How to Be Sure Your Child Is Getting Chances for Physical Development

Building Better Brains: Getting Ready for Kindergarten by Increasing Physical Development Through Play

When it’s time to start thinking about kindergarten readiness, many of us go straight to reading, writing, and math.

Abilities in these subjects are so important, but if that’s all we focus on, we’re missing much larger aspects of kindergarten readiness.

{Kindergarten Readiness in the Time of Covid}

Why Is Physical Development Important for Kindergarten?

Children need to develop both fine- and gross-motor skills for kindergarten readiness.

Think of all the physical tasks your child is required to do in kindergarten:

  • sit upright at a desk
  • sit crisscross-applesauce on the carpet
  • color
  • write
  • cut with scissors
  • play at recess
  • follow instructions during PE-type classes
  • control a mouse at a computer
  • keep their bodies out of other people’s spaces

If your child struggles with any of these skills, it becomes harder to focus on academics. It’s hard to pay attention to what the teacher is saying if focus is going to keeping their body upright. It’s difficult to learn to write when fine motor skills have not developed.

That’s why it’s important to help your child develop core muscles, large muscles, and small muscles. Give them plenty of opportunity for large movement and small movement.

Give Them Space

One of the best things you can do for your child’s physical development is to give them space for open-ended play. If you don’t have a backyard, take your child to fields, parks, and paths. Let them run and play without agenda.

Unstructured play helps your child’s body and coordination.

During colder months, try to clear space in the house for your child to use movement while playing. You can also find indoor playgrounds, children’s museums, and gyms.

Select Helpful Toys

Keep motor skills in mind when selecting toys for your child. Toys that get your child moving and coordinating are helpful — like basketball hoops, hula hoops, bikes, ring tosses, and balls.

When selecting toys for inside, think about fine motor skills. Try lacing toys, puzzles, beads, blocks, water tables, activity books, and more.

Give your child dress-ups. Fine motor skills are built as they handle the Velcro, snaps, ties, and more.

Additionally, let your child do art and craft projects. These will help build dexterity and strength.

Make It a Family Affair

Get everyone up and moving! Your child will be delighted if you become a monster chasing them in a game of tag. Riding bikes on a bike path together will be a great bonding activity, while also building gross motor skills.

Set up obstacle courses, relay races, and more that everyone can get involved in.

Put on impromptu talent shows, where kids are encouraged to show off their cartwheels and somersaults.

Play hide-and-go seek, catch, and tag as a family. Have races in the backyard or neighborhood.

Squirt each other with water. Play in the sprinklers.

Play Simon Says or Follow the Leader.

Turn on music and move!

Do Chores

All chores help with physical development, so give your child big and small chores.

Carrying the dishes to the dishwasher helps with balance. Gathering the trash helps with coordination. Weeding builds fine motor skills. Picking up toys helps your child understand where their body is in space, and develops trunk strength. Folding laundry builds motor skills.

It’s okay if your child gets frustrated at some of these tasks. It takes time to learn how to get their bodies to cooperate. Be there to help your child through tough parts, and gradually let them take more and more independence over the chores.

Encourage Fine Motor Development While Eating

It’s much easier to open your child’s bag of grapes before handing it to them. It’s quicker to cut your child’s pancakes.

But let your child do these tasks, and more, while eating. Give them challenging items to open, cut, and spread.

Let them make messes if it comes to that. And then… help them build even more motor skills by teaching them how to clean up the messes!

{The Benefits of Playing with Food for Preschoolers}

Help Your Child Be Independent

Teach your child how to get dressed, use the bathroom, tidy up after themselves, brush their teeth, and more on their own.

Not only is it helpful for children to learn to be independent, these skills build those important motor skills that contribute to your child’s physical development.

To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah and how we promote physical development at preschool, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

Kindergarten Readiness in the Time of Covid

Preschool graduation looks different than expected. Preschoolers don’t get to hug their teachers or friends goodbye. Safety protocols have changed the way once-normal gatherings are handled. No, this year ended in a way we never could have predicted.

And the fact is, at the time of this writing (May), we still don’t know what to expect when your child begins kindergarten in the fall.

So how should you prepare your child for kindergarten in the time of Covid-19? Read on for some helpful tips.

Social Development

kindergarten readiness utah

Our social world is drastically different than a few months ago. Where once, children may have gotten much of their social development from frequent play dates, now we need to reconsider how our children will develop social skills.

At this age, your child is working on sharing, taking turns, showing concern for others, playing cooperatively, and managing emotions. 

How can you do this when you might need to limit play dates and group settings?

  • Take your child into the world as much as possible. Take walks in nature and discuss how you need to move to the right of the trail when another person approaches (sharing the trail). Talk about being respectful with your voices so as not to disturb other people or neighborhoods (playing cooperatively). 
  • If you can go to public places, discuss current social distancing guidelines and how to follow them (playing cooperatively and showing concern for others).
  • Set up video calls, and encourage your child to take turns in the conversation. Teach them how to ask questions and wait for answers.
  • Give your child time, space, and materials to play pretend so they can role-play different scenarios.
  • Read books, and ponder out loud about how the characters feel.
  • If you can have play dates, follow current social distancing guidelines and discuss that you are taking these measures to protect others (showing concern for others and playing cooperatively).
  • If your child has siblings, help them share, play together, and take turns.
  • Look for ways you can help others following current social distancing guidelines (showing concern for others).

Motor Skills

kindergarten readiness utah

Motor skill development is still important during a pandemic! And thankfully, you don’t have to think too far out of the box to develop motor skills during Covid-19.

Gross Motor Activities

  • Get outside and run! Climb! Hop, skip, and jump!
  • Go for walks and hikes on uneven surfaces
  • Ride bikes, balance bikes, and scooters
  • Turn on the sprinklers
  • Splash in a kiddie pool
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Play hopscotch
  • Dance
  • Set up an obstacle course in the backyard

 

Fine Motor Activities

  • Eat finger foods
  • Stack blocks
  • Play with play dough
  • Cook together (let your child measure and stir)
  • Give the toy cars a car wash (include a sponge for squeezing)
  • Cut the lawn with child scissors
  • Draw
  • Play around on the piano
  • Work on puzzles

{Why You Should Care About Fine Motor Skills in Your Preschooler}

Self-Help Skills

This time of social distancing and more time at home is actually the perfect time to work on self-help skills.

This is a time when you can assign age-appropriate chores. Let your child do them on their own as time goes on. As they master skills, continue to add more.

Encourage your child to do what they can do on their own. For example, they can probably get dressed mostly or completely on their own. Let them!

If they’re stuck with something, encourage them to ask questions and ask for help when needed. Don’t jump in with answers before they’ve had the chance to problem solve on their own.

If your child can’t use the restroom on their own, this is the time to coach them on how to do so. Be sure to teach them to wash their hands for 20 seconds.

Make sure your child can eat independently. Pack a lunchbox for them, and see if any part of opening the items is tricky. Then work on those items until your child can do it.

Academic Development

kindergarten readiness Utah

Academic development is what most parents think about when they consider kindergarten readiness. Can my child read? What about adding and subtracting? Can they write their name?

These worries tend to push parents to push children too hard. Please don’t stress about whether your child can read yet. These are important skills, but they are not the most crucial concern at this stage of your child’s life. 

Instead, focus on pre-reading skills. The Utah State Board of Education recommends you work on helping your child with these academic skills:

  • Listening attentively and responding to stories and books  
  • Speaking in complete sentences  
  • Identifying signs, symbols, or logos in the environment
  • Speaking clearly enough to be understood by others  
  • Identifying rhyming words in stories, poems, and songs  
  • Knowing that letters of the alphabet have specific sounds  
  • Identifying the first sound heard in random words  
  • Identifying some uppercase and lowercase letters, including those in their name  
  • Using beginning writing skills (e.g. drawing, scribbling, writing) to express ideas 

As you can see, none of these academic skills will require hours of flashcards. Most of these skills can be developed as you talk with your child, observe your surroundings with your child, and read, read, read with your child!

{8 Ways to Lose the Flashcards: Make Alphabet Learning Fun}

  • When you have conversations with your child, take turns asking questions
  • Ask your child to describe what they see, hear, smell, taste, or feel
  • Point out logos on products
  • Read a variety of books
  • Pause when you read, and ask your child what they think will happen next
  • Point out uppercase letters at the beginning of sentences in books
  • Do an activity together like cooking, and talk about the first sounds of words. “Let’s add the sugar. Ssss is the first sound in sugar.”
  • Let your child draw often, and use a variety of materials
  • Have your child practice writing their first name — use shaving cream, chalk, paint, dry erase on a mirror, and more to make it more fun
  • Work on puzzles

The times are uncertain, but your love for your child hasn’t wavered. Take these skills one day at a time, don’t push your child, and remember that we’ll all make it through.

To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

 

How to Ease Your Child’s Anxiety During the Pandemic

We’ve never encountered a time like this. We’ve never lived in a world where schools have been closed indefinitely, where children can’t play at playgrounds or with friends, where all trips are canceled, where grocery store shelves are empty, and where people are walking around wearing masks.

Sure, we may have experienced school closure for a snow day or empty store shelves due to a natural disaster. We may have seen a few people wearing masks in public when they’ve been sick. But we’ve never experienced all of this together — and never for such an extend period of time.

If your children are struggling, it makes sense.

If you’re struggling, it makes sense.

And while you can’t control what’s happening out there in the world, there’s a whole lot you can control in your home environment. If your children are anxious or worried, follow these suggestions to ease your child’s anxiety during this pandemic.

Share Correct, Age-Appropriate Information

When children don’t understand what’s going on, their brains fill in the blanks with their own misinformation. To avoid your child coming up with worrisome ideas about the pandemic, have clear, age-appropriate conversations about the facts.

For preschoolers, you can keep this brief. Too many details may cause more concern than assurance. Be sure to address their concerns with simple facts.

Don’t tell them it’s no big deal, or they don’t need to worry about it. This only feeds their worry and causes them to create their own imaginative explanation in their mind.

Monitor Incoming Information

ease your child's anxiety pandemic

Be mindful of what your child is being exposed to on TV, in your conversations on Zoom, and on your social media feed when they’re peeking over your shoulder.

It’s your job to be your child’s filter right now. Don’t let them be exposed to too much negative information about the pandemic and its effects on the world. Repeated cycles of Coronavirus news is overwhelming for children.

Manage Your Own Anxiety

It’s perfectly understandable if your own anxiety levels are skyrocketing. But leaving your anxieties untended is not only bad for your own mental health, it will affect your children too.

Manage your anxiety by speaking with a therapist, using coping techniques, practicing mindfulness and gratitude, and more.

Remove anxiety language from your speech. Words like panic, fear, crisis, death, and more don’t need to feature into your daily language. Instead, you can use words like precautions, help, safety, and protection.

Be sure not to muse aloud about your own fears to your child.

Focus on the Giving Part of the Pandemic

Staying at home is a safe measure your child can take to protect vulnerable people in our country. Remind them they are doing a good thing for others by staying home from preschool, skipping visits with Grandma, and avoiding playgrounds.

At the same time, don’t shame them if they feel real loss. Acknowledge this is hard, and remind them this is a temporary thing.

Find the Positive

ease your child's anxiety during the pandemic

While this is a hard time, it’s not all bad. And more than anyone, children can see the positive of quarantine. Now, there might be more time to be together as a family. There might be more time to play in the backyard. They might improve a skill, like bike-riding or rollerskating.

Be sure to speak about the things you’re grateful for during this time; the special opportunities you’re getting at home.

Follow a Structure

Have you ever marveled at how a preschool teacher can keep a dozen or more children on task together? Structure is one key element in keeping children focused and moving forward without push back.

When your child knows what to expect throughout the day, they can mentally prepare themselves for the next step. They can also move from some tasks on autopilot on their own, reducing the space and time for fights.

Try and do basic things in the same order each day — morning routines involving making the bed, brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc. are a helpful place to start.

Post your routine somewhere your child can see and reference. Use pictures or symbols to help them easily grasp the steps.

And remember that it’s okay to be flexible when you need to be.

Spend Quality Time Together

Being at home together does not automatically translate into quality time together. Make it a point to spend connected, quality time together — reading a story, playing a game, going for a walk, exercising together, etc. If you need to schedule it into your day to make sure it happens, go for it!

You don’t have to make every minute of the day a minute of quality time. Just make sure you’re spending some real time together on a regular basis.

Practice Mindfulness

There’s never been a better time to learn some new mindfulness techniques! Give yourself and your children the gift of slowing down and boosting your emotional health.

Trust Your Child to Do What They Can Do

ease your child's anxiety

Keep encouraging your child to develop new skills and responsibilities. If your child can do something themselves, let them.

They can clean up after themselves before moving onto a new activity. They can press start on the microwave when you make popcorn. They can fold laundry or put it in their drawers.

Let your child do what they can do. Being responsible will help them feel more secure during this time.

{How to Teach Your  Preschooler Responsibility

Be Compassionate

When you or your child melts down (because it will happen!), be compassionate. This is hard, and we all deserve a hug and second (or third or fourth…) chances.

Compassion will not only help your child feel safe and loved, it will improve your own emotional well-being too.

Hang in there! You’re doing good work, parents!

To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

How to Teach Your Preschooler Responsibility

how to teach your preschooler responsibility

We all want our children to grow into responsible adults who are capable of handling their problems, maintaining their homes, caring for their future families, and doing good work in their jobs.

But that’s a long way off, and there’s a lot to do before you get there!

Don’t stress. Teaching responsibility comes little by little. See responsibility as a joyful development for your child, and you’ll be able to teach it step by step.

Begin Young

Don’t wait until your child is a teenager to expect them to take responsibility around the house and in their life. Begin when they are small — right now — and expect that this is a skill they can learn.

Teach Them

Just like you shouldn’t wait until your child is a teenager to take on responsibilities, don’t throw them into something now without taking the time to teach them what to do.

Don’t say, “Dust the living room” without first showing them the steps to take. And remember — they may need you to teach them again and again. It could take several tries over several weeks or months. But keep at it. Little by little, your child will learn the skills they need to be more responsible.

Set Them up for Success

How can your child best succeed at developing responsibility?

One way is to use routines to help your child take responsibility throughout their day. If they have a morning routine that follows the same pattern each day, it will be much easier for them to be responsible in each step: brushing teeth, making their bed, cleaning up breakfast dishes, etc.

Another is to give second (and third, and fourth, and…) chances. If they forget to bring in their toys after playing outside, don’t punish them. Instead, help them remember. “Oh, it looks like your toys are still outside. I’m worried they’ll get ruined by the rain/sprinklers/dog. Let’s go get them.”

Look for ways to help you child succeed, not for ways to punish if they fail.

Model Responsibility

Let your child see you taking responsibility. As you take responsibility over certain tasks each day, narrate what you’re doing. “Now that we finished the movie, we put away the blankets.” Those “we” statements, accompanied by your action, will help your child see  what it means to take responsibility over their actions.

Modeling doesn’t mean you always have to put on a cheerful face and act like you love doing everything you’re responsible for. Sometimes, letting your child see that you don’t enjoy the task, but you do it anyway, can teach a valuable lesson.

For example, you can say, “I really don’t feel like doing the dishes now, but if I don’t clean up, the food will harden on the dishes and it will become difficult to do later. Plus, I’m really looking forward to a clean kitchen, so I can have time to play with you!”

Have Your Child Help You

Invite your child into your daily chores. When you’re sweeping the kitchen, ask them to grab the dust pan. When you’re folding laundry, have them sort socks. The point is to help them understand that they can contribute to the household — they are valued and appreciated.

When a child feels valued, they take more ownership of responsibilities.

Help Your Child

how to teach your preschooler responsibility

When you’re a kid, it’s lonely and overwhelming to be sent to do a task on your own. You might not know where to start. You might not know how to do the task alone.

If your child is refusing to take responsibility for something, look at them through this forgiving mindset, and realize that maybe they just need help this time. Remember: your child learns responsibility bit by bit, and it’s okay for you to be a part of the process.

Catch Them in the Act

Nobody likes when their efforts go unnoticed. When you see your child taking responsibility for something — maybe they put their shoes away without being asked; maybe they helped a younger sibling reach a snack — point it out.

“Thank you for taking responsibility for your shoes!”

“Wow, I really appreciate it when you are responsible and look for ways to help your sibling!”

Teach Problem Solving

Try not to give orders or rush to solve your child’s problems. When going through your evening routine, instead of telling your child to get pajamas on and brush their teeth, you could ask them what comes next in their routine.

When your child spills crackers on the floor, instead of telling them how to clean them up (or doing it yourself), ask your child how this problem can be solved. Be prepared to help, but first get your child’s input.

{7 Crucial Steps to Help Your Child Become a Problem Solver}

Avoid Criticizing

Learning responsibility is a process. Your child won’t remember to manage all aspects of their life every day. They won’t make their bed perfectly. They’ll forget to throw their fruit snack wrapper away sometimes.

Don’t criticize. Keep modeling, teaching, reminding, and showing appreciation. Little by little, they’ll take more and more ownership.

To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

Your Preschooler Is Full of Compassion. How to Make Sure That Sticks.

Your preschooler definitely isn’t selfish. She was born with an ability and desire to care about others.

But that doesn’t mean she always acts in compassionate ways.

And that’s okay! Learning the character trait of compassion takes time. Just as in everything else, we learn compassion little by little. And just as in everything else we’re trying to teach our children, us adults are still developing the skill of compassion as we go!

So be patient. Realize there will be bumps along the way. Your child may be compassionate in one instance, but not another. They may need to be taught different elements of compassion again and again.

Use these tips to teach compassion to your preschooler and keep it at the forefront of your child’s life.

Give Compassion to Your Child

One of the most important things you can do to teach compassion to your preschooler is to give compassion to him. If he experiences it himself, he’ll want others to as well. Plus, he’ll know how to be compassionate, having already experienced it.

When your child is hurt, sad, or sick, be compassionate. Tell them you’re sorry they’re not feeling well, and give them affection and care. Take them seriously. If they’re bothered by something, don’t tell them they shouldn’t be. Show them empathy in even the smallest of situations, and they’ll understand compassion more fully.

Trust That Your Child Can Be Compassionate

Believe that your child is kind. Believe that your child is not malicious.

Remove words from your vocabulary that assign moralistic failure. Your child isn’t selfish or rude if they don’t want to share toys or comfort a sad child. They’re developing skills, and don’t yet know how to react in all situations. Trust that they’ll get there, and always believe that they are good.

Assume your child wants to be kind to others, rather than thinking your child is a bully, selfish, or unkind. If they’re behaving in a way that you perceive as selfish, ask yourself, “What skill are they lacking?” Then, focus on teaching them the skill, not criticizing them for selfishness.

Know they can do this, and they will.

Treat Your Child with Respect

how to teach your preschooler compassion

It’s easy to get into command mode as a parent. We’re responsible for teaching, protecting, feeding, clothing, and caring for our children. That’s a lot! And sometimes, that means you have to tell your child to stop watching a show and put their shoes on.

But make sure you do this respectfully.

You wouldn’t abruptly and harshly end a lunch date with your friend without warning, so don’t abruptly end your time at the park with your child. Be respectful and compassionate as you move throughout your day.

If your friend was crying, you wouldn’t tell her to stop. You’d comfort her. Speak kindly to your child, and be respectful when they struggle.

Model Compassion

Live a compassionate life. Your children learn from watching your behavior.

If you are treated rudely by a cashier, model compassion by not being snarky back to them. Later, show compassion in how you discuss the cashier. “I wonder if he was having a bad day today.”

When someone needs your help, offer it, even if it is inconvenient. It’s important for children to see you care about people at all times. Teach them that any time is the right time to be compassionate.

Volunteer your time formally with an organization if you can. If you can bring your child along without disrupting the help you’re there to provide, do so!

Talk About Compassion

Teach your preschooler compassion by naming it. Explain what it is, so your child recognizes compassion when she sees it.

Give your child examples of compassion that are meaningful to their stage of life.

For example, you can talk about being kind to siblings and looking for ways to help at home.

You can talk about ways they can be compassionate in the neighborhood — keeping their eye out for elderly neighbors, picking up trash, putting out bird feeders, and noticing when someone seems sad.

At school, they can be compassionate by sharing their toys, being respectful and taking turns, and comforting a sad friend.

Right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can teach your child that the most compassionate thing they can do for others is to stay home. But they can reach out to friends, family, and neighbors in creative ways, like leaving messages on your sidewalk and in your window, sending messages with technology, and having virtual conversations.

Point It Out

When your child sees examples of compassion, it will be easier to understand the concept. As you watch shows and read books together, point out compassionate characters. Likewise, when someone isn’t being treated compassionately in a show or book, point it out. Notice the character’s face and say, “I think she feels sad about the way her friend talked to her. What do you think?

Out in the world, point out when someone is kind to you. If someone lets you in their lane, say, “That sure was nice, wasn’t it?” When your elderly grandparent tells you someone shoveled their walk or raked their leaves, tell your children about the kind deed.  When your child comforts their baby sibling, say, “That was very compassionate of you.”

Talk about the helpers out in the world who are working to keep us safe during the pandemic. Talk about how hard it must be for the brave nurses and doctors, paramedics, grocery store workers, warehouse workers, utility workers, and delivery drivers. This will help your child have compassion for them, while also appreciating the compassion those people have for others.

 

Volunteer

how to teach your preschooler to have compassion

Look for age-appropriate opportunities to volunteer in your community. This will help your child get in the habit of thinking compassionately about what others need.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we help teach compassion by participating in Project Sleep Tight. Our students bring in donations of blankets, stuffed animals, and books to share with children who are homeless. As we assemble the kits, we have some of our most meaningful conversations with the children. They really think about what it means to be someone else and how to help others. At this age, they feel compassion without even trying, and the project helps solidify that strength they already have.

Your child can also give away toys and clothing, write letters, visit people who are lonely, make cookies for a neighbor, get the mail for an elderly neighbor, and more.

During this pandemic, ask your child for ideas on how they can help others while not being in contact with people. You might be surprised by their creative solutions!

To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

How to Schedule Your Days with Your Preschooler During Quarantine

how to scheduled your day with your preschooler

We’re living in an unprecedented time. Because of the coronavirus COVID-19, children all around the world are at home with no school, no play dates, and no certainty. We’re concerned about what’s going on out there, and we want to help keep our children occupied, educated, and active in our homes.

Use these tips to make a schedule for quarantine that will work well for your preschooler.

Curb Anxiety About the Coronavirus COVID-19

Our children are watching us, and they’ve certainly picked up on what’s happening. They’ve likely heard the word coronavirus multiple times, and in multiple contexts. You can help them feel better about it by:

  • Modeling confidence. Face your own anxieties and handle them before having a conversation with your child.
  • Talking about it.  Ignoring the topic can actually make your child more anxious. Tell them the facts as they need to know about them, always being mindful of the emotional tone you’re setting.
  • Sharing developmentally appropriate information. Don’t speculate, talk about exaggerated fears, or be otherwise overwhelming with your information. Answer the questions your child puts forth in a factual, reassuring way.
  • Asking your child what they’ve heard. This will help you know what to address, what myths to clear up, and what worries are on your child’s mind.
  • Providing reassurance.
  • Teaching your children the measures you’re taking to stay safe. It can empower your child to know that washing hands is an actionable step they can take to prevent the spread of the virus.

Provide Structure

Children love routine, and they thrive with it. If the word routine makes you squeamish, don’t worry. We’re not saying you have to schedule your day by the half hour (but you can, if that works for you!). The important thing is that your days follow a similar, predictable routine that your child can come to depend on.

First, keep your mealtimes and nap times the same as they normally are. Then, add in some or all of the following:

Get Your Child’s Input

Your child has ideas for what will make this time enjoyable. She also has ideas for how she can be responsible during this time. Ask for her input and use it when you can.

Keep a Normal Sleep Schedule

It’s tempting to treat this like a vacation, and you can certainly let some rules and routines go out the window right now. But if you keep your child on a normal sleep schedule, he’ll be better adjusted and capable of handling this time at home. Plus, it will help you make the transition back to school when the time comes.

Learn

Teach the same subjects your child is learning in preschool. At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we put together packets and videos for our students that teach what we learn when we’re all together. Take advantage of this time for one-on-one learning, and help your child develop in these areas:

  • art
  • motor skills
  • science
  • reading and writing
  • music and movement
  • social studies
  • math
  • character development

Do Chores

 

Even when we aren’t under quarantine, it’s a good idea to involve your child in chores. But now that we’re all spending 24/7 under one roof with our families, and with nowhere to go, the house chores might feel like they’re multiplying. Involve chore time in your daily routine, and encourage your child to learn new skills.

Have Free Play

Free play is important for your child’s development. Give your child plenty of time to imagine, create, and play what she wants to play. Pull out different objects and encourage your child to think about how to use them in their play. For example, can a wooden spoon be a baton? A pirate’s telescope? A teacher’s pointing stick at the chalkboard?

Get Outside

Keep your social distance, but get outside! Try to do it every day if the weather allows it.

If you have a backyard
  • Bring different toys outside to make the outdoors new
  • Go exploring for bugs, blossoms, and budding berries
  • Have picnics
  • Cut the grass with children’s scissors (fine-motor practice!)
  • Set up obstacle courses and relay races
  • Read on a blanket
  • Have free play
  • Have a car wash with toy cars
  • Practice sports or dance
If You Don’t Have a Backyard (or you want to go somewhere else)
  • Go for walks or bike rides around the neighborhood (Just be sure to tell your child that if he sees a friend, waving is the most you can do)
  • Go for a walk on a trail outside your neighborhood
  • Find a field (no playgrounds!) where you can run
  • Draw with sidewalk chalk. Make a road and town for toy cars.
  • Eat your lunch on the front steps
  • “Paint” the front door with water and a clean paintbrush
  • Collect twigs and blossoms, and bring them inside to make crafts
  • Walk around and look for signs of spring

How to Work While Your Child Is at Home

If you have to work from home while your child is at home with you, you’ll need to get even more creative. You can do it!

Consider when your child needs you the least. Does she take a nap? Does he wake up late, so you can get a few hours in before the day starts? Does she tend to play by herself willingly at certain times of the day? Will he work on schoolwork at the table next to you while you do your work?

Talk to your child about your workday, so she knows what to expect about your availability. Ask her what she can do on her own.

Give your child a visual routine to follow, so he can move through parts of the day without assistance.

Hang in there! You’re doing good work, and your child is lucky to have you!

To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930

Building Better Brains: A Surprising Way to Develop Reading Skills

You’re not even sure potty training is completely mastered for your preschooler, but you’re already feeling the intense pressure to make sure your child knows how to read.

School standards have changed over the years, and younger children are expected to do much more than they were in the past, including mastering reading at a younger age. So it’s natural if you’re feeling worried.

You may want to pull out flashcards, run drills, and sit at the kitchen table practicing letters every afternoon.

But this is boring and difficult, and may disengage your child from learning. We strongly encourage you to take a deep breath and let your child play.

Play?

Yep. Play.

How Play Helps Children Learn Reading Skills

Literacy skills involve higher order cognitive processes. We’re talking: imagining, problem solving, categorizing, and more. Dramatic play also involves these processes, and because it’s so enjoyable, your child will soak up those concepts in real ways that will transfer to reading skills.

In fact, one study found that children who used meta-play talk  (managing play by stepping out of role to explain something: “I’m the doctor, and you’re the patient”) had a higher level of story comprehension than children who didn’t. Pretend play is important!

Letters Are Symbols

Research has shown that pretend play impacts children’s emergent writing abilities.

Not only that, children are learning about symbolic representation representation — one object can represent something else. When they understand this, it’s not that hard to make the leap to understanding that letters are symbols that represent something else.

Eventually, your child will have to understand that a string of letters and words takes on a specific meaning. Pretend play will set her up with a rich cognitive foundation.

Communication

Play is all about communication. Your child has to talk about rules, adjust expectations out loud, discuss intentions, and more. This is narration and description, skills that your child will need as he learns to write clearly.

Self-Regulation

Your child will quickly learn she can’t grab toys from other friends, even when she really wants to. She’ll learn that toys need to be cleaned up without meltdowns, and that playtime needs to end. These lessons help her develop self-regulation, which is critical in reading. Reading requires focus, following a story from beginning to end, self-discipline to learn hard things, and more.

Literacy Is Incorporated Into Play

Children pretend to read while they play. They may mark up paper as a list or note. They may jot down someone’s order at their play restaurant, or send a letter to a pretend friend. Getting familiar with the concept of reading and writing in a fun way will help your child be better prepared to learn to read for meaning.

The Play Environment Is Important

The environment in which your child plays can benefit literacy skills in tremendous ways. When a play center is stocked with theme-related reading and writing materials, your child will be more familiar with language.

For example, at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, we have a play kitchen area. Nearby is a table set up like a restaurant. We include menus, price tags, labeled food containers, and more in the play area. This type of literacy-rich environment has been shown to increase children’s literacy behaviors through play — and to even provide gains in children’s knowledge about writing and recognizing print.

We regularly place labels around the room in our themed play areas and include plenty of writing materials in our literacy-embedded play centers. The children become comfortable imagining while incorporating literacy into their pretend games.

How Can You Encourage Literacy Skills Through Play at Home?

  • Give your child a variety of props and objects to play with. You don’t have to go out and buy the whole toy store. It’s actually helpful for children to use different objects for different pretend items. A wooden play spoon can become a microphone. A handful of matchbox cars can become coins.
  • Show your child how to substitute different items for different things, and then let them use their imagination with other items.
  • Give your child new experiences. Take them to a different park than usual. Go to a museum, the library, the store, and more. When traveling, point out different things you notice. Giving children a variety of experiences helps them expand their play themes.

  • Let your child play with writing materials while playing pretend. (You may want to keep a close eye so that pencil mark stays on paper!)
  • Write labels around your play area: Cars, Dolls, Play Food, etc.
  • Occasionally set up a themed play area, complete with labels: Turn your play kitchen into a restaurant, and make menus with your child. Have the cars go to a car wash, and make labels for soap, water, and more.
  • Show your child how to make props with other items around the house: throw pillows can become thrones, a scarf can be a leash for a pretend pet.
  • Leave books in the play area to encourage your child to incorporate reading into playing.

Everything we do at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah revolves around play. Our children thrive in this environment, learning crucial skills that will help them in kindergarten and beyond. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.

Why Your Preschooler Tells Lies – and What to Do About It

why preschoolers lie

You walk into the living room, and notice your child has colored all over the walls with marker. They even signed their name.

“Did you color on the wall?” you ask.

When your child denies she did it, you’re flabbergasted. Obviously, she colored on the walls. The evidence is right in front of you, signed in her scrawly letters. WHY is she lying? What does this say about her character? Does this mean she’s destined for a life of hard crime and prison time?

First of all, slow waaaay down. Don’t spiral.

Now take a deep breath.

All kids lie. It’s actually developmentally normal.

So if your child is lying, it’s as normal as when they started learning how to walk, as normal as when they started learning to feed themselves, and as normal as when they began stringing words together in sentences.

The important part in this stage of their normal development is what you do about the lies. The way you respond, teach, and model honesty will help determine how your child grasps — and practices and hones — honesty.

Why Do Preschoolers Lie?

It’s helpful to know that your preschooler is not morally deficient when they lie. They aren’t manipulating you, and they aren’t maladjusted. They lie for reasons that actually make a lot of sense when you think about it.

At 2, 3, 4, and 5 years old, it’s still difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy. They believe the magic in stories, and sometimes that magical thinking seeps into their lives. When they retell a scene from their day at the park, they might bring in fanciful, untrue details, but they aren’t doing it to be dishonest. They’re just still learning how to grasp reality.

Preschoolers also experience wishful thinking, especially if they’ve done something wrong. If they hit their brother, they likely know they shouldn’t have done that. Maybe they really wish they hadn’t broken the rule or hurt someone they loved, and so they make up a better story: a giant came in and hit their brother, it’s actually their brother’s fault, they didn’t know it was bad to hit, etc. This wishful thinking deflects from what they did, so they don’t have to face the truth.

Sometimes, preschoolers are confused. Or they don’t remember details correctly. Maybe they did eat all the cookies left on the counter, but it happened a couple hours ago, and the details are now fuzzy. Maybe they did cut their hair, but in the moment, they were just curious — they didn’t really think about it or register what they were doing.

Sometimes, they’re terrified. They know they did something wrong, and they know they’ll be in trouble or will experience an adult’s anger. So they quickly try to get out of that feeling of terror by explaining away what they did.

Of course, as parents, you know you can’t let these untruths persist. But knowing why your preschooler might be lying will give you empathy and understanding.

Your child isn’t bad. They’re just learning. Here’s how to teach your preschooler to be honest.

1. Model Honesty

If you’re lying, your child is going to learn it’s okay. So check yourself. Do you tell full truths, or do you fudge the truth from time to time? It’s easier to say you’re busy and can’t attend a meeting than it is to say you’re not interested. But unfortunately, it isn’t honest.

If your child observes you making the choice to be dishonest in some situations but not others, it sends a mixed message.

2. Keep Your Emotions in Check When Your Child Messes up

If you freak out about something your child did, they’ll be more likely to try and cover it up with a lie. And if you get angry about the lie, they’ll struggle to learn from their behavior.

Instead, stay calm. Use a two-step approach:

1. Observe what has happened without judgment
2. Ask your child to make amends

What does this look like?

In our example of coloring on the walls, remain calm. Observe what your child has done. “It looks like you colored on the walls.”

Ask your child to make amends. “That ruins the walls. Let’s clean it up.”

Keep it calm and straightforward.

why do preschoolers lie

3. Set Them up for Success with Honesty

Often, parents fall into the trap of trying to catch their child in a lie. But this is unfair, especially when your child is still learning what honesty is all about.

When you see that your child cut his hair, don’t ask, “Did you cut your hair?”

This will prompt your child to give a self-preserving knee-jerk response that will likely be a lie. He doesn’t want to experience your anger, and the question suggests he may have a way out. Who wouldn’t grab a way out when faced with anger?

Instead, set him up for success to tell the truth. Say, “It looks like you cut your hair. This is a problem. How can we fix it?”

{7 Crucial Steps to Help Your Preschooler to Be a Problem Solver}

Remember: don’t aim to catch them in a lie. This pushes them to dig their hole deeper, and it sets the two of you up to be enemies.

4. Give Them Additional Chances

When your child lies, don’t call them a liar and punish the lie. Give them a chance to tell the truth. Remember: you’re not trying to catch them; you’re trying to teach and help them. If they ran out into the street without looking, you would take them to the curb, show them how to look both ways, take their hand and walk again — safely this time. You’d give them a second chance to learn the desired behavior because it’s critical they know that skill.

Do the same with lying. Lovingly give them additional chances to do it right. If they tell you they brushed their teeth when they didn’t, say, “Hmm… it looks like your memory might be mixed up. Let’s try that again.” Or, “I think you got so excited you might have told me something that isn’t true. That’s okay. You can try again.”

why your preschooler tells lies

4. Give Them Language to Use

Practice language that can help them be truthful. For example, if your child tends to tell fanciful tales as if they were truths, say, “What a great story.” Eventually, they will learn to distinguish when they are telling a story and when they are telling something truthful.

If they regret something they did and tell a lie, say to them, “You really wish you didn’t spill the orange juice, don’t you?”

5. Thank Them for Honesty

When your child does tell the truth, tell them, “I’m glad you told me the truth.” You can even say, “I could tell it was hard for you to tell me the truth, but you chose to be honest.” Over time, your child will come to understand that honesty is the best way forward.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we regularly teach character traits like honesty in our nurturing, positive environment. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.

Building Better Brains: Get Ready for Kindergarten with Play

You know your child is happier when she’s allowed to play, but is she getting all her learning needs met? Is she getting ready for kindergarten? Certainly, she should sit down with some worksheets so she can learn to read and write, right?

Actually, while structured learning has its place, one of the best things you can do to get your child ready for kindergarten and help him build a better brain is to allow for play.

Play-based learning is one of the best gifts you can give your child. The bonus is that play will help your child get ready for kindergarten — even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface.

Yes, play will even help your child with reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

Kindergarten Readiness Skills That Are Developed Through Play

When your child and her friend don pirate hats and go in search of hidden gold, they are developing essential kindergarten readiness skills. 

They’re building social skills — negotiating, adapting, taking turns, listening, sharing, problem-solving, and more — which allow them to be more confident. These skills also set them up for more success in academics. A confident child won’t struggle to ask for help or reach out to other children. He’ll also learn from his mistakes. 

In fact, children who attend schools with play-based programs even score better on measures of cognitive flexibility, working memory, and self-regulation — all skills that will help them in the kindergarten classroom… and beyond.

Play also fosters creativity, which fosters both a love of learning and a motivation to learn. No matter how well your child picks up the functions of ABCs and 123s, she’ll need motivation to learn if she’s going to be successful with her knowledge.

Down with Drills

Many of us were taught important concepts with drills. We used flashcards, worksheets, recitations, and more to have concepts hammered into our heads. And while we may have learned some concepts through memorization (and fear of getting them wrong), did we actually take those concepts into ourselves and learn how to use them in real life?

Drills teach children there is only one right answer. This leads to fear of getting the wrong answer, stifled curiosity, and shame and embarrassment for having questions.

When your child is learning to read and enjoy books, do you want stifled curiosity and fear to be the leading emotions in their brain?

Instead, play-based learning allows your child to approach new letter combinations with curiosity and interest. It allows your child to form connections between numbers and their concepts. Reading and math become something that is a fun experience. It’s something that applies to your child’s life, and they can feel confident in their abilities.

Social-Emotional Development — Let’s Be Friends

Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy social-emotional development in your child’s academics.

Yes, reading, writing, and math are critical life skills. And yes, your child is going to be tested on those for the next 12 years. And yes, the results of those tests are going to influence your child’s college acceptance and future jobs.

Academics are important.

But we tend to focus so strongly on academics (those pesky test scores) that we don’t give enough credit to the other crucial areas of our children’s development. Social-emotional development is actually a crucial component of your child’s academic development (not to mention your child’s holistic development).

Play is one of the best ways for children to develop socially and emotionally. They learn to imagine different perspectives, understand other viewpoints, and how to interact with people who are different.

Children “try on” different lives and roles, coming to understand their world on a new level. Friendships and confidence are developed. They learn to resolve conflict.

And they become empowered in their own decision making, learning to trust their own brains.

Plus, play reduces stress!

Cognitive Development — Building Better Brains

Because we live in a test-based society, academics are of utmost importance to most parents. Fortunately, cognitive development — or the ability for your child to use her intellect — is developed and strengthened through play.

Children learn language and solve problems through play.

They also use math concepts (exchanging money while playing grocery store).

Children build literacy skills (telling stories with beginning, middle, and end, using symbols to represent something else — a key to reading and writing, etc.)

And they even discover science concepts (experimentation: what happens if I do this?, observation, cause and effect, physics of movement, etc.).

Physical Development — It’s Just As Important!

We know we need to make sure our children exercise. But formal, structured exercise is not the only way to go. Play develops both gross and fine motor skills, helps children understand where their body is in space, and gets them moving in fun ways (so they will want to continue!).

Through play, children come in contact with many tactile experiences, helping them understand their world on a deeper level. 

They build their muscles and coordination as they run, hop, skip, climb, and more during active play.

Parents, Relax

If you’re worried about your child’s academic readiness for kindergarten, you aren’t alone. But instead of stressing out, purchasing boatloads of flashcards, and finding a tutor for your child, sit back and let your child play.

Worry less about whether your child can read and write, and look at your child’s skills as a whole. She has many attributes that are going to help her be successful. Value her imagination, problem-solving skills, creativity, and energy as much — or more — than her academic skills. These are the skills that are going to help her be successful in life — and in academics. 

The more she plays and develops confidence through play, the better she’ll be able to handle everything that is expected of her in life and school.

Play is not a waste of time. In fact, it’s the best way your child can occupy their time.

How to Help Your Child Play

  • Give your child open-ended toys. Items like blocks and dress-ups can be used in countless ways.
  • Let your child have open-ended play. Don’t try to guide them to learn a lesson. Let him play how he wants.
  • Play with your child. If you struggle with open-ended play, you can start by playing more structured games (Simon Says; puzzles; Duck, Duck, Goose). In open-ended play, don’t worry about doing it right. Just follow your child’s lead. When you don’t know what to do, ask your child! “What does Princess Mommy do next?” Your child will tell you, and it won’t be as hard as you may have thought.
  • Read stories together, and talk about them. Your child might incorporate elements of the stories into their play.
  • Sing! Learn a few rhyming songs, and sing them while you go about your day. They helpyour child learn concepts and language skills that can be brought into play.
  • Go on family field trips to places that encourage play — the playground, discovery museums, the children’s library, and more.
  • Get outside. Provide your child with fun outside toys like bikes, jump ropes, hula hoops, and chalk.

Everything we do at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah revolves around play. Our children thrive in this environment, learning crucial skills that will help them in kindergarten and beyond. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.

7 Crucial Steps to Help Your Preschooler Become a Problem Solver

One of the most important aspects of a successful life — at any stage — is having the ability to solve problems. Every day, we have to think on our feet, make adjustments, and move forward.

It’s important that we take the time to nurture a problem-solving ability in our children. Most of us know and understand this on an intellectual level — we know our children will be on their own one day, and will have to solve their own problems. But when it comes down to daily practice, we’re often guilty of stepping in too soon, underestimating our children, and removing chances for growth by solving their problems for them.

  • This may look like quickly getting a new cup of milk for our child after he’s spilled his first — instead of involving him in solving the problem.
  • It may look like inflicting consequences when our child won’t share — instead of involving her in a solution.
  • It may look like carrying all the things from our child’s hands when they have too much — instead of asking them what their idea is to solve the problem.

It doesn’t mean we’re bad parents when we do this. In fact, we’re great parents! We’re efficient parents! We’re working hard to keep our day moving forward while keeping our children safe and happy.

But the ability to problem solve is a gift, and if we open our eyes to opportunities to teach and guide our children to solve their own problems, they will be able to use that gift in all areas of their life.

The more we help our children be problem solvers, the less frustrated they’ll be when they encounter a challenge. They’ll be less likely to give up when faced by obstacles, and they’ll learn how to manage their emotions. They’ll also develop creative thinking abilities and persistence.

These benefits are worth the extra time it takes to guide our children to become problem solvers.

This is how we teach our preschool students to be problem solvers at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah.

1. Guide Children to Solve Their Own Problems

When a child comes to us with a problem, we hand it right back to them!
But we don’t tell them it’s their problem and walk away. We stay by their side, and guide them through the problem-solving process.
It may look like this:
Child: “Johnny took the dinosaur.”
Teacher: “Oh, did you like that?” Or, “Is that okay with you?”
Child: “No.”  
Teacher: “This sounds like a problem. It is a good thing you are a problem solver! Did you tell Johnny you didn’t like it?”
Child: “No.”
Teacher: “How do you think you could help Johnny know you didn’t like it?” Or, “What are you going to do about it?” 
At this point you may get a few different answers. Maybe your child will say she doesn’t know, maybe she will think to use her words, or maybe something else.
If your child comes up with a solution, like using her words, tell her that’s a great idea and support her as she carries it out.
If your child can’t come up with a solution, offer suggestions and discuss the potential outcomes of each choice. This may take some time, but it is worth the effort.
It’s far simpler to take the problem into your own hands and solve it by telling Johnny that “we don’t take toys.” And while your child might be happy with the immediate result, she won’t feel empowered. She also won’t know how to solve her problem the next time.
The next step walks you through how to continue to guide your child.
preschool problem solver

2. Show Confidence in Your Child’s Problem-Solving Abilities

Remember that Johnny took your child’s toy. While your child may have come up with a solution to use her words to talk to Johnny, that doesn’t mean everything is going to go smoothly at this point. Stay in the game, and continue to offer guidance, while still showing confidence in your child’s problem-solving abilities.
It might look like this:
You help by getting Johnny’s attention. Say something like, “Johnny, please listen to Suzi’s words. She has something important she would like to say.”
You can then turn to your child.
Your child may or may not verbalize her feelings. Help her out by saying something like, “Suzi, Johnny is listening to hear what you have to say.”
If she takes the reins and speaks for herself, great! Encourage her.
If she doesn’t, you can continue to guide. Say something like, “Did you like it when Johnny took the dinosaur from your hands?”
She’ll most likely say no.
You can then ask Johnny if he would like it if a friend took something from his hands.
He will most likely say no.
At this point, the problem is identified and clear for everyone.
Now you can again put the problem back in the children’s hands. Say, “You are both kind friends. What do you think we can do to solve this problem?”
Allow them both to come up with ideas, and stay with them to coach them if they still need it.
3. Show Pride and Joy in Their Problem-Solving Skills
Praise your child when he comes up with ideas to solve a problem. Use the phrase “problem-solver” so he comes to understand the skill he is developing. “You are a problem-solver!” followed by a hug or high-five is a great reinforcement for the hard work your child is doing.

4. Model Problem-Solving

Your behavior is often your child’s best teacher. Use your problems as a chance to model problem-solving to your child. Often, we solve problems in our head, and our children don’t see the process we’re going through.

When you can, think out loud so your child can see your problem-solving process. Say, “I forgot I scheduled a doctor’s appointment during your dance class. This is a problem. I think I will solve it by calling the doctor to see if I can reschedule.”

Sometimes you won’t be able to solve a problem immediately, and it’s okay to let your child see that. You can say, “I’m frustrated about this problem, and my problem-solving ideas haven’t worked yet. I’ll keep trying.”

5. Encourage Creative Play

Did you know creative play helps build problem-solving skills? When your child is playing hot lava, he has to figure out how to get from the couch to the pillow on the floor without touching the carpet. When your child is building with blocks, she has to figure out how to keep her tower from falling over again.

And just watch two kids play pretend together. They’ll invent dozens of problems they have to solve, and their solutions will be so creative! Practicing this skill in pretend play helps your child use it in the real world.

6. Allow for Failure

Don’t expect perfection. Don’t expect each problem to be solved the way everyone wants. It’s okay if things don’t go according to plan. Being okay with failure lets your child feel free to learn and try new solutions.

7. Read Problem-Solving Books

Read about characters struggling with problems and finding solutions. These are some of our favorite problem-solving books for preschool-aged children:

“I Got This!”- Steve Herman
“Can I Play Too?” Mo Willems
“Talk and Work it Out”- Cheri J Meiners
“Share and Take Turns” Cheri J Meiners
“What do You Do WIth a Problem?”- Kobi Yamada
“I Can Handle It” by Lauri Wright 

Everything we do at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah is carefully thought out. We actively and formally teach problem-solving skills, and look for organic opportunities to help our children naturally develop those skills. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.