Posts filed under ‘Tips’

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

Read, Read, Read!

At Jumpstart, we are constantly asking ourselves an important question: what more can we do for our preschoolers?  While visiting some Jumpstart sessions this week, I saw some fantastic reading strategies, language and literacy activities, and conversations around choice-time courtesy of Boston’s Community Corps (our older adult corps of volunteers).  But we all agreed that there is more we can do to make our four hours per week with these kids even more meaningful.

Recently we’ve been thinking a lot about our Reading CenterThe Reading Center is an option for kids to choose during choice-time, but is all too often never chosen at all.  We know how important early reading skills are, and know that we need to take every opportunity that we can to expose children to reading.  In thinking about what more we could do to sell our kids on the Reading Center, I came across some great ideas and resources, including some creative Reading Center set-ups from one of our very own Jumpstart Sites!

  • Jumpstart at Emerson College came up with these thoughtful and creative set-ups for their Reading Center:

By thinking creatively about their set-up, Jumpstart at Emerson College has made the Reading Center exciting and engaging so their kids will be more likely to make the choice to read with their Jumpstart friends.  Ideas like this make reading more of an experience than just reading words on a page–it becomes and engaging activity that kids can get excited about.

  • Reading Rockets also has pages and pages of tips and tricks for parents, teachers and even school administrators.  One of my favorite parent resources was “10 Things You Can Do to Raise a Reader–” this is a great list of quick, easy, every-day activities and reminders for how parents can get their kids off on the right foot when it comes to reading.  I also loved the “Themed Booklists” and the how-to on setting up a “Classroom Library,” because they reminded me of a lot of the things we are constantly thinking about at Jumpstart, and prove that there is a lot more that can go into teaching a child how to read then just handing him a book.

Do you know of any more great reading resources?  Share them here so we can come up with even more ideas to get our children invested in reading!

January 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM Leave a comment

Handprint Turkeys and the Cotton Ball Snowman: Is There Hope For an Artful America?

I have a coworker at Boston Children’s Museum who has some compelling ideas about nurturing creativity in young children and I’d like to share them with you. Her name is Bridget Matros and she is our Arts Program Manager. She recently contributed a chapter to a book called 20 Under 40. Her chapter is called “Handprint Turkeys and the Cotton Ball Snowman: Is there Hope for an Artful America?” She urges us to think outside the box.

Introduction from the author:
“One might see finger-pointing at craft projects in early learning settings as gratuitous snobbery. Make no mistake, my realm is one of crayons and glue sticks and I’m surely unqualified as an elitist in any arts discipline. I claim only to be a well-positioned observer who has discovered and watched a glaring disconnect for so long that I finally have to step into the arts advocacy ring and sound an alarm -hopefully for the benefit of both the field of arts advocacy and its constituents – society at large. My intention is to share an insider’s view of what kids are learning (and unlearning) about creativity and art before kindergarten, and to shed light on how the situation creates an uphill battle for individuals working towards an arts rich culture. I’ll do a bit of theoretical connect-the-dots, explain myself by sharing (in gory detail) my experiences with families and teachers of young children during my time at Boston Children’s Museum (BCM) and just when the picture becomes horrendously bleak, I’ll offer some simple suggestions on how we can change the status quo for the better.”

Some basic tips Bridget has to share on art making with young children:
1. Materials should be simple. Stick to the basics: glue, scissors, paint, crayons and markers.
2. Let the child lead (back off).
3. Focus on the process not the product.
4. Respect the product – “ it is not yours, it belongs to the artist. Resist tweaking a button for symmetry! “
5. Teach parents, educate them. Send a note home at the beginning of the year to set expectations about art making in your class.
6. Different is better, “weird” is good. Positively reinforce any and all out-of –the box thinking!

Click here to read more from Bridget’s chapter (also available on the “Resources” page).

For information about the book go to:

July 5, 2011 at 4:47 PM Leave a comment

“Vacation Week “…Two words that parents dread.

Ten days of thinking up projects and outings that won’t break the bank? Help! Here are some tips to give families:

Let the kids help plan – put some ideas in a hat and pull out 1 per day. You might want to give criteria for the ideas. Each child can put in 3 activities and one must be an outdoor activity or all must be doable by the ages of kids in your family or must be no cost.

Plan some alone time – Depending on the ages of your kids, give the kids 2 time slots during the day when they have to play by themselves. In my house this is called Mommy Time.  If your kids are little – maybe they’ll take a nap?! If your kids are older give them a challenge:  see if you can build a bridge out of blocks and paper that will hold this encyclopedia.  Check on them in an hour to see what they’ve come up with.

Clean and organize – If you celebrate a gift giving tradition then you probably have a lot of extra clutter coming into the house. Have your children assess what is it they got and what to give away. Devote a ½ day to sorting and organizing donations to charity. Your kids can even help you think of where to donate it.

Get a handle on thank yous – Set up a thank you card station and have your kids make cards to thank gift givers. Give them a list and they can make a few cards each day and check each one off the list.  Use leftover gift wrapping to decorate them.

Movie day – Look at the weather for the week and pick the day that looks the least appealing. Schedule a movie day. Have kids pick out 2 movies. Let them stay in their pj’s and make some popcorn and cocoa. 

Create holiday memory books – a great resource for book making is here: 

Outings – Museums will be busy this week but tend to be busier at the end of the week and in the morning.  Try visiting on a Monday or Tuesday.  Be sure to make a plan with your children about what to do if one of you gets lost.  Bring extra clothes if their are activities involving water.

Try to get outside everyday! – If there’s snow on the ground you could do some snow painting: fill a spray bottle with water and food coloring, spray it at the snow and make designs.  Go for a walk and notice the changes that cold weather makes to the trees, grass and bushes. Experiment with ice and water – put a cup of water outside. How long does it take to freeze? Can you add leaves, pinecones or stones to it to make ice art?

Give a parent a break! – Holidays, gifts, food, family, out of town visitors…the weeks before vacation week can be overwhelming. To give yourself a break see if a friend will take your kids one day and you can take their kids the next.  Everyone needs a little break!

Though vacation week can be stressful – lots of expectation, relatives coming and going, planning and logistics… take a deep breath, slow down and do something fun each day. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or costly. Remember,  it’s a holly jolly time of year and the years do fly by!

December 21, 2010 at 4:24 PM Leave a 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

Previewing Schools – what to look at

It’s School Preview Time November-December. If you work with Boston families, encourage them to visit schools! It can be a daunting task – there are 22 elementary schools in my zone. I visited 12 of them… and it was exhausting! Here are some things I learned…

Ask other parents at the park, in the grocery store, at the nail salon where their kids go to school and what they like about it. You may find out about a school you’ve never heard of.

If you can’t go to any of the 3 scheduled Preview Times of a school you really want to see, call the Principal. He/She would be happy to let you come in to see their school!

“Full day” kindergarten doesn’t mean 7am-6pm like my daycare or even 9-5 like my job. “Full day” in Boston means 9:30-3:30 or 8:30-2:30. To me that’s not a full day…Which brings me to afterschool.

If you work full time you might need before and/or afterschool care. Don’t assume that every school has an afterschool program or before school. Remind families to ask if this is a service they really need. And, the afterschool program might not be on-site which is something that might be important to you.

Ask how the school and teachers communicate with parents – do they have a newsletter, an email list, a website? Do these communication methods meet your comfort level? Kindergarten is a partnership between parent and teacher so be prepared to participate!

Don’t pick your school based on whether they have an Advanced Work program or by how many children in that school get into the Advanced Work program. Kindergarten is a time when kids are learning how to learn. Give your child time to show you her “stuff”. More info on Advanced Work here:

Charter Schools have a different application system separate from Boston Public Schools even though there are “public” charter schools. If you’re interested in Charter Schools as an option, there is more information here:

If you want to get your child (children) used to the idea of a Kindergarten classroom, pay a visit to the new Countdown to Kindergarten exhibit at Boston Children’s Museum. (Friday night from 5-9pm it’s $1 per person) You will find activities in the exhibit that mirror activities in kindergarten and allow children to practice kindergarten skills.

November 9, 2010 at 4:22 PM Leave a comment

All in the Family

“The presence of a grandparent confirms … that people who are little can grow to be big, can become parents, and one day even have grandchildren of their own. So often we think of grandparents as belonging to the past; but in this important way, grandparents, for young children, belong to the future. “-Fred Rogers

When I see Jumpstart’s Community Corps and the work they do in the classrooms in their community I am reminded of this quote. Each week, 90 adults (aged 55 and over) dedicate time to working with preschool children on literacy and social skills. They share their knowledge, they learn from the children, and they provide an excitement about learning that is unparalleled to any other. They play such an important role in the lives of children, because they form a relationship with their partner child, they become a friend to families and to teachers, and are able to share experiences and advice from their own experiences.

So often, it is a grandparent, a great grandparent, an auntie, a friend – the nontraditional teacher – who help to teach us the lessons we will never forget. They spend time with us, they make the every day task exciting, and they help to create a love of learning that never goes away. November is Family Literacy month, so what better time to celebrate your grandparent, your grandchild, or anyone who you love to learn with!

For more ideas on activities to do with your child or grandchild, check out Jumpstart’s Grandparent’s Guide (listed on our resource page – available in English and Spanish!).

November 3, 2010 at 1:56 PM Leave a comment

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