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Touring an Infant Toddler Center: Questions for the Director

Touring an Infant Toddler Center: Questions for the Director

When touring a child care center, most of us feel unprepared to assess the quality of education and care provided to children. We all want a center that compliments and even enhances what we teach children at home; we want individualized love and attention, a clean, safe place, a home away from home. We want to be sure that caretakers are professional and the center provides families with knowledge about raising children and how to fill our days with growing experiences.

As an educator, and a mother of three boys, I have had the opportunity to be a parent, teacher and Director at many centers. Here is what I’d ask when visiting an infant/toddler or preschool center:

1. Embrace the Mission — Does my family share the center’s vision of children and educational values?

The most important aspect in selecting a center is finding a place that shares your family’s educational outlook, a place where you feel at home philosophically. Do you believe that play and friendship are central to learning? Do you think it is important to do worksheets and learn to read before three? The school’s mission determines how children spend their days and what they learn. Make sure you embrace the mission before you sign your contract.
On your tour ask the following question:

  • What is the school’s mission and how does it impact what the children do everyday?

2. Professional Background — Are teachers prepared to work with children of this age?

Teacher preparation is the single greatest indicator of a professional educational environment, one that is safe, nurturing and sets appropriate goals for students. Teachers must understand child development and have an understanding of best practices. They must have experience taking care of very young children, and be able to love and relate to them no matter what the mood or need.

On your tour ask the following question:

  • Do Head Teachers have a Master’s in Early Childhood Education?

3. Accesibility — Are Administrators and Teachers available to me?
As a parent, you will have many questions, concerns, and hopefully compliments to give at the center. You must be sure that when you need to talk to someone, the staff is available either in person, by phone, via email or able to make an appointment within 24 hours.  Before you sign your contract, meet the Director and make sure you feel comfortable with their expertise and ability to support your family.

On your tour ask the following question:

  • If I have a concern who do I speak to first and how do I reach them?

4. Intention — Teachers should work with a plan, set goals, and have a mindful approach to all of their interactions with children and materials.

There are several ways you can determine if the school has a culture of intentionality. When visiting the classrooms, does every object seem to have its own place? Are materials presented to children in an orderly, relaxed manner? Do teachers seem to be thinking with the children, considering what they do and say? Are they listening and observing as they work?

On your tour ask the following questions:

  • Do teachers keep a plan book? What is recorded there?
  • Do the teaching teams meet weekly with administrators? What do they discuss?
  • Do teachers document the children’s work? Are there artifacts that keep track of children’s work and growth over time?

5. Tone — Do adults in the center listen to children and speak with respect at all times?
When visiting the center take note of how teachers listen and how they speak to children. Children need to hear their own thoughts, to process what is going on around them, and have time to contemplate. There should be a mix of engagement and auditory space throughout the day.
When teachers speak to children, they should use a natural voice. They shouldn’t speak too fast, loud, in angry tones, or silly voices. Young children should be treated like they have important ideas to share, and are competent, creative people with greatness inside them.
Teachers and administrators should speak to each other with respect, as children are impacted by emotions of adults around them.

On your tour ask the following question:

  • What is your approach to listening to children? Can you describe how teachers should talk to children?

It can be challenging to select your first center, as you entrust strangers with your most precious and incredible child. Ask as many questions as you can, call the Director and reconnect until you are comfortable. The center should teach and support the whole family and elevate the learning for everyone.

Renee Bock is a dedicated early childhood educator, who is currently the Educational Director at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan that is dedicated to setting the standard for infant and toddler care and education. Renee has more than a decade of experience in the field and holds a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in New York. In her present position, she is helping Explore+Discover open the first of 27 New York City centers focused on children from 3 months to two years old. She can be reach at Renee@K3Learn.com.

NYC Art for Kids – A Gallery Walk

In our quest to discover interesting NYC art for kids, Claire’s Creative Art visited some wonderful kid-friendly galleries you should know about.   These galleries are in such close proximity and offer a wealth of exposure to a wide range of modern and contemporary artists.  Along the way, our kids learned to direct their questions to the gallery owners, chose their favorite pieces, made sketches as well as articulate their “likes” and “dislikes” using the 7 elements of art to justify their choices.

NYC Art for Kids – A Gallery Walk

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First stop was Isabel Bacher Gallery on 78th @ Madison, were we met our most enthusiastic and gracious gallery owner, Audrey.  I would highly recommend a visit here to see a wide range of prints and printing processes of the masters like Toulouse Lautrec, Miro, Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Dubuffet and Warhol.  They are simple enough to sketch and bring colored pencils for Miro!

Just next door are the gorgeous Lady M Cakes.  What a great introduction to food painters and builders such as Claes Oldenburg and Wayne Thiebaud!

1018 Madison Avenue galleries are great because you can hit a few all in one building… and see gorgeous desserts at the front door!  Our kids were able to discover that they liked works from Jean Arp, Gorky, Chamberlain (they were able to relate it to the piece we have seen at the Met!) as well as a new artist to us:  Jeane Plensa who uses words & symbols as art in a marvelous 3D form.  Mark Swanson’s bejeweled antlers were hard not to touch… but our 3 feet rule helps when reaching outJ

Saving the best for last was the Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery on 79th street.  Cecelia greeted us at the door and showed us works by Kwang Young Chun (a fave for the kids), Murakami, Calder and even a surprising Yayoi Kusama.  They were extremely inviting and wonderful with the kids.

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All in all, it was an eye-opening first day of the semester, lending an opportunity for me as a teacher to know where to drive our curriculum down the road, to revisit and demystify these artist’s works & processes, while promoting further understanding of the art world around us.  As always, check first to make sure the works are child-appropriate, as they consistently change.

Join us on our tours, and discover for yourself how rewarding it is to see and make art from the contemporary greats! Learn more about our classes and museum and gallery tours at Kidz Central Station.

By Claire Munday, a professional artist and muralist as well as a dynamic art and music teacher.  She leads art tours and teacher training throughout the city and is a consultant for large scale children’s events.  Her background in theatrical set painting also allows for vast material use in class.

Claire’s Creative Adventures’ programs have been shared with many schools throughout the Manhattan area, including the Sunshine Kids Club, the United Nations School, and the 92nd street Y. She has provided art consultation for the Children’s MuseumNYC-Parents in Action and the American Friends of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art for hundreds of children at Family Art Day

Children Approach Museums with Excitement and Know-how!

Claire’s Creative Museum Adventures Brings Children’s Art Education to NYC’s Museums and Galleries!

Are you a NYC family wanting to expose your children to the fascinating world of art around you that they can enjoy?  Do you have friends or family members traveling through NYC seeking a truly memorable cultural experience together?

We all know that New York City is known for its culture and the arts.  It’s world-class museums and galleries provide an extraordinary opportunity to learn!  So how can your child take advantage?

Creating unique professional artist or theme-based visits that are educational AND entertaining is not an easy feat!  First, children tire easily.  Even getting to the artwork can be intimidating in large museums, especially those like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  And how do you know where to begin?

There are ways to demystify not only the museum, but also the art processes, while making them easy to understand and fun to learn!  Following a few simple rules can help.

For many museums, just getting to certain galleries can be a hike.  First, know where you are going before setting out.  You don’t want your child to see it as a chore if you have to cover too much ground.  Pick a small section each visit to explore more fully.

Next, select just a few pieces that are in close proximity with each other, which provide ample learning opportunities based on one theme. Locating the artists with something in common helps to bring home specific ideas, without wearing out your child.

Many artists may seem too sophisticated to share with kids.  Not so!  Breaking down the art processes of artists and making them easy to understand and fun to learn can be exciting!  Of course ages and special interests are important to consider for each visit; Explaining color theory to a 4 year old by using the Impressionists may be too much, however, Ellsworth Kelly or Roy Lichtenstein is a great start.  Balance and line exploration using Calder’s mobiles, or even metal-working with pieces from David Smith and John Chamberlain, is a pragmatic way to teach.

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Kids don’t want a lecture!  Since there is no teacher like doing, actually making artwork in front of a piece of art is instrumental for kids!  Knowing what materials work best, and which ones are appropriate in a public space, is also not easy.  That’s often where experts come in.  You may not feel comfortable bringing in recycled materials to discover El Anatsui’s magic, however, you can never go wrong with pencils, colored pencils or wire for your first endeavors as a parent.

Be sure to switch it up:  construct, collage or create colors with separate visits.  Since a child’s attention span is short, each project needs to be divided into simplified steps, and include more than one simple hands-on project.

Some great first galleries I would suggest are the modern painters at the Met.  There are beginning discovery lessons in line, shape and color here like no other!  Then those lessons can be applied to more artists, once digested.

Keep it simple and fun.  You want your child to be eager to not only go to see art, but excited by the process…  and if you become a learner with your child along the way, you’ll see them making connections and coming to their own conclusions you would never have thought of!

Don’t miss out on the amazing educational opportunity to discover art with your child by using your city’s resources.  You may also wish to take advantage of an experienced and engaging tour leader to illuminate your experience.

By Claire Munday, Founder of Claire’s Creative Adventures, LLC for kids ages 2-12.  Museum and Art Adventures uses NYC’s modern, contemporary and multicultural art resources to go beyond school curricula to “demystify” artists and their processes. Children (and their accompanying adults) are introduced to modern and contemporary artists as well as diverse cultures, based on current exhibits from the myriad of NYC museums and galleries, providing all of the supplies, education and entertainment while actively engaging the children in the fantastic world of art from museum arrival to departure… Click here to book your next tour or class!

 

 

Is Your Child Tapping into Their Creativity? 10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Kids and Creativity!

Green leafy vegetables, a good night’s sleep, and… art. Art isn’t just a hobby, it’s a must. Did you know that ART is vital for your child’s health? The benefits of art are scientifically proven. Here are our top 10 reasons why every child needs ART in his/her life.

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1. Children master communication skills through art. Art provides an opportunity to share important feelings that cannot be expressed verbally.

2. Art fosters positive self-esteem by allowing children to express their individuality and uniqueness. Art creates a feeling of accomplishment that children take pride in.

3. As children explore creatively, they experiment and thus discover new assessments and solutions. This “how” and “why” thinking of art builds problem-solving skills along with out-of-the-box thinking skills.

4. Self-expression is an intrinsic human need. Through art, children express their true, authentic selves freely in a healthy, safe and nurturing environment.

5. Art classes are social and engaging. Art gives children an opportunity to build their social skills through creative play, sharing, and enjoying one another’s artwork.

6. Art is a form of relaxation and meditation. Your child is able to relax and relieve stress while having FUN!

7. Creative learning is directly linked to the overall health of children’s brain development.

8. Art enhances focus and memory. Art classes are even linked to higher test scores!

9. Art is directly related to enhanced fine motor skills. Creating specific brushstrokes, cutting small collage papers and a variety of other artistic techniques teach children the art of fine motor skills.

10. Art offers children a lesson in safe, healthy, “unplugged” FUN. With art, children unplug from technology and learn how to plug into the joy of good, wholesome fun.

By: Rebecca Schweiger, Founder of The Art Studio NY & Internationally Renowned Artist. The Art Studio NY offers children’s art summer camps and inspiring children’s art classes all year round. Click here to see their classes and camps listed on Kidz Central Station.