Inspired Spaces: Check Out These Incredible Fairy Houses!

Fairy Houses BlogI am beginning a new section of my blog called “Inspired Spaces.” Here, I will gather photos of early childhood environments around the world to inspire your work with young children. If you have pictures you would like to submit for me to include, please see the instructions here.

Today, I bring you photos from the amazing and talented Alicia Weithers of Loving Hands Daycare in Iowa. She created these fairy houses with the help of her husband for her in home child care program. Here is what she says about the houses: Continue reading

Categories: #InspiredSpaces, Classroom, Environment, Spaces | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Talking To Children About Tragedies

bonsai-1199826Today is September 11, and many of our minds are circling back to stories of tragedy, loss, and grief. My heart feels heavy, and it isn’t just this singular event, or the wars that have followed, but devastation around the world: the haunting picture of the two-year-old boy who drowned while trying to flee Syria with his family, stories marking the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Facebook posts from friends doing relief work in Nepal following the earthquake.

This morning, I read an article in Brain, Child magazine about what it was like to be a mother in New York on the morning of 9/11, and I once again feel overwhelmed by the staggering hurt and pain that exists in the world. Reconciling the gap between my life and the lives in the stories I have recently encountered is impossible. I write these sentences on my computer, in my apartment in Switzerland, with food in the refrigerator, and clean water ready at a moment’s notice. The issues concerning me today are a never-ending mountain of laundry, leaving on time to pick my children up from school, and addressing unfinished writing projects on my to-do list.

My life seems so vastly different from the lives I read about that at times, it is hard to connect.

Until images and stories of children remind me that at the heart of these stories are human lives: children, families, communities, nations.

But what about our children? How do we handle trauma with kids?

Presence with children. It is easy for adults to get distracted while waiting for news to unfold. As must as possible, restricting the 24-hour news coverage helps maintain an atmosphere of routine for children. When tragedy strikes, we must work hard to maintain presence with our children. As Susan Buttenwieser writes,

Maybe there is more to being a mom than craft projects and baking. And maybe what your daughter really needs is for you to stay focused on what is right in front of you: her.

Honoring Our Needs. Sometimes, particularly when tragedy strikes close to home, we must spend time on the phone with loved ones or check for news updates. Taking care of ourselves while remaining present with children is sometimes challenging, but we must bring our whole selves, our grieving, worried, or preoccupied selves into those relationships of presence. And when we bring our whole selves into relationship with children, children are remarkably empathetic.

Give age appropriate information in supported environments. When children are met with scary events, it is important that they can trust the adults in their lives to be honest with them.

Be careful about television. Children often interpret television news replays as novel events. Each time they see a plane crash into a building, they think it’s a new plane and a new building. Consider turning to written sources for news updates or wait to watch video clips until you can preview them before children see them.

Let them PLAY!  One of the most powerful things that children can do to process tragedy is to play. Consider how children play “doctor” right after yearly checkups, or “family” when a peer has a new sibling. Add props to dramatic play that assists children in constructing a play world, and then give them time and space to weave a play theme.

Share stories of hope, and find ways for children to be involved. In the face of tragedy, we seek ways to effect change in our neighborhoods and around the world – through acts of financial generosity, or bold hospitality, or radical creativity, or ingenious community building. Find ways to bring children into that process, demonstrating that they can make a difference.

Other helpful resources:

Categories: Play, tragedy | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Staying Present With Our Children

IMG_7154When I became a mother, I was stopped by friends and random strangers, all sharing the same wisdom. “Enjoy her while she’s young. They grow up so fast.”

I’ll be honest: it felt like a lot of pressure. Continue reading

Categories: Respect, Wisdom | Tags: | 6 Comments

Helping Children Say Goodbye Without Distracting

Recently, I was doing some work with my dear friend, Kelly Matthews, thinking about the challenge that families and educators feel at this time of year with children who feel the pain of good-byes.

We were talking about typical approaches to separation anxiety, and talked of using toys when children are sad…like this:

The family leaves, the child cries, the care provider brings a toy or shakes a rattle:

“You’re okay. Mommy will be back soon. Don’t cry. Come over here and let’s play with this BIG TOWER! WOW! Look at all this COOL ART!” Think sing-songy voice, raised eyebrows, exaggerated smile…

Kelly made a really insightful comment. She said: Continue reading

Categories: Uncategorized | 15 Comments

An EXCITING Announcement from Emily Plank

IMG_5604So, you may have noticed that I’ve been a little absent lately. There’s a good reason.

Friends and faithful readers, I am so excited to share with you that over the past year… I have written a book!

My book looks at childhood through the eyes of children, exploring what they are really doing when they pretend to play with guns, or say things like “no boys allowed,” or resist clean up time. It examines the interaction between adults and the children they work with, and tries to amplify the voices of children in those interactions.

I am so excited to share this news with you. I still have work ahead in the editing process, as well as nailing down details like a title and fancy cover art. I am thrilled to be working with the wonderful team at Redleaf Press to bring this book to print.

Thank you for your consistent and loving support in reading my blog; your encouragement led me to believe in my abilities as a writer. Please continue to follow me here, on Facebook, and on Twitter for updates.

I’ll keep you posted!

<3 Emily

Categories: Book Review, Perspective | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Hands Free LIFE! An interview and giveaway with Rachel Macy Stafford

Unsaved Preview DocumentSeveral months ago, I received an email from Rachel Macy Stafford asking if I would be willing to read an advance copy of her new book, Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, & Loving More. I was honored! I have been a long-time reader of Hands Free Mama, and admirer of the work that Rachel does to help parents and families live intentionally, free of technological distractions. Her first book, Hands Free Mama, became an instant best-seller, striking a chord with mothers who desire to live more simply.

I found Hands Free Life to be a superbly readable and practical book, full of simple take-aways that empower families to engage with each other in intentional ways. Always hopeful, the book challenges readers to make new choices without binding them in guilt to the choices they made in the past.

Today, I am excited today to bring you this interview with Rachel, along with a chance to win her new book before you can buy it!  As you read, you will find my questions in bold. At the end of the Q&A are instructions for how to enter to win!  Continue reading

Categories: Uncategorized | 50 Comments

The Biggest Problem with Child Care In The United States (A Follow Up Discussion)

debateMy blog is a place for ideas. I am a fervent believer in refining ideas in community, and I had a chance to do that this week with my friends and fellow early childhood educators, Kelly Matthews and Ijumaa Jordan.

I want to share a conversation with you that I had with these thoughtful and reflective leaders in the field of early childhood education. Our discussion began following my blog post from last week called, “The Biggest Problem with Child Care in the United States.” In the discussion that follows, Kelly and Ijumaa dialogue with me about what they see as the biggest problems facing child care in the United States.

The dialogue that follows will make more sense if you’ve read the first post. Please take the time to leave me your thoughts in the comments below. What do you see as the biggest problems facing child care in the United States


Continue reading

Categories: Community Support, Public Policy, Wisdom | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

The Biggest Problem with Child Care in the United States

statueI read a sarcastic Craigslist post a few months ago that was circling among my educator cohort titled “Free Child Care.”  (I’ve looked for it since and can’t find it to link…you’ll have to use your imaginations.)  The post attempted, in witty tongue-in-cheek fashion, to illuminate the problem of child care costs by itemizing the actual cost of providing care for a child.  The writer was clever and the post struck a chord with my fellow educators, the sentiment being, Why do clients complain so much about the cost of child care?  Don’t they realize how little we make and how much we do?? 

On the other hand, I have friends in my parenting circles who want more children but choose against it (or choose to delay having other children), because they can’t afford the cost of child care.  Many of my fellow family child care providers had other careers before having children of their own, and then the cost of child care was too expensive for them to work.  They quit their jobs and opened their own child care programs.  They wonder, How can I pay for child care? The costs of placing my children in a child care program take up my entire paycheck.  How am I supposed to survive? Continue reading

Categories: Caregivers, Community Support, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

No Longer At Odds With Toddlers

IIMG_6117t snowed a few weeks ago in Lausanne; a beautiful dusting that covered everything with an inch of wet snow.

As I walked my son to preschool, I noticed something that made me smile.  The sidewalks had been cleared, and yet every stretch of snow remaining on the edges had tracks of footprints.  Made by child-sized feet.  I watched, smiling, as my son did what the toddler before him had done…march boldly in the fresh blankets of snow.

There was a wide swath of cleared pavement to choose from.  He didn’t need to walk in the snow.  Nor did the child Continue reading

Categories: Caregivers, communication, Emotional Development, Toddlers | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Dear Nationwide: Your Commercial Was Terrible. Here’s Why.

IMG_5456Last week was the Super Bowl, and one of the highlights every year are the commercials.  Nationwide Insurance gained notoriety for the commercial they ran which featured a dead child reflecting on everything he missed out on because he died in an accident.  The commercial has received lots of negative attention for very important reasons.

Spokespeople from the insurance company continue to stand behind the commercial, stating that the purpose was to raise awareness about the danger of household accidents. My intention was to post this letter one week ago immediately following the Super Bowl, but it took me days to put my thoughts on paper.  I have poured more hours into this single blog post than probably any post in the history of my blog. I believe that Nationwide did two critical things wrong Continue reading

Categories: Community Support, Risk Taking | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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