Playing is our Job!

IMG_2141Children learn and develop by exploring the world in which they live. From the beginning of life they explore using their senses. A young infant learns that crying brings comfort, a toddler learns that biting may get what they want, a preschooler learns about math through building with blocks and the possibilities are infinite! It is our role as parents to ensure that we have a loving nurturing environment that encourages and stimulates the child’s natural inquisitive nature.

It is our role as parent to provide quality learning rich environments. Parents need to have a sound understanding of young children’s developmental milestones. By understanding the milestones, we are able to provide developmentally appropriate activities. We must be genuinely kind and nurturing. This allows children to feel safe, loved, and allows children to take risks.

IMG_2182But sometimes we adults think we need to rush a child along. Because we know how important education is, we want our children to learn and so we set out to teach them as much as we can. Although this impulse is good in itself, sometimes we can actually get in the way of a child’s learning by trying too hard to teach them!

We don’t need to push children or cram information into their heads. We just need to ensure they have the opportunities to explore knowledge for themselves. We can expose them to a rich environment and then allow them to explore it freely.

Let’s step away and let the PLAY begin!


Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director

Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director

Norma Honeycutt is the Executive Director of Partners In Learning Child Development & Family Resource Center. Norma is one of the states strongest advocates for children with special needs serving on boards and commissions including the North Carolina Child Care Commission, Rowan County NCPreK Advisory Committee, and Rowan County Local Interagency Coordinating Council. Norma is also a CBRS therapist and facilitates support groups, activities, and other programs for families of children with special needs.


What to Do About Whining

boyWHINING! When asked, teachers place whining high on their list of behaviors they find frustrating. No doubt parents respond similarly to this behavior. Children whine because it works! That is, adults experience whining as being irritating and want it to stop, so they often give in quickly to a child’s source of whining. Whining is a behavior that can result in big payoffs. In other words, it’s a useful tool for obtaining what one wants. For example, this is a conversation I overheard while shopping this weekend.

Whining child: “I want a Beanie Boo!”
Parent: “Not today.”
Child: “But I want a Beanie Boo.”
Parent: “I just got you a Beanie Boo. You can have a Beanie Boo next time.”
Child: “But I really want a Beanie Boo THIS TIME.”
Frustrated parent: “No!” “I said no!” “Oh, alright here, you can have the Beanie Boo.” “Now stop whining!”

When a behavior produces the desired outcome, it’s a sure bet that we’ll see it again.

There are other reasons for whining as well. Sometimes a child may be tired, hungry or bored. Parents can get in front of these situations by planning activities before or after nap time, packing snacks and play materials such as coloring books or other activities when out and about. Remember, many challenging behaviors can be avoided by thinking ahead and planning.

Challenging behavior can be extinguished by teaching a new skill. Teaching a child to calm down by taking several deep breaths can give the child time to think about a better way to communicate a want or need. Verbally reward your child when you observe the desired behavior. This will serve as a reinforcement for the new behavior. Try not to respond to or give attention to the whining behavior. Let your child know that you are unable to communicate when he or she is whining. Be consistent. When the whining loses its power, it will eventually go away.

I do suspect, however, that many a Beanie Boo has been purchased as the direct result of a whining child.

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.


Cousins Are a Child’s First Friend

In childhood, friendships are often based on the sharing of toys, and the enjoyment received from performing activities together. These friendships are maintained through affection, sharing, and creative playtime. While sharing is difficult for children at this age, they are more likely to share with someone they consider to be a friend (Newman & Newman, 2012). If you are lucky enough to have a great relationship with your adult siblings then your children will surely reap the reward of being raised with cousins. Often, cousins are the first friendships that children develop with one another. I know when my oldest child was young that was the case, he was an only child for ten years. He attended child care and had friends there but it was nothing like the connection he had with his two older cousins. For the first seven years of his life they lived about eight hours away but that didn’t hamper the relationship that was built between the three of them.

When we would go to visit or they would come, I was not able to tell him until we were in the car on the way or they had actually arrived because all I would hear for weeks leading up to the visit is, “Are they here yet?” Once the three of them were together the house was filled with laughter, jokes, wrestling, messes, someone being pulled in a wagon tied to a bike with a rope from the garage. The trouble those three boys would get into was endless. Now that they are all older and adults they are just memories, fond memories for them to share when they get together at Christmas or birthdays.

My youngest child now has the excitement of cousin fun. Through our blended family she has gained numerous cousins when our extended family gathers there are typically anywhere from 10-13 children ages six through 22. Tons of fun to be had, there is never a quiet moment in the house. And with today’s technology, seeing cousins who live three to eight hours away is as simple as pressing a button on the iPad!  As children mature, they become less individualized and more aware of others. Establishing good friendships at a young age helps a child to be better acclimated in society later on in their life (Newman & Newman, 2012).

Not quite the brother, not quite the friend, but sometimes closer than a brother, and always better than friends, they are your kin, and your family, and you stick together. They are your cousins. They will fight for you, sneak out for late night parties with you; they are often your best friends. A cousin is a brother or sister you never had. Anonymous

Deborah Howell is the Assistant Director for Partners In Learning.

Deborah Howell is the Assistant Director for Partners In Learning.


Deborah Howell is the Assistant Director of Partners In Learning. Her education includes an associate’s degree from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in early childhood education and a bachelor’s degree from UNC Greensboro in human development and family studies with a concentration in birth-kindergarten. She also holds a master’s degree at UNCG. She also serves as a CBRS therapist for the center.

Sensory Integration + Holidays = Family Fun

If you visit any of our classrooms at Partners In Learning, you will see a variety of sensory activities that are available to all-ages of children. The classroom teachers get very creative with these types of things and even find a way to incorporate the weekly lesson into the idea.

Now, what do we mean by sensory integration? We all know that our five senses are: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Sensory processing is how our individual body receives and organizes the information created by our senses. Most of us process this information in about the same way, for example, if you hear a train you might cover your ears because it is too loud. Some people have problems with sensory processing, for example they may cover their ears if they hear the buzz of a TV or they may hate to wear clothes because of the feeling it makes against their skin. Many children with Autism experience sensory processing issues, but even children who may or may not have a developmental delay or special need can experience problems with this. Therefore, sensory integration therapy involves treating someone who may have difficulty processing this sensory information and helping them desensitize so that they can better cope with their senses.

Using sensory activities isn’t just for children with special needs. All children can benefit from a variety of sensory opportunities.

Before I give some examples of common sensory ideas, I want to express how easy it is to make these things at home. And with the holiday season coming up, there are even more opportunities to let your child explore each of their senses. For example, let your child help you make cookies for the holidays. Encourage them to add each ingredient and to roll the dough. Let them feel the dough in their hands (I’ll let you decide how messy you want this activity to get). Put the cookies in the oven and explain how HOT the oven is, let them feel the warm air, but take the opportunity to teach them about safety in the kitchen. Set a timer and tell your child to listen for the DING to indicate they are finished. Now, have fun decorating your cookies with frosting and sprinkles (I love doing this with my children during CBRS). Snow is another fantastic sensory activity this time of the year!

The most obvious form of sensory integration activity is a sensory box. Most classes at Partners In Learning have a sensory box that changes according to the lesson plan. My sensory boxes typically have beans in them, but you can use rice, flour, etc. I add little Dollar Tree items that go along with the lesson or season. I like to include sensory balls (squishy balls) or other weird feeling stuff as well. Put cups, tubes, and bottles in the box and allow your child to dig, count, roll, shake, and most importantly feel.

Another popular sensory activity is music time. This may not seem like a sensory activity because it isn’t “weird,” but think about it. If a child is sensitive to sounds, allowing them to experience soft music is beneficial. ALL classrooms at PIL have a music section.

Play-Doh is my favorite sensory activity! It is similar to the sensory box in that it encourages your child to feel and manipulate weird feeling stuff in their hands. Add goodies to your Play-Doh activity, such as grass, sea shells, small plastic animals, buttons, etc. Another great idea is to hide a flashing or noise making toy inside a ball of Play-Doh and ask your child to find it; they are using multiple senses for this activity. You can also make a Mr. Potato Head out of a large blob of Play-Doh and add your body parts to the blob. There are so many sensory and learning opportunities with Play-Doh!

Art activities are another one that you might not think of as sensory-related. But, add some glue, feathers, pop-pop balls, paint, and you’ve got a sensory activity. Try this idea during the holidays: have your child glue mini-marshmallows onto the outline of a snowman or an outline of the letters in their name.

And finally, the play tunnel is a great way to expose your child to multiple senses. Your child may need some encouraging to first go into a tunnel that is dark and small. Try rolling a ball or their favorite toy inside and call them from the other end of the tunnel and I bet they will venture inside just a little. If you don’t have a tunnel, don’t worry, you can do the same thing with a blanket; make a fort!

I hope that you do indeed try some of these ideas with your child this holiday season or in the future, especially if your child hasn’t been exposed to stuff like this before!

Happy Holidays!

Katie Zink, Infant-Toddler Family Specialist

Katie Zink is a graduate of Catawba College and serves as a CBRS therapist for Partners In Learning. Prior to her role as a therapist, Katie served as a teacher beginning in 2009.  Working with children is her life’s passion.

The Talk

Every parent at some point is faced with the question of “where do babies come from?” So what is a parent to do, when is the right age for “the talk”. What is an appropriate response when a preschooler asks the question? The right time for the talk is most likely going to be much earlier than you think. And it will also most likely happen in small Q and A sessions over a few years as a child’s cognitive abilities develop.

These questions are mysteries to most parents, it is not a subject that most parents of preschoolers think they will have to address. At this age children are just mastering potty
training, taking turns and sharing why in the heck are they wanting to know about sex already? Keep in mind that sex per se is not what they are actually wanting to know but a very simplistic explanation of where a baby comes from. Not until late elementary or early middle school will you need to worry about the “actual talk.”

It is wise for families to kind of be prepared for the inevitable question of “where do babies come from”. The stork, or wait and ask your father is NOT an appropriate response. Although you may not realize it but when your child asks you these difficult questions, giving them developmentally appropriate matter of fact responses is setting the stage for
communication for the rest of your lives together.

Here’s an important tip: Never avoid a “teachable moment.” Dive in and offer accurate information whenever your child sashays anywhere near the topic of sex. Don’t wait for the
point‐blank question to be asked. Keep your answer confined to what is asked. For example, “Mom, how does the baby get out of your body?” Your answer: “Through a special opening between my legs. That’s why it’s there.” If your child did not ask at that moment how a baby got in there in the first place, don’t start there. Just answer the question asked.

Around the age of three my daughter had a friends mother who was pregnant so her natural question and curiosity was how did the baby get in there. My response was simplistic and only addressed that particular question “the daddy plants a seed that begins to grow into a baby inside the mommy.”

Most preschoolers will be satisfied with a response similar to that one. Only a few children in this age range will further question how the daddy plants the seed, the reason for this is
they typically will formulate their own ideas as to how this takes place and that is ok. It is not until they gain more complex thinking and processing skills that will result in more technical questions.

Again, I can not stress enough how important it is to be very honest, answer only the questions asked and never avoid the topic regardless of the age of the child or how uncomfortable it makes you feel. Opening the communication lines at an early age will benefit you in the long run as a parent.

Deborah Howell is the Assistant Director for Partners In Learning.


Deborah Howell is the Assistant Director of Partners In Learning. Her education includes an associate’s degree from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in early childhood education and a bachelor’s degree from UNC Greensboro in human development and family studies with a concentration in birth-kindergarten. She also holds a master’s degree at UNCG. She also serves as a CBRS therapist for the center.