Category Archives: Preschool

No School? No Problem!

With a very busy month of holidays, preschool can be hard. As soon as we adjust to our schedule, along come the holidays which tend to throw our littlest friends off-kilter. Maintaining consistency in the classroom while teaching holidays can be a challenge.

However, our teachers are amazing. Over the past few weeks, they have continued to explore the holidays with the children while simultaneously keeping kids safe and happy. Here are some of the highlights from the past month.

The Chatool Class built a classroom sukkah (as did Shafan and Parpar) and spent time shaking the lulav and smelling the etrog. They also enjoyed stories and songs in their sukkah.

The Shafan Class learned about bees and crated their own honeycombs,  and as part of our Rosh Hashanah Celebration, they experimented with beeswax and water colors.

The Parpar Class took things a step further, reciting the blessing for Sukkot and learning about which body parts the Lulav and Etrog remind us of.

Back in September, the Pilim Class enjoyed a day out at Long Branch Nature Center. There, they practiced Taschlich by casting of fish food in the creek, symbolizing things they were sorry for doing in the past.

One of the biggest highlights of the fall has been our tomato plant. Our summer camp kids planted a delicious chocolate cherry tomato plant, and we have been enjoying tomatoes all fall! While the tomatoes are delicious, they sadly do not taste like chocolate or cherries.

Upcoming Dates to Remember:

*October 29th and 30th: Preschool Picture Day

*November 1st: January Enrollment Opens

*November 5th: Parent/Teacher Conferences. Classes do not meet. Childcare is available during your child’s conference.

*November 11th: Professional Development, School Closed

*Wednesday, November 19th: Thanksgiving Celebration: Chatool and Pilim

*Thursday, November 20th: Thanksgiving Celebration: Chatool, Shafan and Parpar

*November 27th-29th: Thanksgiving Break, School Closed

Fostering Your Child’s Independence at School

Our school year has begun, and you and your child should be settling into a routine. Preschool is a wonderful opportunity to support your child’s independence in a safe and welcoming environment.

Even the youngest child can take ownership of her school experience. At two years of age, children are curious about everything around them. Your child is excited to use their new-found gross motor skills, which you have most likely witnessed as they tried climbing a bookcase. Encourage your child to walk up and down the stairs upon arrival. You may feel they are taking too long or they are slowing down others, but that’s okay. Giving them the time needed on the stairs can really help build confidence and provides an opportunity to show off their new skills to the world. Your child is also more interested in dressing and undressing themselves. While they will still need help putting a coat on and starting the zipper, they should be able to zip and unzip a jacket with assistance for you.

At three, your child is able to carry their own backpack, as well as hang it and their jacket on a hook at school. This routine not only helps them settle into the day, but it is another opportunity for them to demonstrate to you or your child’s caregiver what they are capable of doing for themselves. Better yet, it will encourage them to want to do the same at home. If you don’t have a low place for your child to hang their own coat or backpack, simply attach a 3M hook to the wall at their level.

A four-year-old is ready to dress for school. At two, they still needed a great deal of assistance, but now they can do it on their own. For many parents, this is a tough one. We often ask ourselves, “Do I let my child out of the house wearing striped pants with a polka-dot shirt on backwards?” and the answer should always be yes! Praise them for dressing independently. You may want to mention the backwards shirt, but if they want to wear it backwards, that’s okay. Some children enjoy the way clothes and shoes feel when worn backwards.

Giving your children ownership of these small tasks can go a long way towards fostering independence. As parents, we are all well aware that the days are long, but the years are short. It’s our job to help our children grow into confident, independent citizens of the world, and it all starts right here at Etz Hayim Preschool.

Upcoming Preschool Dates to Remember:

September 30th and October 1st: School Closed for Rosh Hashanah
October 8th: Pilim Day Out (Long Branch Nature Center) – School Closes at 12:30 for Kol Nidre
October 9th: School Closed for Yom Kippur
October 14th and 15th: School Closed for Sukkot
October 21st: School Closed for Shemini Atzeret
October 22nd: School Closed for Simchat Torah

September 30th and October 1st: Rosh Hashanah Tot Services at 10am. Please RSVP in the office.
October 9th: Yom Kippur Tot Service at 10am. Please RSVP in the office.
October 16th and 17th: Class Sukkot Celebrations
October 20th: Sukkah Hop with Pozez JCC Northern Virginia 2pm-3pm. Please RSVP in the office.
October 29th and 30th: School Picture Day

Roller Skate Havdalah Recap

On Saturday, January 26 approximately 15 people from Etz Hayim including parents and students gathered at Arlington’s Thomas Jefferson Community Center to participate in a Havdalah ceremony and enjoy an evening of roller skating. Havdalah (Hebrew: הַבְדָּלָה ‬, “separation”) is a Jewish religious ceremony that marks the symbolic end of Sabbath and ushers in the new week. The ritual involves lighting a special havdalah candle with several wicks, blessing a cup of wine and smelling sweet spices. Moreh Will led us in a musical version of the Havdalah ceremony and the students helped us with the ritual objects.

Havdalah is a short and sweet ceremony that is easy to incorporate into your family’s traditions. You can learn the music from this video:

When you follow Havdalah with roller skating, it makes for a fantastic Saturday evening.

Thank you to Alexis Joyce & Laura Naide for planning the event and to Moreh Will for leading Havdalah

What’s Jewish About Bubbies? Recap

On Sunday, November 18, 2018, grandparents, parents, and children gathered at CEH to learn “What’s Jewish About Bubbies?”

Bubby (plural: bubbies or bubbes) is a Yiddish term for grandmother. The Yiddish term for grandfather is Zayde. We call our grandparents many other terms of endearment (e.g., granny, pop-pop, savta, saba, mimi, grandpa), but bubbe and zayde are very well-known terms among many Jewish families.

Jewish law and tradition emphasize the responsibility to honor our parents and grandparents. From the Ten Commandments (“Honor Your Mother and Father”) to the recitation of our ancestors at every prayer service, we are reminded to show respect and reverence to the generations before us. Grandparents play an especially important role in teaching Jewish traditions to their families.

To celebrate grandparents, we ate cookies and milk, sang songs, read stories about Jewish values, created grandparent awards, and played grandparent bingo. We learned that the group strongly preferred chocolate chip cookies although gingerbread/ginger snaps were a strong runner up. Moreh Will taught us the Hebrew words for family members such as father (Abba) and mother (Ima). We also played several exciting games of dreidel in our new “spinagogue.” We had around 30 people ranging in age from newborn to grandparents.

The most important lesson of the day was how special it is to spend time with our families. Based on the success of this event, we are now planning another grandparent-focused celebration for Spring 2019.

Next Event: What’s Jewish About Libraries?

When: 02/10/2019

–Alexis Joyce, Laura Naide, Will Rivlin

CEH Professionals Attend Family Programming Conference

On October 30, 2018, five CEH staff members attended The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Family Programming Professionals Conference. CEH was represented by Laura Naide, Director of Religious Education; Alexis Joyce, Preschool Director; and Linda Lichtman, Milena Serrato and Ana DeMaree, Preschool Teachers. Altogether more than 50 Jewish professionals from the Greater DC Metro area met to learn and share ideas about family programming.

We started the day with a text study led by Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, the Federation’s Scholar-in-Residence. Our text (Brachot 10a) was the basis of a discussion about how we deal with perpetrators of evil. Do we blame the perpetrator? Or do we embrace the idea that every person created by God has the capacity to do good in which case we focus on the sin and restitution/rehabilitation. We were able to share our thoughts on this dilemma in light of the recent tragedy in Pittsburgh.

We next learned from a diverse panel on “Creating an Inclusive Community.” The participants included a same-sex couple with one Jewish and one non-Jewish spouse, a Jewish parent of developmentally-delayed children, and a transgender Jew of color. The panelists shared the best and worst experiences of their Jewish journeys. The overarching messages were: 1) never assume that you know someone else’s journey, and 2) engage the person, not the “category.”

We concluded the morning with two professionals from PJ Library who shared four family engagement principles. First, “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.” This means that frequent social interaction builds lasting relationships. Second, “Stop, look, and listen.” Make time to reflect on your programming and question it – does it meet family’s needs? Third, “PJ Library is a GPS for parents in the driver’s seat.” While PJ Library and other Jewish institutions can guide, support and incentivize Jewish engagement, parents ultimately choose their destination. And, fourth, “Jewish content, quick and deep.” It is important to offer accessible Jewish content that addresses parents’ deepest needs and inspires them to learn more.

The afternoon was similarly busy, with workshops on experiential programming, building relationships, marketing and family education. At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to meet in small groups and put together action items and follow up with a colleague

This opportunity to learn and build relationships with other Jewish professionals will help us to continue to provide excellent family programming at CEH. This year’s programming, “What’s Jewish About . . . “ provides opportunities for families to learn about life through a Jewish lens at different locations throughout Arlington. We invite you to join us at our next event, “What’s Jewish About Bubbies,” at CEH on Sunday, November 18 at 1:30 PM.

PJ Library offers FREE books delivered to your home for children ages 6 months to 11 years. Visit to sign up.

— Laura Naide & Alexis Joyce, Family Programmers


Kislev is for Kindness

Once a month, I leave just before noon and drive to Rockville for a meeting with my fellow preschool directors. These meetings are a great way to connect with peers and offer an opportunity for personal, professional and spiritual growth. Each meeting starts with a d’var Torah (word of Torah) followed by a text study and discussion. It is a wonderful way to prepare ourselves for what we consider to be sacred work: work with children.

But lately, I’ve been dreading meetings because Pittsburgh… or swastikas on the JCCNV…or fill in the blank tragic event. Our precious time together has been hijacked by responding to this tragedy or that act of violence or hate. Yesterday was no different, but the discussion took a different turn.

One of my colleagues stated, “We all want to feel better, but I don’t want to. I want to keep this hurt and pain with me.” She was saying that keeping the hurt and pain put her sacred work into a different and clearer context. This led to a deeper discussion on our roles as teachers.

How do we reach the troubled child? Am I doing everything to meet his needs?

Am I giving this child a voice? How can I help her find her voice?

Am I creating a stable and routine environment for children in unstable world?

Am I creating a community mindset of caring for the children in my care?

We can and do have a hopeful response to tragic events. We can teach our children Derech Eretz (common courtesy), Chesed (loving kindness), and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). We teach them in the ways that we treat them and others. And when complacency creeps in, we hold onto the hurt and the pain, so hopefully one day they won’t need to.

The month of Kislev began on Thursday, November 9th, and Facebook gave us Kislev is for Kindness at just the right time. Every day this month, you can practice a random act of kindness. Each of us has the capacity for kindness and is deserving of kindness. How many acts of kindness can you do this month? For more information on #kislevisforkindness, please visit

-Alexis Joyce, Preschool Director

Etz Hayim Preschool Teams Up with AFAC

On Friday, May 25, 2018, Etz Hayim Preschool teamed up with AFAC (Arlington Food Assistance Center) for a story and a social action project. In addition to collecting the over 60 boxes of cereal that Etz Hayim families donated to build our Shavuot mountain, Danielle from AFAC read a story to the preschoolers at Kabbalat Shabbat. Then she led a fruit-bagging activity in which the preschoolers helped create bags of apples for those in need.  The youngest class, Chatool, was especially engaged in the apple bagging!

Age-Appropriate Rough and Risky Play (A Review of Risky Play: Why Children Love It and Need It by Peter Gray, PhD)

“Put that stick down! You’ll poke your eye out!”
“Stop pushing your friend. I don’t think he likes that!”
“Don’t get to close to the edge of the stream or you’ll fall in!”
“Don’t do flips off the couch. You’ll break your neck!”

As parents, we’ve all said these things, and wondered why our kids don’t listen. We’ve been on this planet a lot longer than they have, and we have wisdom to impart. Do they think they know more than us? Well, in this case, yes. Yes they do.

Risky behavior isn’t without risk, but why is it such a natural tendency for all young animals to engage in such play? Peter Gray, PhD, posits that the risk of injury must be outweighed by some other developmental benefits of rough play. Research shows that depriving lab animals of risky play when they are young inhibits their ability to respond appropriately when faced with real danger. The findings suggest limiting risky play inhibits children’s ability to properly regulate their emotions (Peter Gray, 2015). In other words, all of us mother hens and helicopters out there, while well meaning, are setting our children up for emotional failure in the future.

Not only do children love rough, risky play, they need it. Allowing children to feel fear and the thrill that these and other risky or rough behaviors give them creates more emotionally balanced children. I am not advocating allowing your toddler to cross the street alone, or letting your school-aged child build a campfire with friends in the woods. There are reasonable risky behaviors your child can engage in while playing. Some age-appropriate risky play includes:

  • Play fighting. Very rarely does play fighting end with serious injury or due to escalation of aggression. We know this because everyone is smiling and actively engaged, and children understand that hurting someone ends the game. Often children will come to us if play gets too rough, not because they don’t like it, but because we have taught them that is the appropriate response (Carlson, 2011).
  • Tag often ends because an adult intervenes when a child gets pushed. Have you ever stood back, and watched what happens next? Children will often help a friend get up, they will take turns being the chaser and the chasee (both important roles). If someone gets hurt, the game is over before everyone has the chance to be “it” and that’s not fun.
  • On the playground, encourage your child to use the swings. Swings are great for body coordination, vestibular development (balance), and are just plain fun.
  • Climb up and down the slide with a group of peers; climb over the side of a slide, etc.

  • If the swings and slide are still too much for you, enroll your child in a gymnastics class.
  • See that tree over there? Climb It!
  • Use adult tools such as shovels and drills. For Small Hands offers many child-size tools.
  • Use a plastic knife to cut fruits and veggies for a salad. Like other adult tools, kitchen utensils need some instruction, but they should not be feared…unless you are a cucumber.

For a more detailed discussion of risky play, you can read “Risky Play: Why Children Love it and Need It” by Peter Gray, PhD in its entirety.

–Alexis Joyce, Preschool Director


  • Carlson, F. M. (2011). Big Body Play. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
  • Peter Gray, P. (2015, October 23). Freedom to Learn. Retrieved from Psychology Today:

Preschool Primer: Keeping Sick Children at Home

“She has a little fever that went away with Tylenol, so she’s fine.”
“He threw up last night, but he’s better now.”
“We’re not sure what the rash is, but it must be allergies.”
“He’s not really that contagious. Do I really need to keep my child at home?”


This article is not a guilt trip. Sometimes we don’t believe or don’t want to believe that our children are sick, so we send them to school anyway. We have a busy day, and a sick child is the last thing that we need. My goal is to create more awareness both here and in my own home. Here are some things to keep in mind about why it is important to keep sick children at home:

  • Children recover more quickly at home in comfortable, familiar surroundings. I am approximately 35 years old, and I still want my mom when I don’t feel well.  At home children can get the rest they need for a speedy recovery.
  • You have a meeting that you can’t miss, so you send your child to school. Not only is your child feeling worse, which will cost you more sick days, but other children are exposed to illness as well. Sharing is caring, except when it comes to germs. Then it’s just gross.
  • Not all of the children in our program are fully vaccinated. Many of our children are too young to receive certain vaccines which makes them more vulnerable, which in turns causes their parents to use sick days.
  • Children are not the only ones getting sick. Common childhood illnesses if contracted by adults can be life-changing. An ill-timed sneeze can lead to lost time at work, a weakened immune system and re-occurrence of “one and done” childhood illnesses in adults.
  • Snuggle time. There is a certain amount of ickiness involved when children are involuntarily leaking various fluids, but take those snuggles any way you can. The time is rapidly approaching when the only way you’ll get snuggle time is by begging for it.
  • You are performing a mitzvah. Caring for the sick… protecting others by isolating a sick child…You pick. They are both noble, and both take priority over Fill-in-the-Blank meeting with Mr. Whatshisname.

Throughout the year, stuff is going to happen. Our children will get sick. Sometimes we will be the unlucky recipient of some unsavory germs and sometimes we will be Patient Zero. It’s the way of the world. However, we can all be good menschen by keeping our sick children and our sick selves at home. Don’t worry. Work will always be there.  I promise.

–Alexis Joyce

Preschool Director


Sukkot Family Program Recap

On Sunday, October 8, Preschool and Religious School families enjoyed lunch, singing and crafts in the Sukkah. The families learned the significance of the lulav and etrog and participated in the lulav ceremony (shaking it in all directions!). Fortunately, the weather held up and we were able to eat lunch in the sukkah and play outside on the playground. Thank you to Rabbi Bass and Will Rivlin for leading songs and prayers and thank you to Alexis Joyce and Laura Naide for planning the event.