November-Giving Thanks and Community Resources


Somehow, it’s November!  With Thankgiving at the end of the month, November is a wonderful time to reflect on what we have in our lives to be grateful for.

Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lead to many benefits, such as feeling more positive, improving health and interpersonal relationships.  In the hustle and bustle of daily life (especially around the holidays), it can be easy to forget to take a moment to slow down, be in the moment and express gratitude.

Making mindful gratitude a part of every day life can be simple.  Pick a time each day (at dinner or as part of bedtime?) to talk with your child about what they are grateful for, or what happened that day that made them feel good.   Ask them questions about it to encourage them to really think about the things they are grateful for and hopefully share more with you.

Children learn by watching the other people in their lives, especially their parents and caregivers.  Modeling an attitude of gratitude is a good way to get your children on board.  Be mindful about saying “thank you” and talk about things that you’re grateful for.  “I’m so grateful that woman helped us pick up our groceries when we dropped them!  That was so kind!”

For grown ups, keeping a gratitude journal where you jot down a few things you are grateful for every day can be a great way to get in the habit of thinking about things you are thankful for and encourage you to seek out positives in every day life.


Volunteering can be a wonderful way to connect and give to your community, as well as encouraging compassion in children and teaching them to think of others.  Volunteering is wonderful year-round, but the holidays are a great time to jump in.  Here are some organizations in the Twin Cities to get you started.

Community Resources for the Holidays

If you or anyone you know is looking for some assistance this Thanksgiving, here are some resources in the community.

The Union Gospel Mission is offering Thanksgiving groceries for families in the community.

The Cherokee Tavern offers West St. Paul residents a free meal Thanksgiving day

The Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf has Christmas food and toy distribution.

The Marie Sandvik Center offers a free sit-down dinner for Thanksgiving, as well as gifts and food bags on Christmas Eve.

Toys for Tots will open toy registration on November 22nd.

Neighbors, Inc. has holiday assistance for providing toys and clothing for children and seniors.

Meals on Wheels provides a variety of programs for the metro area that includes free food on Christmas and Thanksgiving. 

We hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!







Happy Ocharlie-bit-my-finger-imagectober!

This month, we’re going to talk about that bane of the toddler years: Biting.

Whether your child is being bitten or the one doing the biting, this behavior is incredibly stressful for parents and caregivers alike.  Seeing bite marks on your child can be very upsetting, just as it is upsetting to know that your child is leaving bite marks on others.

First and foremost, according to the American Psychological Association, biting is a normal developmental behavior.  Toddlers that bite do not have some kind of problem, nor are they being parented incorrectly.  They are modeling completely normal (albeit upsetting) behavior.  It is a frustrating stage, but children do outgrow it.

Why do toddlers bite?

Usually because they lack the ability to express themselves with words.  They could be teething or stressed.  They might be frustrated or scared or because they want something that another child has.  Biting is pretty effective in getting your friend to stop pushing you or to get then to give you the block that you want.  Biting is also a sure-fire way to attract some adult attention, even if that attention is negative.  They might also do it simply to see what happens.  They are still learning about the world and how it works!

If your child is being bitten at school or another organized setting:

No one wants their child to be hurt and it is understandable to be upset if your child has been bitten.  Try to keep in mind that this is normal toddler behavior.  The biting child is not “mean” or “bad” with inept parents; the biting child is just a toddler.

Talk to your child’s teacher to learn about how biting is handled in the classroom.  If your child is being bitten repeatedly by the same child, teachers can often work to keep the children separated.

While it is never the fault of the child being bitten, you can help your kiddo by giving them the tools to avoid situations where they might be bitten.  Encourage them to use their words or to go find a teacher instead of fighting with another child over something.   Teaching them to ask before giving hugs and to keep their hands to themselves can also help them stay out of other children’s personal space, which may help prevent biting.

While it is natural to be upset or even angry if your child has been bitten, try to be understanding.  The parents of the biting child are likely very upset and embarrassed and doing everything they can to stop the behavior.  It can take some time for children to move out of this stage.    And remember, biting is developmentally normal.

If your child is the one doing the biting. . .

  • Try to pay attention to the circumstances around biting.  Do they do it when there is a lot of commotion?  When they want something someone else has?  During play time?  If you can get an idea of what triggers biting in your child, you are better able to prevent biting before it happens.
  • Help your child handle their emotions by encouraging them to use their words to express themselves.  Sometimes young children don’t have the words they need, but you can help by supplying the words:  “I can see that you’re really feeling angry.  It made you angry when Emily tried to take your toy.”
  • Always reiterate that biting is never okay: “Biting hurts!  You do not get to bite, not even when you are angry.”
  • Work on developing empathy by pointing out the pain that has been caused to help develop empathy.  “Look, Emily is crying.  She is crying because when you bit her and it hurt her body.”
  • Focus you attention on the child who has been bitten first to defuse any attention seeking-behavior on the part of the biting child.  Provide comfort and care to them before dealing with the other child.
  • Encourage other courses of action your child can take instead of biting.   Teach them to go to a teacher
  • If your child is teething, provide a teething toy or a cold washrag for them to sink their teeth into
  • Try reading some books about biting with your child.  Reading books can help reinforce an idea you are trying to teach to children.  (Here are a few to get you started)
  • Sing about it! Yo Gabba Gabba has a catchy song and video about biting with a simple message: Don’t bite friends, do munch food!  Check it out here!


If you child bites you. . .

Even if it is a playful bite, be firm and consistent in your message of “No biting!”.   If you are holding them, immediately put them down.  If you are playing, stop.  Tell them, “Ouch!  That hurts me when you bite.  You do not get to hurt me.”

Do not bite your child back.  It sends mixed messages to your child and does not necessarily teach them anything, except that adults can bite and hurt them.


We hope these tips help you get through a frustrating reality of toddlerhood!



September-New Faces, New Places


Summer has absolutely flown by as it always does and here we are in September!

We have many new faces here at the Midway YMCA ECLC!   We are excited to have our new Site Director, Jerelyn, here from the former Birch site.  Jerelyn has brought with her five amazing new staff members that we are to have here with us.  We also have other new staff members joing the team in the coming weeks!  If you see an unfamiliar face in a classroom, feel free to introduce yourself!

As we get back into the swing of things and leave the lazy days of summer behind, here are a few tips to getting off on the right foot!

Set Yourself Up for Success

Prepare for the morning the night before by packing bags and setting out clothes for the next day.   Get a good night’s sleep so that everyone is rested and ready to rock!   Try make-ahead breakfasts to get you out the door with less stress.  Some ideas can be found here.

Give Yourself Enough Time in the Morning

Especially if there are changes from your summer routine.  Having plenty of time in the morning will give everyone a chance to handle any last minute emergencies that may pop up and help get everyone out the door on time with less stress.

Establish a Routine

Everyone, including children, tend to function better when they know what to expect.    Having a morning routine in place will make mornings go more smoothly with less hassle.

Have a Place for Things You Need

This is handy for kids and adults!  Backpacks always hang on the hooks by the door.   Mittens are in the basket by the bench.   It doesn’t matter where things go, so long as it consistent, makes sense for your family and your space.  If you always known that your keys will be in the little bowl on the shelf, you will never waste time in the morning looking for them!  Naturally, there are tons of ideas to help you get organized on Pinterest.  Check out some ideas here.

Give children age-appropriate responsibilities

Mornings can be a busy, hectic time, but they are also a great opportunity for your children to learn some practical life skills which will in turn build their self-esteem and take some of the pressure off of parents in the morning!   The younger the child, the more help they will need, but preschoolers can often dress themselves, get their backpack, make sure they have their show-and-tell.  Some children may even be able to help with breakfast.

An important part of helping children learn responsibilities is allowing them to experience consequences.  For instance, if your child has a water bottle they like to have at school, let it be there responsibility to pack it in their bag.  Let them know that you will not do it for them and then (here’s the important part) do not nag them about it.  Give one reminder, then do not mention it again.  If your child forgets and is upset at school when they realize they do not have their waterbottle, do not run home to get it!  Instead, tell them that you understand they are upset, but they will be okay with out the water bottle and it is okay they forgot because tomorrow is another chance to remember!  It is okay for children to be upset or inconvienced occasionally. It helps them learn to deal with disappointment and learn to take responsibility.   Of course, a parent should intervene if it is a matter of children’s safety.

We hope everyone is off to a great start!  Have a wonderful school year!


August-Terrific Transitions

The Drop-off Blues


For some children, getting dropped off somewhere and seeing their parent or caretaker leave is very difficult.  Even children who have previously been happy to run off and play can sometimes start having hard drop-offs out of (seemingly) nowhere.    It can be heart wrenching to leave when your child is crying for you.  Here are some suggestions to make drop off easier.

-Talk about their feelings (and yours, too!)

If your child is old enough, during a calm time (so not during the actual drop-off), talk to your child about what is making them upset about drop off.  Let them know that it makes you sad to have to leave them, too.   Let them know that the way they are feeling is okay.  Don’t just tell them to stop crying (they would if they could!), or tell them that they are too big to be crying, or that they are making you sad or angry.

-Explain why you have to leave them

It does not have to be a complicated explanation, but you can tell them that you have a job you have to do,  (“Daddy’s job is to go to school and learn, just like you!”  “Mommy’s job is to help people feel better.”) and that they also have  a “job”, to learn and have fun with their friends

-Be Confident for the both of you

Let your child know that you know they can do this!  Make it about being part of a team.   You could try something like, “I know you’re sad when I have to go.  I am sad to leave you, but we both can do this!  I know it!  I’m going to have a good day at work and you’re going to have a good day at school!”

-Start the day off right

Getting a good night’s sleep and starting the day as calmly as possible sets both children and their caregivers up for an easier day

-Develop a routine for starting the day

Routines will ensure that your child knows what to expect, which can help reduce anxiety.    It doesn’t have to be long (as a matter of fact, it SHOULDN’T be long!), but it should be consistent.  Maybe you and your child can come up with a secret handshake to do before you leave.   You might sit down and read one book with them before you go.  Maybe you give each other silly kisses.   It can be anything that you can commit to regularly that your child enjoys.

If your child is old enough, they should help come up with the routine.

-Talk about the routine beforehand.

On the morning drive, remind your child of the routine.  “When we get to school, Daddy will sign you in, we will hang up your bag, then I will give you two kisses and two high-fives, then Daddy has to go and you’re going to have a great day with your friends!”

-Once your routine is done, leavestock-vector-goodbye-at-school-76794325

Depending on how your child reacts, this might be easier said than done, but it is essential that you do not continue to stay, even if your child is upset.  Hanging around only prolongs things and teaches your child that they can get you to stay longer if they put up a fight.   Tell your child that you love them and will be back to see them later, then go.  Your child’s teacher will take over from there.

-Try a transition object

Sometimes bringing a toy or stuffed animal might help your child feel better about drop-off.  They might also have a special toy at school that can be part of your child’s drop-off routine.   They might be happier about you leaving if they know they can play with the Thomas train in the classroom.  They might also enjoy an activity, like looking at a book or drawing a picture.  If you are bringing a toy from home, talk with your child’s teacher to make sure it is appropriate (toy weapons, for instance, are not allowed) and to make sure you are on the same page.  Some classrooms have special days to bring toys from home, but if teachers know this will help your child transition, they can give your child a set amount of time to play with the toy before having them put in in their cubbie.  Pictures of family members can be helpful, too.

-Brainstorm with your child’s teacher

Your child’s teacher can help by being part of the routine.  They might make sure that special Thomas train is set aside in the morning, for instance, or they might read a book with your child after you leave.  Additionally, if there is something going on at home that might be contributing to a difficult drop-off (if one parent is out of town, or if your child got to bed very late the night before, for instance), it is helpful to let the teacher know.

Try to trust that they are okay!

Most kids calm down within a few minutes of their parents leaving and are happy as clams for the rest of the day. Feel free to ask your child’s teacher about it at pick-up, or even call (or ask the teacher to call you) later in the day if that helps ease your concern.

-Read books about characters who are going through the same thing

Here are a few suggestions:kissinghand

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing

I Love You All Day Long By Francesca Rusackas

Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by James Dean


-Be patient! 

Some children struggle with drop off for several weeks.  Do your best to stick to the routine you have put in place and give your child time to adjust.


We hope to see you all for Family Night on August 24th!






July-Summer Fun!


Summer is finally here and there are so many fun things to do in the Twin Cities!  Here are some resources to make sure you have the best summer ever!  We’ve also included some tips for staying safe while you have fun!

We also hope to see you at Family Night on July 20th!

Movies and Music in the Park


Movies at Lake Harriet

Minneapolis and Saint Paul both offer a free concert series and free movies to be enjoyed outside.  Bring a blanket and some snacks and enjoy!  Here is the schedule for the the St. Paul movies in the park and here is the St. Paul schedule for music in the park.  Minneapolis movies can be found here, and Minneapolis music can be found here.



summer spark banner_1

Summer Spark is a totally free program for kids from ages 0-18.  Throughout the summer, they will be offering many fun things to do for kids off all ages.  From kid-friendly concerts, to magic shows, to puppet shows to snakes, there are tons of awesome event for your kids to enjoy (they might even learn something new!)  Check out their full schedule here.

Summer Camps

Are you thinking about a camp program for your kiddo this summer?  There’s a camp to cater to just about any child’s interest.  Check out this comprehensive list of summer camps in Minnesota to help you find the right one for your family.

Get out in Nature

The Department of Natural Resources is teaming up with other organizations to offer lots of really cool free or low-cost nature programs to enjoy with your child this summer.  A schedule of events can be found here.

Summer Blast

Summer Blast is a free program for kids going into grades 1-6.  They offer a variety of fun and educational things to keep your children busy.  Check out their website here for more information and to register.


Ice-cream-sundae-clip-artI Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream!

Nothing says summer like ice cream and the Twin Cities offers no shortage of places to get some!  Here is a list of local places to get you started (pro tip: The servings at Nelson’s are so gigantic that one “single scoop” serving can easily feed two to three ice cream-loving adults).

Drive In Movies

If you can stay up late enough, show your kids an awesome blast from the past and check out a drive in movie theater.  Vali-Hi Drive-In offers three movies for one flat price ($8.50 per adult, kids 6-12 are $1 and kids 5 and under are free!).  You can bring in your own food (some people even bring their own grill!) or get some from the concession stand.  Movies start at dusk at play throughout the evening.  Get there early; they sell out quickly!

Water Safety


Looking good and keeping safe!

Getting into a pool or lake is the best way to spend a hot summer day!  Swimming is fun for children of all ages (and grown-ups, too!) but it’s important to be safe.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind:


-Children should always be supervised in the water, even if they know how to swim.

-Drowning is often called “The silent killer” because it it happens silently.  People who are drowning don’t yell and splash around like they do in the movies because all of their energy is going to trying to keep their face above water, which is why constant supervision is important.

-Get and use a life jacket.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a website with information about how to pick a Coast Guard approved life jacket and the laws about them.   The website can be found here.  Remember, life jackets are NOT a substitute for constant supervision. Other floatation devices, like water wings, should be considered TOYS and are not a substitute for a life jacket.

-If there is thunder or lightening, stay out of the water

-Teach children to always ask for permission to go into the water

-Be mindful of water temperature; if your child is shivering or has muscle cramps, have them get out of the water and warm up.

-Enroll your child in swimming lessons.  Many of the classes at the Midway ECLC (Guppies, Hippos, Alligators and Bears) have swimming lessons weekly during the spring, summer and early fall, but more lessons are certainly useful.

Here are the swimming programs offered here at the Midway YMCA

Here are the swimming programs offered at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center

Here are the swimming programs offered by the University of Minnesota

These programs also offer adult classes, so if you can’t swim or could use a refresher, you can take lessons, too!  You’re never to old to learn to swim!

-The American Red Cross offers comprehensive information on water safety in English and Spanish.  Check it out here for in-depth information on keeping safe when you’re around the water.

Sun Safety


Spending time in the sun is what summer is all about, but it’s important to be aware of getting too much sun.

-Wear sunscreen and put it on your child (if they are over 6 months old),  Even if it is cloudy, even if you have darker skin, even if you won’t be outside for a long time (it can take as little as 15 minutes for sun damage to occur).

-Reapply it often

-Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15

Check the expiration date

-Use approximately a shot glass sized amount (or more, depending on size)

-For babies under 6 months, sunscreen is not recommended.  Keep them out of the sun and use hats and other clothing to keep them covered.

-Don’t forget your lips!  Look for a chapstick with an SPF of 15 or more

-Wear sunglasses with UV protection

-Wear hats

Heat Exhaustion/Stroke

Heat exhaustion is experienced when exposed to high temperatures, often combined with humidity and physical exertion.   Heat exhaustion can be treated easily, but if left untreated, it can progress to heat stroke, which can have very serious health effects.

Check out the Mayo Clinic here for signs to watch for and how to treat heat exhaustion.  You can find information about heat stroke here.


However your family decides to spend it, summer goes by really quickly and we hope these resources help you make the most of it!






June-Graduation and Effective Praise

Welcome to June!  This month, we will be celebrating the graduation of our oldest friends with a program in the Bear Room on the 8th.  Seating is limited, so please give priority to families with children in the Bear and Alligator classrooms.

We will be having our usual month dinner (hot dogs!) that, weather permitting, can be enjoyed out the black top.  Hopefully our streak of rainy Thursdays is over and we can all enjoy some sunshine!

This month, our subject


How to Avoid Creating a Praise Monster

Have you even encountered a child that was constantly asking for your approval?  “Look at my flower drawing!  Isn’t it pretty?” they might ask, over and over again as they draw.  Children naturally seek the approval of adults in their lives, which can be useful for managing their behavior in the short-term, but in the long term, we want children to be self-motivated and not constantly coming to adults to tell them they are “good”.  We want the child to draw flowers because he enjoys it and feels like he is capable of drawing them, not because an adult else is telling him that the flower is pretty.

There’s a lot of opinions out there about how (or even if!) to praise children and it can get confusing.  Here are some tips to help praise your children in a way that is less about gaining your approval and more about encouraging self-motivation:

Do it less  If your child is engrossed in activity, just leave them to it!  Don’t interrupt their concentration by telling them that you think that it’s “good”.   Your child probably already thinks that it is good and that is what’s important.

Don’t go overboard The goal is not to create children who are constantly seeking the approval of others, but children who are self-motivated.

Be specific “That is such a bright  yellow that you used for the house in your drawing!”

Point out effort without placing a value on it “You are really working hard on that puzzle!” vs. “You are doing such a good job working on that puzzle.”

Draw attention to their own feelingsYou put your socks on!  You must be really proud!”

Acknowledge the challenge Remember, tasks that are simple for adults can be very challenging for children.  “It can be really hard to put clothes on your doll, but you worked hard and you got them on!”

Compare them (positively) with themselves “You built that block tower so much taller than you did last week!”

Involve the child by asking them for their input “That’s a big block house!  How did you get that block to stay on the top?”

-Avoid using evaluative language Try avoid telling children that something they’ve done is “good” or “great”.  Instead, just comment on what they have done.  Instead of  “You made a really good painting of a tree!” try “You made a painting of a tree!

Show interest in what your child is doing Kids are pretty smart and they figure out pretty quickly that  “Mmm hmms!” and “That’s nice!” do not mean that you’re actually paying attention to what they are doing or saying.  When you can, ask them questions about what they are doing and encourage them to give their opinions.


If you’re interested, here’s some more information on praising your child.  We hope to see you on the 8th!

How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Power (and Peril) of Praise

Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”

Stop Saying “You’re So Smart!” 3 Better Ways to Praise Your Child



May-Spring Has Sprung

Spring is here!  We’re all excited to be spending more time outside and to be resuming swimming lessons!  We will also be starting up our school gardens with the Minnesota Horticultural Society.     We hope you can join us for Family Night on the 18th!


Gardening at home can be a really worth-while experience.  It’s a great way to get more veggies in your diet, build healthy habits, can be inexpensive, provides exercise, and can be lots of fun.  There are many benefits to gardening with your child, such as:

  •  It can get them thinking about (and talking to you!) about science concepts, like how plants take in water and use the sun to make their own food.  If you child has questions about plants you can’t answer, it provides a great opportunity for you both to figure out the answer together!
  • It gets the family outside and away from technology (it’s hard to dig in the dirt with a tablet in your hand!)
  • Children are likely to be much more interested and then more likely to eat vegetables that they have grown themselves
  • It can provide heathy and nutritious food for the family
  • It can encourage a lifetime love of gardening in your child
  • It’s a wonderful way to bond as a family
  • It can teach patience; plants take time
  • It can teach responsibility; gardens need watering and weeding
  • Digging in the dirt can boost your child’s immune system


If You Don’t Have Lot of Space

Don’t worry!  You can still grow things even if you don’t have a small yard or no yard at all.  One option is to look into community gardens where many different people in a community have individual plots in the same space (check out the list of links at the bottom of this post).  Another option is container gardens or vertical gardens, which can be very versatile, don’t take up much space and can still provide lots of room to grow things.

Container Gardens

A container garden is just what it sounds like; a garden in a container.  The type of container can vary, depending on how crazy you want to get with it.  It can be as simple as a pail or as fancy as an antique suitcase.  If you can put some dirt in it, you can probably grow something in it and Pinterest is full of beautiful ideas, but if you’re just starting out, keep it simple with a pot or bucket.  You can always get more creative down the road after you master the basics.

Container gardens are great because they take up little space, don’t need a lot of equipment, can be moved around and can placed just about anywhere, including a balcony, making them ideal for people in apartments.

There are a few things to keep in mind, like the fact that container gardens tend to dry out faster than plants in the ground and they might have different fertilizer needs, but with a little bit of planning, you can have a very successful harvest!

Here’s a great how-to for first time container gardeners

Here is a slightly more in-depth guide


Vertical Gardens 

If space is tight, think about going vertical!  There are a million different ways you can make a vertical garden depending on how fancy you can to get. You can easily purchase a vertical planter (here’s what shoe gardenAmazon has) or you can make your own if you’re crafty!

Here are some basics for vertical gardens

A shoe organizer can make a quick and easy garden

Pallets are a popular vertical garden choice and work great for balconies

Indoor herb Gardens

You can also do some growing indoors.  Herbs make great indoor plants and can be used year-round for cooking.   Herbs are fun for kids because so many of them have interesting smells!

Here are some tips for growing some tasty herbs indoors

Here are five great herbs for growing indoors

You can have an herb container garden and grow many herbs in one large pot

If you’re feeling fancy, you can make a hanging coffee can herb garden

Mason jars make good planters (fancy chalkboard signs optional)

A Tip from the Midway ECLE Gardens 


Squirrels can be a real bummer when it comes to gardens.  They love to dig up all your hard work and eat the delicious seeds.  One easy, pesticide-free way to discourage them from wreaking havoc is to plant some marigolds in with your other plants.  Marigolds are a very common flower and squirrels don’t like the smell.


More Information and Community Resources

Ready to get growing?  Here are some additional resources to help you out:

St. Paul Gardening Resources -information about community gardens, rain gardens, gardening policies and free answers from a Master Gardener to any gardening questions you might have.

Free Gardening classes at St. Paul Public Libraries

Find a Garden- Use the map to find community gardens in your area






April-The Week of the Young Child


Hello, families!  Welcome to April!

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has been celebrating the the Week of the Young Child since 1971 and this year will be no different!    The Week of the Young Child celebrates children, their families and their caregivers during the period between birth and age 8 .  This year, the Week of the Young Child is April 24th-28th and each day has a different focus:

Music Monday-April 24

Tasty Tuesday-April 25

Work Together Wednesday-April 26

Artsy Thursday/Family Night-April 27

Family Friday-April 28

Every classroom will be celebrating these days with projects and fun activities.  Join us the morning of Friday, April 28th for some breakfast treats to says thanks to our amazing parents and families!

You can celebrate the Week of the Young Child at home, too!   Here are some suggestions to help get you started:

Music Monday

Make homemade musical instruments

Children’s books about music

Have a dance party with some fun songs for children

Tasty Tuesday

Fun preschool snacks

Martha Stewart approved recipes to make with your kids

Children’s books paired with recipes

Work Together Wednesday

Build a structure with popsicle sticks and clothes pins

Using shaving cream as a “mortar” with blocks

Build something with giant blocks (cardboard boxes)

Artsy Thursday

Easy (and beautiful!) tissue paper transfer art

Rolling Pin Paintings

Salt Watercolor Painting

Family Friday

Here are a few suggestions for some fun things to do as a family on Friday or any day!

Como Zoo (free!)

Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store (has a play area that is open every day to the public and a weekly story hour)

Public libraries (the St. Paul and Minneapolis libraries offer many free events like movies, story hours and even arts and crafts for free.  They also have lots of fun books, of course!)

The Works Museum (an interactive engineering museum with activities for kids of all ages.  They offer a half-priced ($4.25) admission on their Pre-K days that feature activities for kids age 3-5)

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Free, with fun activities for kids)

Children’s Theatre Company (offers classes as well as wonderful performances for children, including sensory-friendly programing.  Check out their ACT Pass program for scholarships and $5 dollar tickets to performances.)


We hope you will join us in celebrating our littles learners!





March-Read Across America


Hello, families!

March is Read Across America month, an event that celebrates children reading and the birthday of beloved author, Dr. Seuss!  At the ECLC, we will be spending the month talking about Dr. Seuss, fairy tales, libraries, our favorite books, and maybe even writing a few stories of our own!   Reading with children is also the theme of our family night this month, which will be Thursday, March 30th.  We hope you will join us!


Why is reading with your child important?

So many reasons! Such as  . . .


When should I read to my child?

fam-readingIdeally, you should read to your child every day.  Think of it like eating vegetables or brushing your teeth; something that is part of your everyday life.  Your child will probably find reading a book with you more fun that eating broccoli.

Adding reading to your bedtime routine is a great way to get some book time in every day and help your child wind down for the evening.  Besides being educational, spending some time each day sharing a story with your child is a great way to bond and will create lasting memories for both of you.

Choosing Books

There are plenty of books out there!  As long as you are reading with your kiddo, you’re in good shape, but choose-bookhere are a few suggestions for choosing books.

What is your child interested in?  If your child is old enough to tell you about what they want to read about, look for books on that subject.  For younger children, what captures their interest?  Do they obsess over their train toy?  Grab a few train books.   Are they always hanging out in the kitchen?  There are books for that!  Whatever catches your child’s fancy, you can be sure there are some excellent books on the subject.

What are you interested in teaching your child? Is there something going on in your child’s life that you want to prepare them for or an area where they need some help?  Reading books about it can be a great tool for teaching your kiddo.   Trying to potty train?  Facing a divorce? Got a new baby on the way?  Moving to a new house?  Dealing with the death of a loved one?  Trying to teach your child manners?  There are books on every possible subject that your child may need.  Ask a librarian or do some Googling if there’s a specific topic you are looking for.

Ask your child’s teacher There is a lot of book-reading that goes on at the ECLC.  Your child’s teacher can tell you what books the class has been reading lately or what books are especially popular.  Some children get really excited to see a favorite book from school at home and vice versa.

Aim for variety  Your child (especially toddlers) might request the same book over and over and over again.  This is actually a good thing; many of our ELCE classrooms read the same book at group time for a week.   Children enjoy being “in the know” about the plot and characters and repeated readings allow them to take in the vocabulary.  It is also important to read children lots of different kinds of books; fiction, non-fiction, poetry, alliterative, rhyming and anything else you can find.   Not only does it save you from the tedium of reading the same book a million times, but it also exposes your child to all different kinds of stories and broadens their understanding about the world.

Chose your favorite books

You probably can think of some books you enjoyed as a little kid.  Bust them out again to share with your child!   They will likely enjoy knowing that you read this same book when you were their age.

How to read to your child

Well, you probably have a pretty good idea of how to read to your child already.  You just sit down and do it!    But there are a few things you can do with your kiddo to enrich the experience.

  • Ask your child questions about the characters and plot, such as “What do you think is going to happen next?” or “How do you think this character is feeling?”  It will get their wheels turning, encourage them to think creatively and help them develop empathy.
  • Point out things like words that rhyme or are alliterative.  These are pre-literacy skills that will come in handy when they are learning to read.
  • Talk about vocabulary.  Your child might ask what a particular word means, but if you come across a word you suspect your child doesn’t know the meaning of, ask them!  If they don’t know what the word means, you can explain it.  This helps expand their vocabulary.


Reading With Older Children

As children get older, parent read aloud time tends to diminish sharply at the ages of 5 and again at 8, but there is a lot to be gained by continuing to read aloud to your children, even after your child can read to themselves.  Reading chapter books together is a wonderful, easy and inexpensive way to have fun as a family.  There are lots of great books out there to tackle, but here is a list if you are looking for some suggestions or consider starting with a chapter book you loved when you were their age.


hamline-midwayIf it’s been a while since you were at your local library, this is a great month to make a trip!   Libraries are obviously a great place to go to discover some great new books (and movies and music), but they also offer all sorts of other great activities and resources for free.  Our own Hamline Midway library offers a preschool story time (in English) every Friday at 10:30 am.   Check them out in April when every Tuesday evening at 6:30 pm they will be offering a pajama story time.

The Rice Street library also offers a Friday morning preschool story time at 10:30 am, and many other fun events for all ages, like an adult movie night, homework help, crafting classes, a weekly after school program for elementary school kids, basic computer skills classes, job search assistance, and much more.  Check out other libraries in St. Paul for story time in other languages, legal assistance, technology classes, teen movie nights, knitting classes, citizenship classes and much, much more!  See the full schedule of St. Paul libraries here.  Use the pull down menu at the top to filter by location, events and age groups.

Have a great March!


February – Bedtime Routines

Hello, everyone!  We hope February is treating you well and that you will join us for Family Night on February 23rd.

This month, we’re talking about getting your kiddos to bed with less stress.  Sound impossible?  It’s not!  It does take work and consistency, but it’s well worth if it means happier, better rested kids and adults.  There’s a lot of info here, so feel free to scroll down to skip around a bit!  One point to keep in mind is that consistency is key.   People, children included, are happier with structure and routine. 

Infants infant

Sleep Safety: Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome

While having an infant in the same room as their caregivers while sleeping has been shown to reduce the chances of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS, formerly known as SIDS).  An infant sharing a bed with adults has been shown to increase the risk for SUIDS, even if the adults in bed are not impaired (by alcohol or drugs) in any way.   If your wee one is sharing a room with you, give him or her their own bed.  Be sure that bed:

-has a properly fitting mattress

-a tight and proper fitting sheet

-has no other blankets, stuffed animals or bumpers

Your infant should also always be placed on their back when sleeping.  If your baby likes to be swaddled, consider using a sleep sack to prevent bedding from covering their mouth and nose.

When it comes to sleep training, talk to your pediatrician about when is a developmentally appropriate time to begin with your infant (usually once they are 6 months or older).  There are different schools of thought what’s the best way go about baby’s bed time.  Check out a few different opinions and decide what’s best for you and your family.  What ever your plan, be sure it is something you are willing to stick with for a while (it can take time!) and one that you and any other adults in the house are all on the same page about.  You need a united front!

We are going to touch on one method here, the Ferber Method.

The Ferber method is sometimes referred to as “cry it out”, but that is not an accurate name for it–and it brings up scary visions of babies abandoned in their cribs for 12 hours by themselves, which is not the case.  The goal of the Ferber method is to help teach babies to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, a handy skill to learn that can also take some of the pressure off of parents.  Essentially the Ferber Method suggests going through your nighttime routine with your baby, then putting them in their bed while they are groggy but still awake and leaving the room.  If the baby begins to cry (which is likely if they are used to an adult being with them until they sleep), parents wait a pre-determined number of minutes, maybe 3 minutes to begin with, before going in the room.  Parents briefly comfort the baby however they like (just their voice, patting baby, rubbing their head) but leave again while the baby is still awake.  They continue this, going slightly longer and longer amounts of time before going in the room.   By coming in at intervals, the baby learns that an adult is close by, but by not staying with them until they are asleep, the baby learns they are expected to do that themselves.  Some babies take to this very quickly, some babies take a few weeks before adapting.

In studies, the Ferber method has shown to result in kids who (having completed “training”) go to sleep quickly, on their own, with less crying, wake less at night and are better rested during the day.

For more information about the Ferber method, check out Dr. Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.

There are many other approaches and specific sleep-related issues, way too many for one blog post.  For other approaches and information, check out Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: A Step-by -Step Program for a Good Night’s Sleep.   You can also Google “sleep training” and do a little digging into what has worked for other families to help you figure out what might be a good fit for yours, or talk to your pediatrician.



Toddlers and Preschoolers

Okay, so maybe, for any number of perfectly valid reasons, your baby never quite got to sleeping on their own and now you find yourself with a toddler or preschooler in your bed.  Or maybe you’re sleeping in your child’s room.  Or maybe you start with your child in their own room but at some point in the night, you end up with them in yours.  Eventually, you’re probably going to want your child sleeping in their room and you sleeping in yours.  It is important for adults and kids alike to get a good night’s sleep and that can be hard to do to with a little one flailing around in the night.  It’s also important for adults to have a place and time to themselves (like a bed).  It helps them rest and recharge.  For couples, it’s important to have time and space as a couple (like at night in their bed) to reconnect.   Just like with infants, getting your child to sleep on their own can be difficult and stressful, but with consistency, it is achievable.  And if the result is a better rested family, it is worth the effort.

Be sure to talk about any bedtime changes with your child before implementing them so they are prepared.  Explain to your child that it’s important for everyone, mommies and daddies included, to get a good night’s sleep.


Help your child wind down for evening by developing a routine.  It should be pleasant and enjoyable so that your child looks forward to it.  It can be a great opportunity for quality time with your kiddo each day that will provide wonderful memories down the road for you both.   A simple routine to implement uses the 4 Bs: Bath, Brush, Book, Bed.   You can make any routine you want (maybe you listen to some relaxing music or spend a few minutes in the rocking chair), but here are some things to keep in mind:

-It should take (from start to kiddo in bed) about an hour to run all the way through.

-It should start at the SAME TIME every night, even on vacations, if that can be arranged.

-You should wake your child at the same time every day as well

– Consistency, consistency, consistency!  Eventually your child will naturally start to get sleepy as they associate this routine with going to sleep.

-Avoid screens (tablets, TV, phones).  The blue light they give off can be stimulating (this is a good tip for adults, too!)

-Do some observations. If bedtime is absolutely horrible, consider adjusting your child’s bedtime.  Maybe they just aren’t tired at 7:00, but at 8:00, they will conk right out.  Maybe they need a shorter nap in the afternoon.  Watch your child for indications that they are tired and adjust your schedule accordingly.

The Bed Abandoners


Even if your child falls asleep in their own room and bed, it is no guarantee that they will stay there if they wake up in the middle of the night, especially if you have recently made the transition from co-sleeping.

Start by making sure that your child’s bedroom is appealing.   If possible, let your child chose a bed or bedding and have a special stuffed toy for bedtime. If your child has a creepy looking doll that freaks them out, get rid of it.  Get a cool nightlight.  Really hype up how cool it is that your child is so grown up and is going to sleep in their own bed.

If your child comes into your bedroom in the middle of the night, calmly return them to their own bed.  Remind them that they need to stay in their bed and that you are going to stay in yours and then leave.  Do not spend a lot of time in your child’s room, as they will likely try stalling tactics to keep you there. Return to your own room alone.  Repeat as necessary.

This might take a many, many, repetitions and it could be exhausting and terrible, but it’s important to be consistent every time.  If you return your child to her own bed seven times and on the eighth time you give up and let her get in your bed, your child knows that if she keeps coming back to your room eight times, you will reward her by giving her what she wants.  If children know they can get what they want, they have no reason to change their behavior.  This is where a united front with your partner is extremely important.  You must both be on board or your child will figure out which one of you can be worn down and will act accordingly.

Consider a sticker chart that your child can put a sticker on for every night he stays in his own room all night.  After collecting a certain amount of stickers, he gets a pre-determined prize, like a small toy or an ice cream date with Daddy.   Start small (maybe three stickers) to make it easier for him to be successful and feel confident, then start increasing the amount of stickers needed as he does better and better.

The Early Risers

Maybe your child goes to bed just fine (or fine enough), but they are getting up REALLY early in the morning and disrupting the rest of the family’s sleep.  One way to help teach your child when it is an acceptable time to get out bed is a clock!   If your child can recognize numbers, get them their own digital clock that they can see from their bed (or an analog clock that you can mark the appropriate number) and explain to them, “When the clock says 7, you can get up!”   For children who don’t understand the clock, there are products parents can program that have a light that changes color so children know that when their special light turns green, it’s all right for them to get out of bed.   The OK to Wake clock is an example, but there are many others out there.     Be sure to shower your child with praise when they stay in bed until it’s time to be up and about.

Tricks of the trade

monster .jpgMonsters/Scary things: If your child is afraid of monsters or something similar, don’t tease them or brush off their concerns.  Assure them that they are safe.  Provide a nightlight if needed.  You can also fill a bottle with water (and maybe a little lavender oil to encourage sleepiness!) and label it “monster spray” to repel those monsters.  A few sprays around the room each night might help ease your  child’s mind.

Just one more book/drink/song!:  If your child is attempting to extend bedtime by asking for yet another story (or whatever it may be), establish limits and STICK TO THEM.  Remind your child, “You already had a drink.” or “You know that we only read two stories and we already read them both.  Time for bed.”   Children are pretty smart and if they know you can be pushed into another story/drink/song, they will keep pushing!

White Noise: If your child is a light sleeper, try adding a white noise machine or a small fan to help drown out other sounds.

Nightmares:  Nightmares are a bummer at any age.  If your child comes to you in the night having woken up from a nightmare, comfort them, let them talk about their nightmare and then return them to their bed.  Help them to soothe themselves by teaching them some tricks to help deal with nightmares on their own.  You could suggest that after having a nightmare, they get up and get a drink before going back to bed, or wash their face (this can help wake them up enough to shake off the nightmare, but is not so disruptive as to prevent them from getting back to bed).

Consider getting creative.  Have your child describe their nightmare and together, talk about ways that it could have ended in a way that isn’t scary.  Maybe your child got super powers and was able to fly instead of falling, or maybe it turns out the monster was just looking for something he lost and didn’t mean to scare anyone.  This gives your child a sense of control and helps them to look at a problem creatively.

Another idea is to look for a cultural ritual.  In some Hmong families, upon waking from a nightmare, children will yell at their pillow, hit it three times and then flip the pillow over. Look at your own culture for other examples or borrow some that your child might like or make up your own.

Hall Pass If your child keeps trying to stall by insisting they need a drink or to go potty or do whatever it is they say they need to do, consider issuing a “hall pass”, one per night, that allows your child to do that one thing they really, really need to do (this is after all immediate needs have been met, of course).  After the hall pass is spent, that’s it and they cannot get out of bed again.  By allowing your child to make a choice, they might feel more in control and that might help them be satisfied after they have “spent” their pass.

Soothing Smell  Children are comforted by their parents’ scent.  Give your child a shirt you have worn or a teddy bear sprayed with your perfume/cologne that they can take to bed and be relaxed by your smell.

Mommy’s Greatest Hits  If you have the time and equipment (an old tape deck from the Goodwill might work!), record yourself reading some of your child’s favorite stories or singing lullabies.  You can play it for your child at night to help them relax and feel close to you.  If they are old enough, you can teach them how to play it themselves, so if they wake up at night, they can play it go back to sleep.

Find what works for your family Every child, family and situation is unique.  It might take some time and trial-and-error to find out what works for your family, but an easy bed time and a good night’s sleep is worth making the effort!  Everyone will be happier and better functioning when they are well rested.

Good luck and sweet dreams!