShine Express® to see if the activities would help break up our day. What a dramatic difference! Within a week, I noticed that the children stayed engaged, I felt like we were all enjoying new topics, and as a perk for me—time seemed to go by much more quickly!

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