The Importance of Toddler Oral Health

The month of February is National Oral Health Month, and this is a good reminder of the need to start teaching good oral health habits early. The toddler years are a good time for children to start learning how to take care of their teeth. Children at this stage are learning and getting used to daily routines, making oral care something that is easy to turn into a habit.

Fun Tools to Help Your Child

There are many fun things you can use to help spark further interest in oral care for your child. Some of the options to consider include:

  • The Tooth Fairy app from Colgate that includes a game, map to see where teeth come in, and information for parents.
  • Child-size toothbrushes featuring favorite cartoon characters.
  • Songs like Sesame Street’s “Brushy Brush” that encourage children to brush for two minutes.

Give Help As Needed

A toddler isn’t likely to have the fine motor skills to use a toothbrush very well without help. Make sure your child’s toothbrush is the right size and has soft bristles. Fluoride rinses geared towards younger children are helpful, but you should supervise your child to ensure he or she doesn’t swallow the rinse.

Encourage your child to eat fruit or other produce items as a snack, instead of sugary items. Even when your child snacks in between meals, encourage them to brush their teeth anyway. They will begin to treat this as part of their normal routine.

Other ways you can help your child follow good practices include:

  • Changing out the toothbrush about three or four times a year, plus after illnesses. Make things interesting by having your child pick out their toothbrush.
  • Make sure your child sees you eating healthy and brushing regularly. You will be setting a good example by doing these things yourself.
  • Schedule regular visits with a good pediatric dentist. These dentists know how to make younger kids comfortable and make the experience fun.

Good Dental Health Helps Later

Your child’s dental health early in life will also make an impact on their life later, especially as they progress into school. Pain issues from bad teeth and difficulty chewing foods can negatively impact a child’s quality of life. Even younger children often become self-conscious if their teeth become discolored and other children notice. If you help your child take charge of their oral health from an earlier age, they are likely to have greater self-confidence.

At Montessori School of Pleasanton, we understand the impact that personal habits can have on a child’s development and focus in school.  We encourage students to take proper care of themselves, including their dental health.  To see how Montessori education emphasizes developing the whole child, contact us today to schedule a tour.

What Nature Teaches Children

Children are born with a natural curiosity to learn about the world around them. As a parent or educator, building upon their natural desire to learn will help in a child’s overall development. Part of a valuable learning experience is exposing children to nature. Being outdoors or bringing nature items indoors has numerous benefits. For young minds, the potential learning opportunities are endless.

Learning in Nature

Indoor classrooms have limits for the safety of the children. Introducing children to an outdoor environment has fewer restrictions. Encouraging children to run, skip, hop, and simply play brings numerous benefits to each child’s development.

  • Encourages Creativity and Imagination: Being outdoors allows children to approach the natural environment in different ways. The interaction provides children a chance to engage in physical activity. As children begin to explore the different smells, textures, and hear various natural sounds, the endless world of imagination and creativity about the environment will follow.
  • Allows for Additional Learning: The natural curiosity about the outdoor surroundings encourages children to ask questions. Responsible caregivers will build upon the questions, providing more opportunities to learn.
  • Promotes Autonomy: As children explore, a sense of independence develops, thereby providing children with the confidence to learn about the various aspects nature has to offer. Fostering a sense of independence will help children grow in future academics.
  • Encourages Personal Responsibility: As children learn about the environment, personal responsibility develops. Learning how the living world works will allow children to view consequences.
  • Development of Fine and Large Motor Skills: Being outdoors allows children to engage in physical activity which aids in the development of large motor skills. Just as important, the outdoor environment provides children a chance to develop fine motor skills. Picking up small stones, acorns, or sticks for further exploration requires the use of fine motor skills or simple hand movement. Establishing a foundation for further learning, building fine motor skills helps in hand/eye coordination. Later, the skill will develop into the ability to write.
  • Develops Social Skills: Being outdoors in a group of peers provides numerous opportunities for interaction with others. Sharing discoveries, discussing the environment, or simply engaging in creative play develops valuable social skills. The interaction provides opportunities to build vocabulary, learn from peers, and self-regulation to rules.
  • Encourages Fun: Like adults, children are often subject to busy schedules. Spending time outdoors reduces stress from everyday commitments. Outdoors, children engage in self-directed learning. Having the opportunity to explore the outdoors is fun.

Being outdoors allows children to grow physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually. As they explore, children learn to discuss their personal experiences, providing teachers and parents a chance to find additional materials. Children will use their natural curiosity to continue learning. Exploring the outdoor world allows children the opportunity to appreciate the natural environment.

At Montessori Childrens House, we incorporate nature and outdoor learning into our Montessori approach.  We encourage students to discover and explore on their own.  Contact us today to see the Montessori difference!

Be Sure to Claim These Childcare Expenses on Your Tax Returns

Are you paying more than you should be on your taxes? There are a number of credits and deductions available to parents, including the childcare credit.

Claiming the Childcare Credit

The childcare credit enables you to get a portion of your childcare expenses back on your taxes. Rather than a tax deduction, which decreases your taxable income, this is a tax credit, which decreases your taxes, dollar for dollar. In other words, if you are claiming $3,000 on the credit, your total tax bill is reduced by $3,000.

Qualifying Expenses

The childcare credit allows you to deduct a variety of childcare expenses that were paid so that you and your spouse could work or look for work. This includes the cost of daycare, a nanny, babysitters, and even summer camp or day camp. It does not allow you to claim the cost of tutoring, schooling expenses, overnight camp, or date night sitters.

Who Can Claim Childcare Expenses

You can claim your childcare expenses for this credit only if you are the custodial parent of the child. If you are not the custodial parent, but you pay child support, you can claim the child as a dependent, but you cannot claim the childcare tax credit.

How to Claim Childcare Expenses

In addition to your 1040, you will need Form 2441 and Publication 503. Once you’ve completed the form, the credit amount will be entered onto line 49 of your 1040. You cannot use Form 1040EZ if you intend to take the childcare credit.

Limitations

There are a number of limitations on the credit, so make sure you do your research before taking the credit.

  • You can claim 20-35 percent of your childcare expenses, depending on your income, for a max of $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for two or more.
  • You cannot claim the credit for childcare that was provided by your spouse, teenage child, or dependent.
  • You cannot claim more than the earned income of either you or your spouse. If either of you were unemployed and a full-time student for part of the year, you can use $250 per month of schooling to figure “earned income” for the year.
  • You must first deduct any benefits you receive from your employer for childcare, such as from a pre-tax dependent care account. Only the difference in childcare costs will qualify for the credit.
  • If you are claiming the cost of a nanny or babysitter, you will have to identify the person and include their employer identification number or social security number. This makes you a household employer, so you will also have to withhold taxes and pay social security and Medicare taxes throughout the year.

Raising kids is expensive, but the childcare credit can help offset the cost. The child tax credit and the earned income tax credit offer other opportunities to recoup expenses, while dependent care accounts allow you to pay for childcare with pre-tax dollars. For more help saving money on your 2016 return, be sure to consult a tax professional.

At Mission Valley Montessori, we teach students to be well-rounded and independent, including making smart choices like you as parents will make when it comes to taking advantage of tax credits available to you.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the Montessori educational approach first hand and learn how our school can be a great fit for your child!

Teaching Elementary Students Citizenship

The elementary school years are a perfect time for students to learn about the great importance of citizenship. Good citizenship is about far more than just knowing facts about the United States, although this is quite important in its own right. Good citizenship also involves living by certain principles that help children live harmoniously with others, as well as treat others fairly and justly.

Important themes of good citizenship that kids must know include:

  • The courage to do the right thing even in bad circumstances
  • A high sense of personal and public responsibility
  • Respect of self, others, and ideas
  • Compassion for other people and all living things
  • Honesty in all dealings

Sharing Stories

A good way to help children better understand these principles is to share stories related to the principles of good citizenship. Discussion starters always help make these ideas come to life and provide a more personal take that students can easily relate to. Even younger kids are likely to have something to share and hearing from their peers often helps them decide to take the initiative and share their thoughts.

Some good discussion starters to consider include:

  • Talking about a person that the child has a high opinion of
  • Asking about a time they felt brave about something they did
  • Discussing times when they’ve shown that they care about someone

Role-Playing Often Helps

Kids in the elementary school years often relate to certain concepts through the use of role-playing. Although discussing or writing about certain ideas is helpful, some children might find it easier to act out certain situations to gain a better understanding of them. Interactive activities can also help kids learn these concepts together.

Art activities related to historic Americans who have been examples of good citizens can help children understand the concepts of citizenship in a more meaningful way. When children collaborate on larger projects, such as murals or dioramas, they will also understand the importance of working together with others to achieve goals.

Learning More About What Matters

Children in elementary school are at a good age to learn more about current events that relate to their lessons. The Montessori method encourages kids to take the initiative and learn more about things that interest them. Examples of how children might act on these ideas include:

  • Learning more about how to help those in need, both inside and outside the community
  • Understanding how leaders are elected and how people make their choices
  • Studying the history of events currently in the news and events that happened leading up to them

The Montessori approach is one that is ideal for helping children learn to become better US and world citizens.  At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Switzer Mesa Campus, our teachers incorporate hands-on and play-based learning into their lessons.  This allows children to discover on their own, including through role-playing and sharing stories.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the Montessori approach firsthand.

What Does a Montessori Child’s Day Look Like?

A Montessori classroom is completely different than a traditional school classroom. The basis for the Montessori educational approach focuses completely on the child. The classroom has many opportunities for self-directed learning activities, collaborative play, and the freedom to make individual choices.

As you bring your child to the Montessori classroom, you will immediately see the differences. The classroom environment is set up to draw the students’ attention to specific hands-on learning activities. By actively engaging in individual activities or small group activities, the classroom provides unique learning opportunities for your child throughout the entire day.

A Typical Day in the Montessori Classroom

The age of your child will determine the exact learning environment. The Montessori approach incorporates a mixed aged classroom. For example, a single classroom may have children as young as 2 ½ years to 6 years of age. The multi-age classroom allows for a family-like atmosphere which helps in the learning process. Learning leadership skills, older children will naturally mentor younger ones, teaching them valuable skills along the way.

Social Exchange

Upon arrival, each child receives greetings from the teacher. The social exchange builds vocabulary, self-awareness, and mutual respect. The teacher recognizes each child as an individual with unique learning interests. By engaging in respectful exchange, students learn to understand the environment. Eventually, children will understand and develop empathy and compassion for their peers.

Block Activities for Development

Students participate in numerous activities throughout the day. Teachers provide the prepared learning environment for specific block activities to build upon the students natural curiosities for optimal development. Learning areas will provide activities for full development of each student physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally.

As children develop different interests or they desire further exploration on a subject, teachers will add to the learning environment. Creating a continuous, hands-on learning environment allows children to participate in activities of interest in a self-directed manner. Encouraging children to go at their own pace enables maximum learning potential for each interested subject.

Being Flexible

The prepared learning environment provides specific time blocks for activities. By providing children the freedom to explore, the learning environment provides flexibility. As a way of self-discovery and exploration, your child may spend most of the day learning about one subject. By allowing for the freedom to choose, your child will gain a much deeper understanding of the subject. Over time, the curiosity may allow for further exploration into other areas of learning.

Imagination Activities

Along with the prepared intellectual learning environment, teachers prepare open-ended activities to increase imagination. By encouraging imagination, students learn self-expression and critical thinking skills to try new methods of play. Exploring imaginary ideas also increases vocabulary word use, maximizes social skills, and develops the basis for thinking outside of the box.

The Montessori approach seeks to develop each student to reach their own, individual maximum potential. If you would like further information on a typical day for a Montessori student, contact Day Star Montessori today to schedule a tour.  Parents and students are encouraged and welcomed to to spend a day in the classroom to see the Montessori difference firsthand.

The Difference of a Montessori Middle School Education

On a daily basis, parents make decisions affecting the welfare of their children. Finding the best learning environment for a child to grow and succeed is part of the daily decision. Montessori Middle School focuses on children as individuals. Unlike a traditional classroom, the student-centered learning style focuses on self-reliance and independence.

The Montessori Middle School Approach

The Montessori Middle School learning environment is different than a traditional classroom. By focusing on each child’s uniqueness, instructors encourage self-discovery and learning. Montessori wants children to grow in all areas of development, including physical, social, emotional and mental. Foregoing restrictions or conforming to standardized testing norms, students learn areas of interest without limitations.

  • Small Groups/Individual Learning: Students use a self-paced curriculum. Working in small groups or individually allows children to feel confident about their discoveries. Resulting in more questions, the open-ended activities inspire students to continue learning. If a child is uncertain about a subject, the small grouping allows for questions without worry.
  • Non-Grading Learning Environment: Montessori groups children in a multi-age learning environment. The unique grouping allows children to mentor younger ones and develop leadership skills. The multi-age environment helps children feel more at ease. Participating in this style of learning environment allows students not to receive standardized grades.
  • Social/Communication Skills: Along with fostering independence and leadership skills, the Montessori learning environment enhances social and communication skills. The small groupings allow children to ask questions and discuss topics with other students. Often, the discussions lead to further exploration and learning.
  • Work Centers: The design of the Montessori learning environment includes work centers. At each work center, students may learn about one subject. Without any time restrictions, students may focus on one subject or several in one day. Basing the subjects at different levels, students will continue to learn new aspects.
  • Learning Styles: The self-paced learning environment allows the students to pick areas of interest. As each child makes a choice, the learning environment is both unique and different. Encouraging students to learn about individual passions allows for areas of expertise.
  • Instilling Self-Confidence: Children who focus on areas of strengths gain self-confidence. The desire to continue learning will aid in higher education choices in the future.
  • Curiosity and Learning: Montessori encourages children natural curiosity for learning. As students develop skills for exploring subjects and data, the desire for learning increases. Students will be able to use research, study and exploration skills in high school and college courses.

Montessori Middle Schools focus on children as individuals to reach their highest potential. Learning without time restrictions enables children to focus on interests. Fostering natural curiosity, students will continue to learn and grow at their own pace.

As a concerned parent for your child’s middle school education, if you would like more information on the Montessori learning style, please contact the Montessori School of Flagstaff Cedar Campus today. The highly trained instructors will answer all your questions. Providing informative tours, you will be able to view first-hand the effects of a non-restrictive learning environment.

Teaching Kids how to be Internet Safe & Savvy

The internet is full of information that kids can use to write reports and to learn new things. It can also be very dangerous. If your children don’t know how to use the internet safely, you cannot be sure who they are really talking to. Predators often pose as children to gain a child’s trust to commit a crime. Also, curious children will often visit sites that are not appropriate for children. As a parent, it is up to you to make sure that your children know how to be safe when they are online.

Set Up Parental Controls

The most important thing that you can do to keep your children safe online is to set up parental controls. This safety feature will block your child if they try to enter any website that is not age appropriate. When setting up the parental controls, be sure to use a password that you children won’t be able to easily guess.

Insist On Having Their Passwords

The best way to know who your children are communicating with online is to insist that they give you their email password and their passwords for social media. As they get older, you can change this rule. However, if your child is young and they insist on using email and social media, you should have access to their accounts so that you can check up on them.

Teach Your Child to Only Communicate With People They Know

Predators will often send children friend requests on social media. You should explain the dangers of befriending strangers to your children. Remind your children that people online are not always who they say they are. Let them know that if they don’t know the person in the real world, they should not accept their friend request. Even if the person has a few mutual friends with your child, they still should not accept the friend request. The friends that the person has in common with your child could be children who haven’t been taught the dangers of befriending strangers.

Teach Your Child to Speak Up

You should teach your child that if they see something on the internet that makes them uncomfortable or that they feel is wrong, they should walk away from the computer and tell you. This could be messages and emails from strangers or classmates bullying another child. Remind your child that it is their responsibility to help and speak up whenever possible.

Remind Your Child That Posts and Photos Are There Forever

Many children are naive when it comes to the internet. They believe that if they post something and then delete it, that it is gone forever. It is important to remind your children that everything they put online is saved somewhere and it can come back to cause them serious problems in the future. This is not just photos, but also written words.

It is very important to teach your child how to use the internet safely. It could potentially save their life.  At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Cedar Campus, children will learn how to make smart and informed decisions throughout their Montessori education.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and learn about the Montessori difference.

Parent Volunteers – Observing in the Classroom

Every parent wants the best learning opportunities for their children. An early love for knowledge builds a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Observing and volunteering in your child’s Montessori classroom may help you to better understand the diverse learning environment.

Volunteering is different than simply observing. Asking to be a volunteer is usually the role of the teacher to a parent. Being an observer is generally a task where parents ask teachers if they can come into the classroom. Each one plays a vital role in your child’s education. Understanding the classroom environment allows parents the opportunity to incorporate learning into regular home routines. Most educators welcome the opportunity to show concerned parents the daily routine of the classroom.

Right to Observe In the Classroom

Volunteering and observing in a classroom allow you to learn about your child’s day. Failing to take an active part in your child’s education may result in problem areas in the future. In the Montessori school setting, parents are welcome to visit. Trying to accommodate parent observation requests, some classrooms actually come equipped with an adult sized chair just for parent guests.

If you are a parent who is denied the opportunity to observe the classroom, you must stand up for your rights. Ask why access to your child’s classroom was denied. Explain the reasons for wanting to observe the classroom. As a parent, you must take into consideration that your presence will be a disturbance in the classroom. Many teachers want to plan your visit to allow for the maximum exposure to the daily classroom environment.

Guidelines to Observing in Your Child’s Classroom

Every teacher has a specific time frame for the length of the classroom observation. Prior to entering the classroom, you may want to ask the teacher or educator the time allowed for observing. In order to understand the Montessori environment, try to observe for at least one hour. Remember to ask the teacher or staff about the other guidelines to follow.

  • Remember your role in the classroom is to observe. Carefully watching the interaction of your child and other children in the classroom will help you in understanding the Montessori learning environment.
  • Enter and exit the classroom quietly. Some Montessori teachers will introduce parent observers.
  • Montessori classrooms are busy with various learning opportunities happening at the same time. As a parent, you may want to just focus on your child. In order to fully understand the learning environment, you should also watch other areas.
  • Do not interrupt the teacher; simply take notes to ask questions later.
  • After observing, ask the teacher or administration staff for a follow-up conference to discuss any questions or concerns.

Observing in the classroom provides parents with opportunities to understand the interaction between children and educators. The Montessori learning environment is not like the traditional classroom. Observing the class in motion will help a parent understand the learning strategies of the Montessori model.  To visit a Montessori classroom in person, contact Montessori School in Newark today.  Schedule a tour and see how Montessori education is firsthand. 

Our Favorite Books for the Season

Holiday books are a perfect way to celebrate a season filled with various traditions. Getting children interested in books at an early age may result in a lifelong love of reading. Seasonal books add to the excitement of the holidays. Finding the right type of book for your child depends on your personal seasonal preferences. As you begin to search for seasonal stories, keep in mind the best way to peak your child’s interest is finding an age appropriate book.

Books for Age Two and Above

  • Christmastime by Alison Jay (2012) is a delightful tale of the different aspects of the wonderful Christmas season.
  • Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle (2014) is a novelty book with lights. The book tells the story of the Little Blue Truck spreading Christmas cheer to various animal friends.
  • Peek-A-Who? by Nina Laden (2000) is a fun die-cut window book guiding children to a surprise ending.

Books for Age Three and Above

  • The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood (2012) focuses on the quiet times of the holiday season.
  • The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen (2015) inspires the reader to realize true gifts only come from the heart.
  • The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert (2013) shares the story of Anja who wants to be one of Santa’s elves.

Books for Age Four and Above

  • A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel (2011) tells a funny story on how a bad kitty finds the true meaning of the holiday season.
  • Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko (2012) shares the delights representing two seasonal traditions in one household.
  • The Little Elf by Brandi Dougherty (2012) tells the story of Oliver, a small elf with the desire to do the best job in Santa’s workshop.

Books for Age Five and Above

  • Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R Tolkien (2013) shares the magical tales surrounding the adventures of North Pole living.
  • Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (1986) unfolds the magical tale of being welcomed aboard a train on Christmas Eve.
  • How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan (2015) invites the reader to enjoy the different tips for catching Santa on Christmas Eve.

Books for Age Six and Above

  • The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett (2012) tells a funny tale of a boy trying to capture Santa.
  • Barbara Parks’ tale of Junie B., First Grader in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May) (2009) tells the story of finding out your secret Santa pick is the class tattletale.
  • The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tee: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston (1996) shares the story of Ruthie who wants to find the perfect Christmas tree for the little town.

Every book has a way to invite the reader into a season filled with joy and laughter. Deciding on just one book may be a difficult decision. For extra fun, you can always go with the classic tale of How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. The ending always makes you smile.

Montessori School of Newark can help your child excel in reading through Montessori education, where children are encouraged to work at their own pace and collaborate with others.  Call us today to schedule a tour and learn how Montessori education can be a fit for your family.

Five Exploration Activities in Pleasanton

Exploration activities are a great way to help your child gain confidence while exploring the world around them. We are lucky that here in Pleasanton, we have plenty to do year round. Here are five activities you might want to check out that can help your child explore and grow.

5 Exploration Activities in Pleasanton

  1. Augustine Bernal Park – When the weather is nice, head out to Augustine Bernal Community Park. This is a great place to take the kids to get some energy out and to learn as they explore the outdoors. There are many different trails out there, some as small as half a mile, making it perfect for all ages. Children can explore different plants, get a little dirty, and be out in the fresh air.
  2. Mission Hills Park – If you are looking for a more confined space where you can let the kids roam and explore at their own will, Mission Hills Park on Junipero Street is just the place. Kids will love running, swinging and going as fast as they can down the big slide. Play is such a great way for kids to explore and learn and this park with 2 playgrounds, walking trails, and a creek provides the perfect spot.
  3. Play Well – This activity center for kids in kindergarten through grade eight allows children to explore and build using their favorite Lego pieces. Kids will learn about physics, engineering and creativity as they create and collaborate in these confidence building activities.
  4. Grow Canyon Community Gardens – If you are looking for a way where your child can learn how things grow, dig in the dirt, and explore the growing cycle, Grow Canyon Gardens in San Ramon is worth checking out. This large community garden has 54 plots that you can rent out year round to grow fruits, flowers, and vegetables. This can be a great daily or bi-weekly activities for the kids.
  5. Museum on Main – This museum is Pleasanton’s very own home of history but don’t let that scare you away. There are interactive exhibits and family activities to keep everyone happy. Once a month, the museum holds a special reading time program where your preschoolers can enjoy stories and crafts. The museum is located at 603 Main Street and worth checking out.

If you are looking for a school where your child can play, explore and learn on a daily basis, Montessori School of Pleasanton is a perfect choice. Come and take a tour of our school today and find out how our learning style can help encourage your child to explore the world around them.