Magic Buttons - Creativity Matters

July 3, 2014 07:40 by Andy

My four year old daughter is magic.  She tells me so.  She can do anything...or not, depending on how it suits her.  She doesn't have to drink milk.  You see, "magic girls don't have to drink milk."  But she agrees to drink it anyway.  She doesn't have to sleep either... although she agrees to go to bed...usually.

She tells me she has a button...five in fact.  Magic buttons.  But I can't see them.  They are in her bones.  The first button turns her magic on.  The second button turns her into a flying pony, a unicorn, a butterfly, a ladybug or a flower...."the real kind, not the fake kind."  The third button turns her back.  The forth button turns her into a rock star and magic "sprinkles" shoot from her entire body.  Rock star sprinkles.  We're not sure what the fifth button does, but we're quite sure she has one.

And I celebrate.  I celebrate the createive mind that is blossoming in my home.  I celebrate the confident spirit that defines who my daughter is.  She knows she can be anything.  She is not deterred by laws of nature or human obstacles that too often kill the dream.  A past Newsweek article presented research stating that the correlation to lifetime creative accomplishemnts was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.  The article goes on to say that for the first time in generations, American creativity scores are falling significantly in younger children from Kindergarten through sixth grade.

What does this mean?  Why is this happening?  In short, there are no conclusive answers.  But there are clearly some easy places to look.  More TV; more video games; more structured school curriculum with less art, music, and physical education; less neighborhood freedom and exploration.  Entertainment is being packaged FOR kids.  Kids no longer have to create it.  So how did we get here?

I think creativity has always been taken for granted. Although it is valued and appreciated, it hasn't been coveted or desired.  We do not formally teach creativity.  You have "it" or you don't.  We assume that kids have "it"... until it leaves... and then you're a grown-up.  Can this be?  Is this OK?

Newsweek states that "a recent IBM poll of 1500 CEOs identified creativity as the No.1 'leadership competency' of the future."  Our world is changing.  The knowledge revolution is upon us.  The jobs of tomorrow will be very different than the jobs of today... and we don't even know exactly what they will be.  So what to do?  

Nurture the creatiivy of your child.  Ask what ifs.  Paint pictures.  Dance in the kitchen.  Play princess or pirate or superhero.  Talk about nature and people and places and things and ideas.  And most importantly, embrace the most wonderfully annoying, educational, simplistic, complex question in the world..."Why?"  Answer the question every time it is asked.  Turn the tables on your child and ask them to take a guess at their own questions... and then fully engage yourself in the answer!  Be present!  Be interested!  Be curious!  Be a parent!

If you do...and if you are... your child's magic buttons will ensure a very succesful life journey.  Here's to rock star sprinkels and an enjoyable ride.  

Teachers as Fortune Tellers

April 30, 2014 03:53 by Kristi

“People always want to see the future.  Well I see the future every day.” 

That’s how Ms. Kelly, a teacher of 3 year olds at O2B Kids Alachua, describes her job.  And she’s right!  Not only does she see it, she shapes it.  Now that’s power!  Each day Kelly, and so many other early childhood educators like her, invest in the lives of children, which means they are investing in the future for all of us.  Teaching curiosity, creativity, problem solving, and literacy means our children will have the skills they need to be responsible grown-ups and the future’s leaders. 

Kelly’s prediction for the future?  The class of 2029 will be awesome!  The 3 year olds that she works with every day consistently impress her.  They are bright, engaging, and eager to grow.

But not every child is in Ms. Kelly’s class.  What about all of the other 3 year olds out there?  Research tells us that 30% of kids entering kindergarten are not ready to learn.  30% of children in 3rd grade read below grade level.  30% of children do not graduate from High School.  That’s not a coincidence.  The problem begins before school starts, and that means the solution starts there too.  We need to get more kids into quality early childhood education centers, we need to make sure parents have the resources they need, we need to make sure our kids are healthy, we need to encourage curiosity and creativity – the building blocks for literacy. 

Let’s not wait for Superman.  Let’s encourage more people to be Superman, like Kelly, and work hard to get the class of 2029 ready… for our future.   

Twenty Minutes Can Change the World!

February 21, 2014 07:59 by Andy

Did You Know...

1.  More learning happens in our first five years of life than during any other period of our lives.

2.  Children learn - or don't learn - the skills they need to become literate during these first five years.

3.  Literacy is more than just learning how to read.  It is learning how to understand, comprehend, compute, rationalize, analyze, decide, weigh options, problem solve, create, and learn more.

4.  The literacy level of a child in kindergarten is an accurate predictor of that child's future path.

5.  Literacy is what children need to fulfill a lifetime of potential.

6.  Some skills learned during the first five years - such as learning to talk - tend to happen naturally.  However, literacy takes deliberate training and effort.

7.  While literacy takes deliberate action, it does not demand a high tech or expensive solution.  It just takes time and it just takes words.

8.  There is a wide range in the number of words young children hear.  Research has shown that some kids are exposed to 3 million words during their first four years, and others hear 11 million words.  The higher word count correlates with higher literacy in school.  Word count matters!

9.  Research also proves that one of the most effective, impactful activities to develop literacy is the act of reading to a child 20 minutes every day.

10.  Any reading is helpful.  But reading with a child while asking questions - and stimulating a dialog with the child - develops their understanding of books and words, stimulates their curiosity and creativey, and improves literacy.

So, let's get started!

  • Use positive and descriptive words when talking with a child.
  • Read books with children of all ages.
  • Encourage dialog while reading.
  • For preschoolers, ask questions about words and pictures.
  • For school age children, take turns reading, and talk about the story.

Words matter!

September is National School Success Month!

September 20, 2013 04:59 by Laurie

The start of the school year is the most exciting time of the year for students! Reconnecting with things to learn. September is National School Success Month. Keep the excitement going with this helpful month-by-month guide filled with advice, tools and resources to help your child have a school year packed with fun and learning. Click here to read "The Countdown to School Success", provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the National PTA. A September through June guide that takes you step-by-step through a typical school year calendar.

Your Child's Creative Brain!

May 16, 2013 10:01 by Andy

Your Child's Brain:  Part 4

Creativity is 3 Times More Important than Intelligence for Lifetime Success

In 1958, Professor E. Paul Torrance studied a group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who completed a series of creativity tests.  For the next 50 years, scholars have tracked those children.  The conclusion:  childhood creativity is more than three times stronger than childhood IQ in predicting lifetime creative accomplishment.  

As important as this is, American creativity scores are actually falling.  The scores for children from Kindergarten through sixth grade are in the greatest decline.  This is occurring at a time when creativity is being identified as the number one leadership competency of the future. 

We must solve this creativity crisis!  Creativity is an essential part of what we do.  Our Play Village is a creativity laboratory that lets kids pretend, invent, discover and dream with friends every day! 


Part 5:

Cognitive Growth is Dependent on Emotional Health and Social Skills

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, a child’s cognitive intelligence cannot be separated from his or her social and emotional health.  Emotional well-being and social competence are the bricks and mortar that make up the foundation for cognitive abilities.  Developing a healthy balance in the early years is a prerequisite for success in school, the workplace and the community.  All future learning is dependent on this important foundation.  Relationships are critical in this process, as a child’s social and emotional health is highly impacted by relationships with family members, adult caregivers and teachers. 

At O2B Kids, our Fun Crew Teachers and Counselors are brilliant at feeding a child’s social and emotional health.  We deliver more hugs, more smiles and more friends! 

Part 2: Experiences Wire the Brain

April 12, 2013 09:09 by Andy

An infant has roughly 100 billion brain cells at birth.  As a child grows and experiences the world, the number of brain cells remains fairly stable, but the cells grow in size as they connect to other brain cells, creating an intricate network.  This is often referred to as the brain’s wiring or circuitry.  Creating and reinforcing these vast neural connections are the key tasks of early brain development – and they are inextricably triggered by life experiences.  The result is that children who are exposed to positive, diverse life experiences tend to complete more yeas of school have higher paying jobs, make healthier lifestyle choices, and live longer, healthier lives. 

With over 200 weekly classes, free play variety and unique special events, the O2B Kids “New Learning Playground” is truly an “experience” supercenter when it comes to brain development!  And it doesn’t stop there!  Each year we have an Education Conference for our staff, and the April 2013 conference has one focus:  How Experiences Wire the Brain.  Our staff will focus on the science behind what we do – and remember what an incredibly important job they have!

Your Child's Brain - Part 1

April 4, 2013 06:14 by Andy

Research from the fields of neuroscience, molecular biology, genomics and child development provide amazing evidence into how children learn and grow. We have identified six insights that help define the education philosophy at O2B Kids. While our programs may look like high-octane FUN, there’s science – and a whole lot of benefit – behind what we do!

1. 85% - 90% of a Person’s Brain is Wired in the First Five Years of Life

In the first few years of life, 700 new neural connections are formed in the brain every second – every second!!! – through the interactive influences of genes and a child’s experiences. This process creates a foundation that determines a child’s lifelong ability to learn, to relate to others, to be productive in the work place, and to be fully engaged citizens.

At O2B Kids, our Nationally Accredited Preschool, Brighter Babies and Morning Magic Play Groups, Program Calendar Classes and Play Village experiences stimulate a child’s sensory, language and cognitive brain functions and provide a foundation for lifelong learning.

Child Initiated Learning

April 29, 2011 07:05 by Kristi

Children learn so much while they are playing in the neighborhood!  They learn how to explore, pretend, create, solve problems, get along with others, lead, follow, make friends, build, play, invent, make decisions, try new things, develop skills and find their passion.  Many families no longer feel comfortable sending their kids out into the neighborhood to play, and many schools have cut recess and free time.  But kids have to learn these skills somewhere!  Because The Neighborhood is an important part of a child’s social and emotional growth, we’ve created a place for them to do those things within the safe walls of O2B Kids under the watchful eye of our Fun Crew.  This child-directed play is a time of rich learning, and we’re proud to provide these essential learning opportunities to children in our communities. 

“Play is our brain's favorite way of learning.” - Diane Ackerman, Contemporary American author

Neighborhood Time is a crucial learning time for all children.  During Neighborhood Time, a designated part of the facility is open, and children get to choose what to do while they are there.  Children choose the activity and the action.  Playing alone or with others, they interact with materials freely, in many different ways. 

During this non-scripted play, children gain essential skills.  They have the opportunity to: 

• Practice problem solving
• Understand consequences
• Develop social skills
• Gain independence & self confidence
• Learn to be responsible
• Gain physical fitness
• Create leadership skills
• Practice self-regulation
• Use their creativity

What Grown-Ups Can Do!

To support child initiated play and to maximize the enrichment, our daily goal is to
• Set the stage
• Supervise safe play
• Expand upon learning opportunities!

We discuss what parts of the building or classroom are available and what activities the kids want to do when they get there.  What will they try to get better at?  Who will they play with?  How will they make it fun and exciting, or calm and relaxing, or energetic and heart-pumping? 

The building changes!  Each day we make sure there is something different to stimulate play -- building blocks, bowling pins, connect four, costumes, cardboard boxes, yarn, walking sticks, bubbles, paper, cloth, tubes, etc.  Each thing stimulates play, and changes the child’s interactions from one day to the next. 
Child initiated learning is not a matter of chance.  We think about the child’s development and intentionally prepare an interesting and rich environment that offers choices. 

Did we just finish a unit on physics?  Then we add cloth and a vacuum cleaner and see if kids can make a kite.  Did we just learn about Shakespeare?  Then we add hats and robes and see if they create a play. 

We observe children, ask open-ended questions, and make suggestions that will extend children’s play and support their learning. 

We ensure it is Safe Play!
• Engagement, Engagement, Engagement!  We offer choices, and create opportunities for learning, creativity and growth.
• Be proactive.  We look for mad, sad or confused faces on children and ask questions before a problem occurs:  Are they sick? Scared? Tired? Hungry?  Worried?  Bored?
• Take the time to connect with each child, every day.  We look them in the eye, and listen when they talk.
• Set limits and consequences in advance whenever possible.
• Be consistent, kind and firm with limits, consequences, rules and expectations.
• Keep it simple, have as few rules as possible and discuss them often.

"Do not…keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play." ~ Plato

If I teach...

September 28, 2010 08:36 by Lieba

If smiles could fly and laughter could soar, could they carry hope in their feathers, sprinkling it on those below?

If questions could build, and answers connect, could that bridge cover the span that separates?

If I believe I matter, that I make a difference, what would I say and do and be?

A teacher.

A teacher, a teacher, a teacher!

If I teach a teacher who teaches a child, who teaches their family, who teaches their community....

What could that community do?

Could they change the world?

Could they walk the bridge they built, then take off with wings of hope?


Learning from Gator Football

September 27, 2010 08:43 by Kristi

Our philosophy is that we learn a whole lot more when we’re having fun!  

So, what would you expect 4 year olds in the Gator Nation to be talking about during football season?  You guessed it!  Check out Ms. Valerie’s VPK room:

All of Florida’s players are on the wall and each day a new one comes down and joins the class during circle time.  They memorize his name, number and position, and then review all of the other players they’ve learned so far.  We’ve got math, letter and number recognition, reading, comprehension, memorization, and more!   The kids sure are paying attention, and must really impress their parents when they watch the game together on Saturday!  (Well, except for the one dad who’s an Alabama fan, he may wish we were doing something else!)  

Learning sure can be fun!
Go Gators!