Congratulations to the winners of our Early Childhood Winning Ideas Monthly Contest! Each of these entrants - teachers just like you - won $50 in Scholastic products for sharing their ideas. Thanks to everyone who submitted to the contest. And remember to check the latest contest topic for more chances to win!

1. Back to School Early Childhood Winning Ideas Contest
By Julie Carlson

In my Junior Kindergarten classroom, even the most apprehensive child will want to join at the beginning of the year when they see what is ready for them! Each year the theme changes, but last year's was boats and pirates. I had an inexpensive "pop-up" ship that held 3 or 4 children at a time ready to go with wave cutouts, and instruments to create sounds of thunder and rain so all of the children could take part and use their imagination to expand on this theme. You could use a large box for a boat, paper sailor hats and have the children help you paint and decorate their creations. This year we'll be racing with real cars on a track that I have created on the carpeted area with colorful (and removable) tape, complete with lane markers! Learning to share and reading street signs are all lessons that can happen without even trying! At the beginning of the year, a fun classroom at the early childhood level is key. Make your initial child participation activities big and bold. They may even forget to kiss mom and dad goodbye before coming into your classroom!

2. Morning Separation
By Laurie Sobon

I do family child care, and I just happen have a little guy who has difficulty with morning separation. I came up with a special box called "The quiet box" that I filled with little activities such as, lacing cards, felts, mess-less fingerpainting bags, puzzles, texture balls and special books. These items do the trick in taking his mind off mom leaving and he enjoys sitting at the table to do these special activities. This has definitely helped with his transition, and mom can go off to work without leaving her little one all upset. It helps us all in getting our day off to the right start!

3. Easing Anxieties in First Grade
By Kathi Rogers

We have a "sneak-a-peak" at our school. The parents bring their kids one afternoon to meet the teachers and locate classrooms. It's a window of about 2 hours for families to drop in. I found that keeping the kids focused helped a lot. I made up a scavenger hunt for a parent to do with their child. It helps them locate the bathroom, backpack closet and see the playground. They can see and read the routine board (steps to the morning routine). At the end they find their work area with papers for parents to take and a little treat for them! I think this eases anxieties and they see an organized home away from home!

4. Morning Separations Made Easier
By Irene FitzGerald

I have a three-year-old class and a Pre-K class.  In the beginning of the school year there are always one or two children who have difficulty separating from their parent.  I will ask the child to give Mom or Dad one more giant hug before they leave and then I will either pick up the child or peel them off of their parent and tell them that we will go over to the window and wave to Mom or Dad as they walk from the building to the car.  Luckily, I have a window in the classroom which is ideal for this.  Then I read the book, The Hello, Goodbye Window to the class.  After a couple of days of repeating our routine, the child will give Mom or Dad a big hug and run by themselves to the window to wave, reminding their parent that they will meet them at the window.  Many times the other children in the class think that this is a cool way of saying goodbye, so they tell their parent to make sure that they stop at the window, and rush and rush off for one last wave.  The parents get a kick out of this and sometimes make silly faces at the window so their child can have a good laugh as well.  Within a couple of days there are no more tears just a fun morning goodbye routine.

5. Early Childhood Winning Ideas Contest
By: Tami J. Daniels

One thing I always do is decorate my classroom door.  Included on the decorations is each child's name - I laminate their names and attach to the door with Velcro.  Every morning, first thing the kids do when they arrive, is find their name on the door, pull it off, and place it in my basket.  I change the location of their name on the Velcro dots each morning, so they have to look for their names (I teach 3s).  They very quickly can find their names and learn to "read" their friends' names also.  I put up new decorations on the door each month so the kids and parents love it!  Having that morning routine helps everyone - when mom drops the child off, she says, "Take your name off the door and put it in the basket.  See you after school."  It starts the kids off right away engaged in our classroom activities and we seldom have upsets. 
 
An idea I use on the first day of school is to have a little "gift" for the mom in their child's cubby in the morning when they arrive.  It's usually a gift certificate for coffee at a local shop (they gladly donate these), an inspirational pocket card, a small packet of tissues, and a bag of peanuts :-)  I attach a note that says, "Don't worry, we'll take good care of your little peanut today!"  I've had so many positive responses from this little gesture.