Sunday, July 25, 2010

Parents = Toy Experts. Meet Deborah from Teach Preschool!

We continue our weekly interviews with very active and engaged person both online and offline when little ones are in question. She shares some of her own experiences both as a mother and a teacher with us:

1. Let's start with introduction! Tell us, who is Deborah?

In my personal life, I am wife, a mother, and an aunt to a whole gang of nieces and nephews. I have been married for 27 years and have raised my daughter who is now 24 years old and is also married with a home of her own. As I raised my own daughter, I attended college and worked as a preschool teacher, curriculum writer, and director of a local childcare program but with my daughter gone from the nest, I found myself with more time to invest in my professional passion for early childhood education which has led to new adventures in the field. In my professional life, I am Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. I have a master degree in early childhood education and I am a speaker, writer, song writer, and early childhood education consultant. I started several online sites including Teach Preschool and Little Fingers that Play. Teach Preschool can be found on Facebook and Twitter too - it is all a fun way to network and share resources with other early childhood educators and parents.

2. As a professional teacher and educator and a mom, can you compare two of those roles? Which one is easier / harder, in which way?

I view teaching as being much easier than parenting. When a child enters the preschool classroom, the environment is all about the child. The daily schedule, the classroom set-

up, the routines, the music, the activities are all designed to help children be successful and have a good day. As a preschool teacher, I can adapt my plans throughout the school day to do whatever works best for the children in my care.

At home, a parent cannot possibly make everything they do be all about the child so there are bound to be more unique

obstacles to tackle. Parenting involves helping children adapt not only to their own world but to the adult world as well. I truly have loved both being a parent and a teacher but I view the roles as being so different that I am not so sure that I can say that one is easier or harder. Instead, I would have to say that they are both extremely rewarding and they both come with their own unique challenges.
3. It's been a lot of talk lately about introducing kids (toddlers in particular) to alphabets and numbers and other learning "stuff" too early in their lives. What's your opinion about this?

I believe that young children are capable learners from the minute they are born but what is most important at the to

ddler stage of growth is not what they are learning as much as how they are learning.

It is certainly fine to introduce letters and numbers to a toddler but they should be introduced in a way that is meaningful to them and appropriate for their stage of development. Giving a toddler opportunities to explore numbers and letters through play and everyday experiences is the best approach for their development. Making a toddler sit still in a high chair to learn their letters is not fun and not something I would recommend.

What we want to do is to introduce concepts in such a way that toddlers want to do the activities over and over again. We want to foster their sense of curiosity so they will have a love for learning and we need to be enthusiastically creative in our approach to helping toddlers learn.

4. Which toys you would recommend to every parent? And why?

I am not so sure I can recommend any one type of toy but what I can say is that the best way to find out what toddlers love to play with is by observing their play. For example,

my 17 month old nephew, Wyatt, loves to push and pull things around the room. So we keep lots of toys around that allow him to push and pull like cars, wagons, brooms, mops, and so forth.

Wyatt also likes to dump things and then line them up on the floor so I keep a baskets or bowls of toys that he can dump out at will and line-up. I switch out what goes in the baskets or bowls so to keep Wyatt inter

ested in the process. At times I may have blocks in the basket other times I fill the basket with cars, ribbon scraps, lids, or puzzle pieces.

5. Now, question for a teacher :) How to resolve fight over toys when toddlers are in question?

Sharing is often a concern for parents and teachers of toddlers but we have to keep in mind that toddlers are still in the "all about me" stage of cognitive development. Sharing is a concept that toddlers are not fully prepared to understand. My best advice is to make sure that there are plenty of toys in a toddler classroom to give everyone something to do and when two toddlers start to fight over the same toy, bring out something equally inviting to capture their attention.

To help develop a sense of empathy, say the words and role model the actions you want toddlers to copy. Say words such as "we need to be (gentle, kind, loving) and (share) with our friends." As you do so, you are laying the ground work helping toddlers care about others but be patient and remember that toddlers are still developing the realization that life is not "all about me." Toddlers do love to make their parents and teachers happy so use this knowledge to reinforce positive behaviors. Give lots of encouragement for positive behavior through "hand clapping" and by saying a happy "good job!" when a toddler does share so they will want to try doing that again!

Don't forget to stop by Deborah's blog and read through many of her insightful posts. Link is:

Teach Preschool


  1. Love the information about how to teach/model sharing. I have 2 little boys at home and I'm never sure how to get them to share :) -- one is only 6 months so the main thing is how to keep my oldest from stealing all of his toys right now :)

  2. Wow - you definitely have your hands full there! A little time and practice with this skill is definitely needed:)


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