So often parents ask us what we do at TSL. It is hard to answer this question without being generic. We are a small business childcare and the answer to the questions "Who are we?" "What do we do?" have to be defined carefully, because that answer sets us apart from everyone else.
My reply is often this..."TSL does not define itself by what we do, but what we do outside of what we do." This can be confusing so I have to break it down for people. As a recreational program we can do 101 things and still sound like any other program. We do games, crafts, projects, outdoor time etc. and the list goes on.
So, I go on to explain who we are. We are educators. We formed our program out of love and passion for children and child's programming. Embedded within the context of all of those regular things, we swear by a philosophy that emphasizes cooperation over competition, values friendship to such a point that many games and activities and projects that we do are a means to that end. Our planning purposeful, calculated and reflective of who we are. There is nothing random in what we do or how we do it. The program nuances, or the culture, that exudes are existence can't often be explained in generic terms. That is who we are. That is what makes us different.
We have seen many programs tout virtues, but with no real way of reinforcing those virtues. Without calculation and precision, virtues are only words on a page or on a banner. Real virtues are taught, trained, learned and practiced over and over. Even our decision not to travel is rooted in our belief that we'll have more time to practice and instill our values by staying put, not because we don't like theme parks or lakes.
So, if you are reviewing multiple program options, don't forget to ask that big question....it may take some programs off guard. But that in itself will be telling.
Who are you?
Is your child's school experience affected by the quality of childcare he or she receives before school begins and after school ends? We think so.
There is nothing overly scientific about this piece, but I'm passionate about my philosophies and TSL has always believed that childcare experiences in the before and after school setting can positively or negatively impact a child's full day experience. Makes sense, right? A child who engages in healthy play with stimulating and well trained adults between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. will walk through the school doors feeling good and ready to tackle the rigors of academia. While the child who is not engaged or is supervised by someone with lesser vested adults in the same time span, at the very least, may not benefit at all from his early morning experience such that it prepares him for the 6 hours ahead. And what about after school. An additional three hours of a child's life...doing what? Do parents and school professionals even know?
Many children are spending as much time in childcare programs before and after school as they are in regular school, yet many school districts and even families aren't taking the time to scrutinize the programs that are serving their children. When a school district needs a new roof what do they do? They begin a long process to evaluate multiple companies, accept bids, review bids and finally settle on the most viable company to complete the job based on their reputation, their cost and their efficiency.
Now, what happens in most school districts when signs begin to emerge that a new childcare service may be needed? In most cases....nothing. Familiar programs become entrenched after years of service and operate under little scrutiny because, quite frankly, not enough people care about what is happening in these programs or believe themselves to not have enough time to be concerned. In many cases complacency is the common attitude. "The service provider had been here for years," "It's just after school" "we don't have anything to do with that, they just pay us rent".
Quality of childcare is important. Programming, delivery, and how it is integrated into the wider school community are all important factors that hint of what benefits await the child who attends a school program whose philosophies embrace the full day from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. as part of the child's growth and development. As it were, the majority of school districts look at the 8-2 period as their only concern. In my mind, that only provides children with quality experiences (or one should hope) for only half their day.
Their lie a day ahead perhaps, when RFP's invite agencies every couple of years to compete to offer quality childcare programs in all school districts to give fair opportunity for all organizations to compete. Staging this competition is key to getting the best programs in place for your children. The same way they get the best new roof on the school when it is needed. Aren't children as important as a new roof?
So, it was 2009 and I was in the midst of our first year summer program as TSL Adventures, the culmination of lots of hard work as I scurried to get TSL off the ground while finishing my 12th year as an elementary classroom teacher. Then, opportunity knocks.
Along comes Sacred Heart School asking if we could bring TSL to their school and run their before and after school programs. I hear the words of a song in my head "should I stay or should I go"....I went. After 12 years of teaching I closed the door behind me and never looked back.
Not that it was easy to do, but I had faith that a better forward path could be shaped with this decision. I had no money, no certainty, no business experience, no accounting experience...in fact, during my first year I had pulled to the side of the road in tears after visiting an accountant for the first time. It was then I realized the only thing I truly DID know, was children and programming for children. I had countless years as a teacher and as a recreational program leader. As well, I had meticulously observed and savored recreational programs with analytical skill and stealth. But not only that, I had a thirst to see this little program at Sacred Heart grow, mostly because I knew it had to. In the end, everything I did not know, was outweighed by what I did know. The rest I developed a keen sense for in time.
Year after year, with relentless drive we added programs, subtracted programs, added more programs, moved programs from one facility to another, expanded our staffing to include middle and upper level management, learned the ins and outs of accounting, marketing, social media presence, website design and integrated software applications among many other things and kept our heads above water the entire time. How?
Awesome programs. We found our niche. There weren't many, if any, private programs that were doing, or even could do, what we sought to do, which was to redefine the school-age childcare experience and develop a unique brand in our local community and beyond. Our philosophical approach, backed up through solid programming, quality care and affordable prices encouraged repeat business which became the backbone of our operations. Not to mention word of mouth advertising, which is the best free advertising any business can have.
The first 10 years has been an awesome ride as we now operate 10 locations, with three daycare centers, 10 after school programs in public and private schools as well as off campus center locations and 10 summer camps through the capital region. We can only wonder where we will be in another 10 years!
There they sit -- in the corner, on the bed, in the chair.
Or even in the basement of your Albany-area home.
They never talk back, they always smile -- if that’s their nature -- and they don’t move until you move them.
They’re your “kids,” or your kids’ “kids,” although others might refer to them by a more conventional term -- stuffed animals.
But, just like your real children, they need to be clean. The reason? So that they don’t gather dust and spread bacteria that can cause health issues.
What is the best way to clean them, though, given the delicate nature of their fur? Or their battery cases?
There are four key ways to clean your stuffed animals -- in your washing machine, by hand, by dry washing, or by vacuuming.
The highlights of those methods come from www.fabhow.com (for full details go to this link also):
After using one of these methods -- or more than one, depending on how many furry friends you have -- you can give the stuffed animals back to your children, or to your significant other as a sparkling surprise on Valentine’s Day or any other special day.
After all, we all want clean kids, right?
Now that you’ve gone through your checklist and decided that you and your child are ready to host a sleepover, what comes next?
Besides survival, of course.
How about a successful evening and next morning?
Parents, if you’re indeed prepared to entertain, feed, put to bed and wake up to your guests the next morning, you’ll need to figure out the following, per Parenting magazine:
No sleepover ever goes perfectly, but following the suggestions above will help you survive the night, and maybe even enjoy it -- somewhat, anyway.
With winter break from school coming up next month in the Albany area, you know your children are going to ask you at some point if they can spend the night at a friend’s house.
But parents, just how do you know when your children are ready for one of their first forays into establishing their independence?
Sleepovers are an important step for 7- to 9-year-olds, Fran Walfish, author of “The Self-Aware Parent,” told Parents magazine.
"If your child likes them, chances are she is growing more comfortable with separation from you," Walfish said.
With the following tips from the magazine, you can increase the chances that your child won’t want to bow out at around bedtime.
Offer to host: Before you OK a sleepover at a friend's house, let your child test the nighttime scenario by inviting her pal to yours. "That way, you'll see if your child grows tired of being with her friend or starts to squabble with her after a couple of hours -- a sign that she may need more social-skills practice before staying over at another family's home," Walfish told Parents.
Talk about what to expect: Getting apprehensive before or even during a sleepover often stems from the unknown. Your child might wonder where he'll sleep, whether it's OK to call you before bed, or if bringing his favorite stuffed animal will make him look like a baby. And you might have some of the same anxieties, too. So before you accept an invitation, find out how the sleepover will unfold and bring up any concerns you have to the hosting parents.
Get your kid on board: Once you are comfortable with the sleepover arrangement, let your child know the key details.
Help everyone get along: If you're hosting a sleepover with more than one other child, decide how you're going to handle such situations as who gets to sleep next to the birthday child or play the first round of Just Dance.
Know when to fold: If your child is at his first sleepover and wants to come home for a reason that can't be fixed -- "I miss you and I can't fall asleep," or "Their dog is barking and scaring me!" -- it's best just to pick him up rather than try to persuade him to stay. "Doing so establishes the trust that you will come get him if he needs it," Walfish said. "The next day, you can talk about how he felt and what might make it better in the future. But dwelling or over-analyzing will only make him feel like he failed."
Trust your gut: Don't feel like a bad parent for declining a sleepover request. “It’s smart to skip one if you think your kid isn't quite ready,” Walfish said. "It's better for kids to have a positive first experience than to risk an embarrassing or upsetting incident that might turn them off altogether."
Dusting the dining room table. Washing the windows. Feeding the cat.
Just what chores can your child be trusted to handle? And at what age?
Household chores are important for children to learn, both for their development as individuals and for contributions to the family and home.
But there are appropriate ages for various chores. Although you wouldn’t want your 3-year-old to be in charge of taking care of the family dog, you might want him or her to help you make the bed, and you definitely would want little Aiden or Ava to pick up their toys and put them in a safe area.
Our friends at thespruce.com have published a list of age-appropriate chores; here are some highlights for all parents and caregivers to consider, keeping in mind that all children develop differently:
Ages 2-3: Toddlers love to help with chores. With that in mind, they could: take laundry to the laundry room; dust with socks on their hands; mop in some areas (with help).
Ages 4-5: Preschool-aged kids still are fairly motivated to help around the house. They also love individual time with adults. They also love rewards, which don't have to be huge (think stickers!). Thus, they could: clear and set the table; dust; carry and put away groceries; and help with the cooking and food preparation.
Ages 6-8: Although enthusiasm for chores might diminish for school-aged kids, they have other redeeming qualities that work well for chores. Most school-aged children have an overwhelming desire to be independent. Parents can guide children to become self-sufficient in their chores by using chore charts to keep track of their responsibilities. Noting completed tasks will help motivate children to continue working. Chore suggestions for this age group include vacuuming and mopping; taking out the trash; folding and putting away laundry.
Ages 9-12: Kids at this age will appreciate a set schedule and expectations; they don’t like unexpected work. If you create a schedule or system with a little input from them, you should have a smooth transition. Among the possibilities for them: help wash the car; learn to wash dishes; clean the bathroom; rake leaves; operate the washer and dryer.
Beyond age 12, the spruce.com makes several suggestions, including washing windows and cleaning out the refrigerator. Remember that these chores are intended not to punish your children or force them into being your personal assistant, but to help them develop as people.
Skiing or snowboarding? And at what age -- 1, 3, 5, 10? Older?
As the winter of 2017-18 reaches the midpoint of its first full month, downhill snow sports are a hot topic -- especially after a video showing a not-quite 1-year-old girl snowboarding in Idaho went viral last month.
There are, of course, many slopes to choose from in the Albany area, from Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam to Willard Mountain in Greenwich to Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Mass.
If you’re a parent, though, the bigger question might be what age to start your kids on the slopes rather than where to take them.
Mark Raymond, general manager of Training and Quality for Vail Ski and Snowboard School in mountain-rich Colorado, told vail.com that the rule for his school is that a child must be at least 3 years old and potty-trained to be in a group ski lesson.
“Ideally, everyone would start at age 3,” Raymond said, “because at that age, kids are fearless.” He said a 3-year-old’s small size and adaptability make skiing much easier to learn than for an adult.
Teaching youngsters to ski is about familiarizing them with the equipment and the feeling of gliding on snow, Raymond told vail.com.
But what about snowboarding?
Raymond said most kids have trouble nailing down that sport’s mechanics of standing sideways before age 5. Young children carry gravity in their heads rather than in their core, making snowboarding a wobbly activity, Raymond said.
Regardless of what the experts recommend, it’s up to you, parents, to decide when you think your child has the skills, temperament and determination needed to hit the bunny slopes.
No matter what age you decide on, always make sure your child is wearing his or her helmet.
You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take professional-looking photos of your kids.
Whether you’re at a soccer game, on vacation, in your backyard or at the park, the opportunities for sterling, memorable photos are plentiful, especially when you have your iPhone handy.
And we know, parents, that you rarely leave home without yours.
Courtesy of the Red Tricycle website, here are some suggestions for how you can take iPhone pictures of your kids that will dazzle your friends and relatives.
The fun part about kids having a wintertime birthday: School is in session, so the birthday boys and girls probably are wished a happy birthday on the school loudspeaker in the morning announcements. A star for the day.
The bad news: In the Albany, New York, area, it’s generally cold and snowy, so figuring out how to celebrate gets a little trickier than in the warmer months. Just what kind of party can you throw that takes the elements out of the equation?
There are a number of fun ways that range from little cost to a little more costly, from at home to at a special spot.
To start, there’s always the basic slumber party, an inexpensive event where you invite a small group of your child’s friends to your home on a weekend night. Experts recommend limiting the guest list to five. From there, plan a full evening: food, a movie, cookie decorating, a “spa night” with fun hand creams and nail polish for the girls, maybe video games or knee hockey, if you’ve got the space, for the boys.
For the older kids, who undoubtedly will be bringing a smartphone to the party, set up a fun photo booth with props so they can capture silly pictures with their friends on their phones. It's all about making memories.
Chris Nease, founding editor of the website Celebrations At Home, likes to embrace winter by creating a cozy party with a theme of warming up. One of her favorite ideas, according to care.com, is to set up a tent in the middle of the living room and make s'mores with hot cocoa. She also likes going with a luau theme, complete with leis, hula skirts and coconuts.
If you want to move beyond a house slumber party to celebrate a winter birthday, here are some suggestions from experts via care.com:
Don’t let the snow and cold be a deterrent to a fun birthday party. Wintertime options abound in the Capital Region!
TSL Team Contributions
This blog is for parents and educators to learn more about our organization. It's also the space where we share information of interest to parents.