becoming authors

So many times, I have parents roll their eyes when their kids take home page after page after page of mark making work. Comments like, “Really? More scribbling?” and “This isn’t a nice picture” or “Sure, sure… it’s a dinosaur” as they dismiss the picture all together.

STOP PARENTS!!!! You need to flip the script. The evolution of writing begins with the act of making marks on a page. If the child wants to take home their artwork (read: scribbles) its because there IS a story there on the page.  If they are bringing their work home–they want to share it. If they want to put it on the fridge–it’s important to them.

Let me tell you a bit about what happens in the classroom to help you make sense of their thinking (and some ideas you can use at home too!)

For the past few weeks, my students have been showing off what their big bodies can do. Some showed us how they can balance on a foot, use a screwdriver, ride a two-wheeler, and go to the dentist.

But the most exciting thing their big bodies can do is draw pictures and tell stories. Using their knowledge of shapes and colors, we’ve worked as a class to retell a story from the day’s activities–like the day our friend played his guitar, when another friend made a Valentine, or when another student read the class calendar. While I acted as their hands, the children told me what shapes and colors to use to make an illustration. Now, they walk around the room “reading” the stories we wrote together.


Taking this activity further, I worked with small groups to model how the children can write their own story. While listening to each student tell me the story that they wanted to draw (“the day I went down the blue slide at the hotel” or “I saw a sad dinosaur who was hungry”), I drew my own interpretation of their story.

My 3- and 4-year old students used my work as their mentor text to create their beautiful stories.



The green grass, the yellow sun, and the blue slide. The purple grass is at the hotel when it has the lights on and you get a buggy to drive… But it’s not here because you have to wait for it.

nb: did you notice that when she was telling me about her story, the slide was blue but in her artistic recreation of the story, the slide is green? So young and already using artistic license!



There isn’t any food for the dinosaur. He must wait for people to give some seeds and then put some water so it will grow food. It is going to rain. I need a rain. (the student then drew some raindrops) But I put the sun. That’s OK. I will make more rain. (he then added more raindrops)



Version 2


Mio heart eat sandwich [and] yellow cheese.






The joy of watching preschool-aged students create more approximate illustrations is amazing. They are beginning to feel like authors. They get confirmation from their peers and parents who say, “Wow! Your car is so nice!” or “That monster looks sad. Why is he sad?” When someone can actually understand their story, their face just lights up!


So if your child is a “scribbler”, don’t dismiss their work. They are on step one of their developmental journey to becoming an author. The most important question you can ask is, “Can you tell me about your story?” If you don’t… you’ll miss out on the genius of their creations.

The bad guy is hurting him. The green is for his bat wings. He is flying to get the eggs. The bad guy monster steals his eggs.

Of course… wasn’t it obvious?!?!


break it down

girl cutting

This image by Insights Unspoken is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 from Flikr.

As adults we take for granted all the tasks we can do with ease. For you little ones, the simplest task requires a lot of thought, many (in order) steps, and a lot of patience.

Take, for instance, a simple school task like gluing two pieces of paper together. You and I can do it in mere seconds, but a young child can take up to 5 minutes to complete the job because of the sheer number of steps required. Break it down and look at all that you’re asking a child to do:

  1. get the glue stick
  2. take off the top
  3. put the top on the table flat so it doesn’t roll away
    • if it does roll away, you need to find it
  4. twist the bottom of the glue stick to release some of the glue
    • but if you unscrew it too much, you have to twist the other way to put the extra glue away
  5. hold down the paper with one hand
  6. position the glue stick in your hand so it touches the paper flat
  7. roll the glue across your paper
    • don’t push too hard or too light… you have to rub it just right
  8. now you can finally stick something to your paper
  9. tidy up after yourself


9 steps! Ridiculous, right? So why do we adults not just take the silly glue out of their hands and do it for them?

By doing menial tasks for our children, we’re telling them they are not big enough, not capable enough, or not good enough to do it themselves. And that’s not the message we’re trying to send.

So here’s today’s teacher pro-tip: slow down and let your child do the job themselves. You will need to show, teach, model, and reteach again and again and again, but once they get it, they’ll feel accomplished. And you will save yourself time as well.

Here are some of the things you can teach (and then expect) your 3-4 year old to do:

  • “make” the bed (not well, but they can pull up the blankets and make it “look” tidy–you can come back later and do it properly)
  • put on their clothes (with some support)
  • brush their teeth
  • go to the toilet (including taking off/on clothes, sitting/standing, flushing, and washing hands)
  • tidy up their toys
  • take their plate to the sink
  • put dirty clothes in the laundry basket
  • help set the table

My tweens are able to do all of the above and:

  • do laundry (wash, dry, fold, and put away)
  • make a balanced dinner for the family
  • make a healthy lunch for school
  • write a blog post or vlog to YouTube to teach the world something new
  • take out the trash
  • help take care of a pet
  • babysit a neighbors toddlers

So now the question is, what are you going to task your children with today? Start slowly by introducing one task at a time. If you want to know more about what you can expect your child to do at each developmental stage (from toddler to teenager), read about what the experts say.

You can thank me later.



cry baby

Child Portrait Hands

This image by heinz is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 from Pixabay.

On the first few days of school, your child entered the classroom with confidence, a smile, and total exuberance. Days later…the waterworks began.

Why is this happening?

Is someone hurting my child?

Are they safe?

For most children, the first days of school are fun and new. But for others, the reality of going to school every day wears off quickly and the true “first day jitters” kicks in. Don’t worry. Your child isn’t crying because school is a terrible place. They are crying because it’s the place they go when you are not around and that makes your child sad.

Be patient. In a few days, weeks, or months, the classroom will become their happy place.

Regardless of how your child feels about coming to school today, it’s important that you maintain a daily routine:

  • talk about your “big kid.” By doing this, you will help boost your child’s confidence and it will soon become their “job” just as yours is going to work.
  • treat them like a “big kid.” Have them carry their own lunch box and walk on their own two feet. Though it may take a bit longer to get there, this habit reminds your child that they are so big that they get to go to school.
  • keep smiling. Your child is looking to you for advice about how they should feel. If you’re excited, they’ll be excited. If you’re nervous, they will be too.
  • a kiss & a cuddle. Your child was happy until they saw the classroom door and then the “ugly cry” began. No matter how their tears pull at your heart strings… don’t drag out the goodbye. Give a kiss, a cuddle, and hand them over to the teacher. The longer the disconnection time, the more anxious your child will become, and the longer it will take your child to settle down. Relax, your child’s teacher is used to this.
  • loving reminders. As you give your child a goodbye kiss, whisper to them that you (or another loved one) will be back at pick-up time. Hearing this reassures your child that they won’t be forgotten.

Think you’re alone? Think again. Check out this blog post from a mom who’s been through the drop-off from hell herself.


starting school


This image by graphicstock is licensed under Creative Commons CC0 from Pixabay and Pexels.

Whether it’s day care, nursery, kindergarten, or middle school… starting school can be harder on parents than on their children. 

For the youngest children just starting school, there are some things you can do at home to ensure that your child’s first few days at school are successful:

  • bed time. Make sure your little one is getting the sleep they need (10-13 hours for 3- and 4-year old children). A tired kid is an anxious kid.
  • ease their fears. Your child will look to you for guidance. If you are worried, they will be too. Ease their fears by putting on a happy face while you talk about how fun school is.
  • send love. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a beautiful book with a great message. Reading books like will help you show your child you are not deserting them. Likewise, establishing a small personal ritual before going off to school will be something your child can access when you are not around.

If you need some additional advice, Parent’s Magazine has a great article about separation anxiety.

For those who are a bit reluctant about sending your preschooler to school, just remember, you are doing the right thing. Take a deep breath, grab yourself a cup of tea, and read this mom’s reflection on why kids need preschool!