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Opening Doors for Children & Families

Do You Speak Head Start?

My favourite thing about grocery shopping is people watching. I was in the breakfast aisle contemplating which granola bars to purchase when I noticed what I presume was a father with his two young girls getting groceries. I also presume grocery shopping isn't a regular duty of this father who appeared quite overwhelmed by the task at hand. He was clutching a list in one hand and the cart in the other. He would look down at the list with a puzzled look on his face then look back at the items on the shelf with an EVEN MORE puzzled look on his face. His daughters were maybe 4 years old and 1-year-old. Both were sitting in the cart entertained by toys and grocery items in the cart.

The 1-year-old then stood up in the cart, I had an instinct to sprint down the aisle to catch the baby from falling out of the cart but the 4-year-old had it under control. "DAD!" She yelled. "DAD, she's standing!" The father turned to the cart and prompted the child to sit. The 1-year-old plopped down on her diaper padded bottom. The 4-year-old yelled again "DAD, she's not sitting criss-cross-applesauce!!"

The father then replied, "What is criss-cross-applesauce?" I wondered if I should step in at this point and explain criss-cross-applesauce, but decided the 4-year-old managed to handle the last situation so well surely she can explain this term to her Dad.

I smiled as I walked away and thought about the language we use at ABC Head Start. Criss-cross-applesauce is a term we use to get the children to sit in a cross-legged position. Why does this matter you ask? Well preschoolers, or children in general are not great at navigating their bodies through space. If legs are sticking out, passerby children will surely trip on them. Also a reason for the song you'll hear your children sing about "opening them and shutting them," basically we want children to put their hands in their laps as not to have them stepped on by other children (and to keep them from sticking their fingers in their friends ears, which some children like to do.)

I was just out visiting a ABC Head Start classroom, the children were lining up to go the bathroom. One child turned to another who was being a bit disruptive and said "Hips and lips!" Prompting the child to put their hand on their hip and the other on their lip. I could probably go on for pages of the little terms we (WE as in early childhood professionals) use to motivate or remind children to do something. Maybe what I should do is publish a Head Start Dictionary for all those parents who haven't quite become fluent in Head Start yet. And to all those parents who have read this and know exactly what I mean - it just means your child is listening. :)

With the support of volunteers, ABC Head Start Society is able to support vulnerable children and families throughout the year. Volunteers contribute by sharing their ideas, talents and energy to events, on our Board of Directors and fundraisers, and in providing direct support to children, parents/caregivers and families.