Our First Coding Class!

Last week was our introduction to both the language of coding and our little robot (BeeBot).  We started the class by creating our programming journals where we will be able to draw our notes and ideas throughout the length of the session.  We then talked about some words we would need to know for the class such as programmers, code, and commands.  We learned that BeeBot can move forwards, backwards, make a left quarter turn, and make a right corner turn (and practiced moving in those directions).


Everyone was then invited to try giving BeeBot 5 commands while the rest of the class then had to see if they could describe the sequence that the programmer asked BeeBot to do. This allowed the children the time to get their hands on BeeBot and become familiar with how he works.


We were then ready for our first coding challenge! We had to figure out how many forward commands to give BeeBot so that he would move from the starting line to a wall of bricks. Well, before we could do that, we had to determine how far BeeBot moved with just one forward command! We decided to do that by using dominos to measure the distance traveled with one forward arrow and found out that 6 dominos laid side by side was the exact distance that BeeBot traveled with one command. We then had to decide how many commands to give the robot to travel the entire distance from the starting line to the end. To do that, we lined up dominos side to side across the entire distance. When we counted, we found we had 42 dominos. There was a bit of a discussion among the children on whether that meant that we needed 42 forward commands or not. I reminded them that we had learned that BeeBot travels the length of 6 dominos for one command and to use that information to solve our question. After a bit of thought, we decided to count the dominos in groups of 6 (turning up every 6th domino to help us remember); in the end we counted 7 groups of 6. We had to tell BeeBot to move forward 7 times! At first, after entering our 7 commands, BeeBot broke through the wall rather than stopping where we had hoped. We tried again and realized that BeeBot was making 8 moves instead of 7! We had forgotten to clear his programming before entering our new code. We refreshed his memory and re-entered our 7 commands; it worked! BeeBot traveled the distance we had planned.




I then asked the group if we could figure out how to bring BeeBot back to the starting line and several children quickly shouted that we should tell him to move backwards 7 times! We entered the commands, and sure enough, BeeBot scooted backwards and ended up right at the start. I then challenged them to think about how BeeBot could get back with out having to move backwards. It took some consideration, but finally someone wondered if he could turn around. This gave us an opportunity to explore the quarter turn command. After a bit of experimenting, the children discovered that 2 left quarter turns would make BeeBot turn around and then we needed to also give him 7 forwards commands to send him back. What a great first class with our robot and coding fun!


The “Hidden” 6th and 7th Senses

If we asked the children what our senses are, I bet that most of the older children would tell me that there are 5 of them; we hear, we taste, we smell, we touch, we see. But, did you know that there are a 6th and 7th sense that are vital for a child’s development? We often forget that there is the Vestibular System and Proprioception…the 6th and 7th senses. Just as our ability to smell helps us navigate new experiences or the ability to hear helps us communicate, the Vestibular System and Proprioception help us navigate the world around us.


The Vestibular System is responsible for helping us keep our balance and for staying upright and Proprioception helps us orient ourselves in space and in relation to others/objects. Young children are still developing their sense of balance and sense of place and orientation which is why they can appear to be clumsy.


Young children can often be climbing up and down, spinning in circles, and experimenting with the ways they can move their bodies. These movements are telling the child’s vestibular system what “in balance” looks like for them and helping them navigate in space and in relation to people and objects.


Young children need a lot of opportunities to explore these big body movements to build their balance and sense of space. In turn, children need to find their balance and ability to navigate in space before they are able to develop fine motor skills that will help them perform later academic tasks.


At school, we help the children develop these 6th and 7th senses by providing multiple opportunities to climb up and down ladders and steps, to rock in our wooden boats, to swing on the circle swing, to build with blocks and other larger objects, and so much more.


By helping the children develop their gross motor skills, the Vestibular System, and Proprioception, we are helping set them up for the later demands of elementary school.


For more information on how movement builds the brain, you can read A Moving Child is a Learning Child: How the Body Teaches the Brain to Think by Gill Connell.

Exploring Names in Preschool: More Than the Act of Writing One’s Name

One of the questions that early childhood teachers often hear is, “when will my child write their name?”  There is an inherent desire for children to know how to write their name that stems from a very basic human need to know one’s identity.


 Name play in preschool also has many cognitive benefits which include the ideals that recognizing one’s name helps children feel important, recognizing others’ names builds community, name recognition builds concepts of print and begins the process of site reading, and knowing your own name supports beginning math concepts.


One of the defining principles of child development-based schooling is the understanding that the development of fine motor skills must happen before children are asked to write their names.


There are many ways to do this including: focusing on drawing with details (self-portraits, observation drawings in nature, sketches of creations in block area), playing with play dough (rolling with palm on table/between palms, squishing with fist, using finger and thumb to roll balls) drawing/tracing name in salt/sand trays, and using tweezers to transfer object and eye droppers to transfer water.  These activities and more can be found within our classrooms as the teachers help support this fine motor development.


To help support names as a piece of community, the children’s names are used in many daily routines within the classrooms, including: as a way to sign in and out of school, in taking ownership over one’s belongings in cubbies, as words on writing center walls, and as pieces in games such as name sorts where children can sort names from shortest to longest or try to match a friend’s name to their photo.


As children engage in the above activities, they will eventually show us that they are ready to begin the actual act of writing their names.  o are showing an interest in writing their names  Generally, children are ready to start writing their names when they are: holding pencils with the correct grip or near correct grip, are creating recognizable drawings, and are able to tell you the letters in their names.  At this time, the teachers help facilitate the children’s natural curiosity in writing their names; particularly as it relates to their day to day actions, such as in writing notes to family and friends, labeling their work, and making a sign to let someone else know that they are not done working with a particular material.


Creative Scholars’ Week in Summary: May 9th-May 13th

As I spend my mornings in the classrooms, the children are gracious enough to welcome me into their play and activities, eager to show off what they are working on.  


In the Picassos’ room, the children continue to love reading stories. Every time that I went into the classroom this week I saw at least one of the teachers sitting on the floor surrounded by children and books and was often asked by the children to read a book to them as well. There’s an old saying that says children become readers on the laps of their parents. This stays true today and within the classrooms. By sitting with their teachers and peers and listening to rich stories and engaging books, the children are gaining a robust vocabulary and a love for reading and books which will support their reading development as they get older.


In the Mozarts’ room, the growth of the children is clear. The children in this room have reached the time of year in which they have made huge strides in their interactive play; that is to say that they are much more interested in playing with friends rather than by themselves. This is one of my favorite developmental shifts of this age group. Suddenly the classroom is full of pairs and small groups of children working together to achieve a common goal, in this case setting a table for a pretend picnic and constructing a castle out of blocks, rather than only working alongside of each other.


In the Shakespeares’ room, the children have taken this ability to collaborate to an even higher level. This week, the children worked together to create two collaborative, self-initiated art projects. I observed as two children joined their classmate who was already painting a butterfly and jump right in to help her make the designs on the wings. Later in the week, I heard that the children had asked their teacher if they could use a large foam board to create a life cycle mural. Upon approval, they immediately set to work creating a leaf for eggs to sit.


In the Amigos room, I was able to observe the incredible independence of the children as they created child-sized butterflies. Since they were creating such large pieces of work, they needed large pieces of paper from the roll of butcher paper. In order to get the piece of paper they needed, they worked together to carefully pull out the amount they needed and then cut the paper from the roll by themselves. I watched as they spent much of the morning completely engaged in helping each other trace, cut, and design their giant butterflies.


Creative Scholars’ Week in Summary: April 25th-April 29th

As I spend my mornings in the classrooms, the children are gracious enough to welcome me into their play and activities, eager to show off what they are working on.

In the Picassos’ room, the children were continuing their investigation of tubes. This week, they were invited to explore an extra large tube on the carpet. As the tube laid on the carpet, the children attempted to push several cars through. Because the tube was flat, the cars made it half-way into the tube before becoming stuck. This then prompted the children to try and figure out why the cars were stuck and how to get them unstuck. Many attempts were made to climb into the tube to retrieve the cars. When that didn’t work, attempts were made to roll the tube. What a great source of problem solving!

In the Mozarts’ room, I was able to observe the children as they made pudding. The children were actively engaged in executing the instructions from the recipe. As they looked at the recipe, they worked with their teachers to determine how many cups of each ingredient they needed and in what order the ingredients should be added. They decided to add fruit to their pudding and instead of throwing large pieces of fruit in each cup, the children were given plastic butter knives to chop up their own fruit. What a great example of sequencing and fine motor skills growth!

In the Shakespeares’ room, I watched as the children became fully engaged in creating elaborate block structures. As they worked, the children spent time problem solving where each block should go and how to make each block fit within the scope of the other blocks. This thinking really stretched their spatial reasoning which is helping prepare their mathematical brain. As dismissal time approached, I watched the children place their structure next to a sign that read “under construction”. What a great way to encourage long term thinking!

In the Amigos’ room, the children were busy creating with recycled materials. They were using recycled materials to build with in the building area as well as to create open-ended, freely chosen, sculptures in the arts area. As they worked, the children were engaged in critical thinking as they determined which material would be the best material to use for certain design choices. The children would also often look to their peers for advice and help in problem solving. What a great way to build several critical thinking skills at once!

Movement Milestones for Children 18 months – 5 Years Old

Preschool children don’t have fitness goals and standards like their older elementary school classmates. When we are talking about the 18 month to 5-year-old population in terms of fitness, we are usually looking at their movement milestones and how they compare to kids their own age. Listed below are common gross motor milestones for children aged 18 months, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years.

18 Months Old

Most pediatricians and parents know the big red flag that children should be walking by 18 months.; however, children at this age are typically doing much more than standing, including:

  • Walk forward independently 10 feet with narrow base of support
  • Walk backwards 5 steps
  • Walk up 4 stairs with 1 hand held
  • Walk down 4 steps with 1 hand held
  • Kick a ball forward 3 feet

2 Years Old

Between 18 months and 24 months, children become significantly more stable on their feet. They begin testing their balance in more dynamic ways such as running and jumping. A typical 2-year-old is able to:

  • Run forward 10 feet, without a loss of balance
  • Jump in place, jump forward, and jump down from a step
  • Walk forward, backwards, and sideways independently and without a loss of balance
  • Walk up and down a set of stairs, using a handrail
  • Kick a ball forward 3 feet

3 Years Old

Three-year-olds are ready for group activities such as school and sports. They want to make friends and connect with peers. From a physical standpoint, a typical 3-year-old should be able to:

  • Pedal a tricycle
  • Catch a ball thrown from 5 feet away
  • Jump forward at least 24 inches, with both feet leaving the ground at the same time
  • Stand on 1 foot for 3 seconds
  • Walk up stairs with 1 foot on each step

4 Years Old

The four-year-olds’ passion for discovery begins to emerge at this age. They are able to exercise for longer periods of time and should be able to:

  • Place one foot on each stair, while going up and down stairs without handrail use
  • Hop 5 times on one foot
  • Throw a ball at a target 5 feet away
  • Run and stop without falling to ground

5 Years Old

Five-year-olds learn through play and it is through this physical play that they develop higher level coordination skills, strength, and endurance. A typical 5-year-old should be able to:

  • Stand on one foot for 10 seconds, each foot
  • Complete 3 sit-ups independently
  • Jump over 10 inch hurdle
  • Hop forward 3 feet bilaterally

If you feel your child has difficulty with any of these skills or is unable to keep up with their peers, please feel free to contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy for a complimentary Physical Therapy screen or a full evaluation.



Andrea Ragsdale PT, DPT of North Shore Pediatric Therapy

Andrea is a dedicated physical therapist who is passionate about working with young children. She has a diverse professional background, having worked as a school physical therapist and also in clinical practice. Andrea has extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of physical disabilities and is excited to help her patients reach their unique developmental goals.

Andrea obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Notre Dame and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California. She is licensed in the State of Illinois and is also accredited in Early Intervention.

In her spare time, Andrea coaches youth sports. As a former athlete, she understands the social, physical, and emotional influence of sports in a child’s life. She is very passionate about injury prevention and is currently developing a soccer program that combines her coaching experience with current research that aims to decrease the frequency of ACL tears and other sports-related injuries.

Making Your Home as Safe as It Can Be

Creative Scholars

As concerned parents, we are constantly striving to make our home the safest place possible for our children. Below is a list of 12 safety devices to protect children in your home, compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  1. Use SAFETY LATCHES and LOCKS for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries.
  2. Use SAFETY GATES to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers.
  3. Use DOOR KNOB COVERS and DOOR LOCKS to help prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers.
  4. Use ANTI-SCALD DEVICES FOR FAUCETS and SHOWER HEADS and set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to help prevent burns from hot water.
  5. Use SMOKE ALARMS on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside sleeping areas to alert you to fires.
  6. Use WINDOW GUARDS and SAFETY NETTING to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks, and landings.
  7. Use CORNER and EDGE BUMPERS to help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces.
  8. Use OUTLET COVERS and OUTLET PLATES to help prevent electrocution.
  9. Use a CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) ALARM near sleeping areas to help prevent CO poisoning.
  11. Use ANCHORS TO AVOID FURNITURE AND APPLIANCE TIP-OVERS. Free standing ranges and stoves should be installed with anti-tip brackets.
  12. Use LAYERS OF PROTECTION WITH POOLS AND SPAS. This consists of a barrier completely surrounding the pool or spa, including a four-foot tall fence with self-closing, self-latching gates.

It is never too early to talk to your children about the proper way to handle a house-fire. Although it is an easy topic to put off, it is important to plan at least two escape routes from each room of the house, and a meeting point outside the house. This planning process should involve every member of the household, and should include a plan for very young children that may not be able to respond without adult support. Also, it is important to talk about safety tips such as crawling on the floor to avoid breathing smoke, and “Stop, Drop and Roll.”

Speaking of Success – Modeling the very best language


One major factor in a child’s success in learning language is the early exposure to language that a child receives. The language that parents and teachers model is by far the most crucial component to this early exposure, so we must strive to model the very best for our children at all times! Below are some suggestions for modeling language and supporting the very best in their language development:

  1. Loose the baby talk: Teaching your children “baby talk” not only sends them the wrong message, but also deprives them of valuable opportunity to acquire useful knowledge that will benefit their communication skills. You can support your child’s emerging vocabulary by replacing words like “potty” with “toilet,” “ouchy” with “cut,” or “yucky” with “dirty.”

  2. Recast: If you know that a word or phrase is new to your child, try to restate three repetitions to solidify the learning moment. If your child tells you, “I eated my hotdog,” you can answer, “Wow! You ate your hotdog! It looks to me like you ate all your hotdog! I ate my hotdog too!” Your child will be much less likely to use the word “eated,” after such an interaction!

  3. Sportscast: For young children, you can put words to actions, giving more meaning to words by “sports-casting.” You can do this by simply speaking what you see your child doing, without really initiating a response or conversation. For example, as your child is cleaning up, you might say, “I see you’re putting all your cars back in the box. Wow, you put all of them away! Now you’re putting the blocks back into the bucket – you have the red ones, the green ones, wow, you’re cleaning all of them.” This may not immediately appear to accomplish much, but over time you’ll be surprised what your child retains.

  4. Use variety: This means knowing your child’s vocabulary well, and knowing what words to use to keep them challenged. If you can, consciously try to incorporate a variety of different words of varying difficulty, and not just stick to the “easy language.”

Acquiring a robust vocabulary will make your children better speakers, communicators and friends, social/emotional development, confidence and joy of learning.

It is recommended that a high school student have a vocabulary of at least 40,000 words by the time they take their ACT exams. By the time your child turns 18-years-old, he/she will have lived a total of 6,570 days. This means that in order for your child to have the recommended vocabulary for the ACT exam, he/she will need to learn about six new words each and every day from birth. So please, talk to your children a lot!

Tips for Making Vegetables A Regular Part of Your Child’s Diet

All parents strive to feed their children healthy and satisfying meals. Vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and are also a great source of fiber and potassium, which makes them a great snack or base for any meal. MyPlate recommends kids get between one and one and a half cups of vegetables per day; however, vegetables are not always a child’s first choice. Here are a few tips for increasing vegetable acceptance at home:

Serve vegetables as snacks

One study found significant differences in child fruit and vegetable intake in households where they were served as snacks in addition to at meal times. Repeated exposure to vegetables is key as is making them look appetizing. Use color to your advantage when serving bright red bell peppers or carrot sticks as a fast snack or try a refreshing green smoothie with a handful of spinach or kale and pineapple, banana, and water.

Practice modeling

During early childhood, parents are important role models for their children, especially when it comes to eating behaviors and food selection. Several studies show parents who practice healthy eating behaviors and prepare readily available healthy foods increase their child’s consumption of those foods, especially vegetables. When your kids see you eating cucumbers or cherry tomatoes as a snack and filling up your plate with veggies at dinner, they may be more willing to do the same.

Include them in meal prep

Studies show that children’s involvement in meal preparation was associated with a higher consumption of vegetables and has a positive impact on healthy food intake overall. Depending on your child’s age and skill set, determine how they can help. Younger children can help rinse greens or scrub root vegetables while older children may be able to use the peeler. Is your child comfortable with scissors? Buy a pair of “food only” scissors to keep in the kitchen and let your son or daughter cut greens or herbs if they aren’t quite ready to use a knife (or if you aren’t).

Try a non-food rewards

Research has shown that in addition to repeated exposure, rewarding your child with a non-food item (such as a sticker) and verbal praise after trying a new vegetable increases how much a child will eat and how much they will like a previously disliked vegetable. When introducing a new vegetable, try offering a piece and telling them they can choose a sticker if they try it, and then follow up by praising them if they do indeed try a piece.

Parents might be surprised to learn that promising a food treat in exchange for eating a new vegetable (such as serving ice cream as a reward for trying broccoli) is actually the LEAST effective technique to teach children to enjoy and consume more vegetables. Stick with small toys, extra play time, or other non-food rewards to successfully increase veggie acceptance over the short- and long-term.

Let them play with their food

Children are more sensitive than adults to stimuli like smell, taste, and touch, so a texture that seems appealing to us might be rejected right away by a picky eater. If they don’t like how a vegetable feels in their mouth, they just won’t like eating the vegetable! For parents working with picky eaters, encouraging them to use their hands to feel and play with a new food before asking them to try it for the first time may help them become more accepting of new foods. Kids can cut golden beets, cucumbers, and radishes into any shape using a cookie cutter or help toss veggies in olive oil and salt and pepper before roasting in the oven.

Kristin Unger, MS in Nutrition and Dietetics Candidate
Kristin Noe, MS in Nutrition and Dietetics Candidate

gourmet Gorilla - Good Food For Kids


Fostering Independence in Your Preschool Age Child


As your child reaches their preschool years their independence with various skills should continually increase. Fostering this independence teaches them lifelong skills that will be beneficial to them during their first preschool experiences and beyond. Preschool age children are surprising us everyday with the new things they are able to do. By encouraging your child’s independence at home, you will assist and reinforce what we are teaching at school. The following are skills your child practices throughout their preschool day that can be carried over at home.

Taking care of personal belongings:

  • Taking off and hanging up coat
  • Unzipping and zipping backpack

Putting items where they belong (placing item in the sharing day box, signing in with their nametag, etc.)

  • Carrying their own backpack to and from school

Cleaning up after themselves:

  • Cleaning up toys after playing with them
  • Throwing their own trash in the trashcan
  • Wiping their mouths after eating
  • Cleaning up their plates, bowls, etc. from snack/lunch

Self Help Skills:

  • Washing and drying hands thoroughly
    Students wash their hands many times throughout the day and it is important they are actually getting all of the germs off before they touch food or toys. We encourage students to scrub the front, back, and in between their fingers when washing.
  • Using the bathroom
    Even though some children may be new to toileting, we encourage them to wipe themselves and then we can check to make sure they’re clean. Children are also pulling up their own pants/underwear/skirts after using the bathroom. Practicing doing this independently at home will also reinforce their independence with this skill.


  • Being able to dress themselves (with kid friendly fasteners)
  • Children should be wearing clothing that promotes independence
    Elastic waistbands, easy fasteners, practicing zippers, buttons
    (Even though some fasteners may be difficult for children at this age, they can still be giving it a try or helping when possible)
    Velcro shoes and pull on shoes/boots are helpful with promoting independence in this area as well.

Something to remember when fostering independence in your child is to keep things simple. As your child continues to become more independent and can do more things on their own, it is also in part from having your help. Making sure items are accessible to them, kid friendly clothing, coat hooks are low enough, etc, are just a few ways you can help them to achieve more independence. Most children really love to help out at home at this age too (putting dishes in the sink, putting laundry in the basket, helping to set the table, helping to prepare meals, etc), and when they are able to do so it also helps to build their sense of self and develop pride in their abilities.

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