If Your Kids Like Ms. Rachel, They'll Love Ms. Monica

The creator of 'Circle Time With Ms. Monica' has decades of experience and tips for families about how to advocate for their children as they learn.

Circle Time with Ms. Monica

Circle Time With Ms. Monica

It was the fall of 2020, and like many parents experiencing the pandemic, my partner and I were uncertain about sending our children back into classrooms. Homeschooling felt like the safest option for us. I began to search for options and came across a beautiful Black woman, reminiscent of the teachers I had remembered from school, wearing a pastel-colored blazer, red lipstick, and the brightest smile. Her name was Ms. Monica

Ms. Monica or “Ms. Circle Time” as my own children refer to her, was an immediate hit in my household. And two more babies later, she is still the Beyoncé of preschool education in our home. Whether it is her hit “Days of the Week” song or her fun & easy arts and crafts, Ms. Monica is a godsend.

Monica J. Sutton is an early childhood educator and child behavior specialist. She created an online community of over 500,000 people centered around early childhood education. She is also the CEO and founder of Preschool Explorers, which is a virtual preschool. She teaches young children both in her virtual classroom and through her YouTube Circle Time Videos. With a master’s degree in early childhood and special education, Sutton has spent over 20 years working directly with children of all abilities and backgrounds.

What was the inspiration behind your YouTube channel, Circle Time with Ms. Monica? 

I started my first YouTube channel in 2009 because I wanted to share fun activities that parents could do at home with their children. As a teacher, parents would always ask how they could cultivate what their children learned at school and at home. That’s where the inspiration came from.

I started doing arts and crafts videos with my nieces, nephews, and the neighborhood kids. Then I slowly started changing content over time. When the pandemic hit, I was a classroom teacher who was trying to figure out how to stay connected with my students. 

At that time, no one knew what to do—including school directors—so I decided the logical thing to do was to put lessons on YouTube. I thought that was the best way to stay connected with my students. I had to figure out what we did every day in class that would translate into video and it was circle time. 

What’s the best age to introduce children to screen time learning? 

What’s the best age to introduce children to screen time learning? 
First and foremost: hands-on activities and traditional play should be prioritized for young children because they learn through their senses. Because of the day and age that we are in children are practically born with phones and tablets in their hands. It’s hard to avoid screen time altogether. 

I would recommend introducing device use between the ages of 2 and a half and 3 years old. And if the devices are in their hands, [content] should be educational and encourage everyday life skills. Screen time that encourages [use of] numbers, colors, and the alphabet is great because it tends to be more interactive. You want to be careful of having them sit in front of the screen for extended periods of time without adult interaction. [It can be helpful to] sing along or count with them.

As a result of the pandemic, a lot of parents have noticed that their children aren’t meeting developmental milestones. What advice would you give to parents and caregivers who are concerned about meeting those marks? 

I spent my 20-plus years as a teacher specializing in special education and early childhood education in New York City. I understand and have always been an advocate for parents with these concerns. 

I always say trust your gut. If you feel there is a delay, consult with your physician. 

I am a huge supporter of early intervention. You absolutely want to start early. 

It’s better to research and know what can and cannot be ruled out in terms of developmental delays. Follow your heart and do not sit on concerns when it comes to your children. You are their first advocate

This generation of Black kids has so much fire, curiosity, and vigor. From an educator’s perspective, how do you guide them without dimming their light or breaking their spirits? 

The number one thing as a teacher or parent is knowing a child. Knowing what they need and how they need it will help you know how to approach that child. Learning the individual child will help guide them without dimming their light. 

Number two is listening. You must listen to children. That will help you respond in a way that is collaborative and authentic to the child. Let them be who they are while providing structure and keeping boundaries. [For example, in class] I allow [students] to ask their questions but remember to respectfully bring it back to “I see you have a question but remember to raise your hand or wait until the other person is done speaking.” I try to break things down in different ways depending on the person. 

Also learning what your children are interested in and role-playing can teach children how to interact at home or participate in school. It will assist in building confidence and keeping their fire. 

Some children require simple reminders and others may need more of a breakdown to reestablish rules and boundaries. You can do that with empathy. That’s how we preserve their spirits. 

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