Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tiny Treks in the Winter...

Obviously, it is more difficult to get outside in the late fall and winter.  It is cold, dark and wet out there and sometimes I think our bodies tell us it is time to hibernate-just like the bears do.  But with the right clothes, anything is possible. 

As an outdoor education teacher, I am outside for up to 4 hours a day, most days.  Do I get cold?  Yes-if I don't prepare for the day.  Yesterday it was 45 degrees out and I was missing a layer, had forgotten gloves and found out that my jacket was no longer waterproof!  Ugh!  I won't make any of those mistakes again. 
Good outdoor clothing for you and your youngster is essential. 

I suggest buying waterproof clothes at REI since you can always return them if they don't work out.  But I also saw some waterproof pants at Target that looked just fine and they were under $20 for me and about the same price for a little person.

So-my point is-get the right clothes on and then dive into the winter with abandon.  The joys of the fresh smells of the earth and wet leaves overshadow the dark and coldness.  The hot chocolate will taste all the better for having had the deep breathing of clean air.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Outdoor Preschool is a success!

The Outdoor Preschool-a new nature preschool in Redmond is opening it's woods to kids beginning this September and we almost are full already!  Every Tuesday and Thursday will be an outdoor exploration of a new kind-one where kids can make forts in the woods and investigate their natural world in any weather.

If you can't join the preschool-join Tiny Treks on fridays all year long.  We'll be doing what the "big kids" are doing in preschool but with a mom or dad or nanny instead.  Hope to see you soon!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tiny Treks begins a Preschool!

As I research how to begin a drop-off preschool in the weather-prone Northwest-I ponder "what do I want these children to learn at this school?"  As a recent graduate of the University of Washington's teaching program I learned alot about how to excite children and get them motivated.  Yet when I got into the public school classroom I found the automated schedule of school wasn't what I was interested in pursuing.  I like the freedom that nature and outdoor experiences affords.  So that makes me want to start an outdoor preschool in my area.
How would this work you might ask?  Well-the kids would arrive dressed in weather-proof clothing such as waterproof pants and boots and a layers on top-fleece perhaps or wool sweathers and a water proof jacket.  Gloves and hats included for much of the year.  But as soon as the children (and I) are well dressed for the weather, we can have such fun outdoors!  We can build forts and create "art work" to hang in our forts.  We can have outdoor tea parties and make art projects from the forest floor.  We can research birds-using binoculars and a bird book.  We can create a map and then follow it.
These children would be learning about what books can teach them, how to follow maps and math using nature as their guide.  All without being told to "sit down now" and "stay still". 
Stay tuned for more inspiration-and I would love to hear any input from you!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

10 individual things to do for the earth

Here is a list of 10 things to do to help the earth. I think it would be cool if everyone tried to do at least 3 of these things this week. Looking at the list there is only one that is completely unrealistic, however interesting to ponder is #9. Share what you do on our blog.



1. Walk or ride a bike to your destinations.

2. Use appliances only as you need them. Turn off lights when you leave a room, for instance.

3. Buy things that can be entirely reused or recycled.

4. Start and maintain a garden.

5. Purchase products that are locally or regionally grown, mined, manufactured.

6. Adopt or mentor rather than have your own children (or more children).

7. Try to live within the average world income (about $2500 a year per person).

8. Fix something rather than throw it away.

9. Learn what politicians do for (or against) the environment, and vote accordingly. Found list on this site.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Take a few minutes for the magical moments

I peeled back the bark on the dead, fallen tree as 8 pairs of toddler eyes watched. I explained how we never hurt a tree by pulling its bark when it is alive, but this tree had been struck by lightning and was across our path. Everyone lit up when we found 5 rolly polly's or pill bugs or whatever people call them under the bark. I gently held them in my hands as they immediately rolled into little balls that looked like small berries. We found a dry spot on our path and made a circle around the small, hard balls. We waited and watched and waited and watched. Each toddler and preschooler patiently waiting. Seemingly understanding something magical was occurring. After several minutes, we saw lots of little legs wiggling out of one rolly polly. We screeched in excitement as the 5 millimeter bug showed us all his wiggly legs and flipped over to walk away. A little hand reached out to touch the bug, and kazam the bug was a little berry again. We left them alone on the trail to open up when we were no longer there. Remember, the little things are the most magical. Take time to just sit and watch it is worth it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Almost perfect unplugged trip to Atlanta

Over spring break this year we planned a road trip to Atlanta with another family. This family is very close friends of ours and we always have a great time together. We are very respectful of the no TV at our house and the much more accessible TV at their house. When I turned to Jenny, the other mom, a week before the trip and said, I would love to write about our road trip from Chicago to Atlanta, do you think we can try to have it be an unplugged trip. She laughed and said, "No ****ing way!" Now the circumstances of this trip were to see her husband and the father of her three children ranging in age from 3-10 years old. He was working for 10 weeks in Atlanta and this was the first time they were seeing him in six weeks, so she was at her breaking point.

We all piled in the car with back packs filled with fun things to do. I was still going to do my best to see if we could entertain with old fashioned methods of play. Jenny and my husband Ron were also very into playing the ABC game, the license plate game and the medley of stuff we brought. My goal was to later write about all the wonderful things we did to keep the kids unplugged. Here is the interesting part; after 24 hours total in a car and 6 hours of breaks on our trip to and from Atlanta. We never even opened up my travel Yatzee, travel Scrabble, travel Rumique, charcoal drawing set, map games and oh so much more. Jenny did use for her three year old several great art activities she had in her arsenal.

Basically our three girls sat in the back and we are still unclear what they did, but they were close to perfect and never asked for anything. We believe now they made an entire new coded language for every potty word. A Martha is not pooping - that is what we were able to decode. They listened to a lot of music and seemingly figured out how to create dances in their seats for literally hours. They talked and talked and talked. Occasionally they would pipe in to find the next letter of the alphabet in the game Ron and Jenny were taking quite seriously in the front row.

Overall it was crazy. At the end of it all on the ride there, the three year old watched about 30 minutes of a video and at the end of the night the girls watched about an hour of a movie. On the 15 hour day back, which we did in one day, the girls seemed to create more secret codes that had them laughing the entire ride. They did not watch a minute of anything and the ride ended as we pulled up to our driveway at 11:30 PM with all our little angels asleep in the back.

What an amazing road trip!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Easy Packing Tips for Kids

I struggle to get my kids to do chores and other household tasks; HOWEVER I have truly conquered how to get my kids to pack for trips. Here is how it works:

1. Type in large letters a packing list. With small children I use pictures.
2. I print out a copy for each child and hand them a suitcase.
3. They collect all their belongings and put them in the suitcase.
4. They get me for a last check before we zip up.

I began this with as young as two year olds and at that age I walked through it with them. By three, they felt so empowered to do their own packing. It fostered independence and a great sense of accomplishment.
Sometimes it may seem easier to just do things ourselves, but this is an easy and helpful way to create a wonderful learning experience for our kids. Try it and let us know how it works.

Staying near to your kids while they work and its benefits!

My daughter has had a tough task of sending out thank you cards after her bat mitzvah. How many cards you might ask? Probably 50 or more! We began the task with the idea that she would do 10 a day. She started by writing one sentence only ( she is 14 years old) and then didn't bother to address them and get them in the mail. I ended up having to sit next to her, encourage her to write more with suggestions of what she might write, find the addresses and have her finish each thank you card as she did them. Now, some could say that I was doing too much hand holding. But I consider it modeling. When has she ever sent out 50 cards? So, I modeled for her how to finish her task in an efficient way.

Through the years I have noticed that kids work so much more efficiently if you are in the room or nearby. As they get older the amount of homework mounts and your child can end up spending a lot of time alone with the computer and their books. This can lead to a lack of closeness with your child and a lot of time for your child to explore the web without any parental guidance. I recommend staying close. If my kids are doing homework that doesn't require the computer-I have them do it in the kitchen while I am making dinner or cleaning up. I even find stuff to do-clearing out a cupboard if I have the time. All to keep me near while they are getting their homework done. This way-when they have questions I am nearby and often they will end up telling me about their day or their school work just because I am there. Right now I am working on my taxes while my daughter writes a paper.  It is a win, win situation!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Family Fun (sort of)-Spring Clean Up

Trying to make spring clean up fun for the WHOLE family.
Spring is in the air all over the country. In the suburbs of Chicago the piles of snow finally melted and I asked my four kids to give me one hour of their time. O.K. I begged my kids for the hour, with the usual mom lecture that if we all work together it will be so much easier. I handed out tasks. (Please feel free to use my short list) I have learned that shorter offers more hope for success.

1. Clean up all dog poop that has been hidden UNDER all that snow.
2. Clean up all garbage in the yard.
3. Clean up all the sticks.
4. Sweep the decks.

Well, I of course got job number one. My son, home from spring break, took this opportunity to play Frisbee with his friends. He felt he was above any family obligations because he works "so hard" in college. My three girls did stick with me for about an hour and the yard looked much better. Mother Nature clearly did not appreciate our leap into spring, when she dumped another 5 inches of snow on us the next day. We went from 60 degrees and sunshine to a snow storm. Only in Chicago!

(By the way, my son did not get off the hook, he had to make up the hour later with much complaining.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Trying to implement "Screen Free Sundays"

I am trying desperately to come up with some creative new ways to get my teens to unplug. Last week I tried to implement "Screen Free Sundays". The problem is they have to do homework on Sundays. Typically, hours and hours of homework, and the homework depends on a computer which is a screen. How does one deal with the reality and the mom fantasy? I decided instead to compromise and tweak my idea. How about Screen Free Sunday Dinner and quick family game before everyone has to get back to homework Sunday. It is certainly better than not trying. We had a nice long Sunday dinner with all cell phone put away. (I do demand that on a daily basis anyway), played a nice game of cards and at least I knew I tried. As my 16 year old laughingly said to me when I mentioned my "screen free Sunday" idea was "I do give you credit mom, you do keep trying." Those words are enough to keep me fueled to know she actually sort of likes my constant attempts to keep our family together.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Our "Digital Nation" and how we can cope with it as parents

Digital Nation-A Frontline video about distraction by technology

My eighth grader has begun studying in a way that scares me. She has her homework open in MS Word on the computer while she flips back and forth to facebook, all the while listening to music on her Ipod and checking her phone every minute or so. This is what all the kids do now. They want to feel connected to their friends through their phone and facebook while they are doing homework. But I know my child. She has told me that she needs a room to be silent in order to read. She loves to read but finds it hard to read at school because she gets too distracted at her desk. She is strong in her opinions about her learning style. We had to change her Bat Mitzvah tutor because she needed someone who understood that she couldn’t be interrupted in the middle of a thought or a sentence in Hebrew.

Then why is she studying in this way that she knows doesn't work for her?  And why I am worried about it? Frontline has  released a video on an indepth study of this phenomena.   This video, which is an hour and a half long, talks about how media influences our children in the way they study and learn. Studies of college students at MIT and Stanford demonstrate how the brain is not really able to multi-task. Kids these days will tell you that they can successfully multitask better than any generation before them because they have been raised on technology. But when you watch this program you will see that the studies and science tells us that this is false. The brain has not changed. Technology has changed how we work but it still does not change how the brain functions. The brain needs to concentrate in order to create pathways of knowledge.

Watch this show and learn how these top notch students try to multitask with multiple forms of technology at one time and fail. This is the world your little ones will grow up in. And we as parents need to help them to navigate the waters of technology so they can be successful in life with multiple forms of media but still be able to concentrate and turn them all off in order to be good writers and readers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Journey to Somewhere

I have a few close friends who just screened a new documentary that is sweeping Northern California. It is called "The Race to Nowhere". It is a collaboration of some incredible educators, psychologists, authors, parents and teens about the pressure many teens feel in our fast paced culture. Being in Chicago, I have not been able to see this movie yet, but I viewed the website and watched the trailers. The focus is on an area in Northern California and I have had the privilege to hear many of the speakers and participate in some of the workshops and seminars in the past few years given by this group. My friends were very distraught after viewing the movie as it deeply affected them and had them question if their kids were over-scheduled, felt too much pressure, and had too much on their plate.
I understand the deep concern for today's teens and I woke up at 5:30 AM this morning with this thought in my head. How about the concept of "The Journey to Somewhere"? I guess my frustration with so much of the information is that we keep talking about what we are doing wrong, not how to make it right. I am extremely frustrated by my own children's award winning school district in regards to creativity, homework, science fair ...the list could fill this page. The pressures are being exerted in an unbalanced way. I do think there are some very easy solutions especially at the elementary level to help promote healthy habits for healthy families.
I went to our principal when he first began to discuss homework and his overall philosophy. I came with ideas. If the teachers are making homework logs, have them truly look at the meaning of their homework. If it is reinforcing concepts learned at school make it short and interesting. Have the pen and pencil homework in the elementary grades 15-20 minutes, so there is time for more meaningful learning experiences. If the child plays an instrument have part of the homework be to practice 15 minutes a night (or whatever the family designates). If the child does not play an instrument they should listen to at least 2 songs a night and try to challenge them to listen to jazz, classical, pop, oldies etc... All those kids have to do is write the title of the songs, just a little cultural exposure. Maybe an occasional assignment related to the music could be asking questions such as: How did it make you feel? Did you want to get up and dance? Did you want to close your eyes and relax? Have one night of homework be designated to playing a family game – and I’m not talking about a video game. I actually offered to buy a deck of cards for every family in our school, so no one would have excuses. The game could be simply a game of "Go Fish" or an ongoing game of Monopoly. If everyone is very busy there could have a 10 minute time limit on the game. Just like having dinner together, it will get your kids in the habit of being with their family, their permanent support group. Of course, every child should go to bed reading a book or being read to. Kaiser's 2009 study showed how important it is for kids to be completely unplugged at least one hour before bed in order to have good sleep habits.
I do not think this homework concept has to change that much in middle school. The difference can be that the Spanish teacher's assignment is to read Spot books in Spanish. Bake and write down five ingredients in Spanish. My high school daughter, Karly, had a great assignment in her Spanish class. They are learning commands and they had to pick something to teach the class. She picked making Tollhouse Cookies. She had to write every direction in Spanish; bake and make the cookies; present her directions in front of the class and actually hand out the cookies. This was a fun meaningful way to practice commands and directions. Why can't those be broken into small steps in the younger years.
In regards to all the extracurricular activities, I think each parent has to listen to their child. The verbal and non-verbal cues. Sports and dance clubs do take time, but unfortunately to make teams you have to play sports. Team sports, theatre, music all help you engage more in high school and help teens make better choices. But when do you start the intensity? Is starting your child in an intense travel sports program at 8 years old worth the sacrifice of balanced family time when they could start the same program at 11 years old?
I guess my main point is that I think so many of the books and obviously this movie leaves parents feeling terrible. We have to get back to basics and talk about simple things we can begin TODAY in each of our homes and in our schools that can begin to help.

My frustration as an educator for 25 years, and a mom with four kids in every corner of the education system, is that there are simple changes in parenting, education and community that we can implement right now.
I need to see this movie, but I have heard a lot from this group and I am just scared as the saying goes, "people are going to throw the baby away with the bathwater" Hard work, passion for sports, music whatever can be very healthy. We just have to figure out how to keep it meaningful.
There is so much more to think about and say, but I have to start to drive carpools.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reflections on "Tuning into the Media Tuning into your Kids"workshop

Our two day workshop in Palo Alto labeled, "Tuning into the Media Tuning into your Family" was a great success. Families with young children were eager to discuss and reflect on how they were using the media in their homes. Everyone in the group was so open to suggestions and ideas. We followed up our evening program the following morning with over 30 families. We set up 15 stations with simple, easy to try "unplugged" activities to do with children. We will be featuring these activities over the next few weeks on our blog.

Our two day workshops allowed me to pause and check in with my own family and how we were doing in the "unplugging" department.

It was interesting for me to think about my  family ten years ago and now. When my children were under ten years old, I felt I could completely control the media in their lives. My husband and I made a plan and we were pretty consistent on how we stuck to it. Our kids in a week watched about an hour of TV on Saturday mornings for the purely selfish purpose of Ron and me wanting to sleep in on Saturdays. It worked out beautifully until middle school came into our lives. It is funny that no matter how good things feel they have to change, life marches on and you simply have to join the march. Our oldest son never really desired or cared to be plugged in, however our second child really felt she needed to be up on the latest shows so she would have something to talk about at the lunch table. My initial thought was, "tough luck-fitting in is not so important". My tune quickly changed when I thought about all of my child development training and understanding the mind of an adolescent girl. I guess that statement in itself is an oxymoron. None the less, I changed the rules for her and created a few new rules. At first we allowed her to choose one show with the stipulation that we would TiVo it and I had to watch it with her. She agreed and four years later the compromises have continues as my 16 year old is up to about 3 weekly shows. I only regularly watch two with her now, much to her eye rolls and "oh moms" as I add commentary to each episode. More on that later.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pam Worth Parent Education and Interactive Two Day Workshop in Palo Alto California


We are happy to offer an exciting thought provoking two day workshop on "Helping families create healthy homes" offered through Palo Alto Mothers Club on Feb. 4th and 5th. Families can join us for one or both of the following. The Thursday evening talk from 7:00-8:30PM will focus on "Tuning into the Media and Tuning into our Children". Parents will leave with concrete ideas to implement immediately and an action plan custom made for each families individual needs relating to the media frenzy in all of our lives. Friday morning we encourage families to bring their children and test out over 15 stations of hands on activities to do together. Each family will leave with easy ideas to do at home that encourage creative play.

The Thursday evening talk still has openings and the Friday morning class is FULL.
The following is a brief outline of the 1.5 hour Thursday evening program:
1. We will discuss the current research on the effects of media in our children's lives.
2. We will share and discuss what is happening in our own families regarding the media.
3. We will learn a variety of action plans that you can implement immediately to create a safe and healthy home.
4. We will talk about age appropriate guidelines concerning the media.
5. We will learn some fun and creative alternatives to the media in our homes.

Introduction to Pam Worth:

Pamela Worth is a parent educator specializing in classes and seminars on many area of child development. Some of the topics she covers are: “Enhancing Sibling Relationships”, “Tuning into the Media, Tuning into your Child”, “Creative Alternatives to Media”, “Limit Setting”, “Play and Socialization of toddlers”, “Language and Learning” and “Creating Traditions and Rituals for Healthy Families”.

She has been an advocate for healthy family lifestyles and has modeled her programs and career around this premise. Combining her love of nature and her expertise on healthy, unplugged life styles for young children she created Tiny Treks in 1997 as a creative alternative to indoor parent participation programs. Tiny Treks is a meaningful parent participation program that gets children outside learning and exploring in natural environments. TinyTreks incorporates music, movement, story time and crafts into each weekly class. The program has grown to over 200 children in three metropolitan areas since its inception in 1996

Pam can be reached at

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cold Weather and little ones

I know its hard to get the little guys to wear their hat and gloves....but if they don't they can't have fun!  So make sure to bundle them up enough so they can enjoy their outdoor adventures.  A preschooler with freezing hands is an unhappy kid!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tips for Getting Screen Time Under Control

Here are a few practical tips to think about if you want your families screen time under control.

1. Have a cell phone garage you can decorate with your family and decide when do the phones need to park in the garage. If your kids are young, you can be a great role model and park the phone during dinner and family time.
If your kids are cell phone age the phone can park at designated times in the day. Decide as a family, so everyone is invested in this way of life.

2. Create some hard a fast rules that you mostly stick with such as no phones, TVs, i-pods, computers at dinner.

3. The most powerful rule with children and teens is no television Monday-Thursday(there can be some exceptions for a special show).

4. Have your children get in the habit of asking before playing a computer game, X-Box, Wii, DS etc... and they must get permission before turning on the TV. If you can kick the habit of sit on couch and push button you can literally reprogram your family.

More ideas soon.

How old is this tree?

We had such fun today counting the rings on felled trees in the woods.  Some were too old to count but we counted till 10 and compared the rings with the tree shakers we had made.  We also looked for circles anywhere we could find them in nature.  There were circles on tree trunks (knots), there were circles on gopher holes and circles in the silo.  Even the snout of Dottie the Pig was a circle! Nature, shapes and counting-education takes place out of doors!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Swimming in Screen Time

My passion is helping families learn how to manage, moderate and live with the deluge of media in our lives. I could not believe it yesterday when I looked on the front page of the Chicago Tribune and one of the cover stories was, "Children Swimming in Media.",0,4394294.story The stats were fascinating and extremely overwhelming to me. Take a look at the article. There is also another version in the New York Times cleverly titled, "If Your Kids are Awake They are Probably Online".

The Kaiser Foundation does a great job showing us the shocking data in words, graphs, charts and pictures. It looks like in 2004 children averaged about 6 hours 21 min. of screen time a day and the researcher thought that we the reached the peak. There is simply NO MORE TIME IN THE DAY. But alas somehow children between 8-18 have found another 1 hr. 17 minutes on average, bringing the number to a staggering 7hours38 minutes per day. The articles can give you all the statistical information, but what struck me from the article I read was that title "Children Swimming In Media".

When we are pregnant with our precious babies all we can think of is how can we keep them safe. Often we wake up in the night worrying about the outlet we forgot to plug, or the cabinet that is easy to crawl and open, or the toilet seat someone left up. We hire safety people to child proof our house. We spend hundreds of dollars buying equipment to safety proof our homes. We all become handymen installing devices throughout our homes. We sleep a little bit easier for awhile. Then the children start to crawl or walk and a whole new set of safety features need to be added. We worry about what our kids our eating and drinking. We possibly grow our own vegatables, buy food without pesticides, milk without growth hormones and the list continues. We take our toddler to the beach on a sunny day and we discover it is closed because there is too much bacteria in the water. We are outraged and learn what we can do to clean up our beaches, so our precious children can be safe. Yet, we allow our children to literally swim in media. They are swimming with monsters, wars, guns, strangers, porn. I could list a million more things. For the most part, they are in the deep end without a lifeguard.

The informative article about this 2009 study on media usage in children is simply that, very informative. What we now have to do is figure out how to manage screen times in our families. I know that this is a media age and kids have to learn how to navigate some of it, but as parents it is our duty, our pledge for safety that we must pay closer attention to the use of media in our homes. Tomorrow we will give some practical tips on managing the media in your homes.

Maui and a DS

I was lucky enough to be lying on the beach in Maui a few weeks ago, watching families arrive with their little ones in ruffled suits.  As I lay there revisiting beach vacations when my kids were little, I watched two moms greeting each other with envy.  Oh, those days of getting kids and families together for extended fun.  The moms were young and attentive of their children.  Then why does the four year old walk up to the beach clutching and watching a pink DS?  She stumbles along with her head barely bobbing up to look at the next step.  Does she see the sea ahead of her?  Can she smell the tangy ocean air and hear the rush and pull of the waves?  What is so compelling on that screen that she doesn't want to experience the sand between her toes?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Word of the Month is INTERACTION

Ann in your thoughts yesterday about children at the gym on their parents cell phone, I wanted to respond with some important facts on this topic.
First, I believe the very crucial point Ann is bringing up is something the newest generation of parents may not be thinking about enough. We hear the news about screen time, we see the statistics about childhood obesity, yet we hand over the phone, the computer, videos and TV to our young children. There is so much information on this topic, but I think if we can just simplify over the next several days into some simple things to think about as parents, friends, spouses, siblings and teachers it may put this in focus. We are going to pick a word each month related to this topic and this months word is "interaction."

Here are the facts;
1. Babies need a responsive environment for healthy development.
2. The first 5 years of life are the most crucial for brain development and the best way a parent can help is simply talking, singing, reading and interacting with their young child.
3. Screen time takes away from human contact. PERIOD!
4. If you are plugged in you are not interacting.

If everyone out there can just leave our blog today with that word, "interaction" and have it in your mind with everything and everywhere you travel today how does it affect your interactions?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Electronics and the young child

I walked into my gym yesterday just as the family time was ending.  Many children 6 and under were in the lobby getting ready to go home.  I saw 2 young children sitting with their mom, each one playing games on a phone.  There was also a 5 year old girl sitting at the counter staring intently at a laptop screen-mouse in hand.  I know that these children just had time in a pool with their parents.  I'm sure it was a lovely time full of attention and wondrous exercise.  My question is about screen time and how much is too much?  Do these parents realize that screen time includes a child staring at the DS or a cell phone screen?  How do you feel about this activity?  I know that it creates people who are very comfortable using electronics. My kids can program my cell phone in a nano second.  But I do wonder if having small children using these devices doesn't take away from some of the information gathering that their minds are meant to be doing.  An important activity for children under the age of 5 is watching people and how they interact.  They need to learn to watch faces and emotional responses.  Small children spend lots of time observing the world around them in order to better fit in as they grow up.  Can they learn this while having their eyes down and focused on a screen?  What do you think?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Looking for a child's rapt attention.

As a teacher, each time I teach a class it is a different experience. Each child and thus, each group has moods, interests and needs that are separate from the class before. In order to be a good teacher I need to vary my teaching methods to those children. As I teach, I watch the group for signs of restlessness, telling me its time to move on to another topic or song. I observe when a child is interested in my story telling and go a bit more in depth than I thought I would. The quiet nuances of a child's rapt attention is what I look for in each class. For me this is what makes teaching interesting. Every class is unique. Every experience with children is facinating!

The Weather Stinks!

What to do on a rainy, dark day in the Northwest?  Luckily, hiking under the thick rainforest canopy one can be shielded from all but the heaviest downpours.  So, zip up and put on waterproof boots!  We're headed outside-if only for an hour or so. 

Even the smallest of hikers enjoys getting out in the rain.  As long as there is a warm and dry room to end up in!  Kicking and stomping in the rain puddles is ok with me!  Running through the mud and spreckling my jeans with spots.  That's ok too!  Go for it!  There is always a tub full of bubbles to go home to.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tiny Trek gets mathmatical!

A fun way of making the mathmatical concept of measuring accessible for young children.
Supplies: String or yarn and a pair of scissors.
1. Walk around your neighborhood, the local forest or garden in your area and measure the perimeter of the tree trunks at your child's level using yarn.
2. Pick any tree for your first tree and have your child or children bring the string all the way around the tree until both pieces meet. Cut the string at the meeting point.
3. Now look around and ask your child to find a tree with what they think is a smaller trunk. Measure that tree and compare the sizes of the string.
4. Continue to find smaller and larger trees. Sometimes you will be surprised that you are not always able to judge the size by just looking at the tree.
Remember this is the beginning of teaching the concept of bigger and smaller in a concrete way for young children. If you have older kids with you feel free to then use standard measurement tools such as a measuring tape and talk about inches, feet and yards or cm and meters.

Here is how we incorporated this concept in our Tiny Treks class today, however this is a wonderful activity for all ages in any weather to get outside and do.

Today in Tiny Treks the overarching question was "How big are things in nature and can we measure them?" This led to other questions such as "Which things in nature are bigger?" "Which are smaller?" "How big around is a tree?" In order to answer some of these questions we measured tree trunks with yarn and then looked for tree trunks that were bigger or smaller than the original tree. We also measured pine cones, ferns, feathers and small branches with yarn then used the yarn to hang them onto sticks and made mobiles. The kids had such fun holding both ends of the yarn and walking around trees to see which tree was the biggest! Sometimes we were suprised that one tree was bigger than the next. The kids were so proud of their mobiles and carried them carefully on their way out. I teach this class again on friday and will post photos of some of the mobiles this friday!

Hello World! Tiny Treks is Blogging!

Pam and I decided to begin this blog in order to spread the word that you can raise aware and open children, give them lots of opportunities to learn and explore-even during the recession and on a budget!

When our own children were young-we lived near each other and were lucky enough to share the skills we were learning about parenting and fun ideas of how to keep our children occupied and excited about learning while keeping the tv off (for the most part!)

In 1998, Pam began Tiny Treks in Menlo Park California. My daughter and I were fortunate to be part of her “grand experiment” in outdoor education for preschoolers; a previously unexplored genre to my knowledge. Well-it has been a grand success! Tiny Treks is flourishing in the Bay Area in California, has spread with Pam’s family to the Chicago area and with me to the Northwest.

As a Tiny Treks teacher, it is an exciting time to be opening the hearts and minds of young ones and their parents and guardians to the world outside. We know that our world is changing-we read about environmental disasters every day. Glaciers melting, forests burning... and if you are like me you wonder "what can a person like me do to help?"

An an educator, (I received my teaching credential from the University of Washington at Bothell this past June) I believe that teaching our newest generation the love of nature and the outdoors is the first and one of the most crucial steps to keeping our planet vibrant and alive.

Bring your child to Tiny Treks and together we can search for bugs under rocks and birds rapping on trees. Let's make sure that this next generation has some of the memories we have of running through the woods, squishing toes in the sand and making mud pies.

Our lives are so clean and our child's lives so organized. But nature brings out creativity and exuberance we can perhaps get no where else. Nature is unpredictable. Nature is a force to be reckoned with. Let's enjoy and appreciate it!