Death of a Pet and Preschoolers; Manipulatives Interest Center and Transitions in a Can (or box, or bag!)

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March, 2011 Issue # 2

In This Issue:

Death of a Pet and Preschoolers

Tips & Timesavers: Your Transition Activity Collection-at your fingertips

Interest Center Focus: Manipulatives Interest Center Center

What’s New? Search It, Find It, Plan It!

Death of a Pet

The death of a pet can be very unsettling for preschoolers. They may immediately cry at finding out about the death or they may have no reaction at all.

It will depend on their age, developmental stage and exposure to death at this point in their lives. They see and hear about death through television or hearing others talk about it, however, many times, the death of a pet is a child’s first encounter with death.

Preschool aged children do not typically understand that death is forever. They may think that the pet is sleeping or has run away or is just at the vet’s office and will return. The wording is very important.

Many times, parents will say that the pet “has gone away” or “went to sleep and did not wake up”. This causes unrest and anxiety in many children. They may develop separation anxieties when they are dropped off at school or at a family member’s home. Children may worry that their parent or caregiver might go away and not come back. Children do see death as temporary at this age and therefore may see death as “separation” rather than permanent.

They may develop sleeping problems themselves fearing that maybe THEY will fall asleep and never wake up. Older preschoolers may think that their own behavior or action caused the death (I didn’t play with him this morning, I yelled at him for chewing my toy, I forgot to feed her today, etc.). It is important that the child be reassured that they were not the cause of the death.

A child might respond to the death of a pet by crying, asking questions or with no apparent reaction at all. As the days go by after the death of the pet, they may begin asking questions or talking about the pet more. They may say things like “I hear a dog barking, Rover is home!” It will be important to remind them that Rover has died and will not be coming home.

Many children ask if their pet went to heaven or parents will tell their children that the pet is in heaven. This is purely a personal choice based on the family’s religious beliefs. But again, it is important for children to realize that going to heaven is permanent, too. The pet will not be returning.

When dealing with the death of a pet, it is important for you to talk with the parent(s) or caregiver(s) about what the child knows. You may be the person that the parent comes to for advice on how to break this sad news to the child. Here are some pointers of advice to pass on to parents:

1. Tell the preschooler that the pet died (use the word died—not went away or is gone or went to sleep) and will not be coming back.

At this age, they do not need long, drawn out discussions. Give them a simple, brief explanation based on their age, remembering that their attention spans are not that long. Too much information can confuse them or will be so much that they tune out and do not understand what you are saying.

2. Tell the child why the pet died, but briefly. “He was very ill or very old.”

There is no need to try to guess what the child is asking you. If they ask “Was she sick?” that is what they need to know right now. Answering simply “Yes, she was very sick.” is enough for now.

3. Assure the child that they did not cause the death.

4. Let the child talk about the pet or death of the pet in their time.

5. Help the child remember their pet by drawing a picture of them together and hanging it up or hanging a picture of the pet.

6. The child may or may not talk about the pet or death of the pet for some time.

7. Some behavior changes might be seen in response to the loss of a pet.

Some such changes may be changes in mood, toileting habits, play habits and sleep disturbances.

8. There are many books available about this subject.

Following this article is a list of books that were recommended to me by other teachers in the field.

It is important that you or the parent read them first before reading any of them to the child to be sure that the book is appropriate for that individual child and is in agreement with the family’s beliefs about death.

9. Ask parents to keep you updated on how the child is reacting to the death so that you, with the parents, can work as a team and help this child through this in a consistent manner.

10. Contact your local Hospice center for advice and resources.

They are very helpful and informative about helping children deal with death of a pet or of a person.

Many warm thanks to Meeeha and Elizabeth from Teachers Net Preschool Chatboard for the following suggestions!

Book List suggestions regarding Death of a Pet:

All God’s Creatures Go To Heaven by Noel

Cat Heaven by Rylant

The Day Scooter Died: A Book about the Death of a Pet by Long-Bostrom

Dog Heaven by Rylant

The Fall of Freddy the Leaf by Buscaglia

For Every Cat an Angel by Davis

For Every Dog an Angel by Davis

The Forever Dog by Cochran

I’ll Always Love You Wilhelm

It Must Hurt a Lot by Sanford

The Legend of Rainbow Bridge by Britton

Lifetimes by Mellonie & Ingpen

My Grandson Lew by Zolotow

Remembering Pets by Dalpra-Berman

Remembering Ruby: For Families Living Beyond the Loss of a Pet by Wells

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Viorst

The True Story of Critter Angels by Diamond

When A Pet Dies by Rogers

When Your Pet Dies by Pomerance

TIPS and TIMESAVERS: Your Transition Activities Collection-At Your Fingertips

Do you have a lot of transition times in your day? Do you find the children seem all over the place during transitions, even though they know what they should be doing? Of course! Welcome to Preschool!

Of course, our first thought should be to reduce the number of transitions during the day. Too many “stops and starts” are confusing and somewhat frustrating for children. They need routine. Preschoolers “tell time” by knowing what comes next.

A consistent daily schedule will help those transitions to become predictable for the children and not so confusing. However, there are transitions that happen.

Take a look at your daily schedule. Do you plan for your transitions? If not, consider re-writing your schedule to include them. You will then be planning for changes and will have some great opportunities for extended learning in mini time spots!

Here’s an example:

No Planned Transitions Planned Transitions

9:00-9:15 Arrivals 9:00-9:10 Arrivals

9:15-9:30 Circle Time 9:10-9:15 Clean Up Song

9:30-10:45 9:15-9:30 Circle Time Interest Center Time/Clean Up 9:30-10:45 Interest Centers

10:45-11:00 Wash hands and prepare for snack

11:00-11:20 Snack Time 10:35-10:45 Clean Up Time

11:20-12:00 Outside Time 10:45-11:00 Transition Activity while children wash their hands 11:00-11:20 Snack Time Activity For Children finish Snack early (puzzles, legos,) 11:20-11:30 Prepare for outside 11:30-12:00 Outside Time

The additions in the second column are already what you do, they were just not intentionally planned in the first column. Doing this will save you a lot of time, frustration and wondering why, for example, you only have 10 minutes to play outside most days!

Think about how much time your transitions take and then add transitions to your planning sheets. Some do not need to be planned. Clean up time most likely happens after an already established cue in your classroom.

In our class, one of the children’s jobs each day is “Bell Ringer”. It is a favorite job! When the bell ringer rings the bell and says “CLEAN UP TIME” the children stop playing (ok, most do—others need to be encouraged to stop playing and start cleaning up!) and clean up.

You already help the children to see what needs to be done: “There are still a lot of blocks on the floor. Let’s all pick up 3 blocks and put them in the bin.”.

However, washing hands lends for idle time while the children wait (there are only so many sinks available!). And idle time can create boredom or confusion and children are not sure what to do, resulting in, well, uncontrolled chaos!

We have a large mat near the bathroom. We all go to the black mat and play a transitional game while 4-5 children wash their hands. You may not have an area to sit while washing hands or whichever transition your children need to wait for.

Fret not! There are many transitional activities you can do during these predictable transition times whether you are sitting or standing! Here are some ideas:

What’s Missing?

Bring 5 or 6 items with you. Show them to the children. They all close their eyes (or you cover the items with a paper towel!) and remove one item. The children open their eyes and as a group, say what’s missing. Do this with 2 items, and then send a set amount of children to wash their hands. Continue playing the game until all the children have washed hands and had a turn.

Place these items in a clear, Ziploc baggie and write on the baggie “WHAT’s MISSING”

I Spy

Of course! I Spy with my little eye, someone wearing a shirt that has Mario on it. Who is that? Yes, it’s Joey! I Spy……etc! Write different ideas for I Spy games on a large index card (so you don’t run out of ideas!) such as “shoes, sneakers, shirt colors, hair color, eye color, square items, circle items, etc.). On the other side of the card, write in LARGE CAPITAL LETTERS I SPY GAME. Place the card in a Ziploc baggie.

Guess the Pattern

Bring 10 items that with you. We use blocks, bristle blocks, sorters/counters, crayons and markers, anything from the classroom! Bring 5 of each item. Begin a pattern: crayon, marker, crayon, marker, crayon…what comes next? Keep creating patterns until all children have washed their hands and had a turn. In a large Ziploc baggie place many items to use such as: 5 markers, 5 crayons, 5 each of blue, red, yellow and green bristle blocks, etc. On the outside of the baggie, write GUESS THE PATTERN

Our Favorite Song

Our kids love when I shuffle the cards while saying “Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…….” and then they all yell “STOP”. Whichever card is on the top is the one we sing. Then do the next one. Make an index card for each of your favorite songs with a simple picture on each so the children can “read” it also! Make at least 5 cards. Laminate them for durability. Place the cards in a Ziploc baggie and, yup, you guessed it, write on the outside of the baggie FAVORITE SONGS.

Some to get you started:

Itsy, Bitsy Spider Twinkle, Twinkle ABCs Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes Hokey Pokey

Mystery Bag

Show the children 4 or 5 items. Place one in the bag. Have one child feel in the bag and try to guess what it is without looking. Let each child have a turn while others wash their hands.

We made a bag out of extra fabric and cut out and glued on a fabric question mark. Place about 15 items in this bag and store in your transition box or bin. You’ll never run out of items for this great feely bag!

Make a Letter

Bring a large piece of paper and some markers. Practice making either a specific letter together or they can make and name their favorite letter. You can also practice number making!

Place paper in a folder that is labeled LETTER AND NUMBER MAKING and place the folder and some loose markers into your transition box or bag.

Counting Practice

Give 4 children a paper cup. Ask 4 of the children to count 5 pom poms into a cup. They then wash their hands. Empty the cup and choose a different number for the next group of children to count into the cups. Time filler, one-to-one correspondence practice and counting practice all rolled into a 4 minute transition time!

Place 8 cups in a large Ziploc baggie (in case a few break) and a large amount of pom poms. Label the baggie COUNTING and place in your transition box or bag.

These are just a few ideas. You most likely have some other fun items to do.

Now, to organize them! Decorate a shoe box or large box or large canvas bag. This is the place to permanently keep your transition activities in. When you have a transition time, just grab the box or bag, reach in and choose one!

The items needed for each activity should be in a separate baggie or box (see instructions for the above activities for examples) so that you can find it quickly in your Transition Box or Bag and not have to search for pieces.

INTEREST CENTER FOCUS: The Manipulatives or Fine Motor Interest Center

Manipulatives is such an odd word! I’ve toyed with calling it the Math Center, the Fine Motor Center, and many other centers, but here we are with The Manipulatives Interest Center! The name encompasses it all! One can manipulate items to count, puzzles to make and crayons to draw with. So, we leave the name unchanged!

Most classrooms combine their manipulatives or “table toy” interest center with their math center, as we do! The purpose of manipulatives will depend on the goal of the activity. However, here is where you can support fine motor development, counting, one-to-one correspondence and more.

Our Math and Manipulative Center has many items and materials in it that work on these skills. The most common are:

Puzzles: Provide a large assortment of puzzles from 4 piece puzzles to 20 piece puzzles. Floor puzzles are also great to have available. Most of them can be completed on the table as well as on the floor! These puzzles can be themed as well as focused on basic concepts that you are working on (such as the alphabet, the numbers, colors, shapes).

Board Games: Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Hi Ho Cherry O and other board games not only require the use of fine motor skills, but also encourage one-to-one correspondence, counting, and taking turns!

Interactive Games: Some games which help develop eye hand coordination and fine motor skills that our preschoolers have loved are:

Mr. Mouth (the frog’s head rotates and its mouth opens and closes while the children try to flip flies into its mouth!)

Let’s Go Fishing is also a popular fishing game that uses magnetic fishing poles.

Sorters and Counters: With these, I am referring to items such as Teddy Bear sorters/counters that typically come with a balance scale. The sorters/counters can be sorted by small, medium and large as well as by color. Farm animals can also be sorted this way as well as by type (cows, pigs, etc.). Also consider using other items of interest for sorting and counting such as colored pom poms of different sizes; pony beads, marbles, etc.

Small Blocks: You most likely already have a block interest center in your classroom but don’t overlook this smaller version!

Small wooden blocks of different colors are very popular in our classroom! Houses and entire cities have been built at the table by our preschool architects! And while creating their own cities they are also learning to sort and build by shape and color, develop their fine motor skills to place each block and developing their language, social and problem solving skills by working with one or two other friends to build their city!

Lacing cards: Provide lacing cards all the time! You can purchase or make them to go along with a theme or concept you are working on! These types of cards take on a life of their own! During a Fairy Tale theme, make a wolf and three pig lacing cards. Your preschoolers will not only lace them but then use them as masks to act out the story!

Playdough: One of our favorite developers of fine motor skills! Provide playdough and cookie cutters for some muscle development!

You can find ideas for manipulative activities on my website under each theme. Simply click on the theme you want, then click on “Math and Manipulatives” and you will have some ideas you can use with your students.

CLICK HERE to go to Preschool Plan-It’s THEME PAGE

WHAT’S NEW? Search It, Find It, Plan It as Preschool Plan-It!

The following pages were added to the website during the past month:

Dinosaur Theme Page

Dr. Seuss Theme Page

Nursery Rhymes Theme Page

Presidents Day Theme Page

St. Patrick’s Day Theme Page

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