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“Pressure-cooker Kindergarten” – Where are we now?

In 2009, The Boston Globe took a look at a trend of increasing academic demands on our youngest students, their teachers, and families. Even in kindergarten, children and their educators are being subjected to tests and standards “that early childhood researchers agree are developmentally inappropriate, even potentially damaging.” These new expectations arose out of concern for the achievement gap between white students and minorities; mandatory standardized testing was meant to hold schools accountable for all their students. According to Globe, accountability has come at the cost of play time and other activities critical to early brain development. Their special report featured the experiences of educators and experts struggling with the balance between accountability and best practices – many of whom work in the Boston area.

Three years later, what are the academic pressures of the kindergarten classroom? Do the experiences of the teachers in this piece reflect your own? How do you balance accountability with play? What’s changed? What’s stayed the same? Where do you think we should go from here?


Continue Reading April 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM Leave a comment

Show Love, Develop Fine Motor Skills

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for both parents and childcare providers to engage children in activities that will improve their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the coordination of small muscle movements which occur e.g., in the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes. These skills are vital to our everyday life and impact our ability to do all sorts of things ranging from being able to pick up small items, being able to button a shirt to drawing and writing in the classroom. However, these skills are not innate to humans and need to be developed over time and craft projects are an excellent way to do so.

Drawing and Tracing: If your program will be celebrating Valentines’ Day try creating “mailboxes” for each child made of cardstock, brown paper bags, or recycled boxes. Have the children decorate their mailbox with crayons, colored pencils, markers, or even paint. Provide stencils for them to trace hearts, flowers or other shapes onto the mailbox.

Using tools:  Have children make their own Valentines to give away with colorful construction paper and safety scissors. Encourage the children to decorate their Valentines with glitter, stickers, stamps or paint.  This would be a great opportunity for children to practice picking up and manipulating small objects.

The basic arts and crafts of Valentine’s Day offer great fine motor skills practice to children and a lot of fun at the same time! While they create their tokens of affection, you can show your care by encouraging them to develop the skills they need for the rest of their lives.

February 9, 2012 at 2:38 PM Leave a comment

The state of affordable high quality childcare

In December, the Globe published a article titled “The day care squeeze” where the author wrote about the challenge of finding affordable daycare. According to her statistics, Massachusetts has the highest average day care cost in the nation. Childcare for  an infant costs roughly $18,773 dollars a year which is approximately 67% of the average single mom’s salary. I found these statistics to be very alarming and it made me  wonder if, as state and a nation  we will ever be able to find a means to achieve affordable high quality childcare. What are your thoughts on the state of our childcare system? How do you think we can go about improving it?

May 12, 2011 at 1:48 PM Leave a comment

The Value of Play

Play is one of the most important aspects of childhood. It is through playing that children learn about their surroundings and how to interact with others. As part of Countdown to Kindergarten’s mission to enhance early learning opportunities for the children of Boston, we offer FREE Play to Learn groups. Our playgroups bring together parents, children and an early childhood professional to build a community of peers for support, to foster nurturing behaviors, to help families access other needed services and to model developmentally appropriate practice.

Families have the opportunity to join one of two hour weekly playgroups at any of our nine sites. We are currently looking for participants for the Trotter and  the Holmes Elementary Schools and for the Saturday group at the Tobin Community Center.

Each of playgroups sessions includes:

  • Educational play
  • Circle time
  • Snack
  • Information and resource sharing
  • Gross motor and sensory play
  • Goodbye circle
  • ReadBoston’s Reading Trail lending library

Our playgrops have proven to offer an enriching early learning enviorment, provide a positive “first school” experience, empower parents to be teachers and foster realtionships that build community. If you have a family or a small group who may be interested in participating, please refer them to our schedule and let them know they can register by contacting Rosa Inniss at 617-635-9288.

March 2, 2011 at 10:36 AM 1 comment

The 411 on BPS School Registration

The new year is right around the corner, and with it comes Boston Public School kindergarten registration. As of January 4, 2011, families can start registering their children for the 2011-2012 academic year. For those of you with families who are uncertain about what they need to do and when to register for kindergarten, Countdown to Kindergarten has a great resource for you. Our Kindergarten Information Sheets is a 12 page resource that details everything one would want to know about registering for the Boston Public Schools. The Kindergarten Information Sheets are available on our website here.

Please encourage your families to register during the first round – January 4th, 2011 to February 4, 2011 – so they have the best chance of being assigned to one of their selected schools.

December 2, 2010 at 2:03 PM Leave a comment

It’s Time to Choose Boston

The Boston Public Schools (BPS) School Choice Season has begun! The season kicked off with its annual Showcase of Schools where attending families had the opportunity to learn about all of their school options under one roof. If any of your families were unable to attend, don’t worry, it’s never too late for them to learn about their school options. In fact, School Preview Time (SPT) is just around the corner! From November 1st through January 21st, each BPS school will be hosting special Open House hours with tours and school representatives so perspective families may learn more about what each school has to offer. SPT schedules are available at the three Family Resource Centers, Boston public libraries and here.

As families start considering their school options, encourage your families to:

  1.  Visit each prospective school! There is no better way to determine whether or not a school could potentially work for your child than going to see it firsthand.  
  2. Make school choices based on what you see yourself.  Every child is different. What may have worked well for a relative or friend may not work well for your child.
  3. Pick at least 5 schools for the best chance of getting a school of your choice. It’s better to be assigned to a school that may not have been your first choice than not receive an assignment at all.
  4. Make sure to apply for schools during the first round! Families who apply during the first round will be given priority in the assignment process. Remember: school assignments are not made on a first come first serve basis. The assignment process will not begin until after February 4th  2011, the last day of the first round, so let your families know they don’t have to go on the first day of registration!!

 We understand that registering for school can be a very overwhelming process for families. In an effort to assist families and providers with navigating this process, Countdown to Kindergarten has several free resources available to help guide families through the process. To order any of these resources, complete and send in this form.   

 For more information on the school registration process, visit

November 1, 2010 at 1:51 PM Leave a comment

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The big day is just around the corner. As we get closer to the first day of kindergarten (Monday September 13, 2010), many of your families may start to feel stressed, anxious, nervous and, of course, EXCITED! Most of the time, the transition into kindergarten is harder on the parents than it is for the child. Below are a few activities you can suggest to your families to help make this transition as smooth as possible. 

  1. TALK ABOUT KINDERGARTEN. Ask your child he has questions or concerns about starting school. Tell them how you felt when you first started kindergarten. Try reading a book about the first day of school to start a conversation.
  2. CREATE ROUTINES. Set a bedtime and wake-up time and stick to it. This helps children know what to expect and ensures they get enough rest.
  3. COMPLETE THE PARENT QUESTIONNAIRE here. This information will help your child’s teacher get to know your child better.
  4. ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE. You can nurture independence by allowing your child to make certain choices, such as “Do you want to wear your purple shirt or the yellow one?”  Many times children will have to open their lunch on their own. Help your child be prepared by teaching her to open her own juice boxes and food containers.
  5. DRESS YOUR CHILD IN COMFORTABLE CLOTHING.  Have him wear elastic waistband pants; this way, if he waits until the last minute to use the restroom, it will be easier for him to pull his pants down. Once your child feels comfortable and is used to the new routines, you can let him dress how he chooses. 

 If your families have any last minute questions about Kindergarten or the 1st day of school, encourage them to call their school or contact Rosa Inniss at

September 9, 2010 at 11:16 AM Leave a comment

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