Marianne’s Early Childhood Column Tag

  Last week the N.Y. Times published an article entitled “Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?” Nursery school teachers have been dismissed as glorified babysitters, paid low hourly wages with few other benefits, and expected to put up with chaotic working conditions. After all, they were only teaching preschoolers. They had no need for academic expertise in any field. Perceptions have changed. First, brain research done at Harvard with Project Zero showed the importance...

  The holidays are around the corner. As I leaf through the toy catalogs this year, in search of the perfect presents for my grandchildren, I am amazed by the number and variety of STEM toys. They are everywhere! Build your own robot or lunar lander or drone. Make electricity and learn about circuitry, magnets and gears. Learn coding to remote control your (fill in the blank). Take on an engineering project, simple or complex. I...

  It’s that time of year again, when children go back to school, or start at a new one. Many of our youngest will attend school for the first time, and at a very young age. Two and three-year-olds who have never been to school before are in for what can initially be a traumatic experience. There is a happy ending, however. Starting nursery school means watching your mom or beloved caregiver walk away and leave you...

  My brothers and I grew up in a Long Island suburb. After graduate school, I came to Greenwich to teach, and stayed. My children grew up here, and now I have grandchildren in town as well. But I also have two grandchildren who live in New York City, and I have concluded that city kids lead very different lives. Suburban kids go everywhere in cars. They are driven to their destinations by parents and nannies, do...

  Nothing is more aggravating, discouraging, and guaranteed to set your nerves on total edge than listening to your children fight with each other. Nothing can make you question your parenting skills (and your sanity) more than the constant bickering or worse. Because we love the children so much and recognize their individual strengths and talents, we can’t believe they treat each other with such disrespect and outright cruelty. “Why?” we ask them, “Why can’t you...

  Written by Marianne Riess Joyce was a social giant. Her easy smile projected warmth and good humor. She loved friends, fun, a good party and was obviously a veteran of many of them. She played many roles in her life: secretary, adventurer, wife, friend, mother, teacher, grandmother. We knew her best as a nursery school teacher. Joyce understood that young children learn through fun, play and games, and when she hooked up with Anne Martine Cook...

written by Marianne Riess  … so much that he became a wonderful teacher, an unusual teacher, because he didn’t love books, and he didn’t love homework. He certainly didn’t love computers or video games. What he loved was to show children how to enjoy the outdoors, as he had, growing up. So he founded a nursery school and created outdoor experiences for very young children. In a program called Smokey’s Bounders, children made campfires and enjoyed s’mores....

  Just before Christmas, Party with Moms republished one of Anne’s classic columns, “What Do Children Really Want?” Her point is that children relish the time and attention of a loving relative. I was reminded of the truth of her concept last week when our two grandsons came to our house for a late Christmas, and ended up spending 24 hours with us. The first evening was taken up with exchanging presents and having dinner with friends...

  Before leaving on a recent trip to Spain, we were warned: Spaniards don’t eat lunch until 2, and no one eats dinner before 9:00 PM! Since my husband and I are early risers, and not big breakfast eaters, I knew some adjusting was going to be in store. But I couldn’t help thinking how convenient such a schedule was for parents. Basically they could feed their children dinner, and get them into bed before going...

  I read that Albert Camus, French author, philosopher and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, afterwards wrote a thank you letter to a teacher from his elementary school years in Algeria. Camus told Louis Germain that when he won the prize, he thought first of his mother, and then of him. As a child, Camus’ prospects for a successful life had been dim. His father died in World War I; his mother...

  [caption id="attachment_7437" align="aligncenter" width="288"] Marianne Riess is the former head of the Putnam Indian Field School in Greenwich, CT. She has 40 years of experience in working with young children.[/caption] Our annual vacation to Block Island this year had a new twist: my NYC grandsons (Axel, just shy of 10 and Owen, 8) were traveling with us. I wondered how to keep them amused during the 2½ hour car trip to the ferry. Knowing that they...

  Many 3 and 4-year olds enter nursery school with no concept of cleaning up. At home, they have dolls, art materials, costumes, trains, trucks, balls, puzzles, games, books. They play everyday. Why are they so unfamiliar with clean up? One answer? Someone else is doing it for them. For other children, cleaning up means throwing things into a toy box with every item jumbled up with everything else. So when they start nursery school, and the...

  Most parents are well aware of the value of reading aloud to young children. When they are read lots of good stories, children fall in love with books and become lifelong readers. Yet parents can go further and turn passive listening into involved participation, just by using a few reading tricks.  Use the illustrations – as you read, you can ask your child questions about them. For instance, “Look at his face. How is he feeling?”...

  Ages ago, when I was an English teacher at what was then Central Jr. High, the rule of thumb for our department was that you never chose a book for the class which featured a girl protagonist. The theory: boys would not read about a girl, but girls would always read about a boy. So the classes got to know Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Travis of Old Yeller, Jim of Treasure Island, Gene and...

Thanks to all who responded so positively to my column on Bev Bos last week. As a follow-up, here are some of the beliefs that she stressed in her writings and presentations. They can guide us all as we teach or parent young children. (My thoughts in italics) On the Importance of Socialization "Kids have to be social by six. If they’re not social by six, if they don’t know how to give and take, if they...

I always believe the best presents for children begin with ‘B:’ Books, Blocks and Balls. All can be enjoyed independently or with others, in many different ways. I’ve named some favorite children’s books in previous articles. A few new ones found their way into my pile of gifts this past holiday season. Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman is a cute book about friendship between two unlikely characters, and appeals to the 3-4 year old set....

  In the Reggio Emilia schools, they say children have 100 languages. They don’t mean languages in our usual sense of the word, but symbolic languages through which children express their questions and ideas about the world. The Reggio educational philosophy goes beyond speaking, writing and numbers to encourage pre-school children to illustrate their thinking through drawing, painting, sculpture, dance, dramatic play, construction with all sorts of materials, gestures, music, physical activity, map-making, etc. All are...

  The annual Book Fair is one of my favorite events of school life. And a most enjoyable job for me was advising parents on which books their children would love. The classics and the favorites were easy. But every once in a while, we would encounter a book that flew under parent radar, but that children responded to in fresh and authentic ways. Mem Fox is an Australian author of many wonderful children’s books. Two of...

  Most parents understand that children learn primarily through play. Yet, when their child attends a play-based nursery school, they may wonder whether he or she is being challenged, being thoroughly prepared for elementary school, being exposed to “academics.” Studies show that rote learning at a young age does not stick. Children may develop a temporary edge over their playing peers, but it is just that, temporary. And while they are being taught and drilled, they are...

  The answer is simple: EVERYTHING! You know the saying, “If I’d known grandchildren were so great, I’d have had them first.” Of course it doesn’t work that way. But I understand why people say it. Grandchildren are pure joy, without the mixture of love, anxiety and expectation we have for our own children. One thing that makes the grandparent/grandchild relationship so special is the quality of the time together. Because most grandparents don’t see their grandchildren...

Of course you do! They are in camp, or playing on a baseball or soccer team, or at the club pool or taking a tennis lesson. You or another adult is with them. Or maybe they are at home, watching a movie, TV, playing a video game or being tutored. Maybe they are in your car, being driven to an activity. They are not out on their own. Children’s free play has all but disappeared from...

Reggio Emilia burst upon the early childhood scene in 1991 when Newsweek described their schools in Northern Italy as “the best early childhood experience in the world.” Suddenly educators everywhere were studying their philosophies and practices. There was a lot to study: books, videos, tours to the schools, conferences led by Reggio educators in the U.S. Throughout, the Italians told us, “Don’t try to copy us. You have to find your own projects based in your...

  As the end of nursery school approaches, inevitably parents wonder about how their children will fare in the big next school. Have they been “prepared?” Many parents associate preparedness with academics, but social development is more essential for success. If the children have learned to renounce biting, punching, crying, whining and tattling as problem-solving techniques and have taken responsibility for negotiating their own issues verbally, peacefully, they are prepared. If they know how to self-regulate, to...

  We’ve all heard children doing it – deciding who will be the mom, the dad, the sister, the puppy. Or maybe they’re playing restaurant, with a chef, a waiter, and a hungry customer or two. Or assuming the roles of a serious but kind doctor, a sick person who needs an operation, a mom with a feverish baby. Children love to make-believe. The more they do it, the more nuanced their performances become.  What may not...

  When I wrote about Self-Regulation, I related it to a child’s ability to take on an unattractive or difficult task when necessary. What does a child do when the teacher announces clean up time? Children with a good sense of self-regulation pitch right in and begin putting things away. They deserve immediate positive attention. Another child may ignore the general command to clean up and either continue playing or just dance around the room contributing nothing....

  My last column discussed emotional self-regulation, the ability to control impulses and behave in a way appropriate to the circumstance. By developing this skill, children become more productive and socially competent.  There is a cognitive aspect to self-regulation as well, which helps children overcome their reluctance to engage in challenging school activities. Again, children initially need lots of help from adults. They need encouragement to keep trying even when the activity is difficult or unappealing.  As a...

  What is self-regulation? How do children develop it? We are told all the time how important that development is to future success in school and life.  Self-regulation may be defined as the ability to control one’s own behavior and emotions and adapt them in response to a particular situation. For young children, self-regulation begins as external control by teachers, parents, and caregivers. As the child grows, hopefully that ability to control initial impulses and respond appropriately...

  My last column described “hypothesis testing” as a mindset children need to develop to become successful learners. Hypothesis testing can be defined as learning by hands-on trial and error until understanding is acquired.  Another helpful mindset to encourage in children is risk-taking. Don’t worry. Encouraging risk-taking doesn’t mean letting your child jump off the roof, or point his skis straight downhill on his first run ever. For a young child, willingness to risk means being willing...