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Sunday, May 31, 2020


Kristin Oyen is a preschool teacher from New Jersey.  I wanted you to get to know her because many of you are “confused” and “stressed” about how to do your job if we are still under the Covid dark cloud when school begins.  We didn’t learn how to do this in college, did we?  

Kristin has some insight and suggestions that may be just what you need to inspire you and give you some direction.  Friends, meet Kristin Oyen…


Plain and simple, like you, I have always loved children. I worked in a local daycare for five years, babysat, was a nanny, and substitute taught. Any job I have ever had has never been a job because I have been fortunate enough to surround myself by my favorite kind of people,  tiny humans!  I began my teaching career as a Preschool teacher in September 2012 at Milton Elementary School in Jefferson, a beautiful woodsy, lake filled town like most in northern New Jersey. My position has changed a bit over the years and for the past four years I have taught a full-day special education class. I have worked with amazing paraprofessionals who fondly refer to our little bubble as Oyenland. 

In March when distance learning began I was two months away from my wedding and in the process of finalizing the purchase of my forever-home with my fiance.  We ended up postponing our wedding, however the stars aligned and we were able to move into our home a few weeks later amidst the quarantine. It was in the corner of my new basement that I knew Oyenland Distance Learning Preschool would be born. I recorded a group time video to send to my students and while rewatching it I thought, "I should share this on my Facebook page." I spared my dignity as Kristin and shared a glimpse into Miss Oyen's preschool life of singing, silliness, wiggling and magic and the response was extremely well-received. I try to share activities from my weekly lesson plans with families following the Facebook page: as well as tips and activities I find around the internet. Our Preschool team follows monthly themes, last month was circus, this month farm and next month ocean, so many of the activities correspond with those themes. One of my favorite weeks was a holiday week I did. I will share those plans with you and highlight some of the activities.


P.S.  I just have to share this idea for a "Flat Teacher."  It would be the perfect "end of year" or "I miss you" for your students!  You can find out more on

Make and Share a Flat Teacher
“Spend time” with your students at home with your own spin on the Flat Stanley adventures.

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Can you imagine sitting around a campfire and singing? Talk about a vanishing activity! No CD…no big screen…no musical instruments…just an engaging song and friends! My daughter and I were reminiscing that nobody sings like that any more.  If you ever sang around a campfire as a child, it's a happy memory you will never forget.

One day we built a fake campfire on the playground out of sticks.  (I would have had the fire marshall after me if we built a real fire.)  The kids found sticks, stuck marshmallows on the end, and pretended to roast them in the fire.  It was hysterical, because they were totally into the experience.  We then sang some of our favorite songs.


My heart is sad because I know that many children will miss going to camp and summer school this year.  Here's one of my newest videos that's a great song to sing - even if you don't get to go to camp.

I bet you might remember singing some of these songs when you were a scout or when you went to camp.

Little Cabin in the Woods
Little cabin in the woods.
(Make a square in the air with index fingers.)
Little man by the window stood.
(Hand over eyes.)
Saw a rabbit hopping by
(Two fingers up like ears and hop hand.)
Knocking at my door.
(Knock in the air.)
“Help me! Help me! Help me, please.
(Throw hands up in the air.)
For it’s cold and I might freeze.”
(Wrap arms around self and shake.)
Little rabbit come inside
(Motion “come.”)
Safely you’ll abide.
(Stick up 2 fingers on one hand and stroke with other hand.)

(Tune: “Sailing, Sailing, Over the Bounding Main” - Happy Everything CD)
Swimming, swimming, (Pretend to stroke arms.)
In the swimming pool. (Take index fingers and make a square in the air.)
When days are hot (Pretend to fan self.)
Or days are cold, (Rap arms around your self and shiver.)
in the swimming pool. (Make a square in the air.)
Back stroke, (Stroke arms backwards.)
Side stroke, (Swim to the side.)
Fancy diving, too. (Palms together and pretend to dive.)
There’s no place (Shake head “no.”)
I would rather be
Than in the swimming pool. (Make a square in the air.)

*The second time through hum the first line as you make the motions.
Third time hum the first two lines and make the motions.
With each verse omit the words and hum as you make the motions until you are just humming the song.

Here are some other favorite campfire songs:
Found a Peanut
Coming Round the Mountain
The Wheels on the Bus
Chica Boom Chica Boom
Yogi Bear
Baby Fish

Friday, May 29, 2020


Who wants to go on a picnic this summer?


Going On a Picnic
(This is a take off on "The Cool Bear Hunt." Children stand and repeat each line.)
We’re going on a picnic. (Slap hands on thighs to the beat.)
We’re going to pack a big one. (Arms out wide.)
With sandwiches, cookies, and lemonade, too. (Pretend to pack in your basket.)
Look over there. (Hand over eyes.)
It’s some tall grass.
Can’t go over it. (Hands up in the air.)
Can’t go under it. (Hands down low.)
Can’t go around it. (Circle hands around in front of body.)
I guess we’ll go through it. (Shrug shoulders.)
Swish, swish, swish, swish! (Brush palms against each other.)

Look over there. (Hands over eyes.)
It’s a lake…
I guess we’ll row across it.
Row, row, row your boat. (Pretend to row a boat.)

Look over there. (Hands over eyes.)
It’s a swamp…
Ooeey, gooey, ooey, gooey. (Pretend to tiptoe through mud.)

Look over there. (Hands over eyes.)
It’s a park. (Pretend to point at different things.)
It’s nice and shady.
It’s got a picnic bench.
We’re all so hungry
Let’s go eat! (Pretend to eat.)
Mmmmmmmm! (Pat tummy.)

*Go to my May, 2013, website post to download a free copy of this song:

Story Map
Let children make a map showing the different places they passed on the way to the picnic.

Picnic Book
Fold a sheet of construction paper in half. Punch two holes by the top fold and insert a pipe cleaner to make a handle. Children can write stories about going on a picnic inside or they can draw foods they’d like to take on a picnic.

Dramatic Play
Prepare a dramatic play kit for a picnic with a tablecloth (or towel), cups, plates, napkins, and plastic cutlery.
*Brainstorm all the fun things you can do on a picnic.

Animal Picnic
What kinds of food would animals take on a picnic? Plan an animal picnic with carrots, celery, apples, nuts, berries, etc. for snack.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


While surfing the internet I happened upon this UK website:
Our site strives to help you as the parent be informed and motivated to get your kids into nature and go wild with fun! Also to teach them to interact and get along with other kids from all ages, not just their own. All for the betterment of their future success, and yours as a parent of course!


Several years ago I read Richard Louv’s book LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER. It reminded me that exposure to nature is essential for healthy physical and emotional development in children AND adults. This book first came out in 2005, but it is especially critical now because the pandemic has turned our lives upside down and crushed many of our plans.


Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and let children explore in a less controlled environment. Educators, as well as many parents, are concerned about all the time their children spend in front of a screen. But, you can’t always give children a choice. If you say, “Do you want to go outside and go for a walk or play video games on your computer?”  You know what the answer will be!

We need to engage children in outdoor activities and create opportunities where they will choose to play and “be wild”! These are some suggestions I adapted from the website that you might want to share with your families.

Climb a tree

Roll down a really big hill

Build a tent

Hunt for stones

Watch the sun wake up

Go on a nature walk at night

Plant it, grow it, eat it

Discover what’s in a pond

Go to a park

Play in the sand

Run around in the rain

Fly a kite

Hunt for bugs

Go fishing

Cook on a campfire

Look for objects in the clouds

Make a mud pie

Swing on a rope swing
Just think how giving children 30 minutes of OUTDOOR WILD TIME every day this summer could impact their lives!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Math is real and concrete and hands-on and all around us. Let's go outside and count, measure, sort, and learn!

Note! Remind children to never pull living things off plants. Only collect things on the ground for these activities. Encourage them to return items to where they found them when you are finished with them.

Number Hunt
Take several lunch sacks and write different numerals on them. Challenge children to make appropriate sets from objects in nature to go in the bags.
*Have children return the objects to where they found them.

Draw basic geometric shapes (square, triangle, rectangle, oval, rhombus, circle) on 6” cardboard squares. Let the children take the shapes and match them to something in nature with a similar shape.


Give children a piece of string or yarn 5” to 8” long. How many things can they find that are shorter than their string? Longer? The same?

Children can count trees, fence posts, toys, bushes, and many other items in their yard or on the playground.
*Have them estimate how many and then verify their guess by counting.

Dot to Dot 
Take chalk and write numerals 0-20 randomly on a hard play surface. Children start with zero and run, hop, march, or skip to each numeral in order.
*Adapt the amount to the age of the children.

Collect 5 or 6 leaves, rocks, sticks or other natural objects. Place a leaf, then a rock, a leaf, then a rock. “What will come next?” Let children make up their own patterns with objects in nature.

Ask children to collect different natural objects such as rocks, leaves, etc.
(This will vary with the season and your habitat.) Put their objects together in a big pile. Ask the children to put the objects that are alike together. What was their sorting rule? Can they sort them another way?

Addition and Subtraction
Add and subtract using natural objects.
Make up number stories using sports. For example: My team had 3 runs and we scored 2 more. How many in all?

Collect sticks of different lengths and have the children put them in order from smallest to largest.
*They could also seriate leaves, rocks, etc.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020


Make your playground or backyard your very own science lab this summer.

Discovery Walks
Go on a walk and have children touch various objects. “How does it feel?”

*Have them close their eyes and try to identify objects by their sense of touch.

*Take a listening walk where children close their eyes and try to identify different sounds in the environment.

Adopt a Tree
Let your child “adopt” a special tree in your yard and name it.  Hug the tree?  How does it feel?  How does it sound?  Take photographs of the tree or draw pictures of the tree.
Dirt Detectives
Use magnifying glasses and sticks to dig in the dirt. What is dirt composed of?  How many different particles can they find?

Human Sun Dial
Have the child face north at 9:00 in the morning. Mark where they are standing and draw their shadow with chalk. Have the child stand in the same spot and record their shadow at various times in the day.

Cloud Watch
When there are cumulus clouds in the sky, have the children lay on their backs and look for animals and other objects in the sky.

*Let them draw pictures of clouds with white paint and a Q-tip on blue paper.

Melt Down
Give each child a paper cup with an ice cube in it. Who can make their ice cube melt fastest?

*Color the ice cubes with food coloring.

*Draw with ice cubes on the sidewalk.

Sit and Watch
Children can use a hula hoop or 7' piece of string for this activity. Lay the hula hoop on the ground (or make a circle with the string) and sit inside. Encourage children to sit quietly and use their senses to observe their habitat.

*Give them paper and a pencil to draw or write observations

Monday, May 25, 2020


In the past, Memorial Day meant that summer was here and it was time to get out those white shoes, the sprinkler, and the grill. We looked forward to vacations, family reunions, and visits to parks and pools.  None of us are quite sure what "summer" will be like in 2020.  

What we do know is that every day things are getting better and better.  We are blessed to be Americans and have FREEDOM thanks to the men and women who died serving our country.
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day because people decorated the gravesites of those who died during the Civil War. After World War I, it was extended to include all the women and men who died during military service.

The poppy has become a symbol of Memorial Day due to Moina Michael’s Poem “In Flanders Fields” (1915).

We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
We can't go to a parade today, but we can remember those who died by putting up a flag. 

Check out this website to learn more about Memorial Day:

Whoever you are…wherever you are…take a few minutes today to PLAY! Do something that makes you happy! Do something that makes you glad to be alive! And, please, take a few minutes today to remember all the brave men and women who gave their lives so that we could be free and happy today!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2020


One thing that Covid-19 can't impact is reading WITH and TO your child this summer!

Noises Off
Have a quiet time each day when all devices are TURNED OFF. If you don’t make this a priority and routine, it won’t happen. Not only should you expect your children to read, you need to enjoy a book and be a good model for them. In the book THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, an interesting finding was that parents who read with their children and modeled reading had a positive impact on academic success.

Rabbit Trap
“If you want to catch a rabbit, you have to have a rabbit trap.” And, if you want children to read, you have to create a unique place where they will want to read.

*Let children decorate a cardboard appliance box to be a “book clubhouse.”

*Make a tent and let them read with a flashlight.

*Brainstorm other places that would be fun to read.

Treasure Hunt Story
Prepare clues that will lead to a “treasure story.” (This is a special book that you have hidden outside.) For example:

1. A treasure hunt is so much fun. Near the swing is clue number one.

2. Clue number two should be easy, too. At the top of the back porch is something for you.

3. Clue number three you will find in a tree.

4. Now it’s time for clue number four. Look for it by the garage door…

*Tape the clues around your yard or playground ending with the spot where the “treasure story” is hidden. Encourage the children to help you read the clues and follow the directions. Find a shady spot outside and enjoy reading the book.

Summer Journal
Carolyn Kisloski created this free download last year and it’s a wonderful way to encourage children to write over the summer.

*I gave it to my granddaughter and she thought it was pretty cool to have “homework” to do.

Reading and writing should be a JOY, not a chore. The trick is finding the right book that they will WANT to read and finding something they WANT to write about.

Happy reading and writing!!

Saturday, May 23, 2020


Summer’s the perfect time for getting messy and being creative! 

Bubble Cups 
Liquid dish detergent
Fill the cup half way with water. Squirt in some dish detergent. Give children a straw and tell them to BLOW! (If you'll put a pin prick at the top of the straw, it's less likely that they'll suck up soapy water. I also have children practice blowing on their hand with the straw before we begin so they'll get the idea.) The bubbles will spill over the cup and are fun to pat on arms, legs, etc. It's great to run through the sprinkler after you "paint" your body with bubbles.
Adaptations: Add a drop of food coloring to the solution to make colored bubbles.
*Give children a pan of water and an egg beater. (Most children have never seen one of these before except in books!) Add a squirt of detergent to the water and let them "beat" up some bubbles.

Rub A Dub Dub 
Have children bring their washable dolls to school. Fill tubs with water and soap, then have a bathing party. Add sponges, wash clothes, and squirt bottles.
Adaptations: Let children wash doll clothes and hang them on a clothesline with spring clothespins.


Water Painting
Give children plastic containers (margarine tubs, ice cream containers, etc.) filled with water. Let them use paint brushes to “paint” the playground equipment, trees, toys, etc.


Sandbox Treasures 
Hide shells and other small toys in a sandbox and let the children “dig” for treasures.

Boat Builders 
Let children construct boats from two toilet paper rolls stapled together. Glue a triangular piece of construction paper to a craft stick and stick it between the rolls to make a sail.
 *Mold boats from aluminum foil.
 *Carve a boat from a bar of Ivory soap. Glue paper to a toothpick and insert it in the soap to make a sail. Make a raft from popsicle sticks. Lay down two sticks. Glue ten sticks on top of them. Dry and then decorate with markers.
 *Give children recycled materials (trash and scraps) to use to create boats and things that float.


Mud Pies
(Not edible, but definitely great fun!)
4 cups dirt
1 cup flour
Mix the dirt and flour with water until it molds and sticks together. Shape into cookies, pies, birds nests, and other shapes. Dry in the sun.


Squirt! Squirt! 
Save spray bottles from cleaning products. (Make sure you rinse them out well first!). Fill them with water and let the children squirt each other, water plants, clean lawn furniture, etc.
Adaptations: A sponge or paintbrush and a bucket of water will also entertain children for hours. They can sponge off a tree, their riding toys, or themselves. They can paint the house or playground equipment.

Friday, May 22, 2020


How about some summertime snacks today?

Fire Cracker Sandwich 
Peanut butter, jelly, or other favorite sandwich filling
Clear plastic wrap
Yarn or ribbon
Cut the crusts off the bread. Flatten the bread with a rolling pin. (The children just like to "smush" it with their hand.) Spread on your sandwich filling. Roll up tightly like a jelly roll. Wrap in a piece of plastic wrap. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap and tie with a piece of ribbon. It will look like a firecracker! 


Edible Mud Pies 
Instant chocolate pudding
2 cups cold milk
Flat bottom ice cream cones
Plastic container with tight sealing lid
(Place the pudding mix in the plastic container before starting this activity.) Ask the children if they've ever had mud pies. Tell them you have and they're delicious. Show them the container and explain that it's dirt. Pass it around and let them smell it. (Be cool and don't let on!) Build vocabulary by talking about how dry the dirt is. What's the difference between dirt and mud? Suggest adding a liquid and pour in the two cups milk. Seal tightly, then pass the container around the group, encouraging each child to "shake, shake, shake." Open it up and have the children describe what happened. Serve in the ice cream cones.
Adaptations: Add seeds (sunflowers) and a worm (gummy worm). 

*If you can find pistachio pudding you can make alligator pie.

Trail Mix 
pretzel sticks
fish crackers
chocolate chips
ice cream cones
Mix all the ingredients together and serve in an ice cream cone.
Yippee ti yi yo! No mess because you can just eat the cone when you’re through with the mix.
*Use cheese crackers, sunflower seeds, M&Ms, or other dry cereals in your trail mix. 


Ants on a Log 
peanut butter
Take a stalk of celery (the log). Spread peanut butter (mud) in the celery. Place raisins (ants) on top of the peanut butter. March the ants into you mouth! MMMM!
*Use cream cheese instead of peanut butter to make “birds in the snow.”


Ice Cream in a Bag 
1 gallon size heavy duty zip bag
1 sandwich size heavy duty zip bag
1 cup whole milk
1 heaping teaspoon of sugar
1 squirt chocolate or strawberry syrup
2 handfuls of ice
1 tablespoon rock salt
Pour the milk, sugar, and chocolate in the sandwich bag and zip. Place that bag in the larger bag, and then fill with ice. Sprinkle on the salt and zip shut. Throw the bag up and down for about 10 minutes until it starts to harden.
*Wear mittens or gloves to keep your hands warm.
*You can also make homemade ice cream with a small and a large coffee can. Fill the smaller can with the ice cream mixture. Place it in the larger can and pack with ice and salt. Children can “kick the can” until it freezes.

Pudding Pops 
1 large (4oz.) package of regular pudding mix (not instant)
3 cups milk
large marshmallows
popsicle sticks
paper cups
aluminum foil
Stir the pudding mix and milk until well blended. Fill cups half full with the pudding mixture. Put a marshmallow on the end of the popsicle sticks, then insert them in the cups. Cover with foil to keep the marshmallows down. Freeze and enjoy!
*For healthier frozen treats, freeze fruit juice, yogurt, or smoothies.

Life Preserver Sandwich
Cream cheese
Blue food coloring
Fish Crackers
Add a few drops of blue food coloring to the cream cheese. Let the children spread the cream cheese on one half of a bagel. Decorate with 4 or 5 fish crackers.


Thursday, May 21, 2020


These are fun crafts for "campers" and kids of all ages.

Sit Upon
Cut paper grocery sacks into 12” squares. Each child will need two. Punch holes around the edges and then sew three sides together with yarn. (Wrap a piece of tape around the end of the yarn to make a needle.) Stuff with newspaper strips and then sew up the fourth side. Sit “upon” it for a story, sing along, or picnic.
Note! Let children decorate the squares with crayons or markers before sewing them together.

Sun Visor

Cut a moon shape from a paper plate. Decorate with markers or crayons. Punch holes in the ends and tie on string so you can tie it around the head.


Grocery Bag Backpack
You can even make a backpack from a paper grocery bag.  Use ribbon or fabric scraps to make durable straps.


Nature Bracelet
Put a piece of masking tape or packaging tape with the sticky side out on each child’s wrist to make a bracelet. Children attach small leaves, flowers, etc. to the tape to make a nature bracelet.

Sticky Picture
Cut clear contact paper into small rectangles and give one to each child. Peel off the back and then let children apply leaves, flowers, and other small objects to the sticky side.
*Cover with another piece of contact paper and use as a place mat.

Pet Rocks
Let each child find a rock that they can hold in their hand. After cleaning their rocks, let them decorate the rocks with paints, wiggly eyes, yarn hair, etc. Ask the children to name their pet rocks and make up a story about their rocks.


Nature Rubbings
Let children collect objects with different textures on the playground. Remove the paper from several crayons. Place paper over the objects and then rung gently with the side of the crayon.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020


There are lots of fun games you can play outside with homemade equipment.

Take several water bottles and arrange them in a triangle. Children stand behind a line and roll a ball, trying to knock down the bottles. Count how many they knock down. Let children can take turns rolling the ball and setting up the bottles for each other.


Goofy Golf
You will need several empty cardboard containers from fried chicken, popcorn, ice cream, etc. Turn the containers upside down and cut an arch out of the bottom similar to a mouse hole. Set the containers up on the grass and let the children practice hitting golf balls in the holes.
*You can also make a golf course with hula hoops.
*Use small brooms and tennis balls instead of golf clubs.

Paddle Ball
To make paddles, place two paper plates together and staple ¾ of the way around. Insert the hand and use like a paddle. Roll up a scrap piece of paper to make a ball.

Balloon Tennis
Blow up a balloon and you’re set of a tennis match using the paper plate paddle!

Can Catch
You will need a tennis ball and empty Pringle’s can for this game. Children bounce the ball and try to catch it in the can. They can place this game by themselves or with a friend.


Broomstick Hockey 
You will need children's brooms and a rubber ball for this game. Children hit the ball with the broom and try to get it in a box or designated area.

Bouncy Ball Lane 
Draw a path on the sidewalk with chalk. Children take balls and try to bounce them on the designated line.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


It's more important now than ever to encourage parents to be involved in their child's education.  Here are some simple, hands-on, resources that you can share with your families.

Family Fun Calendar
Run off this calendar and mail (or email) it to your families. Suggest parents glue it to a heavy piece of cardboard and attach a string so it can be hung up in their home. Ask them to let their child decorate it and read over the activities to get them excited.


Bucket of “Fun”


Make a list of activities that children can do with their families over the summer to reinforce skills you’ve worked on during the school year. Suggest that they use a sand bucket or use a plastic up to make this "bucket of fun."  Choose the activities that they like and put them in the bucket.  Let their child select a strip each day and do the activity.

Some examples might include:

     Read a story with your parents. Tell what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. What do you think will happen next?
     Play a rhyming game. How many words can you think of that rhyme with "can"? "Pot"?
"Book"? "Coat"? "Sheep"? "Like"?
     Trace around your hand and your foot. What can you make out of them?
     Count as high as you can. Can you count by 2's, 5's, and 1O's?
     Ask your parents to teach you a song they learned when they were your age.
     Look in your kitchen pantry. How many labels can you read?
     How many ways can you move? Can you hop, skip, jump, gallop, tiptoe, walk
     Can you draw a circle, oval, square, rectangle, and triangle? What other shapes can
you draw?
     Write a special letter to someone in your house.
     Look at some of your baby pictures. How have you changed?
     Find something that begins with these letters: B, H, S, M, L,
     Draw a picture of your neighborhood.
     Make a list of 5 things that are non-living. Make a list of 5 things that are living.
     Do you have a library card? Visit your library and check out some books.
     Do a job around the house.
     Write your name on a piece of paper - first, middle, and last. What are your initials?

Here’s a link where you can download more:


Monday, May 18, 2020


Several weeks ago a teacher asked for some help on CONFLICT RESOLUTION. Well, that's not my area of expertise, but fortunately I'm friends with Barbara Gruener and she has a brilliant mind, gentle heart, and great suggestions for you today!

Conflict. It’s a normal part of life for kids of all ages, but it might seem exacerbated in stressful times, like during our pandemic shelter-in-place that feels more like we’re under house arrest these past few months. And while our resolution to conflict can be as unique as the conflict itself, there are some tried-and-true strategies that can help us help our littles learn to respond rather than react when conflict strikes.

Start by showing this Sesame Street clip to help your children understand what conflict is and isn’t and that laughter is resilience skill that sometimes works as a pressure valve to release the tension that stress can cause.

Then, try one or more of these three things that have worked in classrooms and ought to easily transfer to a home setting:

The Path To Peace
Move through conflict on a Paths Of Peace Labyrinth like this, which we painted on the concrete recess slab but could easily be drawn out with chalk or set up using sticks, stones, or string. The two people in conflict enter the labyrinth side-by-side but quickly go their separate ways as they follow their side of the path to each numerical stop: 

At each number, the two problem-solving friends each:

1. State the problem. Each person gets a chance to talk about the problem from his or her point of view while the other listens.

2. State their feelings about the problem. Each person talks about how they feel about what’s happening while the other one listens to understand.

3. State the other person’s feelings about the problem. I call this the empathy stop, because it invites the participants to step into each other’s story, understand the problem from the other perspective, and feel what their friend is feeling.

4. Brainstorm any and all solutions. No judgements at this stop, so nothing is off the table. Encourage them to be as bold or silly, outrageous or practical as they can be with their suggestions for how they’d like to see the conflict resolved.

5. Choose the best option. The two people in conflict are now as physically close as they’ve been; proximity can help in deciding which action will work best for them. They may be able to negotiate and come to a peaceful resolution. They may decide to flip a coin or let the best of 3 rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors decide. Or it could be that they agree to disagree, and that’s okay, too. The process is more important than the outcome; once they’ve decided, the hope is that they exit the labyrinth in harmony armed with an agreeable plan moving forward.

The Wheel of Choices
Conflict is ‘wheelie’ fun when you front-load with this paper-plate tool. During a time when all is well and there is no conflict, invite your children to answer the questions:

Ø What do we want to do when a conflict arises?

Ø How do we want to peacefully solve our problems?

Ø How do we want to treat one another in the process?

Brainstorm ways that they have seen (or would like to see) problems get resolved. For example, say they’re fighting about who gets the first turn in the game they’re playing; would they’d be willing to let their friend or sibling go first? Or maybe they want to roll the dice to see who gets the bigger number and allow that person to decide who goes first. If they’re squabbling over who gets the last cookie, maybe they’d like to break it in half or, better yet, split it three ways to share it with the caregiver in the room.

When you’ve got their list of suggested behaviors, get a paper plate and divide it into as many pieces as you have choices to offer. Fill in the pieces of the plate with the peacekeeping-strategies for getting along that they just brainstormed. After completing their Wheel of Choices, find a brad, cut an arrow from an index card, and add a spinner to the center of the plate.

When they can’t decide what to do, remind them to go to the Wheel of Choices and choose what’s best or have a spin and let the wheel help them decide.

Order In The Court
This activity is adapted from a weekly practice that one of my teachers did with our class during my formative years; try it before conflict arises in an attempt to not only talk your children through restorative strategies but also show them how equitable decisions are made.

Set up your own courtroom and let family members take turns playing judge, lawyer, and jury. Ask them to come up with conflict scenarios that they’ve seen or can imagine, or throw some conflicts from your childhood their way, then let the roleplay begin. Invite the designated lawyer to state the case and present one (or both) sides, let the juror(s) review the details and render a verdict and let the judge decide proper restitution. Start with easy dilemmas like this:

Ø Johnny hears his neighbor’s dog barking, so he sneaks next door and sets the dog free.

Ø Sirya gets on her parents’ computer without their permission.

Ø Joaquin gets mad and tells his friend that doesn’t want them to be friends anymore.

After you’ve settled the case(s), reflect together on what happened and whether or not they think that the sentence fit the infraction. This would also be an excellent time to talk about Restorative Practices, which focus not on punishment but on natural consequences and/or affirmative actions that can right the wrongs and restore the hurt to promote healing.

Speaking of healing, many conflicts result in the need for apology and forgiveness. Model what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to apologize by showing your children how a give genuine apology and then providing opportunities for them to practice through roleplay so that when they really need it, they won’t be stuck not knowing how to fix their missteps. Try something like this: I’m sorry for {insert the result of their behavior, like hurting your feelings}; please forgive me. Help them understand not to excuse their behavior or blame it on someone or something else, but to take responsibility for what happened and work with intention to make it right. Remind them often that nobody is perfect and that it takes courage to admit and move through our mistakes. Then, instead of responding to an apology with, “That’s okay,” encourage them to say, “I forgive you.” Or “I accept your apology.” The closure that this will bring is crucial so that unresolved conflict doesn’t continue to hurt or, worse, threaten to end their friendships and relationships.

Author bio: Barbara Gruener is a nationally-recognized school counselor, speaker and character coach who has had the pleasure of working with and growing alongside of learners from every grade level during her 36 years as an educator. Author of the blog The Corner on Character and the book What’s Under Your Cape? SUPERHEROES of the Character Kind, Barbara works passionately to influence school climate change while fostering healthy habits and caring connections among school families and their stakeholders. In addition to spending time with her family and friends, Barbara loves inspiring people to savor being in the moment as they unwrap the present with gratitude and hope.

Sunday, May 17, 2020


Friends, most of you are like me and will NOT want to get on a plane this summer or be in large groups. The good news is that two of my favorite people are hosting virtual conferences. And they are FREE!! And you won't have to wear a face mask!!!  This is like winning the lottery!!!

Vanessa Levin's conference will focus on pre-k and preschool educators.

Note!  Copy and paste it into your browser.


Deanna Jump's conference is for K-1 Teachers.


It's kind of hard to sing and dance by yourself in front of a computer screen, so I hope you'll join me! Both conferences will have some of the top presenters in the country, and you won't want to miss learning the latest and greatest activities and strategies. 

Here's a special prayer that came in our church's weekly newsletter.  I was so touched by it that I wanted to share it with you.  It was written by Carol Ferguson at Crescent Springs Presbyterian Church.


Jesus, friend and teacher,
we pray to you for our students,
and for all they've lost,
for the games, meets, and matches,
the dances and dates,
the projects and performances,
the labs and studios,
the graduations and awards nights,
the chatter of the lunch room,
the meetups with friends,
the routines and normalcy.

Even so we give thanks
for the virtual learning,
the texts and tiktoks,
human connection through technology.
We lift up the flexibility, compassion,
perseverance, and creativity
of our students, your incredible children.

Help them grieve what they have lost,
celebrate the strength they have found,
and remember that they are never alone,
but always accompanied by your love.

We pray in your holy name.  Amen.