The ReadyKids Play Partners program partnered with the Virginia Festival of the Book for a kid-friendly story time at C-ville Coffee this past Saturday, March 24.  Over 75 parents and children attended this fun-filled story time introducing children to the book Mrs. Wishy Washy by Joy Cowley.

The morning included an interactive reading of the book, songs, finger plays, crafts, and an appearance by Mrs. Wishy Washy herself.  Each kid made their own Mrs. Wishy Washy puppet and farm animal puppet – from popsicle sticks and construction paper – to reenact the story at home.

“The best part for me was the faces, watching the kids’ faces,” said Ali Davison, Play Partners Assistant.  “Their enthusiasm was really endearing.”

Play Partners

Play Partners teachers preschool-age kids literacy skills, active listening and focus through play and story-telling together.  Throughout the school year, our Play Partners volunteers go into area child care centers and bring books and so much more to get kids excited about reading.

ReadyKids is always looking for Play Partners Volunteers!  If you’re interested in giving two hours a week to preschool age children in Charlottesville visit this site for more information.   We would love to hear from you!

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Our ReadySteps program encourages parents as a child’s first and best teacher through early learning playgroups within five communities around Charlottesville.  If there is one thing ReadySteps staff have learned in the process, it’s what kids like to play with.

This list contains seven toys that can be bought or made for less than $10, but still have huge educational opportunity.  Five of them can be bought from local Charlottesville businesses or from Amazon Smile, where a percentage of your proceeds will come back to ReadyKids! The last two can be made at home with free or easy-to-find materials!

Everyone at ReadyKids is so grateful to be a part of this community.  We wish you and yours a happy holiday season!

Five Gifts Under $10 Preschoolers will LOVE:

1. Play Food

The benefits of toy food for child development have been enumerated.  Not only does playing with toy food help kids differentiate colors and shapes, it can also teach responsibility and healthy habits.  Engaging in your child’s pretend play also builds your child’s language and social skills.  A social skill is anything that creates interaction and communication between people where social rules are communicated in verbal and nonverbal ways.  “Oh, what’s this you’ve brought me?  A tomato and an eggplant?  That looks delicious! Thank you!”  In those four sentences you’ve taught your child two new words (tomato and eggplant), manners (Thank you!) and how to interact with others.

 

2. Stickers

Every kid should play with stickers.  It helps to develop the pincer grasp (think of the fingers you use to “pinch,” that’s the pincer grasp), which will be useful for learning how to hold a pencil and write. Plus, the possibilities are endless with stickers – you can buy any color or character sticker to match your child’s interests.

3. Stacking & Sorting Toys

Sorting and stacking toys help young children to begin to understand math concepts, develop motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and creative thinking. And, they are so much fun!

 

4. Hopper Balls

Balls are a versatile gift that no matter what the age of the child, and can be used to develop gross motor skills.  Gross motor skills are larger movements your child makes with his arms, legs, feet, or his entire body – like crawling, running, and jumping.  Hopper balls are always a hit at ReadySteps playgroups.

5.  Tempera Sticks 

While regular paint may strike fear into the heart of any parent who desires a clean house, tempera sticks are all of the fun of painting without any brushes to clean.  Plus, they’re a unique way for little hands to develop fine motor and pre-writing skills.  Fine motor skills involve smaller movements that occur in the wrists, hands, fingers, feet and toes.

Two Homemade Gifts That Provide Hours of Entertainment:

 

1. Puffy paint 

ReadySteps makes this fun, textured paint to use during play groups.  You can make it at home too with equal parts shaving cream and glue. Add a few drops of food coloring and mix together with a paintbrush for colorful 3D art!

 

2. A Sensory Bin

In the first three years of life, kids learn less from what you say to them and more from what they experience through their senses (scent, touch, taste, sight, and hearing).  One easy way to provide a lot of sensory experiences in a short period of time is to create a sensory bin.  Find a large plastic box and fill it with materials that are interesting for a kid to touch.  There are so many options!  Rice, puff balls, beans, seeds, dried pasta, sand, rocks.  Let the kids have fun scooping, pouring, and raking!

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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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The upcoming Alt Right Rally scheduled for August 12th may be challenging for youth in our community.  For some, it may trigger feelings of stress and fear.  This may include: memories of experiences they’ve had, stories they’ve heard, or worries that are part of their daily life already.

For youth who have not personally experienced racial bias or injustice, they may feel confused or unsettled knowing that this is taking place in a community that otherwise has felt safe to them.  Either way, we are here to help.


 

Below are some tips and resources that we hope you will find helpful.

  1. Media-coverage can increase fears and anxiety in children, graphic images and stories may be particularly upsetting but also can be a great way to launch conversations about what is happening and how you and your family can be part of a positive solution.
  2. Discuss together what’s happening and reflect on your own experiences and feelings.  Keep an open dialogue and seize opportunities for communication.
  3. Plan time away from the event and coverage of the event.
  4. Make a plan ahead of time about how you’ll respond if you find yourself in a stressful situation or confronted with racial bias/injustice so that if it happens you’ll be ready to respond safely and constructively.
  5. Seek help if you’re struggling or if you feel treated unfairly.  Our teen hotline is available for you 24/7 and we’d be happy to talk about community resources, be a sounding board, or help advocate for change wherever we can.  That number is  434-972-7233.

    Building Tolerance

    Things youth can do to build tolerance:
  • Appreciate their own and others’ cultural values
  • Object to ethnic, racist, and sexist jokes
  • Refrain from labeling people
  • Not judge others, especially for things they have no control over

Adults are integral in providing a positive, healthy example for youth to follow. By being tolerant themselves, they can pass that behavior onto the youth with whom they interact.

Things adults can do to help youth:

  • Educate the community about hate crimes and diversity
  • Making sure that those who work closely with youth (teachers, school administrators, police officers) receive diversity training
  • Help develop constructive activities for youth

Helpful Links!

10 ways youth can engage in activism – While we do not encourage youth in our community to attend the upcoming rally, we do encourage youth to find positive outlets to express their passion for whatever is closest to their hearts.  This link provides some suggestions for safe and constructive ways for youth to make a difference.

Culture and Trauma – This compilation of resources from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network contains several resources useful for increasing cultural awareness, sensitivity and understanding for anyone working with diverse youth and families.

Making Sense of News Stories about Bias and Injustice – This article is aims at helping adults facilitate conversations that will engage youth in a constructive dialogue about what they may be seeing on the news.

Book Suggestions – Books can be a powerful tool for helping youth navigate difficult topics.  This link contains a comprehensive list of suggestions for all ages. 

The Youth Counseling Team at ReadyKids hopes for a safe weekend for all.  Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need additional resources during this stressful time in our community.
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