For all you busy parents, we have compiled a list of free online courses to help you in your parenting journey
Winter is nearing and we see families in search of indoor enrichment programs. Dearest is proud to announce that we have started a partnership with Equinox East 61st Street!
Here are the top three reasons why we are excited about our partnership with Equinox:
Supporting modern parents in New York City
Modern parents in NYC lead busy lives and are in constant search of quality enrichment and childcare services that support their unique lifestyle. At Equinox, parents are encouraged to pursue their own passions, stay fit, and healthy while fostering a safe and nurturing environment for their children. Dearest is proud to support this, by providing a differentiated program that helps children develop future-ready skills.
Challenging the status quo
Traditional institutions have fixed schedules, fixed standards, and fixed costs. Andrew Minigan of The Right Question Institute in Education Week says “curiosity often is not fostered in schools, especially those driven by test-based performance standards.” Learning can happen anywhere and everywhere - not just within a classroom setting. It can happen, for an example, at a gym. Equinox’s For Kids Only (FKO) programs are focused on interactive and play-based learning and are dedicated to curating an engaging experience that sparks children’s curiosity. Similarly, at Dearest, we deliver personalized and high-quality early childhood programs to families in NYC in the comfort of their own homes, and fuel children’s creativity.
Letting children guide their learning journey
Children learn best when experiences are customized based on their interests. Equinox offers diverse programs designed to further children’s development. With sessions pertaining to science, art and design, instructional swim, fashion and design, dance and movement, basketball, soccer, cooking, and languages, children have the opportunity to explore, ask questions, and discover new talents. At Dearest, we have over 300 educators with diverse expertise within the field of early childhood education. Designing the learning experience around each child’s interests is what we are all about!
If you’re curious and want to learn more about Equinox’s Winter and Spring Preschool Alternative and Children’s Enrichment programs, visit their site here.
If you’re a parent interested in in-home private sessions and/or tailored programs for your child, you can reach out to us at email@example.com for more information.
Imagine that you are walking into a classroom. Close your eyes and visualize the kind of artwork you see. It could be hanging on the wall or in the process of being created. My guess is that your mind’s eye is seeing picturesque, ‘Pinterest-worthy’ art. Even though perfectly cut out shapes, expertly glued papers, and meticulously colored masterpieces are appealing to look at, I can bet that perfectly cut line is not the work of a 3, 4 or even 5-year old… It is the work of the teacher! There have been countless times as a teacher and as a School Director, where I have highlighted the importance of process art vs. product art. This may be the first time you’ve heard of these terms, but you will soon be an art expert!
What is Product Art?
Product art is when the main focus of your lesson is the end result. It is usually based off of a finished copy, with step-by-step instructions outlining how to complete the project. This typically results in an array of work that looks almost identical. For example, a preschool class at my school was studying fairy tales, specifically “The Three Little Pigs.” To make an art connection, the teacher wanted each of them to make a pig. She showed them her example, and then cut out enough ears, snouts, bodies, and tails for her class. This resulted in 12 perfectly plump, pink piglets. While it was adorable, I had to ask her, what did the students learn? I challenged her to dig a little deeper and answer these questions: did it enhance or improve their fine motor skills? Did it allow them to think creatively? The answer to each question was “no”. While it did show their ability to follow instructions, it is also important to see what children can do with their own creativity and ability.
What is Process Art?
Process art is focused on the journey, not the destination. Process-driven art is based upon each child’s creativity, experience, and natural interests. As a result, no two pieces of art will look alike. For example, I asked my students to make pumpkins to decorate our classroom for fall. That was the only guideline given to them, and they had free range of all supplies. When the project was over I was left with some classic-looking pumpkins; some short, some fat, some tall and skinny! I also had quite a few colorful pumpkins and even a rainbow one! Each pumpkin was unique. I can tell you which work of art belonged to which student because they reflected their individual personalities SO well!
This approach teaches students that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do art. It sets up all children for success and allows them to develop a personal connection with their work.
How do I foster the learning through Process Art at home?
Provide a variety of art materials for each project, even non-traditional art supplies.
Don’t make an example for them to copy! I know this may be hard, but children have a deep desire to please. If they see your example, they will try their best to copy it. If they fail to copy it or do it “correctly,” it may leave them feeling frustrated or not good enough. Instead, guide them through the process.
Enjoy the journey! Art isn’t a race! If they can’t finish in the time allotted it’s okay! Highlight the importance of the experience as opposed to rushing to get a finished piece on the wall.
Art aids development in so many ways. It grows their fine and gross motor skills, expands creativity, enhances problem-solving capabilities, and helps them to focus. I know it may be hard to relinquish control, but once you do, your "mini-Picasso's" will create amazing things!
Experienced School Manager and education professional with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry.
This week, we tackle the subject of the "growth mindset" - the belief that intelligence can be developed.
Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor and a household name in education, has taught us through her research that with a growth mindset, children can get smarter through hard work. It is contrasted with a fixed mindset: the belief that intelligence is a fixed trait that is set in stone at birth.
According to Dweck, it’s important to promote growth mindset - an attitude that allows for possibilities and promotes progress and problem-solving. By teaching them that they can try new things, learn new things and that their brains can change and grow, we show them the right attitude for life-long learning. So, as parents, what can we do to help them develop a growth mindset?
Dweck suggests some phrases that we can use to foster a “growth mindset:”
Praise a child’s progress and strategies, rather than the effort alone.
"Wow, you really practiced that, and look how you've improved." "See, you studied more and your grade on this test is higher." "You tried different strategies and you figured out how to solve the problem." "You stuck to this and now you really understand it.”
Focus on what was accomplished by the child, rather than telling them to try harder.
"Let's look at what you've done," "Let's look at what your understanding is," or "Let's look at what strategies you've used, and let's figure out together what we should try next.”
Instead of “I can’t,” introduce them to the power of “yet.”
“I can’t do this.. yet,” "This doesn’t work…yet,” "I don’t know how to….yet,” "I’m not good at the…yet"
Based on our research and suggestions from our educators, we have compiled great books that can introduce “growth mindset” to children.
Here are our top picks:
Starting preschool is a big (and exciting!) step for your little one. Whether or not it's your child’s first time away from home, as parents, we play an essential role in preparing them for this next phase. Here are a few tips on how to ease the transition for you and your child:
Organize play dates:
Your little one will soon be spending time with many other children and playdates is a great way to mimic a preschool environment. It will teach him to share attention, be a sport, and wait for his turn. Ask the teacher for a list of students who will be in the same class as your little one so you can arrange playdates with them or, find a local play group! Dearest works with the families in Manhattan, so contact us for introductions to like-minded families near you.
Introduce routines and schedules:
Schedules and routines show consistency to help them adjust to the structure of a school setting. According to Rebecca Palacios, Ph.D., a Senior Curriculum Advisor for Age of Learning, Inc., "children learn best when routines and daily schedules are established. Routines provide opportunities to learn about order, sequencing, and concepts of time. Established routines make for smoother transitions and help children to prepare mentally for the day ahead while providing frameworks in which creative learning can occur.” Morning and night routines, that can include singing a song, reading a book, or "tucking in,” will also give them a sense of belongingness and reassurance.
Assign simple chores:
Whether it’s clearing their plates from the table, picking up toys, or dressing up, these simple tasks give them a chance to act responsibly. You will be surprised how much independence your child develops once he/she starts preschool. Aside from developing self-help skills, chores can help tune motor skills. Additionally, you can do arts and crafts activities such as, modeling clay, coloring, or cutting with scissors, for dexterity and improving hand strength. It will provide practice for proper hand placement and future handwriting demands.
Practice language skills:
Take every opportunity to expand your child’s vocabulary and practice communicating what he/she would need or like to do. Ask questions and encourage them to do the same to reinforce an inquisitive nature. The better they get at self-expression, the more confidence they build to interact with others. Reading every day with your child is another great way to strengthen language skills. It even opens them up to imaginative experiences which are vital in promoting innovation and creativity.
visit THE SCHOOL WITH YOUR CHILD:
If you haven't visited the school with your child already, ask when you can visit the school with your child or, find out if they have a visiting day or orientation. It gives you a chance to talk with teachers and have your questions answered. It will also be beneficial for your child to meet them, so he sees a friendly face on the first day. Tour the school, show his/her classroom, and maybe even play on the school playground. Experiencing the preschool with you present and gaining familiarity with a new setting can help increase your child’s comfort with this big adjustment.
As much as we want to make this transition as easy as 1-2-3, there’s no need to over prepare. If you make it seem like it’s such a big deal, your child may end up being more worried than excited. Preschool is a time for growth. It’s about exploring things, meeting new friends, and making this whole experience as fun as possible for your little one!
Dearest's Global Awareness Program is focused on developing awareness and interests in other countries, cultures, and people in the world. Based on the subject taught at International Baccalaureate® (IB) World Schools, our program focuses on personalized learning, problem-solving skills, and self-direction.
To share an preveiw of the exciting program, we had a kid's Global Awareness Picnic in Central Park on June 17th!!
We kicked the event off by greeting in different languages. Then we dove right in to story time and art project that explore the theme of "The Circle of Us"--sharing and discussing my home, my state, my country, and my planet.
The second project was on building a "Tree of us", where we created a collaborative artwork with hand prints and discussed how we can each contribute by being a great global citizen.
This was a short and casual preview of what is happening at our Global Awareness Summer Camp. Find out more about the camp here.
Combined, these three teachers have lived in 7 different countries and can speak 6 languages fluently! They are also experienced early childhood, music, and language teachers who can bring fun learning experience to your home. Visit www.dearest.io or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
We all consider our children precious, and equally so their development and progression as people. But as parents do we really understand what’s happening, at a scientific level, within the minds of our children?
Take for example one statistic: that scientists now know that around 1 million neural connections are formed every second in the developing mind of a child. This extraordinary level of brain development only occurs once in the lifetime of humans – during early childhood. Not many people appreciate the true marvel at which young brains develop.
This flurry of brain activity is characteristic of the broader cycle that occurs in the development of children. The most important thing to understand is that the brain is built up over time and because of this, experiences early on in a child’s life change the architecture of the brain and impact how it adapts and responds later in life. Like a building with a sturdy foundation, well-developed experiences early in life gives a good basis for learning later in life. But the opposite is also true: a poor foundation in a child’s early development can mean hardship for a child trying to build out their skills later in life.
As research at the Harvard Center for the Developing Child explains: neural connections grow as children get older (reaching up to 1 million new connections a second). But at a certain point in early childhood, the number of neural connections peaks and then declines. The process, called pruning, helps the brain specialize its functions along certain neural pathways and become more efficient.
A result of this process is that brain pathways that developed during childhood become entrenched and are difficult to change after they are set in. You may have heard of the phrase ‘brain plasticity’, referring for the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself in response to its environment. Because the brain specializes along these pathways, brain plasticity decreases as children become older. Parents should know that the experiences in the first few years of have an enormous impact in later development.
Ultimately, the most important take away is that the development of a child’s brain is especially important and sets the stage for later life.
We kicked off the workshop with first listing out the benefits behind learning how to code. At Dearest, we believe coding is a valuable skill one can start to learn, even at a young age! Aside from developing problem-solving skills and sequential thinking, coding also develops one’s creativity. It's just like writing in a different language.
This workshop provided tangible resources for our educators to introduce simple coding concepts to children 3 years and up. We focused on fun screen-free activities like building mazes and exploring conditional statements.
Our software developer, Zach, shared with us about his experience learning coding and how it has helped him in his daily life even with something as simple as navigation and scheduling.
One of the fun activities included making some binary bracelets! This activity was centered around teaching the concept of binary code. Using strings and beads, the educators created bracelets by encoding their names with the ASCII code. Find out how to do this activity here.
Learning how to code does not have to be intimidating. There are many ways to teach your little ones the concepts behind coding without using computers and fancy toys.
We hope your kids will enjoy these activities in their next sessions with our Dearest educators.
You can view all the photos from the event on our Facebook page!
Our Discovery Science Summer Camp began with a mini introduction to the life of plants, which featured up close interaction with a Venus Flytrap. The kids were fascinated by the tiny hairs on the lobes of the flytrap used for trapping insects. We then talked about carnivores, herbivores and omnivores.
Rebecca, our Dearest Science Camp Teacher sang and danced a song while giving the children a chance to show off their own moves!
Up next was a sensory and creativity play activity where they got to build their own ecosystem; there were crayons, play dough, flowers, animals and all sorts of exploratory material for them to use.
Each little explorer also got to play with and decorate their own telescope that they used to observe their environment.
Our little explorers then headed outside where they made use of their observational skills and drew what they saw. They all had a set of binoculars they could use to watch closely and observe how nature moved around them.
We made use of our sense of touch, sight, smell, and hearing while exploring the garden. Their faces scrunched up slightly as our little explorers took a whiff of the mint in their hands and exclaimed, "It smells like mint!"
Our explorers then took a closer look at the Venus Flytrap to see if it had gotten any bugs trapped in it. They even tried catching some ants to feed to the carnivorous plant!
After being out in the garden, we got the chance to plant our very own seeds! This sensory activity got our little explorers testing out their fine motor skills when placing the soil into the egg shells and planting their own seeds.
To sum it up, the camp was an eye-opening experience for all. For continued learning and discovery, view our available summer camps and sign up for one today.
Additionally, we can also bring this summer camp to you! Drop an email to email@example.com for any inquiries.
Alternatively, you can also view Rebecca's profile and book her for personalized sessions.
Dearest After-School Series delivers an insider’s scoop on after-school programs at top schools in Manhattan. We are exploring these programs in detail to provide you with the information you need to know to make the best decision for your child. This week, we are putting the spotlight on Speyer Legacy School for intellectually accelerated students. Recently, we talked to Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school, about all things “BLUE” (the after-school program for Grades K-4), including a new program launching this fall.
Speyer Legacy School is a private school that caters to advanced learners in grades K-8. They follow a student-faculty led approach to inspire and encourage a passion for learning and questioning within each of its students.
With that in mind, they have designed an after-school program for Grades K-4 called BLUE, which stands for Build-Learn-Understand-Explore. Students are given the opportunity to pursue their passions while trying new things. To get a closer look at this program, we had a chance to speak with Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school, about what goes on beyond the regular hours at Speyer.
Each 75-minute class in the BLUE program aims to serve as an “exploratory time” for your child after school. At the beginning of the semester, students can choose from a variety of classes that include athletics, performing arts, visual arts, chess, reading, writing, building and innovation, and self-expression. They have the opportunity to switch classes during the first week if they feel like it's not the right fit (and if it isn't already full). Although some are restricted to certain grades, such as basketball (for 2nd to 4th graders), the school strives to create a balance between the variety of classes built for different grades.
According to Ms. Balter, the most popular choices for the lower school are soccer, chess, musical theater, fencing, and math, some of which have waitlists. Depending on the interests of the children, classes such as magic, creative drama, and painting extravaganza, are also offered. One of the new offerings is a recycling art class that combines the concepts of art and science. It develops their creativity and resourcefulness through making masterpieces out of recycled materials.
A highlight of the program is the "Makers’ Lab," which promotes innovation. The younger learners start with simple design challenges and use the materials made available to them. When students reach 3rd grade, they get to work on more complex projects involving robotics and coding.
A child enrolled in the program begins class at 3:30 pm from Monday to Thursday. There is a total of 14 to 17 sessions per semester depending on the school calendar, costing $40-$50 per session. As Speyer maintains a 6:1, student to teacher ratio, the slots are limited -on a first-come-first-serve basis. Speyer parents can register their child(ren) online before each semester.
Behind the BLUE program’s success is their community of educators, who willingly share their time and talent with students. Teaching these classes provides an avenue for them to pursue passions outside of a formal class setting. The school only looks into third party companies if a subject requires a certain level of specialization, such as fencing.
Speyer also values the interdependent relationships they build with the parents. The goal is to support them in any way they can, even in terms of childcare. That led to the creation of an extended hours after-school program called EA Jumpstart, piloting this school year. It runs from 4:45-5:45 Mondays through Thursdays and from 3:30-5:45 on Fridays. The cost (including snacks) ranges from $25 per day for the Monday-Thursday sessions to $55 for Friday sessions. A teacher from the faculty supervises and fosters a ‘study hall’ environment for the students to work independently.
After years of working with the school, Ms. Balter believes that overseeing the lower school program, together with the after-school program, works to her advantage as she gets to know the students on a more personal level. With accelerated students, it’s important to help them reach beyond their intellectual potential while supporting their learning in an environment that is collaborative, exciting, and fun.
Individualized instruction is a hot topic in the education world today. Not long ago, this term was only associated with children who require special assistance, or students placed on Individualized Education Plans (IEP), such as those impacted by autism or ADHD. However, parents and educators have come to realize that there’s a flaw in this way of thinking. If you ask a parent if their child has the same interests and strengths as his/her peers, you will get a load of information that highlights the child’s individual strengths, weaknesses, interests, and eccentricities. We see each child as an individual, gifted with a unique set of talents and skills.
As a teacher, I have always felt that schools, both private and public, needed to arrive at the same conclusion that parents have always known: children also need to be educated on an individual basis. Luckily, the educational tides are shifting, and educators are finding the worth in modifying instruction to meet the developmental needs of all children. As the saying goes, “you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole!”
So how can we practice this child-centered teaching with our little ones?
Get to Know Your Students
Whether you’re a parent or an educator it is important to know what makes each child tick. What do they enjoy or value? What are they capable of doing? What motivates them? All of these questions can be answered by way of a simple assessment, ‘getting-to-know-you’ activity, or my favorite way, sit down and have a conversation with each child. Adults who take the time to interact one-on-one with the child will gain a greater understanding of his/her abilities, learning style, and interests.
Create Opportunities for Learning
A successful educator will build on a child’s interests to create a love for learning regardless of ability. I really want to stress finding out what interests and motivates them, because that is the key to success. If they love dragons, but dislike reading, introduce books that have dragon characters or themes! It may seem like such a simple idea, but it will create a stronger relationship with the student. Having someone acknowledge their unique interests means the world to them!
Monitor Children’s Progress
Taking note of their individual progress not only provides a basis to celebrate success, but it also informs your teacher’s instructional approach. It is important to create a way to assess their progress. I find that a non-formal assessment, such as observation, works the best in identifying their growth. Not every student is a good test taker, so formal assessments do not work for every child. Working one-on-one or in small groups will give you a window into their thought process, what areas they have mastered, or areas that still need to be developed. An effective educator will then use this information to modify their instructional approach, which will then help them decide when to introduce new content, or increase support for a difficult skill. Ultimately, it will allow you to meet the varying needs of ALL children.
Celebrate Every Success
This is the most important thing! At the end of the day as parents and educators, we are preparing these little people to do big things! It is important to keep in mind that success varies among children and comes in different forms. Whether it's tying their shoes, reading a sight word, or writing their name, it truly is unique for every child. Celebrating every success, no matter how trivial, encourages them to persevere through difficulties and creates a positive and uplifting learning environment.
My biggest successes as an educator came when I relaxed, saw each child for who they were, and threw away any preconceived notion of how school should “look.” I instead focused my energy on creating a diverse learning environment that was tailor made for each student. As a result, we are in a much more joyous and productive place. I encourage everyone to slow down, get on their level, and have a conversation. The results will astound you!
Experienced School Manager and education professional with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry.
Are you literate? If you’re reading this, you definitely are. But are you literate in a 21st-century sense?
“A computer science education is literacy for the 21st century,” said Mayor Bill De Blasio on the announcement for the “Computer Science for All” program at NYC public schools. In fact, people are starting earlier and earlier in the education of computer science, and it’s not without reason. Children may not grow to be full-fledged programmer overnight, but learning coding isn’t just for future computer scientists either. Coding not only challenges and teaches children logical thinking and problem solving skills, but also frees their imagination and creativity, as long as they do it in the right ways -- Dearest has sorted out a list of great ways for you to help your kid start today and have fun learning.
Daisy the Dinosaur
Daisy would probably be the most adorable dinosaur you’ve ever seen. Other than her cuteness, she can also familiarize your child with coding basics. The free, fun app has an easy drag & drop interface that children of all ages can use to animate Daisy and make her dance on their screens. By playing with Daisy, kids will intuitively come to understand the concepts of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving the challenges of the game.
If your child has outgrown the games in Daisy the Dinosaur, then Hopscotch should be the next challenge! Awarded as one of the best apps for families by Parents Magazine, Hopscotch allows your talented little ones to take an initiative and make things that they enjoy. According to the developers of this block-based language, blocks are the favored way to learn to program from Harvard and MIT to Code.org and Google. Therefore, Hopscotch is deliberately designed to help kids learn coding logic and concepts through blocks before diving into the syntax of coding languages. It serves as a blank canvas for you to create your own games, art, or stories, and even includes an online community where you can upload your work and access unlimited tutorial materials.
Designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a programming language and an online community where children code programs and share interactive media ranging from games, animation, to stories, and virtually anything they can create using the programming language. Instead of learning coding by staring at a computer screen on your own, in the Scratch community you can explore and experiment with other Scratch users from various backgrounds. By sharing their work in the online community, members can get feedback and learn from each other, and thus maximizing their creative and coding potentials. Meanwhile, you don’t have to be online to take advantage of Scratch’s learning opportunities -- you can download the Scratch offline editor and play with codes even without Internet access.
For more fun ways that encourage active STEM learning, check out Dearest’s favorite educational tools for children ranging from infancy to teenage! If you have suggestions, you are also more than welcome to share with us in our community of passionate educators and loving parents.