7 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Spirit

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7 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Spirit

No matter what you celebrate this time of year, you may be looking for ideas about how you can help your child celebrate the spirit of the holidays. Here are seven family-friendly ways to get into the holiday spirit this year.

1) Learn about holiday traditions around the world

This time of the year sees many different sorts of holidays celebrated all across the globe, and learning about them will help your child understand other cultures. Visit National Geographic Kids with your child to read more about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, and others.

2) Create holiday crafts together

Your toddler or preschooler will love getting into the holiday spirit by making crafts and decorations to help your family celebrate. Some examples include: a paper wreath, handprint menorahs, and a flag made with traditional Kwanzaa colors. Decorating together is another way to help your child feel the holiday joy.

3) Focus on good deeds

The holiday season can seem overwhelming, with all the shopping-related advertising that begins before Thanksgiving is barely over. However, you can help your child understand that the holidays are about more than presents. Depending on your child’s age and what activities are available in your area, you can do any number of things from donating non-perishable food items to your local food bank, choosing old toys or clothing to give to charity, or even helping you bake gingerbread men to give to his preschool classmates. By instilling in your child the importance of being kind and helpful to others, he will begin to see that the holiday season is a time for goodwill as well as gifts.

4) Spend time with family and friends

Another way to help your child understand the meaning of the holiday season is to spend quality time with family and good friends. Having a small group of people over for coffee, or visiting family for dinner, are two ways to help demonstrate to your child how nice it is to show your loved ones that you care this time of year. You can help her to feel like a vital part of the visit by asking her to help you with certain small tasks, such as helping younger kids with a toy, or setting the table.

5) Start new traditions

Young children love to feel like they are helping and being involved in family activities, and the holidays are an ideal time to show your toddler or preschooler he’s a vital part of the family too. Starting a new holiday tradition with your child, whether large or small, will help to build a sense of family unity and happy memories he will look back on fondly.

6) Track Santa’s progress

Beginning on December 24th, you and your family can track Santa’s progress around the world on the NORAD Tracks Santa website. Before Christmas Eve, the site also provides fun Christmas games and music to help get you and your child in the Christmas spirit.

7) Get out in your community

Most communities across America hold Christmas or other holiday events, and many are family-friendly. As a family, try to discover and attend as many of these events as you can. Not only will your child have fun and enjoy festive activities, but she’ll also begin to understand the importance of community, another important pillar of the holiday season.

There are many ways you can help your child celebrate the holiday spirit, including learning more about other traditions, creating holiday crafts, and tracking Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve. Try our seven family-friendly tips to experience the joy and magic of the holiday season today.

How to Handle Tantrums Gracefully

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How to Handle Tantrums Gracefully

When your child has a tantrum, it can feel very overwhelming for you as well. How do you handle your child’s tantrum without melting down yourself? Here are six tips on how to deal with your child’s tantrums as gracefully as possible.

  1. Understand what’s behind a tantrum. Tantrums are a symptom of frustration. When a young child lacks the necessary words to explain what she wants or how she’s feeling, she gets upset and breaks down. For an older toddler, tantrums can happen when they want to assert themselves, but are unable to get the result they expect.
  2. Try to catch a tantrum before it begins. Many parents quickly learn to recognize the signs of an impending meltdown in their child. One way to stop a tantrum before it erupts is to distract your child while he still has a handle on his emotions. For example, if he is growing frustrated at not being able to play with a certain toy, you might begin to read to him from his favorite book. He might forget all about the toy and continue playing happily.
  3. Get to the root of the problem. There are different kinds of tantrums, caused by anything from frustration to tiredness to your child not getting what she wants. Often, the type of tantrum will inform how you can best handle the situation. If your child is frustrated because she doesn’t have the vocabulary to tell you what toy she wants to play with, you can ask her to point to it. This teaches her how to cope with her frustration. On the other hand, if she is having a tantrum because she’s not getting the candy that she wants in the grocery store, the best option may be to remove her from the situation entirely.
  4. Don’t try to negotiate in the middle of a meltdown. When a child is in the middle of a tantrum, trying to reason with him is often futile. His emotions have taken over, and he likely won’t respond to you telling him that his sister didn’t mean to drink his water and she’s very sorry. Instead, the best thing might be to wait until he’s worked out his frustration, and try to talk to him about what happened when he’s calmer.
  5. Model calm behavior. When your toddler or preschooler is in the middle of a tantrum, it can also be very draining on you as a parent. However, if you do your best to remain calm and rational during your child’s tantrum, you’ll reinforce that yelling and screaming isn’t always the best coping strategy. Keeping your composure in the middle of a toddler meltdown isn’t easy, but take some deep breaths and remember that it’s okay to give yourself a time-out sometimes, too.
  6. Take advantage of the quiet times. When your child is happily helping you pick the best apples in the grocery store, it’s the perfect time to reinforce and praise her good behavior. You can also talk about ways to behave in public when she is calm enough to understand, such as before you arrive at the store. Set your child up for success by teaching her clearly what behaviors work. Of course, she won’t always remember, but she will have a strong foundation to start from.

Temper tantrums in toddlers and preschoolers are frustrating for every parent, but they are a normal part of your young child’s development, and something that he will grow out of. With our six tips for handling tantrums gracefully, you and your child can get through the meltdowns while teaching him important coping and reasoning skills.

Helping Your Child Overcome Fears

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Helping Your Child Overcome Fears

We can all remember being afraid of something as children, whether it was sleeping in the dark, monsters under the bed, or a neighborhood dog. As a parent, you may have noticed your own child exhibiting certain fears, and might wonder where it comes from and how to help him get through it.

Here are some tips to help your child overcome his fears.

Understand what children are afraid of

The sorts of things children typically find scary vary by age. Babies often experience anxiety around people they don’t recognize, or become distressed over loud noises. Between 10 and 18 months, toddlers begin to become afraid of their parents leaving, worried that they might not return. Preschool-age children begin to develop fears based in the imagination, such as monsters, or certain animals.

Of course, every child is different, but knowing what things could make your child afraid can help you understand why she reacts so strongly.

Respect your child’s feelings

While you can easily see that there are no monsters under your preschooler’s bed, that fear is very real to your child. Encourage your child to talk about what she’s feeling, and offer calm reassurance without judgement. Simply talking about why she’s scared can help her feel more connected to you, and your calm demeanor could help her see that the monsters might not be quite so scary after all.

Practice confronting fears

As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child from what scares him. However, if you protect him too much, he might not ever learn how to cope with his fear. It’s important to find that balance between total avoidance and too much exposure. For example, if your child is feeling anxiety over talking to other kids, you can help him to practice by asking him to simply say “hi” to someone new the next time you’re at the park. He may feel comfortable enough to play with his new friend, but if he runs right back to you after saying “hi,” that is still progress that should be rewarded. If your child seems comfortable, you can build on that progress next time with another step, such as asking a new friend his or her name.

Teach coping strategies

Teaching your child coping strategies is an important way to help her work on overcoming her own fears, and develop a sense of self-confidence. In addition to the fear-confrontation technique described earlier, some other examples of coping strategies include: positive statements she can say to herself when she gets scared, drawing pictures of happy things that she can look at if she’s anxious, or physically calming actions such as taking deep breaths. These strategies typically work best before your child reaches a state of panic or excessive fear, so practice them with her as often as you can before things get too much for her to handle.

All children have a fear of some sort, and some of those fears may sometimes seem irrational to adults. However, by understanding where fears come from, discussing your child’s feelings, practicing confrontation in small steps, and teaching coping strategies, these anxious or scared feelings can be overcome.

Preventing Cold and Flu in Children

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Preventing Cold and Flu in Children

Cold and flu season is upon us, and many of your child’s friends may already have succumbed to sniffles, sneezing, and a runny nose. In fact, more than 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized due to the flu each year in America.

Even though your child can’t be guaranteed an illness-free winter, there are some precautions you can take to lower the odds.

  • Help your child wash her hands before and after every meal, after using the toilet, and after playing outside.
  • Teach your child to cough or sneeze into the crook of his elbow instead of his hands.
  • Strengthen your child’s immunity with healthy foods and plenty of sleep.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the yearly flu vaccine, which protects against viruses that research suggests will be common that year.
  • Clean germs off from high-traffic areas such as doorknobs, countertops, tables, and toys.
  • Discourage sharing of food or drinks, even if the other person isn’t sick. This will help establish the habit for the future.
  • Don’t force your child to attend a party or playdate if she isn’t feeling well. This can help prevent the spread of germs to other children.
  • Keep active! Exercise helps to boost the immune system. Weather permitting, always try to go outside as a family and get moving!
  • Reduce your time spent in crowded areas during cold and flu season, which peaks between December and March.
  • Keep your child away from obviously sick people as much as possible. If contact is unavoidable, ensure your child washes his hands afterwards and avoids touching his eyes, nose, or mouth.

While there is unfortunately no cure for the common cold or the flu, there are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of your child becoming ill this year, as well as spreading germs to others.

6 Ways to Teach Preschoolers About Gratitude

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6 Ways to Teach Preschoolers About Gratitude

This Thanksgiving is an ideal time to help your preschooler learn about gratitude. Though young children may not be able to express gratitude in the same way adults can, teaching them how to be thankful will offer them many long-term benefits. Research has shown that thankful children and teenagers are more optimistic, more satisfied with their surroundings, give more emotional support to others – even have higher grades.

Try these six ways to help teach your preschooler about gratitude this Thanksgiving.

1) Model gratitude in your daily life. Whether it’s hearing you say a simple thank you, or having a discussion about the good things that happened during your day, small examples of everyday thankfulness will make an impression on your toddler.

2) Encourage generous acts. Preschoolers love to feel helpful, and Thanksgiving offers many chances to encourage this behavior. For example, you can suggest they help other boys and girls by donating a toy, or some of their old clothing. When having this discussion, avoid the tendency to motivate by guilt. Instead, explain to them that some children don’t have toys, food, or clothes. Your preschooler may surprise you with how much they are willing to give.

3) Say no from time to time. If a preschooler is always able to do what they want, or gets any toy or snack they ask for, they begin to learn that life is about endless rewards. Thankfulness is all about understanding that life’s rewards are not something to take for granted.

4) Teach them that things aren’t most important in life. With all the product advertising aimed directly at children, it can be hard for your preschooler to understand that objects are not the most important parts of life. You can help to counteract this by talking about less tangible things you’re thankful for, such as family mealtimes, having enough food to eat, or spending time with a friend.

5) Connect the act of giving with the meaning behind it. Whether your child receives a physical gift or an experiential gift, it’s important to help her understand the kind thought behind it. For example, you can say, “Wasn’t it nice for Grandma to knit you those mittens? She wants you to be warm in the winter.” This will help your preschooler see that gifts are given for altruistic reasons.

6) Ask for help around the house. Whether it’s putting away their toys or helping you to mix ingredients in the kitchen, age-appropriate chores can help preschoolers develop a sense of thankfulness. When they get first-hand knowledge about all the work that goes into the food they eat or the home they live in, they can begin to understand that these things don’t come easily.

The days leading up to Thanksgiving can feel like a whirlwind of planning, travel, and coordinating schedules. However, our six ways to teach your preschooler about thankfulness will give him a strong foundation in empathy, and will set him up for a grateful future.

The Daycare Adjustment for Parents

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The Daycare Adjustment for Parents

When your child starts daycare or preschool, it can be an adjustment for the adults in the family as well. You may be returning to work, or simply wondering how to get used to your child being in daycare. Here are some tips to help parents adjust to their child being in daycare or preschool.

Going back to work

Whether it’s the end of your maternity leave or you are re-entering the workforce, going back to work can be stressful. This is entirely normal – you have spent several hours a day playing, learning, and bonding with your child, so returning to the daily grind of work can be jarring. Many parents feel separation anxiety of their own during their first few days. You may wonder how your child is doing without you, or even feeling guilty about having to leave him at daycare. You may also experience struggles managing your new schedule and responsibilities.

The importance of daycare

Firstly, it is important to remember that you chose your child’s daycare provider because you knew that he would be in good hands there. While you’re at work, your child is being played with, sung to, read to, talked with, fed, and diapered. Daycare is a wonderful opportunity for your child to practice valuable social skills, learn educational concepts, and develop his independence. A good daycare center will also encourage two-way communication, and allow you to check in to see how your child is doing from time to time.

The work/life balance

When it comes to managing your work and home life, there may be some hiccups initially, but soon you will begin to see where you can make improvements to ensure you’re not underperforming in either area. For example, you might cook and freeze several days’ worth of dinners on Sunday, so that you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping and meal preparation along with daycare pickups and your work responsibilities. Also, discuss dividing up home duties with other members of your family, to make it easier for everyone.

Parents returning to work can struggle with the adjustment to daycare. However, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, and allow yourself time to make the transition back to working life. Soon, you’ll find that your new daily life has become normal and enjoyable – for both you and your child.

Running Errands With Your Young Child

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Running Errands With Your Young Child

Sometimes, running errands with a preschooler or toddler can be stressful for both the parent and the child. Before you make your next trip out with your young child, here are some tips that could make things run smoother for everyone.

Start with a positive mindset

Toddlers and preschoolers learn by example, so treat your errands accordingly. While getting ready, talk about the things your child will see or experience that she likes. For example, “When we go to the library, we get to go on a bus!” or “You can help me choose the best fruit at the grocery store.”

Carry this positive attitude as much as possible throughout your errand, as well. While safety concerns will necessitate some sternness, don’t forget to praise your child whenever she does something good, such as talking in her indoor voice on the bus. Set behavior expectations and boundaries, but remember to let your child know when she has done well.

Time your errands correctly

You can likely guess how successful your trip to the grocery store will be if you go before your child has eaten or napped. If possible, it may also be wise to run your errands when places are likely to be quieter overall. Smaller crowds and shorter lines could reduce the likelihood of your child – or you – getting overwhelmed.

Keep your child distracted

Spending a long time in a line or in a waiting room tests everyone’s patience, but for a toddler or preschooler, that frustration point is reached much quicker. To help reduce the risk of a meltdown, occupy him with something he’ll enjoy. Bring along some fun distraction items such as a couple of books, or even some portable snacks such as crackers. You can also play games together while you’re waiting. For example, you can ask your child to point out all the things around you that are yellow, or count the number of people in the room with you.

Teach public manners as early as possible

At home, you can begin teaching your child how to behave in public. This can include things such as not shouting, waiting her turn, or speaking respectfully to you and others. While toddlers and preschoolers are unlikely to have good public manners all the time, you can teach your child important social skills she can build upon in the future.

As a parent, you know your child best. You may be able to do only one errand at a time with him, but with patience, consistence, positivity, and good planning, you might soon find that the process gets easier.

Teaching Your Young Child Manners in Public

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Teaching Your Young Child Manners in Public

If you’re the parent of a toddler or preschooler, you know that it can be tough to teach good manners and behavior in public. However, it isn’t impossible. Here are some tips for teaching your child good manners in public, so you can more confidently run errands, visit friends, and even eat in a restaurant with your young child.

Teach respect early

Respect is the fundamental foundation of good manners, and it can be taught even to preschoolers who are testing the boundaries of acceptable behavior. To teach your child respect, the most important thing to do is to model the sort of behavior you want your child to learn. Say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” and demonstrate respect in all your interactions. Even in disagreements, your child should see that calm words get a better result than yelling or shouting.

Practice patience

When out in public, you and your child may need to wait in line or sit for lengthy periods of time. It’s not realistic to expect your preschooler to sit quietly for a long stretch right away, but you can start getting him comfortable with waiting patiently at home. You can practice patience by encouraging sharing, or asking him to wait for one minute while you pour his juice. You can also ask him to sit with you at the table during family meals, but keep the length of time short to begin with. For example, try five minutes to start, and then build on that next time if all goes well.

Teach age-appropriate table manners

Getting your toddler or preschooler to demonstrate table manners as good as an adult’s isn’t reasonable, but you can start with some basics that are also restaurant-friendly. For example, you can encourage your toddler not to yell or throw food from the table. Preschoolers can learn table manners such as not talking with their mouth full.

Teach greetings

Depending on their age, a child’s greeting may range from a simple wave, all the way up to saying “Hello” and using the person’s name. Encouraging your child to say hello and goodbye to your guests may seem like a cute behavior, but it sets up a foundation for further interactions with people in a social setting. It also develops self-confidence, though shy children may not be very keen to say hello to strangers initially.

Praise good behavior

Children are more likely to repeat a behavior if they are rewarded for it in some way. When your child performs an act of good manners, such as picking up a toy that a playmate dropped, it’s important to let her know that what she did was good. However, resist the urge to over-praise. This can teach your child that everyday good manners are remarkable in some way, and not the norm. A simple, “Thank you for picking up Carly’s toy for her,” will be sufficient.

Don’t expect perfection

Toddlers and preschoolers have many things to learn, so don’t expect them to display perfect manners too soon. There will be instances where your child forgets to say “thank you,” or runs and hides instead of greeting a visitor, but that doesn’t mean he’s permanently forgotten good manners. Instead, try again next time. Treat good manners as an everyday life behavior, and it will eventually become second nature to him.

Dealing With Preschooler Nightmares

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Dealing With Preschooler Nightmares

As adults, we may have forgotten what it was like to have nightmares as a young child. With their expansive imaginations and lack of real-world context, a scary dream can seem especially vivid to a preschooler – even if he knows it wasn’t real.

Here are some ways you can help your preschooler deal with his nightmares, and reduce the frequency of future bad dreams.

Give comfort and reassurance

It’s a good idea to comfort your child with a hug or a familiar book after she’s had a nightmare. Your presence is very reassuring, and she’ll know that nothing bad can happen to her now that she’s awake. However, try to resist the urge to let her continue her night’s sleep in your bed; this could encourage a habit you may have a difficult time breaking later on.

When comforting your child, remember to stay calm and pragmatic. Your child models your own behavior, so listening to her describe her nightmare without seeming anxious will show her that everything is okay.

Be mindful of “monster-hunting” activities

Giving your preschooler tools to deal with his nightmares can help him feel secure. Many parents like to search the child’s room with him to show him there are no monsters. Others create imaginative solutions to help ward off scary creatures, such as a pleasant smelling “monster spray.” These actions can temporarily assure your child that he’s safe, but it may also accidentally reinforce his fear that monsters exist.

Instead, teach coping skills such as talking about their nightmare, and give him a sense of comfort by offering him a stuffed animal or nightlight. One interesting strategy some families use is having the child draw a picture of his bad dream, and then throwing the drawing away as a symbolic gesture.

Help to reduce nightmares

Even though you can’t completely prevent your child from having nightmares, try these strategies to reduce their frequency:

  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Create a cozy, safe sleep environment for your child where she can feel comfortable and secure.
  • Ensure your child doesn’t read scary stories or watch scary movies too close to bedtime.
  • Try to lower the amount of stress in your child’s daily life.
  • If your child is anxious about something, talk through it during daylight hours.
  • If your child has recently experienced a traumatic event, seek help from a medical professional. It’s possible that your child needs outside help to cope.

Nightmares vs. night terrors

Preschoolers can also experience night terrors, which seem similar to nightmares. However, while nightmares tend to occur during deep REM sleep, night terrors happen soon after the child falls asleep. When a child is experiencing a night terror, he may appear to be awake and acting frightened. He may talk to himself or shout, or move around in his bed.

Because night terrors appear more dramatic and immediate than a nightmare, they can seem quite alarming to parents. However, a child experiencing a night terror will often calm down on his own and continue sleeping. It may help to gently comfort your child, such as rubbing his arm or back, but attempting to wake him may make it more difficult for him to fall asleep again. While night terrors appear very stressful, children rarely have any memory of the event the next day.

Nightmares are a common occurrence for young children. Though they are frightening and confusing for the child, parents have a wealth of strategies at their disposal to deal with preschooler nightmares.

Age-Appropriate Halloween Costumes for Kids

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Age-Appropriate Halloween Costumes for Kids

Whether your child is excited to go trick-or-treating with friends or have a spooky Halloween party at home, a good costume is a key factor in the fun. Here are some suggestions for age-appropriate Halloween costumes for preschoolers and young children.

Homemade Halloween Costume Ideas

Spider – This DIY spider costume is quick and easy. If your child already has a black hoodie, then that’s one step of the process taken care of. With this costume, the sewn-on spider legs detach afterwards, ensuring that the hoodie can be worn again.

Skeleton – Save money on a store-bought skeleton costume for your child and make it at home. All you need is black clothes and some glow-in-the-dark duct tape to make a skeleton costume.

OwlFor this homemade Halloween costume, you’ll need some brown and/or grey fabric, fabric glue, and a dark sweatshirt. If you are comfortable with a sewing machine, you have the option of sewing the feathers onto the costume instead of gluing. You can add feathers to the sweatshirt’s sleeves as well, if you like. We recommend the mask for older children only.

Cowboy/Cowgirl – This classic Halloween costume is easy to make at home. If your child has a pair of jeans or a denim skirt, a plaid Western-style shirt, brown boots or shoes, and a colorful bandana, then you have the foundations of a cowboy/cowgirl costume. You can supplement the costume with a store-bought hat.

Black Cat ­– This is another costume that can be made using clothing items you likely already have at home. You will only need to purchase some tulle, pipe cleaners, and strips of elastic. You can find the full tutorial here.

Store-Bought Halloween Costumes

There are several good options when it comes to store-bought Halloween costumes for your young child. These include spooky classics such as a witch or a vampire, cute animals, or your child’s favorite movie or book character.

If your child’s store-bought Halloween costume comes with a mask, we recommend opting for non-toxic face paint instead. This way, your child’s vision will be unobstructed, and he will be able to breathe and speak clearly. These are important safety considerations when it comes to your child’s Halloween experience. You can also use face paint to enhance the impact of any store-bought costume.

No matter whether you opt for a store-bought costume for your child, or decide to make one at home, remember to keep our Halloween safety tips in mind. Your child’s costume should allow her to breathe and move freely, and ensure she is visible to drivers if she will be trick-or-treating.

Happy Halloween!

13 Tips for a Safe Halloween

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13 Tips for a Safe Halloween

Halloween is around the corner, and your young child is likely excited, thinking about the best costume or all the candy she’ll get. However, the Halloween concerns for parents are slightly different. Here are 13 ways you can ensure your child will have a safe Halloween experience.

  1. Select costumes that won’t inhibit your child’s movement, vision, or breathing.
  2. Use nontoxic face paint instead of a potentially unsafe mask.
  3. Avoid costumes that are not labeled as “flame-retardant.”
  4. If your child’s heart is set on a dark-colored costume, add reflective or glow-in-the-dark stickers to increase visibility while trick-or-treating. Flashlights or glow sticks can also be carried by your child.
  5. Make sure your child’s costume is appropriate for the weather. This may mean wearing some warmer layers underneath.
  6. Write your child’s name, address, and phone number and attach it to his costume.
  7. If your family is pumpkin-carving, ensure your child does not handle any knives or sharp objects. Instead, she can draw a design on the pumpkin and you or an older child can carve it out.
  8. Keep your house safe for other trick-or-treaters by removing any potential obstacles or harmful objects from the path to your door and your yard.
  9. If your child will be trick-or-treating with a trusted adult, ask him or her to let you know what route they’ll be taking. Stick to a neighborhood you know.
  10. Make sure your child knows what to do while crossing the road, and is always holding the hand of an adult and looking both ways as they do so. Teach them to cross at designated crossings and not to dart out into the road.
  11. Supervise children around jack-o-lanterns while trick-or-treating, and beware of candles.
  12. Inspect all candy before your child eats any. Look for tampered packaging, or unwrapped treats from sources you don’t know. Make sure the candy doesn’t pose a choking hazard.
  13. Instead of trick-or-treating, you may want to consider organizing a Halloween party for neighborhood children or your child’s friends.

Ensuring that your child’s costume allows him to move and breathe freely, practicing safe trick-or-treating, and inspecting all candy before he eats it are just some of the ways your child will have a safe – and fun – Halloween

Identifying and Encouraging Your Preschooler’s Interests

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Identifying and Encouraging Your Preschooler's Interests

By the time your child has reached preschool age, you may have noticed that there are certain activities, toys, or games that he is drawn to. The ability to spot your child’s interests and nurture them is valuable in helping him to develop a sense of self, and build a love of learning. Here are some tips and guidelines to help identify your preschooler’s interests, and encourage him to pursue them.

How to spot your child’s interests

Preschoolers are curious by nature, and will often investigate several different toys, activities, and behaviors. However, it’s possible to identify the interests that your child prefers above others. Observe your child throughout the day, and notice which activities, games, toys, or other things fulfill one or more of these characteristics:

  • Holds your child’s attention
  • Makes your child smile or laugh
  • Is one of the first things your child chooses to do or interact with
  • Attracts your child’s attention with little prompting from you or others
  • Tends to encourage patience, problem-solving, creativity, or other positive traits in your child
  • Is frequently talked about by your child

Your child’s preschool or daycare is a good resource to help you answer these questions. You can speak with her teacher or caregivers directly, or examine the child care center’s reports to identify patterns that suggest a particular interest your child is developing.

Sometimes, these interests are a surprise to parents. For example, a child born into a family of baseball fans may turn out to be fascinated by butterflies and birds instead. Whether or not your child’s natural talents and interests align with your own, it’s important to let her develop her own opinions and preferences. This is an exciting time for everyone in your family, and helping your child figure out her unique nature will build self-confidence and a love of discovery.

Encouraging your child’s interests and talents

Once you have a good idea of the things your child is interested in, you can begin to encourage and nurture these interests. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • If your child likes puzzles, encourage her logic and reasoning skills with different sorts of puzzles and games. These can include memory games, mystery stories, and creating a map she can use to find a hidden treasure.
  • If your child likes animals, he can help feed the family pet or go on a bird-watching walk with you. Having open-ended discussions about animals he sees on a daily basis will help him to make his own observations about the behavior of wildlife.
  • If your child likes to run and climb, she may take to more movement-based or athletic pursuits. Encourage her to try more physical activities such as dance, yoga, or age-appropriate sports.
  • If your child likes art, give him opportunities to draw, paint, and create as much as possible. Encourage him to try out different materials for arts and crafts, including colored tissue paper, egg cartons, chalk, sponges, wood, and clay. Local art fairs, galleries, and festivals are also great ways for your child to experience art.
  • If your child likes books and reading, read books together as much as possible. Your local library is also a great resource, and may offer storytime or special events for preschoolers. Expose your child to a variety of books, but don’t become frustrated if she expresses an interest in reading about one topic over others.
  • If your child likes building blocks, he may have a natural interest in mathematics. According to a 2003 study, play with building blocks during preschool years was linked to higher mathematics achievement in later education. Try asking your child to create structures in a particular order of colored blocks, or talk about the different shapes of the toys he is building with. Understanding patterns, sizes, and shapes are the foundations of math skills. Encourage hands-on play and experimentation.

Whatever your child is naturally drawn to, it’s important to respect her interests and find creative ways to help her develop them. Helping her build on skills she already has will foster a lifelong love of learning, and build self-confidence.

Helping Your Child Adjust to Preschool or Daycare

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Helping Your Child Adjust to Preschool or Daycare

Starting preschool or daycare is a momentous occasion in your young child’s life. Some children make the transition fairly easily, while others experience more challenges.

If you are noticing that your child seems to be having difficulty adjusting to preschool or daycare, here are some considerations that may help her.

How much time has passed?

Most likely, starting preschool or daycare is the biggest new experience your child has encountered thus far. With this in mind, it may be that a bit more time is needed before he has fully adjusted to the new routine. Though the time frame differs with each child, some take up to a month before they are fully comfortable with the transition from preschool to daycare. It may simply be a matter of giving your child more time.

Be patient and consistent

If it has been a couple of weeks and your child still cries when being dropped off, or exhibits other signs of distress, it can feel tempting to cancel everything. While it may seem like a good idea to pull your child out of preschool or daycare, there is also the possibility that you could teach her that her fears were valid. She may also miss out on learning useful coping strategies such as talking about her feelings.

Instead, maintain a consistent preschool or daycare routine, encourage her to talk about how she feels, and be patient while she learns to understand this new experience.

Avoid big changes elsewhere

Because starting preschool or daycare is such a big change in your child’s life, it may be best to avoid other big changes if possible. For example, the week after your child’s first day at preschool may not be the best time to adopt a new family pet, or transition him to a “big-kid bed.” Even if these changes are positive ones, they may overwhelm your child and give him too much to deal with. In fact, a positive change such as a new pet could make your child even less willing to go to preschool or daycare than before. Try to maintain a steady and reliable home environment for a few weeks to give your child a familiar foundation he doesn’t have to worry about.

Try to help your child make friends

One reason children may have difficulty adjusting to preschool or daycare is all the new people they now have in their lives. It can feel overwhelming for them to meet so many people at once. You can help your child feel more comfortable by making a play date with one or two other kids from the class, in a fun and neutral environment. Making a friend can help your child feel less anxious during his day at preschool or daycare.

For more socialization tips, read our blog post about helping your child make friends at daycare. If your child is having difficulty during drop-off at preschool or daycare, read our tips for coping with back-to-school separation anxiety.

Adjusting to daycare or preschool is a process that varies from child to child. However, by considering the timing, being patient, avoiding other big changes, and encouraging your child to make friends, you can help make that adjustment easier.

28 Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing a Daycare

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28 Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing Daycare

There are many factors that go into picking the best daycare for your infant, toddler, or preschooler. Some things are essential in any daycare: educated and compassionate caregivers, clean and safe facilities and equipment, and a child care license (if applicable in your state). Here are 28 questions you might ask to help you pick the best daycare for your child.

  1. What is the staff-to-child ratio?
  2. Do the caregivers/educators encourage independent learning and investigation?
  3. How long are the children outside each day?
  4. Can you accommodate special diets or allergies?
  5. Can I see a sample weekly menu?
  6. How will you keep me updated about my child’s progress?
  7. How do you assess a child’s progress?
  8. Are your toys and other play equipment age-appropriate?
  9. How often are the toys and equipment evaluated for safety?
  10. How do you accommodate differing cultural practices?
  11. How do you accommodate children with special needs?
  12. Why are your offered activities chosen?
  13. Are naps taken on a schedule, or when the child needs one?
  14. How do you handle conflicts between children?
  15. What are your policies about discipline?
  16. Can I drop in at any time to see my child?
  17. How can I be involved in activities or decisions?
  18. What is your policy regarding illnesses?
  19. What is your process for giving medication?
  20. How do you monitor the children and the facility?
  21. How do you monitor or screen visitors?
  22. What are your emergency procedures?
  23. Will the same caregivers be with my child each day?
  24. What are your policies about field trips?
  25. Do you provide opportunities for learning about music, dance, or art?
  26. How do you teach math, numbers, and counting?
  27. How do you help to develop literacy skills?
  28. Do you have a before/after school program?

These 28 questions are not the only ones you might want to ask your prospective daycare, but they provide a good foundation for determining your most important wants and needs.

When you’re looking for a good daycare, think also about the attitudes and behaviors you value and want your child to value as well. For example, do you want him to have a controlled learning experience, or would you prefer a daycare that guides him based on his existing questions and interests? A good daycare should fit in well with your values and lifestyle.

When investigating daycare centers, look for one that aligns with your own values and philosophies as much as possible. There are many different daycare centers you can choose from, and asking the right questions can help you find the one that works best for your child and your family.

Tips for Managing a Fussy Eater

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Tips for Managing a Fussy Eater

If your young child is a picky eater, it may seem frustrating to you. You might worry about him getting enough nutrients, or eating healthily. Here are some tips to manage a fussy eater that will help both you and your child.

Make meal times fun and relaxing

Young children are more likely to resist eating what is offered to them if they feel pressure or anxiety over it. Picky eating is a way your child can assert her independence and explore her world, so try to approach it with that in mind. Don’t watch over and worry about every little mouthful your child eats, and praise her for trying. This way, she will make positive associations with mealtimes.

Get your child involved

Part of fussy eating may be resolved when a child feels a sense of control or ownership over her food. Take your child grocery shopping and ask her to help you choose healthy food like fruits or vegetables. Here, she may be drawn to certain colors or textures that she enjoys. You can also ask for her help around mealtimes, such as setting the table.

Get friends involved

Even at an early age, your child’s friends can be a big influence in his life. If your child has a friend who is a more adventurous eater, invite him or her over for a meal. Resist making obvious comparisons between the two children, such as, “See? Clara likes carrots. Why don’t you?” Instead, sit back and let the natural dynamic of the two friends do its work. Even if your child doesn’t automatically become less of a picky eater, he will still see that trying different food doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Be patient

Sometimes, your toddler or preschooler will start to eat a food, then decide he doesn’t like it. Try not to get frustrated or think of it as a step backwards. Instead, continue to expose your child to this food, and he may eventually feel comfortable enough to try it again.

You may also try “food chaining,” which is a strategy employed by some feeding clinics. With food chaining, you would encourage your child to try a different version of a food she already likes. For example, if he loves fried chicken, you might try introducing her to breaded chicken strips, then chicken drumsticks, then breaded vegetables. The key here is to expose her to foods with similar textures and/or flavors. Be patient here, too – this process may take several weeks.

It may also be tempting to offer bribes of unhealthy food that you know your child will eat. This can solve the immediate problem of hunger, but ultimately, it may condition your child to favor unhealthy food. Try to be patient and build upon things in a way that feels natural.

Ask your child’s preschool or daycare for advice

Preschools and daycares are very experienced in dealing with all kinds of eaters, from the fussy to the adventurous. Speak to your child’s preschool or daycare and ask for strategies you can use at home, and find out their own strategies for working with picky eaters.

When dealing with your fussy eater, it can feel very stressful. However, keeping mealtimes fun, getting your child and adventurous friends involved, being patient, and enlisting help when you need it are all strategies you can employ to make the process smoother for everyone.

5 Quick and Healthy Preschool Lunches

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5 Quick and Healthy Preschool Lunches

When getting ready to send your young child to preschool, you may be wondering about what she will eat during the day. If you will be sending food along with your child, you’ll want ideas for healthy preschool lunches that don’t take too much time out of your busy schedule.

Here are five quick and easy preschool lunches that deliver the nutrition your child needs for a day of play and learning.

English Muffin Pizzas

These kid-sized “pizzas” are easy and fun to eat. The night before, slice an English muffin and top each slice with marinara or pizza sauce, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 400° oven or toaster oven until the cheese is melted. In the morning, add one pizza to the lunchbox along with some fruit or veggie slices.

Mexican Wrap

This tasty lunch has a Mexican flavour kids love. On a small whole-wheat tortilla, spread a thin layer of refried beans. Add a bit of salsa, shredded lettuce, and diced tomato. Wrap it up, and cut in half. Hold together with toothpicks. Send along with some cut veggies or fruit.

Healthy Finger Foods

If you have a lunch container with several compartments, you can assemble a complete meal that your child can have fun with. Some suggestions include: cubed cheese, pieces of leftover turkey, cut-up hot dogs, grapes, baby carrots, apple chunks, animal crackers, and pita chips. Include a healthy dip for veggies, such as hummus.

Kid-Friendly Pasta

If your child’s preschool has a microwave, you can send along some pasta to be reheated at the appropriate time. Some kid-friendly options you can make the night before include: mac and cheese, penne with marinara sauce and meatballs, or bowtie pasta lightly tossed in butter, with peas and cherry tomatoes. Add your child’s favorite veggies such as steamed broccoli, or carrots and dip on the side.

Last Night’s Leftovers

Using leftovers from dinner the night before is a great way to introduce some variety into your child’s preschool lunches, and can help you get creative. You can repurpose the entire meal, such as a stir-fry, or use just one component. For example, your leftover roast chicken can become part of a wrap: take a small whole-wheat tortilla spread with hummus, add chicken pieces and shredded lettuce or sliced cucumber. Wrap it up, and cut in half. Hold together with toothpicks.

Giving your preschooler a healthy and fun lunch doesn’t have to mean hours in the kitchen. Our five ideas for quick and healthy preschool lunches will help your preschooler get the nutrition and energy he needs for his day.

Handling Back-to-School Separation Anxiety

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Handling Back-to-School Separation Anxiety

Many children experience back-to-school anxiety, but for young children starting preschool or daycare for the first time, this anxiety can feel acute. After all, the new routines of preschool or daycare are completely new to them.

Here are some tips for relieving back-to-school separation anxiety in your young child.

Start preparing your child as soon as possible

It’s best to prepare your child for the concept of preschool or daycare as early as you can. This way, you can help him get more comfortable with the idea. Set realistic expectations about the preschool experience, encourage your child to talk about his feelings, and visit the preschool or daycare ahead of time to help your child adjust in advance.

Send your child off with a comforting object

It can help your child to feel less overwhelmed if she brings along a comforting object from home. This can be a stuffed animal, book, or blanket – even a photo of her family. These objects can impart a sense of security to a young child entering a strange new environment. It’s a good idea to not send your child’s favorite comforting object, however, as it may become lost or misplaced during the day.

Keep the drop-off easy and light

Avoid long, lingering goodbyes, or trying to slip away without saying goodbye at all. Your child will take his behavioral cues from you, so reinforce the idea that preschool is a safe, happy place to be, and that your child isn’t being abandoned there. Say goodbye to your child quickly and cheerfully, and resist the urge to stay with him too long. It may also help your child to develop a routine around saying goodbye at preschool or daycare, such as a special high-five or funny phrase. This is another way to keep the drop-off fun and signal to your child that everything is fine.

Be patient with preschool and daycare separation anxiety

Separation anxiety in young children can be difficult to predict. Some children can exhibit signs of anxiety after a period of good days. Others may have a more difficult time with the transition than others. If your child seems to be having trouble with the transition into preschool or daycare, it’s important to remain consistent and patient. It can be tempting to make the decision to pull your child out of the situation if she’s struggling. However, doing so may have the undesired effect of reinforcing your child’s idea that preschool or daycare is a scary place. Instead, sticking to your daily routine will give both of you a chance to work through her feelings and develop coping strategies.

Ask the teacher for advice

The teachers at your child’s preschool or daycare are experts in the various behavioral quirks of young children, and they deal with all kinds of moods and emotions on a daily basis. It’s a good idea to talk to a teacher before the first day, to give an idea of your child’s personality and the things that comfort him or cause him anxiety. The teacher can use this information to help soothe your child if he experiences anxiety during the day, and may also be able to advise you on what you can do at home to help your child.

Starting preschool or daycare is a big step in your young child’s life, and one that comes with a host of complex emotions. However, there are several strategies the whole family can employ to reduce the frequency of back-to-school separation anxiety.

How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

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How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

Whether your child is excited or nervous about starting preschool, it is a significant adjustment. However, you can help your child through this transition with these five tips.

1) Set realistic expectations

You may feel the urge to help your child feel excited about going to preschool by talking about how much fun she’s going to have every day. However, this may not be the best strategy. Starting preschool is a big moment in your young child’s life, and it’s normal to be anxious or have concerns. Rather than making preschool seem as fun as going to an amusement park, set realistic expectations. Tell your child what a typical day at preschool might look like, and answer any questions she may have, no matter how unusual. Arming your child with information will help to alleviate her anxiety.

2) Encourage him to talk

Have discussions about preschool with your child, and encourage him to talk about how he feels. Let him know that it’s okay if he’s confused about something, or if he feels happy one day and nervous the next. Above all, treat his feelings with respect, even if they might seem trivial or even cute to you. This way, not only will he develop the confidence to express his emotions, but he’ll also learn ways he can cope with the new experience of preschool.

3) Visit the preschool ahead of time

It can help your child to visit the preschool before her first day. Show her the classrooms, introduce her to teachers, and let her play with the toys or on the playground. Explain what her daily activities will be, and where in the school they’ll take place. If it’s possible, allow your child to explore at her own pace so she will feel calm and at ease. Letting your child visit the preschool ahead of time will help her feel more familiar with the new environment early, so the first day might not seem so scary to her.

4) Get your child involved

Getting your child’s participation and assistance in preparing for preschool can help him feel less overwhelmed about the adjustment. Go shopping for supplies with him, and ask him to choose his own backpack. Find books about preschool and read them together. Look for ways to help him feel a sense of control over the process, which may help him to feel more confident.

5) Adjust your routine

In the weeks leading up to your child’s first day, slowly start adjusting your daily routine to what it will eventually become once preschool starts. If your child will go to bed earlier or wake up earlier, it’s best to start this transition as early as possible. You can also make a game of lunchtime, packing her lunch in her backpack. Gradually incorporating some elements of her new routine ahead of time will help her to feel more comfortable and confident when she actually does experience the preschool schedule.

Starting preschool is an important milestone in your child’s life, and it comes with a mix of excitement, nervousness, and anxiety. These are all normal emotions, but by painting a realistic picture, answering questions, visiting the school, encouraging involvement, and adjusting your daily routine, you can help to prepare your child for preschool.

How to Teach Your Preschooler About Sharing

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How to Teach Your Preschooler About Sharing

As parents, we want to see our children playing happily with others, and being kind and sharing. You know that it’s an important life skill that will help them see success in their future social and professional lives. However, preschoolers just learning how to socialize may not quite grasp the concept and importance of sharing. Here are some ways you can help teach your preschooler about sharing.

Lead by example

You probably are familiar with your preschooler’s propensity to imitate what she sees you doing or saying, so use this to your advantage and model good sharing behavior. You may need to make it clear to your child that you are sharing. For example, “Your brother wants to try some of my pancake, so I’m sharing it with him,” or, “Let’s draw a picture together. We can share these crayons.” You can also show your preschooler that you can share things like feelings, thoughts, and stories too.

Make sharing fun

You can help make the concept of sharing into an enjoyable game for your preschooler. Assembling a jigsaw puzzle or playing a cooperative game together are good ways to show your child that sharing with others, whether it’s a toy or a task, can be rewarding and enjoyable.

Praise your child for sharing

Whenever your child does share with another, praising them or thanking them will help cement the idea that sharing is a good behavior. You don’t have to wait for spontaneous sharing to offer praise; praising your child for honoring your request to share or take turns will have the same positive effect. Of course, take care not to accidentally encourage rivalries between siblings or friends when doing so.

Take sharing at their pace

Sharing will be a relatively new concept to your preschooler, so help him along and set expectations. Let him know that taking turns playing with a toy is only temporary, and the toy will still be his.

It’s also a good idea to get your preschooler involved in the sharing process, and let him know that it’s his decision whether he wants to share or not. For example, he may feel a special connection to his favorite stuffed animal and experience anxiety at the thought of letting someone else play with it. In this case, you can ask him to share a different toy. Encourage sharing rather than forcing it.

Helping your preschooler learn about sharing takes patience, but there are several strategies you can employ to help your child learn this important social skill.

Age-Appropriate Household Chores for Preschoolers

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Household Chores for Preschoolers

Helping out with household chores is an ideal way for children to learn responsibility, develop a sense of self-worth, and feel useful. According to a recent study by Brown University School of Medicine, children who did chores around the house had higher persistence – and had increased levels of emotional wellbeing and happiness.

Here are 12 suggested household chores that preschoolers can help with around the house.

  1. Feed the family pet
  2. Put away their toys after they are finished with them
  3. Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket
  4. Begin choosing their own clothes
  5. Get dressed on their own (with assistance if needed)
  6. Help with setting the table
  7. Help with making their bed
  8. Wipe up small spills
  9. Put away clean clothes
  10. Mix, stir, and add ingredients when you are preparing food (away from hot surfaces)
  11. Water plants and flowers indoors or in the garden
  12. Sweep small areas with a dustpan and hand broom

When your preschooler is beginning to help with household chores, keep the following tips in mind:

Start small

There are many small household chores your preschooler can help with, but introducing several at once may overwhelm him. Instead, start with one or two tasks, and ensure your child has a grasp on the basics.

Have fun with it

Turning chores into an entertaining game is one way to hold your preschooler’s interest. For example, you can play together with your child’s stuffed animals as you both make the bed. Remember that this is new to your child, so try to always make it a positive experience.

Adjust your expectations

You know that life with a preschooler can be messy. While a 10-year-old may sweep up a spill without any issues, a preschooler may not be as thorough. Don’t scold your child for a chore that may not have been done perfectly – rather, thank him for his help. This will show him that he is useful, and he will be more inclined to help around the house in the future.

Supervise when necessary

Some preschoolers are more independent than others, and some need more guidance than others. It’s recommended to supervise your child when she is learning a new household chore, but you may be able to adjust that level of assistance depending on how well your child takes to the task. Of course, safety and security is foremost, especially in the kitchen and garden, and around cleaning agents.

Children of any age can help with everyday household tasks. Your curious preschooler will enjoy learning something new, and will also develop a sense of self-worth and responsibility. Start small, supervise, don’t expect perfection, and have fun with household chores. With these tips, your preschooler will build a strong foundation for future independence and self-sufficiency.

Why Playing is Learning

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Why Playing is Learning

When children play, they’re not only amusing themselves. They’re also learning valuable skills that will be with them for the rest of their lives, even if it might not look obvious to adults. Here are just some of the tools that playing will teach your preschooler.

Play teaches language skills

Recent studies have shown that “preschoolers use complex mental-state verbs such as say, talk, tell, write, and explain when they are engaged in make-believe play.” You can encourage your child to develop her vocabulary when playing with you by asking questions such as, “Is the dinosaur hungry? What is it eating?” Playing with her peers is another way for your preschooler to learn new words, particularly if she is playing with children of different ages.

Play teaches social skills

Whether your child is playing with you or with other children, he is learning valuable social skills. Activities such as pretend play, sing-alongs, sensory tables, and free play encourage children to negotiate with each other, share, ask questions, problem-solve together, cooperate, and practice conversation.

When playing in social situations, your preschooler will be exposed to other children with their own unique personalities, opinions, thoughts, and behaviors. He’ll learn empathy and begin to understand his own personality relative to his peers. This knowledge is critical to success in both education and everyday life.

Play teaches fine and gross motor skills

When children play, they’re developing their fine and gross motor skills without even realizing it. Activities such as painting, stringing beads, and stacking blocks develop fine motor skills such as dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and balance. More active forms of play such as tag, dancing, and climbing strengthen gross motor skills by developing the larger muscles of the body.

Play teaches math skills

As we discussed before, we begin to develop math concepts in our earliest years. Being introduced to numbers, shapes, and patterns are all important building blocks for math skills that will be built upon in later life.

You can introduce math concepts to your preschooler by exposing her to basic shapes such as triangles and circles, encouraging pattern creation, and playing counting games. For example, having your child pour sand into differently-sized buckets can teach her about volume, sizes, and numbers. Jigsaw puzzles and counting songs such as “Ten Little Monkeys” are other ideal ways to help preschoolers develop their budding math skills.

As parents, it is heartwarming to see children playing happily. But play is more than just a diversion for children; it is also how they learn to understand the world they live in, and test out different ways of thinking and acting in a controlled environment. Play is where children develop early language skills, social skills, fine and gross motor skills, and math skills. Developing these skills in your child’s early years will help her succeed in later education, and in life.

Ways to Help Your Child Learn About Animals

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Help Your Child Learn About Animals

Children are fascinated by animals, and are always curious to learn more about them. Here are some age-appropriate ways you can help your preschooler learn about animals.

Start with the basics

Although preschoolers are endlessly curious, their attention spans are also short. They may have difficulty retaining information about a wide variety of animals, so you may want to start with animals your child sees most often, such as birds, cats, and dogs. Talk about the sounds they make, where they live, and things they like to do – “That bird is going home to his nest. Do you think he likes flying?”

If your child seems more interested in one particular animal, encourage that interest. A favorite animal doesn’t mean that your preschooler won’t learn about the others. In fact, having a favorite animal is an ideal foundation for learning about other animals later on.

Teach them to be gentle

Children learn through hands-on experiences, but that may not always be the best way to interact with animals. When coming face-to-face with a pet or an animal in a petting zoo, remind your child to be gentle and avoid touching the animal’s face or pulling its tail or ears. Not only will this help the animal to remain calm, it will also teach your child kindness to animals.

Teach them to be safe

Of course, there are times when touching an animal is not a good idea at all. In those cases, keep your child at a distance, but allow her to observe the animal if it’s safe to do so, and have conversations about the animal and what it’s doing. If you are walking with your child and see a dog approaching, be sure to model safe behavior by asking the dog’s walker if you and your child may say hello to the dog.

Showing your child that animals need their personal space will not only teach compassion, but it will also demonstrate a valuable safety lesson.

Let your child help with the family pet

If you have a family pet, letting your child help with its care is an ideal way to help him learn about animals. Depending on the age of your child, this may be as simple as helping to fill the cat’s water dish, or asking your older child to take the dog for a “walk” in the backyard. Letting your child help take care of the family pet will show him that animals have unique physical, social, and emotional needs. He’ll also feel a sense of pride and feel a stronger connection to the family pet.

Play pretend

We’ve written before about how make-believe lets children develop creativity and problem-solving skills, but it can also encourage empathy. When your child engages in imaginative play, she can explore what another person – or animal – is thinking and feeling, and understand why.

Your preschooler may pretend to be the family dog or the squirrel you saw in the park earlier that day. She may also enjoy pretending her stuffed elephant best friend is a real elephant, and this can be an ideal opportunity to teach her about the real-life habitats and behaviors of elephants.

Learn through animal-related books and songs

Books and songs are a good way to expose your child to age-appropriate information about animals. They are entertaining as well as informative, keeping your preschooler interested while he learns.

You can take the education further by asking your child questions about the book or song, such as, “What else do you think a mouse would eat?” This is another way your child can develop empathy towards animals.

Children love to learn about animals. With strategies such as teaching kindness, playing imaginative games, and reading and singing together, you can teach your preschooler about animals in an engaging and age-appropriate way.

Helping Your Child Learn Through Hands-on Experiences

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Child Learn Through Hands-on Experiences

Hands-on experiences create a crucial foundation for your young child’s learning. A recent study showed that preschoolers were less likely to explore and learn for themselves after an adult demonstrated how a toy works. The study showed that, with instruction, “children are less likely to perform potentially irrelevant actions but also less likely to discover novel information.”

So how can you encourage your child to discover useful and interesting information about the world around him? Here are our tips to help your child learn through hands-on experiences.

Introduce, but don’t control

Not only can over-instruction hinder a child’s capacity to investigate, but it can also overwhelm. Preschoolers cannot process the sort of complex, linear instructions we might be used to.

Instead, introduce your child to a toy such as a set of blocks, and then let her experiment with it and learn more about it. If your child is struggling, resist the urge to take over and help immediately. At this stage of development, using an item in the correct way is often less important than learning about the item in general.

Provide a safe learning environment

Risk is an inevitable part of the hands-on experience. This risk can be small, such as putting a puzzle piece in the wrong place, or it can be large, involving personal safety and security.

However, this risk doesn’t have to mean that hands-on learning should be avoided entirely. Instead, provide a safe environment for your child to experiment. This can be physical, such as keeping your preschooler away from a pond during a nature walk, but a secure learning environment can also be emotional. Allow your child to be open and curious, and respond to that curiosity with respect and encouragement.

Ask questions and have discussions

One way to encourage your child’s curiosity in hands-on learning is to have discussions and ask questions. Preschoolers are never at a loss for questions, and this is even more true when they are experiencing something new.

Conversation develops social, vocabulary, and emotional skills, and it’s also a great way to help your child process what she’s learning. You can ask open-ended questions such as, “How does the water feel?” or answer a question with a question: “That’s a pinecone. Is it heavy?” You can also encourage two-way conversation by creating a story around the experience. For example, if your child is looking at a picture book, you can have discussions about the images depicted in the book.

Try a sensory table

Children learn through play, and a sensory table is an ideal medium for hands-on learning. Learning that involves all the senses will help your child develop fine and gross motor skills, improve concentration and coordination, and build critical problem-solving strategies.

Your preschool may have a special sensory table set up already, which has a rim around it or bins inside it. At home, you can use a plastic tub or even a wading pool to replicate a sensory table. Fill it with items such as leaves, popcorn, tennis balls, paper, water, colored pasta, sponges, ice cubes, felt, twigs – virtually anything you can imagine. The idea is to encourage your child to use his senses to learn about the items. Ask questions and have discussions, and remember that there is no right or wrong way to use a sensory table.

Preschoolers love to play and learn about the world around them. When you encourage hands-on learning with your preschooler, you are fostering a sense of self-confidence and motivation for continued learning.

Rainy Day? Try These Indoor Activities for Preschoolers

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Try These Indoor Activities for Preschoolers

On days when the weather’s too poor to enjoy educational activities outdoors, you and your preschooler can still have fun indoors. Here are some suggestions for keeping your preschooler entertained while stuck inside the house.

Develop language and literacy skills with a good book

As we mentioned in an earlier post, reading with your preschooler develops literacy, creativity, problem-solving, and a lifelong love of learning. A rainy day is a perfect time to enjoy a few good books with your child. Encourage your child to interact with the books. Touching the books, turning the pages, and even playing with components of the books themselves will create a positive mental association with reading.

With rainy-day reading, take your time and delve into the book. You can extend the story and ask your child questions such as, “What colour is that car?” or “Why do you think the dog ran away?” Preschoolers are endlessly curious, so try not to put too much importance in the linear aspect of the story. Instead, let your child discover the joy of books.

Encourage creativity with make-believe

According to psychologist Sandra Russ, imaginative play in early childhood may be associated with increased creative performance in later years. There is no better time than a rainy day to let your preschooler’s imagination blossom. Some ideas for imagination-focused make-believe games include:

  • Putting on a play or dance with costumes
  • Setting up a mini-grocery store with household items
  • Having a tea party, complete with stuffed animals as guests
  • Building a city with blocks and other toys
  • Being an animal – an elephant, a horse, even the family pet

Pretend play allows children to express their creativity and develop problem-solving skills in a safe, controlled environment.

Develop fine motor skills with crafts

Through hands-on crafting activities, your preschooler will develop his fine motor skills in a fun, age-appropriate way.

Fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination can be developed with crafts that involve smaller, intricate movements, such as: stringing beads together to create a necklace; drawing shapes and patterns; and building a tower with blocks.

Develop gross motor skills with games

The gross motor skills that use the larger muscle groups of the body can be developed through a wide variety of indoor games. For example, dancing is an ideal way to help your child understand the concept of rhythm. You can encourage this development by singing songs that require a corresponding action, such as “I’m a Little Teapot” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

You can also set up an indoor obstacle course using household items such as couch cushions, stools, and chairs. Helping your child to crawl under, climb over, balance on, and pass through these obstacles is a fun way for her to develop her gross motor skills.

Poor weather doesn’t have to mean that your preschooler misses out on fun and educational activities. Together, you and your child can enjoy a rainy day indoors while also developing his literacy, creativity, and fine and gross motor skills.

How to Help Your Preschooler Learn About Nature

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Help Your Preschooler Learn About Nature

According to recent studies, time spent outdoors has numerous health benefits for children, including improved distance vision, enhanced social skills, and even a potential reduction in ADHD symptoms.

No matter the weather, your preschooler’s natural curiosity will be the perfect complement to the health and educational benefits of nature. Here are some suggestions for helping your preschooler learn about nature.

Reduce screen time

A study by the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation found that American children and teens spend over 53 hours per week with entertainment media. As we discussed in a previous article, children over the age of two should have screen time reduced to two hours per day at a maximum. Teaching healthy technology habits to your child early on will help him more naturally gravitate towards outdoor play.

Make outdoor learning a family activity

Getting the entire family involved in learning about nature will help your preschooler feel included and have fun, whether it’s a day in the garden or a simple walk in the park. Modeling a love of nature will encourage your preschooler to follow in your footsteps, and foster an interest in plants, animals, and the way the natural world works.

Encourage outdoor free play

Children learn through play, so take some time to let your preschooler interact freely with the world around her and follow her own curiosity. You don’t need to necessarily explain to her how snowflakes are formed or how trees grow, but you can make snowballs together or let her examine the texture of bark. Allowing her to indulge in sensory play outdoors will inspire her to find answers to questions about nature – and ask new ones.

Don’t be discouraged by bad weather

Spring and summer are not the only times children should be learning about nature. No matter what climate you live in, there are always numerous things your child can discover outdoors. In winter, he can look for animal tracks in the snow or bird’s nests in the trees. In rainy weather, he can go hunting for worms or play with mud. No matter the weather, ensure everyone’s dressed appropriately and safely.

Ask your preschool for suggestions

A good preschool will provide ample opportunities for regular, age-appropriate outdoor play. Ask your child’s preschool teacher for suggestions on how you can encourage your preschooler to learn about nature. Not only will the teacher have several ideas backed by research in early childhood education, but she also knows what your child will respond to.

An interest in the natural world encourages your child’s curiosity, creativity, and inspires a life-long love of learning. Helping your child learn about nature is easy and fun, in any kind of weather.

7 Fun and Educational Outdoor Activities for Preschoolers

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7 Educational Outdoor Activities for Preschoolers

Exploring the world outside is a great opportunity for your preschooler to learn, and develop important skills. Here are seven suggestions for fun and educational outdoor activities you can do with your young child.

  1. Involve your child in gardening – Kids love to be helpful, and offering them age-appropriate activities in the garden will give them a feeling of accomplishment, while also teaching them about the life cycles of nature.
  2. Make flower and leaf art – Take a walk around your neighborhood and discuss the different leaves and flowers you see. If you can, collect some leaves and flowers (or the weeds your child may think are flowers), and bring them home. Here, your child can draw the leaves and flowers she sees, or even use them to paint and stamp with.
  3. Go bird-watching – Preschoolers have short attention spans, so we don’t suggest traditional bird-watching. Instead, go for a walk and encourage your child to look for birds in trees, or listen for their calls. In the spring, you can look for bird families with their young.
  4. Look for colors in nature – Pick three colors your child is familiar with, and spend an afternoon looking for those colors in nature. Encourage your child to look for these colors in items like flowers, leaves, and grass – even birds and bugs.
  5. Teach letters, numbers, and shapes with sidewalk chalk – Drawing shapes, letters, and numbers with sidewalk chalk is both fun and educational for your child. You can draw a series of shapes such as a square, a triangle, and a circle, and ask him to run to the circle, or to color in the square. You can also write out his name in big letters and ask him to help you. This can be an ideal opportunity to teach math concepts to your preschooler.
  6. Collect rocks or shells – Whether this activity is done on a beach or in a park, encourage your child to hunt for rocks and/or shells of varying sizes, colors, textures, and shapes. Help her, and discuss the different features of each rock or shell she collects. At home, wash the rocks or shells and have your preschooler display them according to whichever characteristic she likes.
  7. Turn everyday walks into education – Young children are endlessly curious about their world, so it’s easy to turn an everyday walk into a learning experience. On a walk around your neighborhood or even during a longer nature walk, encourage your child to discuss what he sees around him. You can talk about the texture of tree trunks, ask him to point out something green, splash around in a puddle together, or even watch a spider working on a web.

Outdoor experiences are an ideal opportunity to help your child develop a love of the world around her, while also strengthening vital motor, mathematical, and problem-solving skills.

Tips to Get Ready for Summer Camp

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Tips to Get Ready for Summer Camp

Summer camp is an important experience for a child of any age. It exposes him to a diverse range of activities that expands his worldview and develops his social skills. Whether or not your young child is excited for this new experience, it’s still a big adjustment. Here are some tips to help get your child ready for summer camp.

Be realistic about the experience

If your child is nervous about summer camp, you may be tempted to make it sound like the most fantastic experience she will ever have. It’s understandable to want to allay your child’s fears, but it might also give her unrealistic expectations that can be hard for her to process. Overwhelming positivity can also feel like she’s wrong to be nervous or scared.

Instead, have discussions about what she can expect at camp. Talk about the activities she’s going to do, and what she will learn. For example, if your child is going to a summer camp where she will be exploring nature, you can discuss the local animals and plants she might come across. If she’ll be learning about music, you can play some music and dance together at home.

If she’s anxious about something, acknowledge her feelings and offer suggestions for how she could handle things. Remind her that she can talk to an adult at summer camp if she’s feeling upset or confused at any time, and that it’s normal to feel a bit scared before doing something new.

Ensure your child has the necessary clothing or equipment

Summer is a great time for outdoor exploration, and that means proper clothing and protection. Talk to the summer camp and make sure you’re providing your child with everything he needs to stay comfortable and protected at camp. This might include: proper summer attire, sunscreen, bug spray, and accessories like sunglasses and hats to help give shade from the sun. It might be a good idea to include some rain gear too, to be on the safe side.

Make sure you are aware of any other sorts of clothing or equipment your child may need to bring for certain summer camp activities, such as sneakers or a bathing suit.

Practice social skills

We’ve discussed previously how conversation helps develop social skills, and the weeks before summer camp affords an ideal opportunity to continue this education. Your child may be meeting many new people during summer camp, and can find it scary if she’s unprepared. Now is a great time to help your child learn how to make friends – practice things like saying please and thank you, sharing toys, giving others a chance to talk, and how to cope if she’s feeling upset or scared. You can even practice these social situations at home before she leaves for summer camp, so she can draw on her experiences when the time comes.

For young children, summer camp is a great opportunity to learn more about their world. They may be anxious, excited, or somewhere in between, and the weeks before the big day is the perfect opportunity to help your child prepare for the summer camp experience.

How to Garden With Small Children

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How to Garden With Small Children

Spring is here, and that means flowers are blooming and plants are growing. Now is an ideal time to teach your preschooler about nature, whether it’s a few potted plants inside the house, or a full vegetable garden outdoors. Here are some tips for gardening with small children.

Start small

You may have daydreams about gardening side-by-side with your child in the years to come, but it’s important to not overwhelm your preschooler at first. Choose plants or vegetables with large seeds that are easy for your child to handle, and also look for things that grow quickly such as carrots. Take your time, and have conversations with your child about each step in the process. Don’t forget that gardening with a preschooler is less about perfection and more about introducing him to the natural world around him.

Encourage hands-on learning

Nothing is more fun to a preschooler than digging around in the dirt, so gardening is the perfect time to let her indulge. You can turn this fun play into an educational experience by talking about soil and how it feeds plants, or you can ask her to look for worms in the soil as she digs. Let her push seeds into the soil, or help you water plants. The natural curiosity of a preschooler means she will be eager to get involved. It will also foster her sense of responsibility, and allow her to feel like she’s helping with important work.

Choose age-appropriate garden activities

Some gardening activities, such as digging or weeding, are too advanced for preschool-age children. Keep your child interested and safe with garden activities appropriate for his age. You might ask him to help you with harvesting carrots or picking flowers. You can even simply take a walk through your garden or visit your indoor plants, and discuss how they’re changing. If your child seems impatient for “his” sunflowers to grow, you may want to create a visual calendar for him to track its progress.

Keep safety in mind

Of course, safety is paramount in the garden. You already know to keep fertilizers, pesticides, or any harmful gardening tools well away from your preschooler. However, you should also take this time to teach your child to never put any seed, plant or berry in her mouth without asking you first, especially in a garden environment where bright colors can look tempting and delicious to her. You’re well aware of the short attention span of the young child, so be sure to keep constant watch over her in the garden.

Spring is an ideal time to introduce your preschooler to the wonders of nature. Indulge your child’s natural curiosity in the garden by encouraging him to help you with small tasks, and having discussions about the way plants, fruits and vegetables grow. An early interest in gardening can foster a lifelong love of the world around him.

Introducing Math Concepts to Your Preschooler

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Introducing Math Concepts To Your Preschooler

As adults, we tend to think of math in complex ways. We imagine intricate formulas, or the sort of everyday math we use with our finances. However, our earliest math concepts had their root in our youngest years, and your preschooler is no different. The math your preschooler is being introduced to is very simplistic, but is an important building block to future learning and day-to-day life.

Here are some ways you can introduce math concepts to your preschooler, and keep her interested in the years to come.

Promote numbers and counting at home

Learning his numbers and how to count can seem like a very confusing concept for a preschooler. However, you can help to make it enjoyable by singing songs that involve numbers, or teach him how to count using interesting objects like buttons, teddy bears, or raisins at snack time.

The concepts of “greater than” and “less than” are also important math building blocks. You can help your preschooler understand these concepts by getting his help with measuring ingredients while cooking, or asking him questions like, “Is the black dog bigger or smaller than the brown dog?”

Encourage pattern recognition and creation

Being able to arrange items in a logical, repeatable way is another important foundation of math skills. Pattern recognition can also lead to stronger social skills, as they help preschoolers use logic to make predictions about what will happen next, and use reasoning.

Repeating patterns, where objects are arranged in a certain order again and again, can be taught in ways such as: arranging colored blocks (try three-color patterns such as blue-yellow-green, blue-yellow-green), asking your child to decorate her weekend pancakes with alternating blueberry and strawberry slices, or singing clapping songs such as Patty Cake.

There are also growing patterns, where objects are added sequentially in a pattern. One way you can help your preschooler learn growing patterns is to lay out some colored blocks on a table in a pattern such as red, yellow, red. Then, beneath those blocks, arrange another row in a red, yellow, yellow, red, pattern. Help your child see that you have added another yellow block in the second pattern, and ask for her help putting the third row together.

Help them to understand shapes

Basic shapes are fundamental to developing future geometry skills. You can ask your child to name the shapes of everyday objects like a book, a traffic sign, or a window, and use shape names in conversation. They may not fully understand 3D shapes like cones or cubes at this age, but go slowly and be patient with your preschooler. When it comes time to build upon these shapes in later schooling, he’ll already have some knowledge to draw from.

Talk to your child’s preschool teacher for advice

Your child’s preschool teacher is likely already teaching your child about patterns, shapes, numbers, and counting, and is a great resource for your at-home learning. Talk to the teacher about what activities or songs they use to help children learn math concepts in class, and ask what they recommend for you to continue that education at home. The teacher may also have some useful advice about your specific child and what she might respond to best.

Preschoolers are very curious, and are often naturally drawn to basic math concepts such as numbers, shapes, and patterns. Incorporating these concepts into your everyday life at home will help your preschooler build a vital foundation in math skills, and a love of future learning.

Expecting? How to Prepare Your Child for a New Sibling

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Prepare Your Child for a New Sibling

A new baby is an exciting time for your family. However, you may be concerned about how your young child will handle the new arrival. Preschoolers are very adaptable, and you have several months in which you can prepare your child for the new baby. Here are some ways you can prepare your young child for his or her new sibling.

Tell your child at the right time

You may already know that experts advise that parents avoid announcing a new pregnancy until the risks of the first trimester have passed. However, with a toddler or preschooler, it may be a good idea to wait even longer, until the pregnancy is beginning to show. Young children may have a difficult time conceptualizing a pregnancy without a visual aid to help them understand.

If you decide to wait to tell your child about the pregnancy, it might be advisable to wait until that point to make the announcement to your friends and family as well. This way, nobody will run the risk of accidentally ruining the surprise for your child.

Understand the pregnancy from the child’s point of view

You’re excited to see your family growing, and can’t wait to meet your new baby. You likely have daydreams about your child and your new baby playing and getting to know each other. However, your child may see it differently.

A pregnancy is a very confusing thing for a young child. Try not to give long explanations or complicated details to your preschooler, who may not understand. For example, if your child asks where babies come from, you can give a simplified answer, such as, “Babies grow inside the mother’s belly.”

It’s also useful to remember that, up to now, your child had your sole attention. If she seems upset about having to share her toys when the baby comes, ask her to talk about her feelings and listen to her fears. Give her reassurance about her place in the family, and remind her how important she is to you.

Involve your child in preparations

You can encourage your child to feel more comfortable with the thought of his new sibling by involving him in preparations. He can listen to the baby inside mom’s belly, or feel it kick. Go through his baby pictures together and talk about what it was like when he was a baby. If it won’t be overwhelming, you may even want to bring your child to prenatal appointments with you. It will be difficult for him to no longer have your undivided attention when the baby arrives, but involving him in preparations can go a long way in creating a connection instead of resentment.

Be realistic about how life will change

Many young children are made to believe that new babies are playmates, and are disappointed when their new sibling does little more than sleep, cry, and eat. It can be tempting to ease your child’s unhappiness by saying she will have a new baby to play with, but it can also be a disappointment to your child later on.

One helpful strategy to help your child understand the reality of life with a new baby is to visit friends who have infants of their own. This way, your child can see firsthand what newborns are like. Alternately, you can use a doll or stuffed animal to demonstrate the correct way to hold, touch, and behave near a newborn baby.

Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene recommends referring to the new baby as “your little brother” rather than “the new baby.”

New babies are a big life change, and that can seem doubly so when having to prepare your toddler or preschooler for their new sibling’s arrival. However, understanding the concept from your child’s point of view, involving him in preparations, and getting him ready for the changes to come will go a long way in making the new sibling’s arrival that much easier.

What Parents Should Know About Preschool Nutrition

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What Parents Should Know - Preschool Nutrition

When you chose your child’s preschool or daycare, you likely had a checklist of important qualities. You wanted a preschool that was safe, had well-trained and caring teachers, and would teach your child valuable skills in a supportive environment. A good preschool or daycare acts as an extension of your family, and keeps your child’s health and safety in mind.

To that end, you may have questions about the food your child eats in preschool, such as allergies, meal plans, or eating habits. If that sounds like you, here are some things that you should know about preschool and daycare nutrition.

Allergies, intolerances, and special diets can be accommodated

Whether it’s an allergy, an intolerance, or a special diet that must be followed for cultural or religious reasons, your child can still eat healthfully in preschool. Feel free to discuss your child’s dietary restrictions with your preschool or daycare – they’ll be happy to create an alternative meal plan to meet your child’s needs while still providing adequate nutrition.

Menus are planned based on expert guidelines

Daycares and preschools follow guidelines for several areas of their operations, and nutrition is no different. Meal plans are approved by regulatory agencies that look out for things like appropriate portion sizes and nutrition. You can be sure that your child’s meals and snacks during his day at preschool will have all the food groups and necessary nutrients represented, while reducing unhealthy added fats, sugar and sodium.

You can view your preschool’s menu ahead of time

Most preschools and daycares will offer sample menus, or make their weekly meal plans available to parents by request. This allows you to see things like portion sizes, food variety, and types of food offered. It’s also a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your child’s food, such as method of preparation.

Preschools and daycares can handle picky eaters

At home, you may feel like your picky eater is a handful, and you have your strategies that you’ve honed after months of experience. You may worry about your child not eating at preschool, or causing stress for her teachers.

Rest assured that your child is not the first picky eater your preschool or daycare has come across! Teachers are very experienced with all aspects of toddler and preschool behaviour – picky eating included. Have a chat with the teacher and you might find they have a few strategies up their sleeve, such as allowing the child to serve herself, introducing new foods slowly, or creating a fun ritual around snack times. Another factor that may ease your mind is a concept called “positive peer pressure.” Your picky eater may happily try new foods or eat what her friends are eating at preschool.

Preschools and daycares keep you informed

Many preschools and daycares offer daily reports on how your child slept, toileted, acted, and ate during the day. If you have a picky eater, this report can be especially helpful to see if he’s accepting substituted foods. If your child isn’t a picky eater, the daily report is still a good way to keep informed on her nutrition and eating habits. If your child has suddenly started eating less, or rejecting a certain food, you can investigate. You may also notice that your child has discovered a new favorite food in preschool, and can incorporate it into his diet at home too.

Preschools are committed to creating an environment in which your child can thrive, and proper nutrition is the foundation. Your preschool or daycare is an active participant in your child’s health and wellbeing, and will offer her a variety of nutritious, age-appropriate, and delicious meals and snacks.

Helping Your Child Make Friends at Daycare

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Helping Your Child Make Daycare Friends

Daycare is a great experience for children. In daycare, kids develop important social skills, learn educational concepts such as reading, math, and vocabulary, and build up their own independence.

However, your child may be more nervous than anything about starting daycare. Making friends is a good way to help your child understand that daycare is a fun place to be. Here are some ways you can help your child make friends at daycare.

Befriend other parents

Befriending another parent of a child in daycare can be a good introduction to one of the children your child will see on a regular basis. If you schedule play dates in a familiar environment or spend time with the new parent and child outside of daycare, both children can get to know each other without the added social complications that other children can sometimes bring. An added benefit is that you also get to spend time with a friendly new face, and can share parenting and daycare tips and advice.

Offer advice for social situations

As you know, social skills are the result of years of practice. This means that you will likely need to coach your preschooler on how to navigate certain social situations. For example, showing your child how to share, explaining why taking turns is important, and demonstrating compromise and collaboration.  Practice conversational skills together. Teach him some things she can say or do if she wants to join other children in play.

Encourage empathy and emotional control

Adults know that sometimes two people just don’t get along, or there are misunderstandings that are easily resolved. But for a preschooler, play can easily turn into conflict. You can help your child deal with these situations by encouraging her to think about how others feel (“Do you think Adrian was sad when you pushed him?”), and by demonstrating ways to work through negative emotions.

Studies have shown that children whose negative emotions are punished or made light of tend to develop issues with self-control. So encourage your child to think about the feelings of others, and teach coping strategies for when emotions run high.

Don’t force things

Sometimes, as with adults, kids have to learn how to develop their own social skills. Offering helpful guidance and advice to your preschooler can help her understand how to best approach another child, but kids learn best by hands-on experience. And don’t forget that toddlers socialize differently from older children. Don’t be surprised if your toddler’s parallel play – playing alongside but not with another child – blossoms into its own kind of friendship.

What if your preschooler just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye with another child in daycare? If all options have been explored, you may just need to accept that a friendship is not in the cards. It might just be a clash of personalities. In this case, it’s best to help your child understand that it’s not a reflection of her and use this as an opportunity to teach tolerance and acceptance of other’s differences.

Ask the teacher for guidance

Your child’s daycare teacher is a great person to involve in helping your child make friends. She’s there with him every day, and has firsthand knowledge of the existing social dynamics in daycare. Perhaps the teacher could encourage your child to play more with a new friend, or can steer him away from someone he just doesn’t get along with. She may also have some further insight on how you can help your child make friends.

Helping your child make friends in daycare may seem like a very difficult task at the beginning. However, befriending other parents, teaching your child about social issues and behaviors, and asking your daycare teacher for advice can make all the difference. Soon enough you may marvel at how much fun your child is having in daycare with all his new friends.

How Your Child Learns Through Conversation

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How Children Learn Through Conversation

Your toddler or preschooler is at an exciting age. Everything is a new experience and a thrilling discovery, and she is learning that words can help her relate to her world and to those around her.

Your young child’s nascent conversational skills are more than just a fun new way to interact with your child – conversation also has benefits in other areas.

Conversation develops social skills

Your child is learning that speech is an important tool to communicate with and relate to other people. Practicing two-way conversations will help your toddler or preschooler understand social skills such as empathy, kindness, and how to be a good listener. You can encourage this social development by asking open-ended questions, such as, “Why do you think Grandma is happy?” or “What do you think will happen next in the story?”

Being able to direct the topic of conversation in a group environment will also demonstrate to your child the importance of listening to others, and how interesting it can be to hear other people’s stories and thoughts. It’s also a good opportunity to show your child that some conversations are different from others, depending on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about.

Conversation develops vocabulary

A strong vocabulary will help your child understand and interpret the written word, which will have benefits in later life. Two-way conversations are a great way to help your child develop his vocabulary.

Toddlers and preschoolers are learning basic sentences such as “Car go fast.” Through conversation, you can help add to this vocabulary and introduce your child to concepts such as past tense or plurals. For example, you might reply, “Yes, the cars are going fast. Where are they going?” This will help your child get used to more words and sentences, and eventually learn how to use them himself.

Conversation helps children understand their emotions

Helping young children “use their words” shows them that their emotions are something they can handle and not be afraid of. You can introduce your toddler or preschooler to this concept early, through conversation.

According to The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, helping your child express how they feel can be done in three ways:

1) By giving feelings easy names they can understand. For example, “You feel angry because your brother took your toy.”

2) By identifying and discussing feelings in yourself and others. For example, “She’s clapping and smiling. Do you think she’s happy?”

3) By talking about your own feelings. For example, “When I feel sad, sometimes I want a big hug.”

Your child may not be able to verbally express their emotions right away, but these conversations will help her learn and practice coping strategies for the future.

Conversation is a great opportunity for your child to develop social, vocabulary, and emotional skills. The more your child can express himself verbally and talk about his feelings, thoughts, and experiences, the more self-confident he will become. You can help your toddler or preschooler through this process with engaging and appropriate two-way conversation.

Technology Tips for Young Children

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Technology Tips for Young Children

These days, it seems like childhood is drastically different from even a few years ago. Young kids now have access to a whole world of computer technology, including tablets, apps, and games designed especially for them.

If you’re unsure how to manage these new things around your young child, read on for some tips on creating a healthy relationship with technology.

Investigate and research the technology your child encounters

Tablets, apps, and computer games can be a great way to enrich your child’s education. However, sometimes they can also be a loud distraction that offers no benefit other than entertainment. If your child shows interest in a certain form of technology, do the research to find out exactly how it works, what its purpose is, and even what other parents think of it.

Your child’s daycare or preschool is a great place to get information on the latest technology aimed at children, as they have information for educators that you may not. Feel free to ask questions about the technology they use, and even try it out for yourself.

Set limits on screen time

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children over the age of two should have screen time for no more than two hours a day. This definition of “screen time” includes traditional television as well as tablets and computer screens.

Keeping this limit on screen time will show your child that these gadgets are just a small part of everyday life, and not the most important thing. One way to help your child handle the end of screen time is to give him or her something to look forward to afterwards – a trip to the park or a favorite game.

Don’t rely on technology to calm your child

It can seem very tempting to hand your phone or tablet to your toddler to distract them while you’re trying run errands, or calm them before a tantrum starts. However, relying on technology to calm or distract your child shouldn’t be your only strategy. Young children are quickly learning how to identify and deal with emotions, impulses, and boredom. Help them practice other ways to do this that don’t involve technology. For example, you can offer your child a book, or ask them to talk to you about how they’re feeling.

You’re likely very familiar with your child’s ability to observe and mimic things you do or say. Your use of technology is no different. Demonstrate a healthy relationship with technology by having your child see you look at your phone or tablet for a minute and then put it away. This will show your child that technology is not the most important thing in your life.

Technology for preschoolers and young children can be a great way to enhance their learning. However, parents should ensure that apps and games are engaging without being a mindless distraction, and should model healthy behaviors around the use of technology.

The Benefits of Reading at an Early Age

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In preschool or daycare, your child will be exposed to books and stories on a regular basis. Children of these ages are very interested in words and loves hearing stories read aloud. You know that reading to your child is a fun experience that you can share together, but there are also many educational benefits of reading at an early age.

Early reading develops literacy

Even if your preschooler or kindergartener doesn’t understand the narrative of a story the same way an older child does, reading to a child at an early age builds the foundation of literacy. Preschool-age children are beginning to show an interest in written communication. Pre-kindergarteners are able to recognize many letters and are starting to connect them with spoken sounds. At this age, children have a unique ability to notice and decode patterns such as these. The unique way toddlers utilize phonics rules helps them to interact with letters and words and learn rapidly. This will give them a head start when they reach the age that children traditionally learn how to read.

According to the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, observation and teacher assessments of older children “show positive effects of reading to children at age 4 to 5 on their reading skills at later age.”

Early reading promotes creativity

Readers of any age are very familiar with that feeling of getting lost in a good story, or of experiencing a fictional world that seems almost as vivid and intricate as our own. Toddlers and preschoolers can also be exposed to this sort of creativity through reading. Even though books and stories designed for these age groups are simple, they introduce important concepts to children, such as problem-solving and empathy. These stories allow them to children their imaginations. Concepts such as problem-solving, empathy, and imagination are fundamental to creativity. Early exposure to these tools can help your child practice developing strategies for dealing with problems and social situations later in life.

Early reading can encourage a love of learning

Reading to young children is a multisensory experience. When being read to, children can touch the books and often play with components within the books themselves. This creates a positive association with reading and words, meaning that your child will want to develop their literacy again and again.

According to Psychology Today, “Reading and being read to enables 2- and 3-year-olds to use complicated sentences, manage memory of distant events, build general knowledge, access new information, and develop powers of reflection.” These skills are crucial building blocks in the learning process. Introducing your child to these skills early on through reading will shape their experience with learning later in life. Creating a positive association with reading can mean greater success with later learning – both in school and in everyday life.

Reading to your toddler or pre-kindergartener is a fun bonding activity that also has numerous psychological benefits. It can offer educational advantages, encourage creativity skills, and develop literacy – tools that will serve them well in later life. Read to your child as often as you can at home, and look for a preschool or daycare that also exposes your child to words and stories as often as possible.