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.