Tag Archives: tips

Picking a Preschool

The preschool hunt, for some begins as early as they are pregnant, for others long after the child is born.  For me, the thought process began when Bobby was merely weeks old hanging out in a baby carrier.  I was shopping for apples at my corner market in Oakland when a fellow mom stopped me.  She asked whether baby was on a list for school.  A little shocked by the question – I said no.  At that point, I was really thinking about buying produce, not about preschool options for my little guy.   Since Bobby was not even old enough to hold his head up, I thought it was a little early to start thinking about it.  What I learned was that the waiting lists at some schools start as early as when kids are in utero.  Yikes, I was already behind the ball!

Researching Different Options

With this in mind, when I moved to Sonoma when Bobby was six months old, I began the hunt.  In foreign territory as neither child development nor teaching is my profession, I searched for information.  Looking for expert opinions I consulted books and numerous articles (like these 1 and 2) detailing different educational philosophies like Montessori, Waldorf, Emilia.  There is only so much you can surmise from a book though.

The best advice came from local moms at the playground as they had actual experience with kids at the schools.  As I learned that there were different degrees with which the philosophies would be implemented at particular schools.  From strict implementation to lax, from focusing on daycare to the preschool program, there were so many things to consider.

Visiting the Schools

A shopper by nature, I visited the top schools that I had heard about.  Armed with my lengthy list of questions in hand like student to teacher ratio and schedules, I carefully observed what each school had to offer.  As I became more educated about programs, my list of questions evolved.   What were their goals for their graduates? What approach did they employ? How did the school develop confidence in the child? How did they engage children?

Of course, practical considerations like location and schedule came into play as well.  As one particular school that I fell in love had a very short program.  The short program coupled with the travel time to get there was impossible for my work schedule.

The decision involved other things more specific to Bobby like temperament and handling food allergies.  In addition, Bobby’s reaction to the school was key.  This even required a separate visit for some schools.  When Bobby visited, there were some schools where he immediately seemed comfortable.  There were other schools where wanted to be held the entire time.

Factors to Consider

Ultimately, the following factors helped me compare schools and make a decision:

  • Kids – did the kids seem engaged?
  • Teachers – what was their approach to teaching? How did they interact with the kids? How long had they been there?
  • Structure – what schedule did the day follow?
  • Art – what was the school’s approach to art? Was it free form or worksheets?
  • Curriculum –  what was the curriculum? Was it play based, Montessori, Waldorf or a hybrid like High-Scope?
  • Environment – was it organized, bright & cheery?
  • Play spaces – how did the space seem? Was it safe, clean, inviting?
  • Approaches to Discipline – what was the approach to discipline?  Would kids be in timeout chairs wearing a cone of shame? Or is there another more positive approach?
  • Socialization – how does the school encourage socialization?

Shortcut for Sonomans

With so many great options, picking a preschool can seem like such a tough and even overwhelming decision at times.  The good news is that there are resources out there to make it easier.   Cindy Studdert, owner of FarmTots, put it best when she described her decision not to open a formal school due to the great and numerous child centered programs in town.

In Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley Mother’s Club hosts a preschool fair every other year.  As a past coordinator of the fair, I can say firsthand that it is a unique and fabulous event.  Numerous preschools and other kids’ activities attend to showcase their programs.  It is the event where you as the shopper can comparison shop for preschools under one roof.  Take your list of questions and go booth to booth!  It is a fabulous way to start comparing different schools.  This year, the Preschool/Tot Fair is on Saturday, March 16, from 10 – 12 at the Veterans Building.

If you’re outside of Sonoma, check your local mothers club to see if they host such an event.  If they don’t, maybe start one.

 

Thanks for reading and letting me share my musings with you.  I hope this article is helpful.  I’d love to know what helped you pick a school?

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A 6 Month Old Foodie – Feeding Baby Sonoma Style

Raising kids in Sonoma has tons of benefits, beautiful weather, picturesque pastures and amazing local produce.  The food part of this joyous trinity seemed to disappear when I started feeding my 6 month old premade babyfood.

Have you ever tasted store bought babyfood?  The other day, I opened a jar of garden veggie dinner of the organic variety.  I gave some to CJ, my 6 month old.  He spit it out!  So, I had to wonder why his protest?  I tasted it.   It was absolutely dreadful.  I spit it out too!  It made me wonder about the long term effect of serving my child bland disgusting mush.  So, in a very dramatic style, I tossed the jar in the trash and threw some of my dinner into a blender (the magic bullet – best 20$ investment ever).   Shallot and lavender chicken, sautéed Romano beans and panko crusted mac n’cheese.  Interestingly enough, CJ gobbled down the blended mush.

It turns out that folks have written all about this phenomena – check out Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton and Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.

It has turned into a bit of an experiment for me.  As I fed my first son completely differently than how I am feeding CJ.  With Bobby, I followed the traditional approach.  First he had rice cereal.  Then I slowly introduced each food individually for about a 5 day period looking for allergies.  For awhile Bobby had very plain tastes that have taken awhile to undo.  That’s not to say I disagree with the idea of slowly introducing foods as to look for allergies.  But as a mom with a child with food allergies, I can tell you that in my experience the reaction a child may have to food can be really pronounced  (rash, wheezing, swelling, vomit).

It is quite possible that I stunted Bobby’s culinary tastes by feeding him such plain food for so long.  Having come to this realization, I have completely changed what and how I feed CJ.  Now for breakfast, he gets whatever we’re having.  Today it was bits of sweet potato banana scones (see recipe in my blog post).  For lunch, he gets blended fruits and veggies.  He snacks on fresh produce from the farmers market. He loves cucumbers, peaches and plums all fed through a mesh feeder.  For dinner, he gets a mashed version of whatever we’re having.  Over the weekend, he tasted and loved ribeye steak, basa fillets, and lavender chicken.   All were hits as he didn’t spit it out and wanted more.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes he gets jarred food too as it is so convenient.   It is the rare instance that I don’t add some sort of flavoring to it.

So, if you want to start feeding your baby Sonoma foodie style – pick up a small blender like the Magic Bullet and a few mesh feeders.  Get creative and you won’t be disappointed.

Toddler Treasure Chest Treats – Sweet Potato Banana Scones

Within the last few months Bobby’s imagination has bloomed!  The other day we made these treats for breakfast and he decided to call to call them treasure chests.  When he bit into them, he found a special surprise.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll probably guess what that ingredient is – chocolate.   You might think I’m nuts to give my tot chocolate for breakfast, and maybe I am, but when the chocolate is surrounded by sweet potatoes, whole wheat and bananas, it seems a bit healthier.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ stick unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup milk (half and half or cream works too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 super ripe banana
  • 1 medium sized sweet potato
  • ½ cup to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Set your oven on 400.  Prepare your cookie sheets.  I just line mine with parchment paper.

While the oven preheats, make your dough.  You can make these scones in either a food processor, stand mixer or by hand.  Peel and cook your sweet potato.  I cooked it in the microwave for 4 minutes.  Then, blend the sweet potato and banana in a food processor.  Add the butter.  Blend well.  Then add the liquids, milk, egg and vanilla.  Add the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.   Blend.  Add the chocolate chips.

This dough is super sticky.  So, using two tablespoons just drop bits of dough on the sheet.   Brush the dough balls with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 17 minutes or until you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.  Let your little one marvel at the chocolate chip treasures that await within the baked goodness!

Tips for Teething Tots

“A happy baby is a healthy baby.” That’s what the lady at Homegrown Bagels, in Sonoma told me as she handed me a bag of bagels specifically designed for teething babies. As I took the bag, I wondered whether the little bagels would help make my CJ happy again.

They say that three months is the perfect age. For awhile I wondered about the source of such comments, then it hit me – three months is when babies start to become more aware. They start to notice and interact with the world around them. They smile, coo and giggle. Who doesn’t like a three month old baby?

Then four months hits and the same once smiling, cooing and giggling baby, has bouts of crying and screaming. In addition, they start drooling enough to make some dogs jealous. The cause? Teeth. Those pesky teeth cause a ton of pain as they work their way into the scene. And, in the process, they turn the sweet baby into a fussy one.

It’s happened to my own little CJ recently. With moments when he’s totally inconsolable, waking up from a dead sleep with a screech unlike any other cry, CJ has been in major pain. I even trekked him to the big city (Petaluma) for his doctor to take a peek, and well, the route of his pain – teething.

Desperate for something to help ease his pain, I sought tips from fellow moms. Here’s the list of what folks have recommended:

  • Teething bagels – If you’re lucky enough to live near Sonoma, then these lifesaving bagels are free at Homegrown Bagels
  • Cold foods or ice in mesh feeders
  • Frozen washcloths
  • Cold plastic teethers
  • Amber teething necklace
  • Hylands teething tablets
  • Advil
  • Tylenol
  • Cherry brandy

Having tried nearly all of these recommendations, it goes without saying that CJ is one of two things. He is either much more comfortable or more entertained by the various things I am offering him. He loves chewing on frozen bananas in mesh feeders, gnawing on bagels and sucking on washcloths. Sometimes though I do think that he has more fun playing the “mommy pick it up” game. The game goes like this – I give him the bagel, he drops it on the floor, I pick it up and so on and so forth.

Even if the happiness is caused by the game CJ and I play with teething tools, it is happiness just the same. It rings true that a happy baby is a healthy baby. Thank you to the moms and dads out there who gave me new ideas (and Homegrown Bagels for the teething bagels).

also published at http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2012/Teething-bagels/