Why This Is More Than Cute…

I don’t have a personal grievance with the word “cute”.  I use the four letter word frequently when describing my fashionista friend’s new shoes or something comical my two-year old just said.  I have no problem with activities for preschoolers being “cute”.  “Cute” however is not an acceptable educational objective.  It is an adjective of appearance, and I believe we should be concerned with much more than appearance when dealing with the children we love and teach. 

(Photo provided by rrss.)

This blog contains activities and articles created for parents and teachers of preschool children with the development of the whole child in mind.  Activities may be “cute”, but they will also come with specific developmental objectives and other explanations of why they benefit more than just your child’s aesthetics. 

Recognize.  Emphasize.  Maximize.  Additionally, I want to help teachers and parents recognize that much of what children are already doing is “not just cute”.  That “cute” song they’re singing, it’s helping them learn to read.  That “cute” art project, it’s getting them ready to write and also to think creatively.  You may find activities here that are very similar to those you would find in your typical “cute” curriculum.  The difference is that by specifying developmental objectives, you are able to recognize what the child is accomplishing, allowing you to emphasize that component during the activity, which in turn allows you to maximize the amount of learning that can take place.  All this within a natural, play-based environment. 

For example, in an art activity, I may point out that as the children tear tiny pieces of paper for the project, they are developing their fine motor skills.  When you recognize this, you can emphasize that part of the activity, meaning you would not rip the paper for the children (that would be emphasizing the product outcome, rather than the developmental outcome).  You would also take note as to whether the task of tearing is easily done or not, indicating whether or not you may want to emphasize fine motor skills in future activities.  By following this method, you can maximize the development of fine motor skills for your children.

Each activity, idea, or article focuses on different developmental objectives.  As several objectives are often achieved with one activity, only the main developmental objectives are listed in conjunction with each post.  You can search for activities on this site, based on developmental objectives, by selecting the desired objective in the categories column.  Topics and themes will be found in the tag cloud.

Teachers, feel free to refer parents to this blog to give objective and developmental information about activities you’re doing in class.  You may want to refer them to pieces in the Articles category to share insights on teaching philosophy and developmental theories.  Also, articles may be printed and shared, but please credit the source as: Amanda Morgan, http://www.notjustcute.com





30 responses to “Why This Is More Than Cute…

  1. oh, yes! wonderful, wonderful sentiments.

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  3. Rebecca Russell

    I have been finding your posts very informative. I am especially interested in your development of Positive Guidance and corresponding social skills development. I have been researching Positive Guidance and find little information as concisive as yours. Do you have a source that you could share, or do you have all of your posts gathered in one format that could be downloaded (I am “old” school and prefer hard copy!). I live inNew York State and would be interested in pursuing the idea of Positive Guidance.Are you aware of any practioners in NY? I would be interested in conferences+/or taking a college course. Thank you.

    • notjustcute

      Thank you so much, Rebecca! I don’t have all of the posts gathered for one download (that’s a good idea), but you are more than welcome to copy and paste and print them for your own use. You can find links to all of them starting at: http://notjustcute.com/2009/09/26/a-behavior-problem-solving-approach-positive-guidance-for-preschoolers/
      and the Positive Guidance Toolbox posts are linked from there, but also from: http://notjustcute.com/2009/10/02/positive-guidance-a-well-stocked-toolbox/

      A lot of what I write comes from my experience teaching these types of courses through The Children’s Center (www.tccslc.org), as well as my teaching background and my own studies. As far as resources, I would really recommend “Practical Solutions to Practically Every Problem” by Steffen Saifer. It’s a fantastic resource for teachers, focusing on specific behaviors and challenges, but with a couple of fantastic sections on general positive guidance as well. I also like “I Brake For Meltdowns” by Michelle Nicholasen and Barbara O’Neal. It’s written more for parents, and is a bit less “clinical”, but generally follows the same principles. As for conferences and courses, I’m not sure off the top of my head. There are usually child guidance courses available through colleges, and you local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) may be able to tell you about available courses as well. Hope that helps!

  4. I stumbled across this site and I absolutely love it! After reading some of your posts, I wanted to learn more about you. I was happily surprised to see that you are a USU grad like me (Go Aggies!)
    Anyway, I added a link to your site from my family child care web page so that my parents can access all the good stuff you are posting. Keep it up!!!

  5. ad65shorty

    Stumbled across your site by accident! LOVE it! I, too, reside in Utah, although I’m a Coug through and through. I majored in Early Childhood Education, taught school for many years, and am now a mother. Hmm… seems we have a lot in common! I love how thorough and not “cute” your ideas are! Thanx so much for sharing! I think you’ll find that I linked to two of your garden/plant ideas. They are FAB! Thanx! 🙂

    • notjustcute

      So glad you enjoy it! Thanks for your kind words! They really keep me going. It does seem we have a lot in common (even if we cheer for different basketball teams). Thanks for adding the links!

  6. susan spitzer-cohn

    Just discovered your website but I don’t know how to access more than the partial paragraphs that show up on your home page. Is their a way to subscribe to get the whole thing, for instance, the words to “Do you know this friend of mine?”
    Thanks for your help,

    • notjustcute

      Hi Susie!
      You should be able to see the whole post when you click on the title of each post. You can also subscribe with your email through the box at the top right corner of the home page. That will email you partial posts and then you can click to visit the whole post. The post you’re looking for should be completely visible from this address: http://notjustcute.com/2010/02/19/do-you-know-this-friend-of-mine/
      I hope you continue to enjoy the site!

  7. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your site. My twin boys have been going to part time daycare/preschool for the past year, and they they seem to like it, but they can no longer attend after three. We will be taking them out this week.

    There is a ton of pressure to start kids in all day school at three years old here in Spain, and, in my gut, this feels all wrong. So, my plan is to keep them home until kindergarten and do some play based preschool “homeschooling” during that time. They also have a late summer birthday, so I am seriously considering a “late” 6 year old start for them as well. That will be three fun years of playing and learning at home and I think your site will be an invaluable resource.

    I started out as an Early Education major, but switched to Recreation studies. Now, I wish I had stuck with my first choice.

    Thanks for this amazing site!!!

    • notjustcute

      Thank you so much, Tricia! Your kind words really mean a lot to me. Good luck with your adventure! I hope to live up to your expectations!

  8. I found your site through another blog – great work. I’ve got a new teacher coming on board next year – young and green, I look forward to sharing your site with her. Thank you.

  9. Pingback: Homeschooling Is Not Optional

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  11. Celia Rusch

    We are located in Madison, WI and look forward to receiving the updates.

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  15. Jen

    I would be really interested to hear your opinion on different types of children’s lit – especially stories based on popular tv shows. We don’t even have tv and movies are a rare treat yet I can barely convince my almost 3 yr old son to choose a book that doesn’t feature Dora. Any thoughts?

    • notjustcute

      I had the same resistance at first. I don’t like a lot of commercialization, but I noticed my boys would (and still do) gravitate to a lot of these types of books. I finally realized, that one of the most important things I can do is to encourage them to get excited about books and reading. If they’re excited to get that Star Wars book at the library (again) then I support that. I let them choose their own books at the library and choose stories they want to read together. But I also pick out some of “my” own books at the library to share with them, and initiate readings with other books that I would qualify more as children’s literature. I think you just have to be aware of the balance. Give them exposure to high quality, but also to choice and excitement – even if it comes with an animated character on the cover!

      • A few suggestions to add:

        My kids love Dora too, but they’re not allowed to read the same book more than a few times. You will eventually run out of Doras if you don’t allow them to borrow it again. Dora is not bad though, just repetitive. The TV show is toxic though, that level of repetition is intolerable!

        My oldest (6) is well on the road to reading. He has pledged to read a whole chapter book this year by himself. So he’s reading one of my old children’s books, and every night or two he reads at least two pages. Since it’s harder than he’s used to we parents have a lot of opportunity for conversation and explaining. I can’t wait until he starts on the “The Great Brain” series.

        Finally, there are awesome books about Star Wars — at least for little boys. I picked up the star wars detailed ship and location designs book, which contain maps and schematics as well as recounts of classic Star wars battles. We learn how to read those schematics, compare how long the ships are, learn about space, learn about planets and geology and construction and all kinds of real things in the context of the fantasy world. The kids love it.

  16. Yes, yes, YES!!! I am SO looking forward to exploring your site and reading and sharing your posts! Thank you!

    I found your site through Megan at Sorta Crunchy, who just shared the article you wrote yesterday (11.01.10 .. which I LOVED by the way).

  17. parentNearlychildhoodeducator

    Amanda, I would like to comment on your statement, “The difference is that by specifying developmental objectives, you are able to recognize what the child is accomplishing, allowing you to emphasize that component during the activity, which in turn allows you to maximize the amount of learning that can take place. All this within a natural, play-based environment.”
    How can you learn what the child’s objectives are if you are not observing them regularly? Isn’t it through regular observation that you are able to recognize the child’s accomplishments? What do you mean by “emphasize the component during the activity”?

    • notjustcute

      I certainly believe that observation will teach you a lot about what children are learning, and that it is a vital component in assessment (of yourself as well as the child) and is critical for intentional curriculum planning. What I mean by recognize-emphasize-maximize is that when we prepare the environment or plan an activity, we must recognize what it is we are preparing. What opportunities for learning are we creating? We need to be intentional. We certainly will not anticipate every possible learning outcome that may arise from one open-ended activity, but if we are not planning with an awareness of what could be learned, we can not be responsive to the child’s needs, interests, or developmental gains. When we recognize the objectives or opportunities we can emphasize that by asking questions or arranging the materials in an inviting way. If we know what could be learned we can guide the child towards discovery. With this awareness, we maximize the child’s opportunities for learning and growth. To be more brief, I am simply encouraging awareness, thoughtfullness, and intentionality.

      • parentNearlychildhoodeducator

        Yes, your right, we do need to be intentional, thoughtful and aware. Not every outcome, your right, can be anticipated especially if open-ended, but certainly many direct and indirect outcomes matching each child’s objectives is possible if every presentation is planned carefully, with a control of error and given at the right time during a child’s sensitive periods. It takes a well trained guide that knows when to give what lessons and to whom. May it be a grace and courtesy lessons or of the academic kind. You sound as though and some of your activites look as though they are only out but a short time during a years span and children are not able to learn by repetition for long term retention nor are able to independently choose what they work on. What about recognizing individual academic/other needs rather than general group possible outcomes? I feel group activities in themed units each week lesson the individual child’s opportunity to learn at his or her own level of development and hold him back from his potential. How about individual lesson plans geared towards each child’s level/needs rather than “curriculum planning”? “Curriculum planning” sounds very general and group intended with the mindset that the whole class is ready for that ‘curriculum.’ Having materials out and available for children to choose independently over a long period of time (yearly) affords them the opportunity to choose materials at their hightest potential. How do you feel about individual record keeping?

    • I read your post and wished I’d wrtietn it

    • Hello, i believe that i noticed you visited my web site so i came to return the prefer?.I am attempting to to find issues to improve my site!I assume its good enough to make use of a few of your concepts!!

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