Toddler Rule #1: Dump Everything, picture of child dumping sand from a bucket

First Baptist Preschool has been a steady presence in the Charlottesville early childhood scene for decades.  Their early childhood educators have an average of ten years of experience working with children.  They were one of the first preschools to join the Virginia Quality Initiative in 2008, when it was a pilot program.  Still, every fall, before their students come back to school, they set up a training with the Growing Minds program at ReadyKids.

“I think if you don’t have trainings you get a little stale,” said Ann Easton, Director of First Baptist.

But this time, Easton put out a challenge to the Growing Minds trainer, Stephanie Massie.  Prior to her role at ReadyKids, Massie had been both a childcare center director and a preschool teacher.  Easton felt confident she could handle a challenge.

“I don’t want it to be boring,” Easton said. “I want shock value.  I want wow factor.”

Massie thought about that for a while.  How do you add shock value and wow factor to a training on developmentally appropriate curriculum? It seemed an impossible task.

Then, she remembered something she had heard from Eddie Harris, the Fatherhood Specialist at REAL Dads, another ReadyKids program.

“Stop being a resource.  The answers are in the room already.”

Instead of lecturing on child development, Massie decided to capitalize on the strengths of these already experienced teachers.  She started her session with two questions.

The first, “What do you want to see from the kids you teach?”

And the second, “What do you NOT want to see from the kids you teach?”

The answers were predictable.  The teachers wanted to see listening, engagement and wonder.  They didn’t want to see toy dumping, tattling or defiance.

Kids Do Well if They Can

Massie handed them the “Milestones of Child Development” book, a standardized tool for Virginia early childhood educators to help align a child’s developmental needs with what they’re being taught in preschool.  After they looked over the book, Massie showed a video by Ross Greene, a child psychologist, who says, “Kids do well if they can.”

“’Kids do well if they can’ is only a life shattering philosophy if you consider the more prevalent philosophy, ‘Kids do well if they wanna,’” said Ross Greene.  “But consider this, ‘Why would a kid not want to do well?’”

Massie turned to the two-year-old teachers, a notoriously difficult age to teach, and said, “So, what can a two-year-old child do well right now?”

The teachers turned to the section for physical development of children 18-months to 36-months and found this sentence, “fill a container with small objects and dump them out repeatedly.”

Legos scattered on a hard wood floor

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

The teachers looked up a bit sheepishly.  Dumping toys, a behavior they didn’t want to see in kids, was exactly what two-year-olds can do well.

“We found that’s something that child must need,” said Easton.  “Just think about all the feedback [a child] gets if he dumps a box of Legos on a tile floor.”

Massie then stood up in front of the group, lifted a big container of balls above her head and flipped it over – dumping the balls and sending them bouncing around the classroom.

“You could see the discomfort immediately,” said Massie.  “I invited them to try dumping things themselves.”

Each teacher practiced dumping their own bucket of toys and reflecting on what the satisfaction was – hearing the sounds the toys made when they hit the ground, the physical input of going from heavy to light, and the feeling of success after persistence. Then, as a group, they talked about what annoyed them about dumping toys as adults, and how to remedy the situation.

“If the noise is what bothers you,” said Easton, “let’s think of ways you can give [a child] a way to dump without the noise.”

Focusing on Strengths

Children lift sticks in the air as teacher plays guitar.After that, Massie felt like the teachers gave their own training.  They began looking up each of the “bad” behaviors in the Child Development book.  Tattling.  Preschoolers are learning to “demonstrate progress in expressing needs and opinions by using words and asking for help when needed.” Defiance. Preschoolers are learning to “demonstrate the ability to initiate activities.”

“I could physically see the dots connecting above their heads,” said Massie. “I was in a zone with stars in my eyes.  It was in that moment I realized that I got the wow factor.”

Massie had been giving trainings for years, trying to emphasize that usually ‘bad’ behaviors are ‘developmental’ behaviors.  But the wisdom to stop being a resource and let the people in the room find the answers themselves changed the conversation.

“Allowing us to come up with different ways of handling things in the classroom always makes an impact,” said Easton. “We just love working with ReadyKids.”

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We are excited to announce that the program previously known as Child Care Quality will be transitioning to be known as Growing Minds! 


Here’s the thought process behind the change:

  • The term “child care” does not accurately capture the diversity of all the early care and learning programs ReadyKids serves. We also partner with child development centers, preschool programs in public elementary schools, corporate and university-based centers, faith-based preschools, Head Start, family day homes, and other specialized learning programs.
  • “Child care” diminishes the valuable work of early childhood educators.  Children are learning all the time, in every environment.   We recognize early childhood educators as professionals, tasked with preparing children for school and life success.  Terminology matters.
  • “Growing Minds” reflects both the growth that early childhood educators experience to change their practices (their minds have to expand to assimilate new information and skills), and the impact on the children. Productive play and high quality interactions with adults actually grow children’s minds!

Growing Minds will continue to offer the same services improving the quality of early child-care and preschool settings by offering coaching, training and support to early childhood teachers and directors.  We hope that you will practice saying the new name with us!

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We’re smiling bashfully from ear to ear.  We’ve gotten a lot of positive attention lately!  Everyone at ReadyKids is passionate about the work they do, and we’re so glad our work contributes positively to our community.

Last week, our Executive Director, Jacki Bryant, was interviewed for the CBS19 Community Counts Segment.  This week, ReadyKids’ hard working teams of InsideOut, ReadySteps, and Child Care Quality were featured on the local Charlottesville news last night in two separate stories.

InsideOut Receives Heal Charlottesville and Concert for Charlottesville Funds

We are proud to announce publicly that we are one of the proud recipients of donations from the Concert for Charlottesville and the Heal Charlottesville Fund of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.  This summer, partly due to the trauma of the Aug. 12 rally, our wait list for trauma counseling climbed to over 54 kids.  These funds from CACF will go towards hiring an additional trauma counselor to meet the needs of our city’s youth.

Click on the photos to be led to the CBS19 video with Shannon Noe, the program manager for our counseling programs.

 

ReadySteps and Child Care Quality Featured in Reporting on Affordable Childcare

As the cost of child care in Charlottesville rises, more parents are forced to chose between affordability and quality. ReadyKids wants to make sure that this decision is less painful for parents.  Whether you choose to opt out of the workforce and stay home with your children while they’re little or you go back to work but feel nervous about child care options – there is a ReadyKids program for you.
For those at home with kids, ReadyKids ReadySteps program brings regular early learning playgroups to children and their caregivers in their home communities.  ReadySteps teaches parents how to be their child’s first teacher, helps families connect with other families in the community, and helps families gain access to a support system that grows with their child.  They currently meet in five different Charlottesville neighborhoods including Agnor Hurt, Friendship Court, Greenstone on 5th, Southwood, and Westhaven.
For parents working outside of the home, ReadyKids Child Care Quality program improves the quality of early child-care and preschool settings by offering coaching, training and support to early childhood teachers and directors.  If you are in need of resources to find affordable, quality child care in Charlottesville, check out this list of resources compiled by the Child Care Quality team.
Click on the picture of Shannon Banks, ReadySteps Program Manager, or Gail Esterman, Child Care Quality Program Manager, to be linked to the CBS19 story on the riding cost of childcare in Charlottesville.

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It’s 8 p.m. on a dark, rainy Thursday night in October. Eighteen men and women of all ages and races gather in the Education Center of ReadyKids in Charlottesville.  They all have one thing in common – they watch other people’s children for a living.  They are tired from working a full day.  One drinks a large soda to stay awake.  Another loudly clicks a pen while blinking her eyes and yawning.  Despite their exhaustion they’ve come to this Child Development Associate (CDA) class to improve their skills.

“I was thinking it was going to be common sense material, but actually coming and doing the modules I’ve learned to professionally grow as a better teacher,” said Cheri Paschall, a 3-year-old teacher at Barrett Early Learning Center.  “I’ve learned that free play is a better way of learning, and by doing this I’ve found more confidence in myself.”

The ReadyKids Child Care Quality program provides a free CDA class to child care providers in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area or for those whose employers enrolled in Virginia Quality.  It’s a rigorous 13 module program that is self-paced and teaches about everything from effective behavior management to how to plan a healthy meal a child will eat.

“This is a very good resource for people who want to do better, want to be better,” said Ayana Alexander, a 2-year-old teacher at Barrett Early Learning Center.

Though the average salary for an early childhood educator in Virginia is around $20,000 – about the same amount as the Federal Poverty Level for a family of 3 – for these men and women their jobs are more than just a paycheck.  They are building Charlottesville’s future.

When asked, “how does your work contribute to the future of Charlottesville?” their passion and professionalism come through.

“With everything that’s going on lately, it’s had people on edge … There are a lot of kids who sadly don’t have the same opportunity to love and grow and feel like they’re in a nurtured environment where they know they are safe, they’re loved and they can be themselves.  Even though they’re two-years-old right now, they will carry with them the thought that, ‘I’m somebody, I’m important, I can be cared for, I can be what I want to be when I grow up.’  I feel it when I walk in the door.”
Ayana Alexander, 2-year-old teacher at Barrett Early Learning Center

 

“We give them the tools to learn. We give them the hunger to learn. We give them the permission to learn. Yes, it’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to make messes. It’s okay to tear things apart and put them back together … if we don’t stretch their brains now there is not going to be very much to stretch later.”
Katherine Cashatt, Toddler teacher at Covesville Child Development Center

 

“We provide them with the information, the care, the love, the support that they need to become the little people they are growing up to be.  Without that love, care and support then they might not see that if they weren’t learning it at day care.”
Brittani Collier, Preschool teacher at UVA Child Development Center

 

“I am partnering with my parents and we are trying to provide an environment for these precious little beings to become healthy, independent, contributing individuals to their families, communities and society at large through our loving, nurturing and stimulating environment for them to grow up and build their self esteem, so they can provide that for others.”
– Vanessa Coles, Infant & Toddler In-Home Child Care Provider

 

“I feel like I have a good impact on the children that I teach.  When they get older what I’ve taught them can help them have a bright future. I give them the opportunity to explore more, let them have a say in lesson planning to drive what their interests are.  They can feel that they are important in the classroom.”
Cheri Paschall, 3-year-old teacher at Barrett Early Learning Center

 

Help ReadyKids continue to improve the quality of Early Childhood Education in the Charlottesville community. Though the CDA class is paid for with grant money, many students can’t afford the books required.  $95 pays for a full set of books for an adult CDA student.

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