Real Life Ideas for How to Grab a Break

by Julia H.

Today we bring you segment 175,996 out of our infinitely long series of discussions about getting through tricky times with kids (after all, getting through the easy times is easy!). This time, we asked real members of the BFCP community what they do when they need a few minutes to breathe, reconnect, and calm themselves in those moments when your coping skills and normal routine just aren't cutting it. Here's mine - when I just need a bit of a breather, I take a few minutes to floss and brush my teeth. It probably sounds a little crazy, but it makes a big difference that I can't talk while I am doing it, because that gives me time to stop and think when I might otherwise yell or say something hurtful. Here are some other strategies being employed by people right here in our school - thanks to everyone who contributed their coping strategies!

  • "Occasionally I just put the kids in the bath in the middle of the day. It helps that my tub is bigger so it feels like a treat for them. But it keeps them contained for a bit."
  • "Sometimes if I need a break I pack everyone up and take a little drive to a park, coffee stand or store that a bit farther away than usual. We can still chat or listen to music but I get to SIT which is NICE. Plus the kiddos are restrained in the nicest way possible.  I also do the mid day bath time and it works like a charm."
  • "Especially if it's early on the morning I'll call a reset. Everyone goes back in their bed and we all get a few minutes to chill. When I'm ready, I open doors and give a super cheery good morning. I don't know why it works but it does for us."
  • "I was going crazy over the holidays with both [kids] home all day, every day and I found if I scheduled at least one activity outside of the house each day we all stayed a little bit more sane. Cabin fever is real!"
  • "Making sure the kids get time outdoors to run and play seems to help us."
  • "Sometimes just getting a simple task done - like taking the garbage out - is my way of taking a break. I also have a few activities that are a big treat for my kid but are truthfully my break time - playdough and a Rubbermaid sensory 'rice bin.' If I can’t take a break in that moment, planning when I will ask for/scheduling a break also helps me."
  • "I call a 'Dance Party' and lean on my favorite new friend Alexa. The music cranks out some of our current favorite dance tunes (currently Flying Purple People Eater, Fight Song, We Built This City, and Cupig Shuffle ) The kids all jump up and start dancing together and I can either 1. join them and dance away my frustration, or 2. Step in the other room and take a few minutes to myself while they everyone is engaged and happy."

How do you deal with overwhelming moments? Send us an email and your tips may be included in a future Squeak!

Rainy Season Activities for Kids Who Love Mud

by Julia H.

Hey, I don't know if you had noticed, but we're deep into rainy season, right in the thick of the chilly and drizzly bits, and still relatively short on daylight hours. At this point, I am running out of outside play ideas that are motivating enough for me to want to go outside. The kids are fine, naturally, but since they are still young enough to require some supervision, it helps everyone if I think the outside activities look fun, too. So, here are some ideas I found via the magic of internet search engines for stuff to do outside that sounds awesome:

  • Build a mud castle! Bust out those sand toys and find an awesome muddy spot.
  • Paint with mud. Lucky enough to have a fence? This is a great opportunity to cover it with mud!
  • Make a sculpture out of mud, sticks, rocks, and leaves.
  • Soup/potion-making - all you need is a bucket, a stick, and a good imagination!
  • Comparative Dirt Analysis - look for different types of mud and dirt, collect samples in small containers, and observe the differences and similarities between them.
  • Mud experiments: how long does it take for the mud to dry out? how much water does it take to turn it back into mud?
  • Mud pies - it's a classic, and you can encourage early math learning by sending along real measuring cups and spoons!

What games does your family love to play in the mud? Send us an email and your tips may be included in a future Squeak!

Sometimes You Just Get Mad

by Julia H.

I feel absolutely certain that all of the members of our preschool community are great parents (or, even if you aren't feeling like a particularly great parent, you're trying to be one). It's easy to come up with great parenting strategies when the kids are asleep (as mine were when I wrote this), but then they wake up and do unexpected stuff and, well, sometimes it makes you mad.

Hot lava mad. Steam boiling out of your ears mad. Thinking (but probably trying hard not to say out loud) the absolute worst, most hurtful things.

In moments of calm, it's easy to remember some of the things we learn from positive parenting - kids who misbehave are feeling disconnected, they just don't know exactly how to reconnect; it's more effective in the long run (and a better model for behavior) to respond with love and kindness...but how the heck do you do that?

The good news is that, as with any skill, you can get better at it with practice. Here are some simple guidelines that may help you manage your anger when your kids really push your buttons:

  • Break out of the angry feeling: everyone is going to have their own technique that will work best for them, but some I've tried include singing what I want to say in a silly voice instead of yelling, doing weird and crazy dance moves, and going and getting a glass of water. Pretty much anything that will break the escalating anger cycle would work.

  • Cool off: This is the hardest one for me, which probably means it's the most important - put yourself in time out, lie down on the spot and close your eyes, practice some yoga breathing exercises. Give your body an opportunity to process some of the adrenaline.

  • Come back and apologize: Once you've broken out of the anger of the moment, it's important to model the behavior you'd like to see in your kids. Oftentimes that means that you'll need to apologize. "I'm sorry, I really lost my temper. Can we try again to communicate and be on the same team?" 

Don't get down on yourself if you get mad sometimes - everyone does! And parenting is hard - you're tired (and probably dehydrated), you have huge amounts of intimidating responsibility, and your kids are still learning how to be nice - and are practicing the full range of manipulative behavior on you, because you are someone they know they can trust. It's a lot to deal with. But you can do this! 

(Quick reminder: Civil rights conversations aren't just for MLK Jr. Day! Maybe you could show your kids pictures of some of the grownup members of the preschool who marched on Saturday, and talk about why they did it?)

Talking to Kids About Martin Luther King Jr., Racism, and Civil Rights

by Julia H.

I've got good news for you! Right now, during the preschool years, generally between the ages of 3 and 5, is the time during which kids start categorizing the people in their community by race. This is also the age at which children begin to form what can become life-long racial stereotypes. While this may seem intimidating or even downright scary, this actually means that right now, while ensconced in the supportive environment of a cooperative preschool, you have the chance to help your child overcome the biases that are present in our culture, and helping them to become the sort of people who stand up for equality., exactly, does one do that? It's a good question, and I'm glad you asked!

  • Talk explicitly about the fact that people with different skin colors are equally capable of doing the same jobs, having the same interests and hobbies, that they can be equally smart, etc. Research has demonstrated that the "colorblind" approach, where diversity is deliberately included in books and media (and especially in children's books and media), but not necessarily explicitly discussed, doesn't work. Specifically, in the absence of explicit discussions about race, kids tend to pick up on the cultural zeitgeist, with the result that longstanding racial biases will be maintained.

  • It's great to talk about the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his great work as an organizer and leader of the Civil Rights movement this week. It's also great to talk about MLK Jr. next week, and the week after that. It's also great to talk about the other prominent individuals who fought for equality in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, as well as to talk about the civil rights issues that various individuals and groups are working hard to address today - in other words, make this a topic you come back to, again and again, and don't be afraid to admit that there's still work to be done.

  • Talk about melanin! It might sound silly, but explaining that the same pigment that gives some people black hair, some people brown hair, some red hair, and some blonde hair...and the same pigment that gives some people blue eyes, some green, and some brown...that same pigment gives some people brown skin, and some people lighter skin, along a whole spectrum from very pale to very dark. 

  • Give age-appropriate tips that can help them be more inclusive. Simple things like encouraging children to notice if someone is being left out of a game, and helping them to ask, "do you want to play with me?" can go a long way when it comes to including others. Teaching empathy helps, too!

  • Model the behavior you want to see. As always, the best way to teach your kids to treat others equally is to do it yourself. Sometimes that may require some deep introspection, including identifying your own areas for improvement on fighting racial biases. It's okay! We all have work to do, and your kids will learn a lot by watching you do the work!

Oh, and, of course - consult other sources! Here's a great blog post with more tips about discussing the civil rights movement.

The sneaky self-comparison connection between being grateful and developing positive self-image

by Julia H.

So, I kid you not, there I was, on Facebook during the school break looking at everyone's holiday pictures. In our household, I tend to be the parent who is responsible for creating the holiday magic - I make costumes at Halloween, help get Valentine's cards signed and sorted out for classroom celebrations, and, in December, I make or otherwise acquire, wrap, and display the gifts, stuff the stockings, put up lights, etc. So, looking at everyone else's holiday displays, it was very difficult not to compare my efforts to everyone else's. Wow, Audrey and Chris's pile of gifts is HUGE, I didn't even think to decorate cookies like Eric and Jay did, and wow, Amy's house is so clean, and she's a single mom working two jobs, how does she even manage that? Every time I thought about how my efforts stacked up to those of others, it left me feeling worse, with my efforts seeming more meager by comparison. It was heading to a bad place, and quickly. And, more than that, I thought about how soon enough my kids would be heading back to school, where, undoubtedly, they would be hearing stories about other kids' holiday extravaganzas. How could I protect them from feeling the way I did when I compared our holiday to everyone else's.

Taking a step away from the internet, I thought about what made me feel good about our holiday efforts, things like the fact that, this year, I made a lot of our gifts by hand, that we made more time to connect with our friends during the holiday break than we had in previous years. All the examples I could think of involved making a self-comparison, between myself and my efforts now, and myself and my efforts in previous years. Because these comparisons let me reflect on how I've changed, it's easy to see things in a more positive light. Turns out there's lots of psychological research to back this up - if you're interested in going down a rabbit hole, you can read all about Social Comparison Theory (originally proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1950s).

So, how can we help kids to avoid comparing their holiday gifts, and, by extension, themselves, to others? And what can we do when our kids tell us that so-and-so got a brand new ipad, and why didn't they?

  • Establish a family tradition where you practice self-comparisons. It's New Year's, why not take a moment to ask everyone in the family what is something that they feel like they are better at this year than they were last year?

  • Acknowledge that, yes, there are differences between what your child received as a gift, is capable of doing without help, or whatever the comparison to another person might be, then redirect to a more appropriate self-comparison. "Yes, they got an ipad. Do you remember what gifts you received? Which gift was your favorite? What is something that you really like about that gift?"

  • If your child is worried that someone is better at some skill than they are, it might be worth talking about practice and how it impacts skill - but also talk about the importance of fun. "Yes, Colton is better at soccer than you. Colton plays soccer every day for at least an hour a day, and when you do something a lot, you tend to get better at it. Do you have fun when you play soccer? Is it something you want to do more, and practice to get better, or do you like it just the way it is?"
  • Model positive self-comparison, and, if you find yourself comparing yourself to others, try to frame it in a context of positive self comparison. "Wow, I really wish I could decorate our house the way our neighbors do each year. But, you know what? I decided to spend my time making gifts instead of buying them at the store, and I feel good about that. It meant I didn't have as much time for fancy decorations, but I am still really proud of the work that I did."

How do you help teach your kids not to compare themselves to others? Send your tips to and you may be featured in a future Squeak!

Oh gosh it's almost winter break and I haven't bought a present for Aunt Linda and I really should decorate the house and I don't know how to keep my kids busy! HELP!!

by Julia H.

At this point in December, there's a part of my brain that looks at my to-do list and just emits a high-pitched whining sound that threatens never to stop from the sheer number and complexity of things I have on my plate. Knowing that, once the school break starts, I will have something like zero sane, quiet hours in which to accomplish those tasks only serves to exacerbate the state of mental disequilibrium until I am seriously tempted to build a couch cushion fort and hide inside in a fist-clenched holiday panic.

My own internal response might be a little more dramatic than yours, but a lot of parents and caregivers do get stressed around the winter holidays...and that's okay and reasonable! We are allowed to experience the full range of emotions! If, however, the stress threatens to overwhelm you, here are some things that might help you slow down a little.

  1. It is okay (and even good) for kids to be bored! While they may complain for a while, usually if you leave them to their own ideas, they will eventually come up with some creative and imaginative play - exactly the sort of unstructured free play that helps with so many areas of cognitive development.

  2. It helps to lower your expectations. Are there any items on your to do list that are especially causing you worry? Can you...and I know this sounds crazy, but...can you just skip it? Or maybe scale it down a little? Maybe hard-to-shop-for Aunt Linda gets a gift card or an invitation to a family dinner in January. Maybe you can choose not to decorate your house this year. Chances are, if you are experiencing a lot of anxiety over a particular task, it can be toned down, modified, or delegated to someone who loves that sort of thing (and I will totally shop for Aunt Linda if you need someone!).

  3. Your kids can help more than you think! This is especially true if you are willing to factor in the expectation-lowering from step 2. Sending holiday cards? Holy moly, you really are on top of things! Your kids can stuff the envelopes, stick or tape printed labels to envelopes, and apply stamps! Decorating for the holidays? They can hang ornaments, make and hang paper garlands, cut out paper snowflakes, etc. Thinking about all the different steps involved in achieving a particular holiday task goal can help you find elements that are kid-friendly.
  4. It's okay to ask for help! Sometimes there is one stubborn item on the to-do list that just resists completion because it's simply impossible to do without help. Maybe that help is in the form of asking someone to hang with your kids for an hour, seeing if a neighbor can put up hooks for holding holiday decorations, or seeing if a friend who is heading to the post office can put your packages into the outgoing mailbox. Regardless of how it manifests, asking for help doesn't mean that you failed somehow! It just means you found a method to get things done that worked for you and your family, and that's awesome! 

Have any other holiday tips? Send them to me, and you might be featured in a future Weekly Squeak! (Bonus request: have a favorite holiday song? I'm building a holiday playlist for my kids and would love to include your favorites!)

A Quick and Easy Guide to Your Fundraising Commitment (Squeak 12/3)

Q. How is the money brought in via fundraising actually used? 

A. At BFCP, Fundraising money is used to pay core school costs, like mortgage payments on the school itself, teacher salaries, etc.

Q. How much money do I have to raise?
A. For the 2017-18 school year, the fundraising obligation is $160, with a sibling rate of $80. The first half of your fundraising obligation (e.g., $80 for one child, or $120 if you have two kids in the school) is due in December, 2017, with the balance due May 1, 2018.

Q. Aaaaaaack! It's December already, and I didn't sell any wreaths or candles or anything!
A. It's okay! You can still donate items now to be sold during the spring auction (1/2 the retail value of donated items will be credited to your fundraising obligation), invite friends to buy products from Yankee Candle online (contact the fundraising committee if you aren't sure how to do that), or pay off the balance you owe for the first half of the year directly.

Q. If the company that I or my partner works for matches charitable donations, does that mean I only have to pay half of my fundraising commitment, and the rest can come from the aforementioned employer?
A. Unfortunately, no. But please do still ask for a matching donation from your employer if that's possible! As mentioned above, the fundraising commitment is for core school expenses, but extra funds brought in by corporate matching donations and Amazon Smile can help pay for extras, like replacing worn out toys and building up the school's library!

A Brief (and hopefully funny) Guide to your Cleaning Commitment (Squeak 11/19)

by Julia H.

Q: Wait, what?
A: So here’s the thing - the school doesn’t clean itself, and if we hire a cleaning service, we have to raise tuition. And if we don’t clean, everyone in the school is going to have a semi-permanent upper respiratory infection. So, we ask that the members of the preschool help by cleaning the school. In an effort to make that process less odious, the school is divided into three different sections (roughly: upstairs, downstairs, and outside), and the amount that any given member has to clean is proportional to the amount of time their child is in school - so members of the Toddler class clean once a year, 2/3s clean twice a year, and the 3/4s and Pre-Ks clean 3 times a year.

Q: But I don’t wanna!
I can understand that. Cleaning’s not everyone’s cup of tea! (Though I would like to point out that if you do the cleaning, it means you get 1-2 hours of kid-free time, alone, following clear instructions and checking off items in a deeply satisfying way. And you can even play loud music while you clean, it’s cool!) Fortunately, there are ways to get out of cleaning if you really don’t want to. First, if you are a member of the Board as a result of the committee job you selected, you don’t have to clean. Second, you can pay $35 directly to someone on the “Paid to Clean” list, located on the bulletin board near the downstairs bathroom, and they will clean your area for you (note that if you are in a class that has to clean more than once, you would need to pay someone each time they cleaned an area on your behalf).

Q: Wait, did you say kid-free?
A: Yep. It’s actually a legal liability to the school if you bring the kids there during non-school hours, so you have a completely valid explanation for why you can’t bring them along, and why they have to stay with their other parent/another relative/a babysitter while you clean.

Q: Hmm…
I’m telling you, 90 minutes of loud, uninterrupted music of your choice. You can even listen to stuff with swear words in it!

Q: Okay, I’m in. How do I actually do the cleaning?
When it’s your turn, the cleaning coordinator will send you a note telling you which area you are assigned to clean. You’ll come after hours (usually during the weekend), and use the code you get in your cleaning reminder email to get the door key out of the lock box. When you get into the school, you’ll need to find the cleaning notebook in the mudroom (it’s near the tuition box). In the cleaning notebook, you’ll find a detailed checklist for all the things you need to do for the area you’ve been assigned. All the cleaning supplies are there at the school - generally either in the bathrooms, or in the kitchen (under the sink, or on the shelf above the stove). Make sure you initial the checklist as you go along, and get the cleaning done before Monday morning. That’s it!

Squeak In the News 11/12

Holiday Travel

by Julia H.

As if by magic, we have been transported through time to the universe where it is only 11 days until Thanksgiving, with the winter holidays following immediately on Thanksgiving's heels. There are so many things to look forward to at this time of year! But, in many cases, there's a catch - travel, and sometimes lots of it.

Traveling with small children - no matter your mode of transportation - can create some difficult challenges, and it's easy to get stressed out while trying to help your kids navigate (sorry, I couldn't resist!) the process. Here are a few tips that might help you (and your family members) stay calm:

  • Explain what your kids can expect from the travel experience. Flying? Don't forget to talk about the security check process, how boarding works, and how during turbulence they might not be allowed to get up and go to the bathroom. Driving? Talk about how often you'll stop for breaks, how long it will take, whether you'll stay the night at a hotel, etc.
  • Lower your expectations: even grownups get cranky when they are stuck buckled into a plane or a car - and there's a good chance that during the course of your trip, your kids will get frustrated (and will express that frustration in normal, age-appropriate ways). It's easy to get angry when someone across the aisle is grumbling about your kid crying on the airplane, or when you miss a turn because the GPS' voice is drowned out by the 1000th request for a snack, but try not to lose your temper - it won't get you there any faster. If you do lose your temper? That's okay, it happens - it's a great opportunity to model mindfulness to your kids! Say, "Hey, I'm sorry. I lost my temper - I'm frustrated and nervous about all this traveling, too. How can we all work together to make this easier?"
  • Snacks and toys: Hungry means cranky, and cranky makes everything more complicated, so make sure you have travel-friendly snacks that you can access easily while traveling. Choose toys that can be used in lots of ways, and that don't have small parts that are easily lost.
  • Plan for the things you know will be hard for your particular child: for example, my youngest is a high-energy, wiggly kid, and she absolutely hates being stuck in a carseat for any length of time. In order to make longer trips possible, we include stops at local parks every 60-90 minutes or so on our trips. It takes longer to get places, but everyone's in a much better mood when we arrive!


The internet is rife with blog posts about traveling with small children, but I'm curious about what works for you! Send your tips to and you may be featured in an upcoming Squeak!

Hey, do you miss seeing a photo from school in the Weekly Squeak? I do, too! If you have one to share, please send it to

Squeak In the News November 5

by Julia H. 

Oh my gosh, you guys, can we talk about Daylight Savings? First of all, if this is the first time you've thought about Daylight Savings this fall, I regretfully must inform you that the reason why the time on your phone no longer matches the time on your stove is because the whole setting the time back by one hour thing happened last night. I know. I'm sorry. I'm sad, too.

For those of you whose children are naturally late to awaken in the morning and late to sleep at night, this might be great news for you! Fewer car breakfasts and near-misses on morning appointments! If you're like me, with children who are naturally early risers, I apologize, but look for me on Facebook at 4AM, because I'll be awake and trying to explain why there are still so many hours until school.

Daylight savings can be hard with young kids. If you have the flexibility to slowly shift them to the new schedule over the course of a few days, absolutely do so (that also means you get to make the shift more gradually!). That said, remember that the time change can be hard for adults to adjust to even with all the auspices of a fully-myelinated frontal lobe, so just imagine how hard it might be for children to understand and adjust to such an arbitrary change in schedule? Keep in mind that, especially for the early risers, this might be a week with kids who are more short-tempered than usual, and try to plan in advance for events like this week's Family Soup Nights, which add a secondary element to an already slightly-off-kilter schedule!

Daylight Savings works best when you can plan in advance, so my apologies for the late notice...but check out this article from so you'll be prepared when we set the clocks forward in the Spring!

Got tips of your own? Send them to and you may be featured in an upcoming Squeak!