Summer Fun for Parents of Toddlers

Last Updated by Kate Spears on
This week on WCTE’s Get Ready To Learn radio show, join host Cindy Putman and special co-host Carrie Brown Jones, English teacher and director of the theatre program at Monterey High School. Jones is also mom to an adorable toddler. They discuss the challenges of being a working mom, plus ways to enhance learning for toddlers.
Carrie and her husband Cameron chose adoption for the way to grow their family and their 14-month-old son Conner was 5 weeks old when Carrie went back to work as a high school English teacher and Drama coach at Monterey High School.
There are many challenges for a new mom in the workplace, including balancing family, work, and a new baby. Carrie said her supportive husband, family and circle of friends really stepped up to help. She also attended a bible study which is where her true support network was found. 
She says their support helped her with all her new momma questions including:

  • What do I do about sleep times?
  • How do I chose a pediatrician?
  • What about daycare centers?
  • What about best car seats?
  • How do I handle scheduling with new babies? 
  • What to do about going back to work? 
 Carrie credits her bible study friends for sharing their expert advice with her as a new momma. 
Carrie and her husband had been married for two years, and a couple for eight. They knew that adoption was process that they had chosen to grow their family. Carrie says this decision came for several personal reasons but a huge reason was because she and her sister were adopted at the ages of 9 days (Carrie) and 2 months (Catie).
Her parents have always shared her birth story and she wanted to follow in their shoes. The adoption process was long and difficult, with lots of false start, stressors and tears. The home study alone, Carrie says was an important part of the journey, The Jones had to create a profile book that would be presented to the birth mothers who were making the decision of the parents that they would select for the baby. Carrie and Cameron poured their hearts into the process and were delighted when they were chosen to be Conner’s parents.
Carrie said that his birth and the days to follow as they spent every moment together was exactly what their hearts desired. Fast forward 5 weeks and Carrie was returning to work to finish the school year. Thanks to her supportive friends Carrie was able to find a daycare for Conner that was the perfect fit for their family.
Carrie did her homework, asked the daycare centers tough questions and interviewed the providers and their staffs. She knew she needed a place where she and Cameron felt 100 secure to leave their new bundle of joy. This made returning to work much easier for both of them
We also chatted about ways that moms can help their kids learn, especially during summer when there may be more time to do so. From trips to the beach to hanging by the pool or even family picnics and get-togethers, there is no shortage of ways to make learning fun. 
It could be something as simple as having new and different conversations with your kids about some of the summertime activities they are enjoying. Carrie is very particular about speaking to Connor using real words, as opposed to baby talk. As an English teacher, this is a pet peeve of her.  
She also reads to him every day and uses sounds, hand movements and different actions to help him understand what she is reading about. Carrie started this the first day he was in her arms. A summer reading list is another great way to encourage reading, and this can be done with even young children and toddlers. We know that talking to kids, reading to them and helping them learn their letters will help them become a reader and writer. 
Here are a few more tips for turning summer into an adventure of reading and fun! 
Practice what you preach - By being a reader yourself, you can show your young child how important and fun reading is. From reading books or magazines to demonstrating reading the paper, parents can motivate their kids to follow in their footsteps and become readers as well. 
Have a family reading night where everybody gathers around in comfy chairs with their favorite books. Perhaps you can even incorporate this into a vacation or family reunion. 
Make time for reading - Set a time aside each day for a bit of reading. Even if it's just ten minutes, this can start to create a consistent reading habit for your family. Don't worry if you miss a day or two, but try to keep to your schedule and make this a priority. 
Eventually your child will begin to look forward to this and it only helps him or her to create good reading habits for later in life. 
Give reading a hands-on component - Go beyond the pages of your child's favorite book and incorporate hand-on components. Maybe you are reading your toddler a book about a train. Find a local train station or depot to visit. You can even play with a toy train and continue the story from the book in play. 
Maybe your child loves to read books about art or people who make things. Visit a local art museum or art studio and explore different ways that people create. 
When you read and discuss books about things your child has experienced, you help him learn important vocabulary and extend his understanding of experiences he has had. 
Visit the library - Don't forget to check out summer programs at your local public library. This might include anything from storytime to sing-alongs, as well as puppet shows or health and fitness classes/workshops.
These kinds of programs create fun opportunities for your child to expand his or her literacy skills. 
Signs, Signs, Everywhere there's Signs - From an early age, kids begin to notice that letters and words are all around them. From street signs to traffic signs and signs that denote certain buildings and businesses, there is no shortage of reading to be done as you travel around your city or town. 
Take these signs as an opportunity for your child to read and learn. As you walk down the street, stop and point out signs and letters. When visiting a park or library, stop to read signs you might see. 
You may even want to give your child some chalk and let him write/draw on the sidewalk, repeating the letters you see around town. By getting your child to pay attention to signs and letters, you can teach him/her about how to start using things around us to figure out meaning. 
Pack a Book Bag
Don't forget to take books along with you on trips and outings. Get into the habit of packing a book bag and bring it along so that if you have time to wait (at the dentist, in the line at the grocery store, for the auto mechanic) you can get in some reading. 
Being a parent is tough and it's especially hard when you are juggling work and all the other responsibilities. Summer is a great time to start new habits and create new practices with your family. Carrie’s best advice to new moms is to love what you are doing and involve your child in every aspect of your life- home or work. She says the rewards are priceless.
Want to find more great resources to make this summer with your child even more fun? Check out PBS Parents for ideas like gardening with kids, how to encourage curiousity, and helping toddlers understand their emotions.

Tune in each Saturday morning at 9:30 for the WCTE Get Ready To Learn Radio Show, with host Cindy Putman on Zimmer Broadcasting's The HUB 107.7 FM and 1400 AM. 

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WCTE’s Educational Team can customize workshops or professional development trainings for your group or organization. For workshop information, or to inquire about scheduling a workshop, call 921-528-2222 x. 227 or email us.

Topics are listed below:

  • Using Media as a learning tool
  • Using PBS kids apps to extend learning
  • How to be your child’s first teacher
  • Sesame Street Workshops
  • How does poverty effect a child’s brain
  • Literacy and Math
  • Brain Development

Workshops can be conducted in English and Spanish.