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Falling Gracefully

This week, I was asked why I had my almost 4 year-old enrolled in our local gymnastics program.  After all, he also attends preschool for three mornings each week where I teach.  Socialization isn’t an issue for him.  And, it isn’t like I have oodles of time in my day that I am just looking for things to do.  However, I do see a huge benefit to programs such as preschool gymnastics, as long as they are conducted in an age-appropriate manner.

Our program is slightly pricey, but it is within a mile of my house.  This is our second year to be enrolled in this gymnastics program.  We go once a week for an hour, and my son is now at a level where he is on the “floor” with his teacher and classmates and not in a Mommy-and-me class.  I have the option to stay (which I do) and watch from a second-floor balcony level or to run an errand or two.

The reason I keep with this program is that I can see a huge difference between my first child’s motor skill development and my second child’s motor skill development.  While children certainly cannot be compared “apples to apples”, there are things that my second child does that are definitely more skilled than my first child’s.  The most important lesson my younger son has learned is how to fall and fall gracefully.

My first child did not understand the concept of falling for a long time.  Being a first (and for a while, only) child, I was constantly with him, there to catch him when he stumbled or hold him up if he teetered.  By the time my older son was of preschool age, he wasn’t necessarily clumsy, but he did have a few tumbles that were pretty rotten.  And, I feel that it is mostly because he simply didn’t understand how to fall without hurting himself.  He didn’t know how to catch himself or roll into a fall like my second child has learned.

Now, as a “wiser” parent the second time around, I have definitely learned that letting go means gaining some independence, so my parenting style has been altered, which also contributes to his skill development.  However, the safety of the gym, with its heavily padded equipment and floors, has made for a fun place for him to learn balance, agility, stamina, strength, and yes, falling.

I could do many of the same things his “coach” at the gym does with my son on our own time, but he gets such a kick out of using the equipment, being with a new little group of pals, and spreading his wings a bit more.  And besides, my home and yard aren’t nearly as much fun to fall gracefully upon.

Noodles Of Fun

I was reminded by a blogging friend of mine of a great activity for kids on spaghetti night (or really any kind of pasta).  If you have extra noodles at the end of the meal (or cook a bit more to save for later), you can add an extra ingredient or two and make it an amazing sensory experience for your child.  Just add a little oil to keep the noodles from getting sticky and let them play!  You can tint the noodles safely with some flavored gelatin or drink mix, such as Kool Aid.  Put it all in a big bowl and see what your kids can come up with!

Not only is this a terrific experience in getting all ooey and gooey, but your children can explore the amazing “magic” of those powdered wonders like drink mixes and gelatins (they always manage to turn a color different than they look in powder form!).  And it is perfectly safe to taste if they dare!

Next time you’re thinking pasta for dinner, make a little more and let the sculpting begin!

What Goes Around Comes Around

“The only difference between teaching 8th graders and preschoolers is the height.  Everything else is about the same.” 

I start out each year with my pre-kindergarten parents with this same line.  My experience in teaching is varied, but most of my public school educational experience is from teaching junior high – 8th grade.  And, with each class I teach in the preschool age, I notice there isn’t THAT much difference.  See if you agree:

1.  LANGUAGE ACQUISITION: If you were to sit in my pre-k classroom and listen to the conversations that happen in a 20 minute time period, you would hear plenty of “original” words, mispronounciations, and horrible sentence structure.  You might even hear a “dirty” word every now and then (immediately redirected by me – at this age, they really don’t know what they’re saying).  That’s how kids learn – by trying out new things.  And, in my junior high class, it was much the same, even if it was more intentional.  The “duhs” and “phats” and incomplete sentences – yep, all part of being 13 and 14 and learning to communicate.

2.  SPEED: Four-year olds know two speeds: fast and crash.  My boys especially were either running around the room or crashing into tables/easels/each other.  It is just how they are.  And, getting into wide open spaces makes it more manageable, but it is still run and crash.  It is much the same at the 7th and 8th grade level – adolescents are constantly running through the halls, running through the cafeteria, and as much as you tell them to SLOW DOWN, they continue to do so until they crash into a locker/door/desk/each other.  And again, it is usually the boys.

3.  THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER: One of the hardest parts about teaching 4′s is the girls.  Come February, we start the “you’re not my friend - today” game.  It is one of my least favorite parts of my job.  Girls don’t realize how much it hurts to hear those words, even when they have been said to themselves.  And, in 8th grade, many a girl-fight begins with the same attitude – you’re not my friend and I’m going to show you how I feel about you.

4.  GIMME SOME LOVIN’: The bright side to pre-k kids is the love they show.  Oh, they may act tough, but they flash that smile or color a picture for you.  They pick flowers on the playground and notice when you get your hair cut.  And, 8th graders aren’t much different.  They don’t WANT to like you – you are the teacher.  But, they leave you notes on your desk, wave to you across the cafeteria, or say hi to you at the football game.

What goes around comes around.  Growing up is one big circle.  We just travel it several times as we learn a bit more about what makes the world right.  Teaching junior high all those years did wonders to prepare me for being a preschool teacher – and a parent.  The only difference is the size of the package!

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