Why Your Preschooler Needs More Physical Play — Especially in the Time of Covid

preschooler physical play

Did you know that your child’s physical movement in the early years is directly  related to critical skills later in life — like reading, writing, emotional control, creativity, vocabulary skills, math, and more?

9 Movement Activities for Preschoolers You Can Do At Home

Play and movement is necessary for learning. Sometimes, we tend to view playtime and learning time as two distinct and separate tasks. One (play) is viewed as nice but just something to do when you have the time. The other (learning) is viewed as disciplined and serious.

But play is the way children learn! Play is children’s work.  When children are allowed to play, their brains get primed and ready for learning.

And perhaps never has this been more important than right now during the Covid-19 pandemic. With so much stability and activity now absent from our lives, children desperately need the physical and intellectual benefits of playful movement.

“Brain, This Is Body. Body, This Is Brain. Say Hello to Each Other.”

Your child’s brain and body are always working together, but the interesting thing is that the body actually teaches the brain.

This means that the more your preschooler moves during play, the more their brain will develop and grow.

That’s not something to be taken lightly! Children need to move and play so their brains can maximize their power!

On the outside of your child’s body, the five sense — touch, taste, smell, vision, and hearing — are working to organize information coming at them.

At the same time, there is an internal stimulus going on. As your child moves, internal systems, like the kinesthetic system and vestibular system, are activated. And these strengthened systems then support the brain’s functions.

Movement actually increases your child’s cognitive and intellectual abilities.

Are You Really Right-Brained or Left-Brained?

preschooler physical play

You’ve heard of the right and left brain. The left hemisphere of the brain is in charge of processing logic, words, math, and sequence, while the right side of the brain manages rhythm, music, pictures, emotion, and intuition.

We tend to say we are either right-brained or left-brained, but the truth is that both sides of the brain are working together all the time.

And the more we access each side, the better we can function — both academically and creatively.

Now here’s the interesting thing!

Physical play is one huge element that helps to develop both sides of the brain.

In other words, the thing that will help your child’s brain to grow and develop so that it can handle academics, emotions, creativity, and logic later on?

Play!

Movement!

It’s no surprise then, that children want to move, play, climb, wiggle, crawl, jump, run, skip, hop, climb (did we already say that?), and more.

And as they do, their brains are forming the right connections to make reading, writing, math, and more possible later on.

8 Music and Movement Activities for Preschoolers

There’s More Going on Than Meets the Eye

preschooler physical play

Different movements stimulate different parts of the brain, which translates to different gains later on.

How Your Child Is Strengthening Their Brain Stem: Basic movements like grasping, crawling, walking, reaching, turning, touching, pushing, and pulling stimulate the brain stem. This leads your child to be able to develop hand-eye coordination, big motor skills, and pre-writing abilities.

Did You Know Your Child Is Working on Cerebellum Health?: Movements like spinning, balancing, listening, swinging, rolling, tumbling, and dancing stimulate the cerebellum, which is responsible for better balance, sports ability, riding a bike, writing, fine motor coordination, reading, and even typing.

Yep, Your Child’s Movements Are Improving Their Limbic System Too: Movements like cuddling, stroking, playing with others, and socializing stimulate the limbic system. That leads to emotional intelligence qualities like: love, security, social sills, cooperation, and confidence.

And a Stimulated Cortex Improves Your Child’s Life: Movements like putting puzzles together, stacking, making patterns, playing word games, and listening to music stimulate the cortex. This leads to the ability to do math and logic problems, to paint, to increase in musical ability, and to become fluent in reading and writing.

So don’t stop your child from moving! Recognize the value and strength in wiggling, climbing, running, and more.

But during Covid, when some activities are unavailable, it can be hard to find enough movement activities for your child.

Here are a few suggestions.

10 Ideas to Get Your Child Moving During Covid-19

preschooler physical play

  • Go outside where it’s green. Not only will your child enjoy the space to run and move their body, studies have found that time in green nature can improve focus.When you go outside, bring objects to encourage movement: jump ropes, kites, balls, bikes, scooters, hula hoops, and more.
  • Create obstacle courses indoors or outdoors. When coming up with the obstacles, think: What can your child climb through, climb over, or climb under? Can your child hop over something? What can your child do on one foot? Can your child do something backwards? What can your child balance on? What can your child carry?

  • Look online for movement videos: Cosmic Kids Yoga and Go Noodle are popular ones with many children.
  • Turn on music and dance.

  • Do chores. Weeding, cleaning bathrooms, folding laundry, picking up toys and more all require movement. (This may take some creativity to make it fun, but it can be done!)

  • Do the hokey pokey.

  • Play hot lava.
  • Time how long it takes to ride bikes to a certain point. Then time how long it takes to run, to walk, to skip, and more. Turn this into a scientific experiment by making a hypothesis and charting your data.
  • Set a timer for one minute, and do as many squats/jumping jacks/push-ups/favorite exercise as you can. Do it again with another exercise.
  • Allow for free play. While your child will benefit from structured play, they also need time to move their bodies in ways that feel good to them. Free play lets them combine their creativity with their environment in ways that test their bodies.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we incorporate creative movement, dance, and play into every single day. To learn more about how we promote physical development at preschool, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

 

 

Written by Rebecca Brown Wright

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.

 

The Importance of Storytelling for Preschoolers — It’s Not Just for Fun

the importance of storytelling for preschoolers

We all know the importance of reading to our children, but the act of storytelling is just as important. And while it can involve books, storytelling doesn’t have to come from words on a page. Learn about the importance of storytelling for preschoolers — and how you can incorporate it into your daily life.

The Importance of Storytelling for Preschoolers

A good story keeps kids (and adults!) engaged. Just think about how your favorite movie keeps you glued to your seat, even when you have 100 other things to do. When it comes to oral stories, all cultures have their own stories they tell again and again until they become a part of the culture. Think of the metaphors, phrases, and lessons we attribute to stories like Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs, The Grasshopper and the Ant, and so on. Stories help children and adults alike learn lessons, relate to others, and so much more.

Stories Introduce New Vocabulary

When you tell the story of Cinderella, you introduce words like “cinder” and “ashes.” You use the word “ball” to describe a formal dance. Exposing your child to new words wrapped up in a story makes it easier for your child to understand and remember new vocabulary.

Stories Develop Imagination and Curiosity

When your child listens to a story, she imagines what you’re describing. She may even begin to imagine next steps. She’ll have questions about why different characters made the choices they did. And when she steps away from the story, she’ll keep thinking about it. Aspects of the story will change and grow, and they’ll show up in her pretend play, conversations, and more.

Stories Build Listening Skills

Babies and small children are soaking up and absorbing everything around them. When you tell stories to children, they absorb language and their listening skills grow stronger. And because stories are so fun, listening isn’t as difficult as it could be in other situations. And this helps children learn to listen more closely in other situations as well.

Stories Build Connection

There’s the storyteller, and there’s the listener. The very act of storytelling brings people together to share a common experience. The interaction between speaker and listener is interactive. Not only that, but when you tell stories, you share emotions and experiences. And stories about a child’s cultural heritage will help him feel more grounded and connected to the important people in his life.

How to Incorporate Storytelling into Your Family’s Life

With Netflix, movies, podcasts, and more, the art of storytelling is increasingly something that is done for us, rather than by us. If you aren’t a natural storyteller, it will take a little bit of conscious thought to incorporate more storytelling into your family’s life. Use these tips to help.

  • Read! The more stories you read, the easier it will be to share stories.
  • Treat your life as a story. Everything you do is interesting (even if you don’t think it is!). Tell your children stories about when you were their age. Turn your grocery trip into a story: that person who cut ahead of you in line was rude, and you felt upset — that’s a story! Train yourself to see the story in your daily lives.
  • Ask your family members for stories about their lives, and retell those stories to your children.
  • Start a story at the dinner table, and “pass” it from person to person until you have a whole new story!
  • Look at old family photos and tell the stories of what was happening.
  • Learn a traditional story together. Tell it during bath time or while driving in the car. Ask your child to tell it to you. (The Three Little Pigs is a great one to start with because the repetition is easy to remember.)
  • Take turns telling a traditional story, but change up some of the elements, like character, setting, or even the ending.
  • Act out family stories or traditional stories.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, stories feature heavily in our curriculum because we understand their power to connect, teach, and strengthen children. To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

44 Things to Do with Your Kids This Summer

We’re halfway through summer, and keeping kiddos busy, enriched, and entertained is starting to feel like a chore. Some of us used up all of our creativity in the first two weeks of summer!

Not to fear. Browse this list, and find something new to do this week — and the next… and the next.

1. Go on an outdoor treasure hunt. Find something enticing to hide, stash it in a place you won’t forget, and draw a basic map to get to the treasure. Bonus: This helps with reading (even if you only use shapes in your map, you’re helping your child practice pre-reading skills), following directions, and patience!

2. Make ice cream sandwiches. Sure, you can buy ice cream sandwiches (and that’s a fun treat and activity too!), but making your own is a fun, novel activity.

Buy or make soft cookies. Scoop a spoonful of ice cream onto the flat side of one cookie (if you make your own cookies, make sure you wait for them to cool). Place the flat side of another cookie onto the ice cream, and press the sandwich together. Wrap it in tin foil and stash in the freezer. Now you have a delicious, cold treat to grab when it’s hot — and your child can take pride in having helped to make it!

3. Eat ice cream for dinner. Trust us — your kids will remember this experience forever. (Just don’t make it a habit!)

4. Make your own ice pops with juice or blended fruit.

5. Make a fort. Indoors or outdoors, a fort is a perfect place to spend the afternoon. Drape a sheet over a few chairs or over a low-hanging tree branch, and enjoy playing, reading, listening to music, and more inside!

6. Go to a farmers market. Give your child a few dollars to spend, and let her pick out a new or familiar fruit or veggie for dinner..

7. Pick berries. Picking your own berries is a great sensory experience for a preschooler. The colors, the tastes, the scents, the feel… it can be a delight to gather delicious berries on your own. It’s definitely different from selecting a basket at the grocery store. Go to PickYourOwn to find farms where you can pick fruit in your area.

8. Explore a nearby state or national park. Take advantage of the junior ranger program at national parks where children learn to explore, learn and protect.

9. Go for a hike. Find a new favorite trail for your family. Handy hint: Walking sticks help with preschooler endurance.

{How to Keep Your Preschooler Engaged on a Hike}

10. Find a new trail for bike rides. Do you have bike paths near your house or in your town? Challenge yourself to find a new one.

11. Go to the library. Participate in summer reading programs, get library events on your calendar, and make sure to let your child learn the joy of wandering through the library stacks to find a new book.

12. Go ice blocking. Sledding in the summer! Buy an ice block from your local grocery store, grab some winter gloves and a towel, and head to a nearby hill. Wear the gloves, place the towel on the ice block, and take a ride down the hill sitting on the ice block!

13. Put a twist on your sidewalk chalk art.
-Print out images of your child’s favorite cartoon character to copy.
-Create a family mural, in which each person contributes their own drawings.
-Make a path for your child to follow on a bike or by foot. Make zig zags, spirals, curves, and more. The only rule is your child has to stay on the path!

14. Go to a museum. Children’s museums are great, but try an art museum too!

{How to Take Your Preschooler to an Art Museum}

15. Explore new splash pads. You’ve probably been to most or all of the splash pads in your area, but what about the next town over? And the one beyond that?

16. Explore new parks. Create your own ranking system in your phone (number of slides, amount of shade, etc.) as a fun way to keep track of your favorite parks together.

17. Paint the fence with water. For a mess-free, but cooling, “paint” experience, give your child a few paintbrushes and a bucket of water. Let him “paint” the fence, front door, sidewalk, and house.

18. Paint rocks.  Leave your creations around the neighborhood for other kids to find.

19. Go for a day trip visit to a nearby city.

20. Vote for your favorite candy and/or ice cream. Like March Madness? Create your own brackets for the best candy and/or ice cream. After tasting and voting as a family or with friends, advance the winners until you have the final verdict.

21. Try a twist on s’mores. Use different candies and flavored marshmallows until you find your favorite combination.

22. Put up a tent in the backyard. Spend the day playing in the tent (find a shady spot to set it up!), or haul out your sleeping bags for a camping night in the backyard.

23. Go stargazing in the backyard.

24. Set up an obstacle course inside or outside.

25. Have a game night. Invite the neighbors over, or have a fun family game night. Snacks should be included, obviously.

26. Give your child a box. Or a bag. Seriously. See what she comes up with.

27. Make up stories.

28. Use craft sticks to beat boredom. Spend a few minutes writing acceptable quiet activities on craft sticks — reading, coloring, calling a grandparent, playing dress-up, stacking cups, etc. When your child inevitably says he’s bored, let him pick a craft stick and do the activity it instructs.

29. Read a chapter book together.

30. Have a picnic with themed food.

31. Go on a pajama walk. Surprise your kids at bedtime and announce it’s time for a pajama walk. Let them bring their stuffed animals as you walk around the neighborhood dressed and ready for bed.

32. Get a giant poster or large piece of butcher paper. Lay it on the floor, and let everyone color on it. Trace hands, feet, and bodies for extra fun.

33. Have a toy wash. Wash cars, Barbies, and other toys outside in buckets of water.

34. Play dress up.

35. Do yard work together. Buy kid-sized shovels and gloves to make your child feel included.

36. Deliver treats to firefighters. Have your child make a personalized thank-you card to include with the treats.

37. Make and deliver thank-you cards to your librarians.

38. Have a bike parade. Invite the neighborhood kids to decorate their bikes and join in a parade. Get the other parents to be parade spectators.

39. Visit a local farm.

40. Take a tour of a local factory.

41. Be a tourist in your town. Look at tourist websites for your town. Is there anything you haven’t done?

42. Cook together. Designate one night a week as your child’s night to cook. Let him plan the menu, and help him prepare the meal.

43. Go to an outdoor movie.  Many cities around the country show outdoor movies during the summer. If your preschooler can stay up late from time to time, this is a great, free, fun thing to do as a family   Here is a list of local outdoor movies for Utah in 2019.

44. Play balloon tennis. Grab some paper plates, glue, balloons, and giant craft sticks. Glue the sticks to the backs of paper plates, and hit a balloon back and forth.

How to Schedule Your Preschooler’s Day at Home

If you have small children and you stay at home and/or work from home, it’s not always easy to know what to do with your kids. Sometimes, the days are so packed full of tasks, chores, and errands that there’s no time for anything else. And some days, when your child is bored and your creativity is short, you don’t really know how to keep your child occupied.

Use these tips successfully schedule your preschooler’s day at home.

Create a Routine

Children do well when they know what’s coming next. Putting a routine in place will help your child cooperate with the tasks of your day.

If you’re a go-with-the-flow kind of person, that’s okay. You don’t need to have a routine that’s planned to the minute. Make your routine as structured or non-structured as you need. But there should be some basic markers that you meet around the same time each day.

Start with meals and naps because these happen at roughly the same time each day. Then, build your structure from there.

Plug in chores, reading time, outside time, errands, play dates, outings, and more into time slots that make sense for your lifestyle.

If you don’t want to use specific time slots, think instead in sequences: After breakfast, we clean up and head outside. Before nap, we read two books. Doing the same basic things in similar orders each day ensures you’ll accomplish more of what you need to do, while allowing your child to feel secure in knowing what to expect.

Read

Small children need to be read to every day. If your life is busy, this can be hard to fit into your day.

One way to make sure you read often enough is to do it at the same time every day. Maybe you read a book before nap time or bed time. Maybe you read immediately after cleaning up breakfast dishes. Maybe you read out loud while your child takes a bath. Whenever it is, sticking to the same time each day will help both you and your child come to expect the activity.

{8 Ways to Help Your Preschooler Fall in Love with Reading}

Chores

Is there anything harder than staying on top of chores when you’re at home with small children?

While you’ll want to do some chores on your own because it’s simply easier that way, try and involve your child in some chores every day. You have to get the dishes cleaned up, after all. Instead of letting your preschooler scamper off, have her help you load the dishwasher.

Have your child wipe the baseboards as you sweep, put toys away before you vacuum, set the table while you make dinner, sweep the porch while you weed. Keep in mind that your child won’t do a perfect job, and sometimes won’t even do a passable job. Sometimes, you’ll have to help. And that’s all okay. Keep encouraging your child to learn new skills and take ownership of chores. He’ll get better and better as time goes one.

Play

Children learn best through play, so make sure there’s plenty of time in your day for your child to play. You can play with your child, but you don’t need to entertain your child 24/7. Independent play is also an important skill your child should develop. Plus, it gives you a break!

Tips to make independent play a success:

  • Don’t expect your child to spend hours playing independently. Sometimes, even a few minutes is difficult in the beginning. Be patient, and build length gradually.
  • Do another task near where your child is playing. You don’t have to be right by your child, but being close enough helps your child feel safe and comfortable. Eventually,  your child may want to play alone in a separate room.
  • Provide simple toys.
  • Keep toys and materials within reach and easy to find.

Get Outside

Plan for some outside time each day. This could be as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood or running out into the backyard.

Or you could go on an outing to a park, on a hike, to a nature center, or somewhere else away from your home.

{Why Your Preschooler Desperately Needs Time Outdoors — and What to Do Once You’re There}

Errands

If you can manage your errands with your kids, incorporate those into your day. Errands are actually good for children because they learn patience, see how people interact within our society, learn to follow directions, and more. That being said, not every errand is going to be successful. Try to be aware of your child’s limits, and schedule your errands for the times of day when your child will be well rested, well fed, and more likely to be agreeable.

And there’s no shame in putting off some errands until there’s someone else available to take care of your kids!

Outings

Along with getting outside each day, going on special outings is good for both children and parents. The zoo, museums, the library, playgrounds, and more offer chances for both you and your child to bond over learning and experiencing new things. Plus, they’re a lot of fun!

Be Flexible

Things will fall apart some days. That’s just a fact of life. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to create perfectly structured days every single day. If your child is melting down at the park, it’s okay to go home and relax. If you feel overwhelmed with your to-do list, it’s okay to throw it out for a while and come back to it later.

A basic structure will help keep you moving forward, but flexibility is key in reducing stress.

Why Your Preschooler Desperately Needs Time Outdoors — and What to Do Once You’re There

preschool outdoor time

Kids these days seem to spend less time outdoors than we did when we were children. There are plenty of reasons for that: our lives are filled with more activities, we have access to more screens, backyard sizes and green spaces are shrinking, safe outdoor spaces are harder to come by…

Whatever the reason, though, it’s important we do what we can to give our children more time outdoors. The benefits of outdoor time for preschoolers are too good to pass up.

Outdoor Time for Preschoolers Increases Physical Health

As soon as the door is flung open to your backyard or the car door opened to a park or field, you’ll notice you preschooler burst into the outdoors with energy and enthusiasm. It’s almost impossible for a young child to not run, skip, hop, and jump when the space is available to do so.

And that’s such a good thing!

More time outdoors means your child will be moving more, building motor skills, and strengthening muscles and bones.

Exposure to Sunshine Improves Health

The sun is a funny thing. Too much of it can, of course, cause sunburns and serious health concerns. But not enough sun exposure can cause health problems as well. Sun exposure helps your body make vitamin D, which is crucial for bone development and healthy immune systems. It also helps regulate sleep cycles and improves mood. So lather up with sunscreen, wear a hat, and head outdoors.

Time Outdoors Builds Executive Function Skills

Playing outside, especially when the play is unstructured, gives your child the chance to hone her executive function skills. Executive function skills refer to the skills we all need to help us prioritize, multitask, plan, and troubleshoot. Outdoor time is full of opportunities to practice these skills. Figuring out how to climb the tree involves planning and troubleshooting. Tracking down worms  with a friend involves cooperation and multitasking.

Outdoor Time Increases Attention Spans

Multiple studies have found that exposure to nature increases attentiveness, even more so than doing a physical activity indoors. As your preschooler grows and is expected to pay more attention in school settings and other places, this becomes more and more important.

Children who spend more time playing outside are often more curious, self-directed, and confident. They have more opportunity to start and create tasks and activities on their own initiative, and are more likely to stick with a task for longer periods of time.

Ideas for Outdoor Activities for Your Preschooler

Don’t underestimate the power of free, unstructured play outside. You don’t have to do a whole lot of planning to create a good outdoor experience for your child. Just open the door, drive to the park, head to the mountains, or find a walking trail!

In addition to unstructured outdoor time, try these fun ideas for outdoor play.

Take a Nature Walk

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we like to take nature walks as the seasons change to look for signs of the new season. You can print out a nature walk journal page for extra fun.

Collect Nature Items

Let your child collect blossoms, blades of grass, rocks, and more (as long as it doesn’t disrupt the area). Keep the items in a spot in your backyard or by the window for a few days. Or incorporate them into an art project.

Add Objects

Get creative, and add objects to your outdoor environment. Bring wooden spoons, plastic bowls, and planks to the backyard. See what your child does with them.

Act Out a Story

Tell a story, or read a book outside, and then encourage your child to act out the parts.

Color with Sidewalk Chalk

It’s such an easy outdoor activity. Hand your child some chalk, and let them draw what they want. You can also make a path for their bike to follow, draw a hopscotch board so they can practice jumping, or create a series of steps for them to follow (Jump up and down 5 times on this spot, do 3 jumping jacks on this spot, etc.).

“Paint” the House or Fence

Give your child clean paintbrushes and a bucket of water. Let him “paint” a wall of your house, the fence, the sidewalk, the trampoline… whatever his heart desires!

Add Explorer Props

Gather a magnifying glass, a clipboard and pencil, a butterfly net, a measuring tape, jars, a backpack, and anything else you can think of to aid in a good exploration. Watch your child’s imagination run!

Eat Outside

Have a family meal outside, whether it’s in your backyard or at a nearby park.

Cut Grass

Really! This is a favorite activity of our students all year round. Let your child use a pair of safety scissors to cut the grass. It won’t do the job of a lawnmower, but it will strengthen your child’s hand muscles and improve fine motor skills.

Take Indoor Activities Outside

Basically, almost anything you can do inside can be done outside in some way. If your child wants to paint, why not do the art project outside? Want to read books? Throw a blanket on the grass and read away. Practicing letters? Do it on a clipboard or with sidewalk chalk.

You get the idea.

Now get outside!

8 Music and Movement Ideas for Preschoolers

 

music and music preschool

Children naturally love music, and musical experiences help to create strong neural connections between the cells in their brains.  And they make the strongest connections when they are actively involved in their musical experiences. That’s why combining music with movement is so important.

In fact, music and movement instruction has been shown to improve children’s cognitive development, memory, and learning skills. It also helps children develop their ability to express themselves.

And regular exposure to active involvement in music even helps your child do better in reading and math, focus better, have greater control over her body, increase self-esteem, and play better with others.

The Benefits of Music for Your Preschooler

music and movement preschool

When a child is introduced to music at a young age, they learn to develop concentration, memory, and listening skills. Think about it: music draws us in and keeps us focused. And as we hear melodies and rhythms, they become familiar to the ear. Your child will build a strong memory as melodies are repeated.

And just as reading introduces new vocabulary to your child, music with lyrics will expose your child to new words, phrasing, rhymes, and more.

Try This: Sing familiar songs with your child while incorporating simple dance moves that match the music. For example, if the song is about a bird waking up, you can flap your arms to indicate the bird and open your eyes wide to indicate waking up. Combining the actions or dance moves with the words will help your child recall the words.

Try This: Keep a steady beat with musical instruments while you listen to a song. All you need is bells or sticks. Even a pot lid and mixing spoon will do the job!

Try This: Sing! Sing throughout the day. Sing familiar songs as your child takes a bath, make up silly songs as you eat lunch together, and sing a song before bedtime.

Try This: Listen to music. It’s the simplest thing you can do, so make sure it’s happening. Play music while you drive to preschool and at home as you get ready for bed.

Try This: Attend musical concerts together. Many libraries, schools, museums, and cities offer free musical concerts throughout the year. Get on their mailing lists and keep your eyes open for opportunities. After a concert, ask your child what she liked and what she didn’t like, what instruments she noticed, how she felt during the music, and more.

The Benefits of Movement for Your Preschooler

music and movement preschool

Movement combined with music introduces math concepts, builds motor skills, stimulates brain development, and improves communication skills.

As your child hears beats and repeats them, she is easily identifying patterns. Pattern identification is an important math skill that will come up again and again.

Moving with music gives your child a sense of where his body is in space, what his body can do, and more. This helps him develop his motor skills and form a more solid connection between his body and brain.

Adding hand motions, facial gestures, dramatic body movements and more to music allows your child to express herself in a variety of ways. This builds on her communication skills.

Try This: Clap, tap, or stomp to a beat and have your child copy you. Turn it around, and ask your child to make up his own beat for you to copy.

Try This: Use scarves to teach your child to listen more closely to the music. Raise the scarves up when the pitches go up, and lower the scarves to the floor as the pitches go down. Encourage your child to come up with other body movements that match the music — perhaps stomping during loud music or hopping during bouncy music.

Try This: Copy each other. Put a few simple dance movements together (whatever comes to your mind) as you listen to your child’s favorite song. As you ask your child to watch and then copy, you’ll be providing a chance for your child to build his memory and motor skills. Let him do the same for you.

Come and see how we incorporate movement and music into our curriculum every single day at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online for a tour.

What Should Preschoolers Learn?

what should preschoolers learn

ABC. 123.

That’s what matters most in preschool, right? You want your child to be able to read, write, and do math so she’ll be ahead once she starts kindergarten.

Right?

Well, that’s only a small part of it.

While literacy and math are extremely important parts of your preschooler’s academic development, they don’t tell the whole story. Preschool is actually a critical time for your child to develop their whole self. A high-quality preschool will work on developing the whole child in the following ways:

How to Learn

We spend our whole lives learning, and preschool is where your child’s foundation begins. This is where your child develops their attitude towards school, where they determine if they are good learners or not, and where they learn if they have what it takes to figure out problems. Spoiler alert! Every child is a good learner and has what it takes to overcome challenges. The trick is to help your child keep their zest for learning.

A high-quality preschool knows how to keep learning active, engaging, fun, and age-appropriate. Play is a critical component of your child’s development and education, and preschool gives your child the chance to learn through play.

Character Development

What do we do when we want a turn? What do we do if we’re upset with someone? How do we divide and share resources? How do we solve a problem? How do we tell the truth? Take responsibility? Show compassion for others?

Preschool gives children plenty of opportunities to practice, make mistakes, fix mistakes, and get it right. It’s the perfect setting for children to really begin to build the foundation for a strong character.

Creative Arts

what should preschoolers learn

“Children engaged in creating art express their feelings constructively, not destructively,” says Sydney Gurewitz Clemens, consultant for childhood education, teacher, and organizer of San Francisco Classroom Teachers’ Association.

Children thrive when they can express themselves through art. Open-ended art materials and a supportive environment at preschool allows your child to explore their feelings in safe and healthy ways.

Plus, art helps children develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and increases creativity and imagination.

Language and Literacy

The ability to read and write allows children to communicate more clearly, and builds a confidence and thirst for knowledge. In preschool, your child gets to develop a love for reading and take charge of their own interests. Plus, children have opportunities all day to build their vocabulary and communication skills through talking, playing, listening, and interacting.

Math

Numbers. Shapes. Measurements. Patterns. Sorting. None of us are born hating math, but many of us develop a distaste for the subject. When a preschool integrates math throughout their teaching, it gives your child an early confidence, interest, and understanding in math.

Science and Engineering

what should preschoolers learn

Why? How?

These questions are always on your preschooler’s mind, and science and engineering answer them.

Science and engineering are everywhere, and at this time of life when your preschooler is fascinated by everything, it’s a great time for your child to learn how the world works by watching caterpillars emerge from chrysalises,  see a seed grow into a pumpkin, use ramps to change the speed of cars, and so much more.

Social Studies

Preschoolers learn to appreciate people and their differences, to understand their place in the world, how to resolve conflicts, and more. Supportive teachers help children to see how to think of others and how to appreciate different traditions and ideas.

 

Physical Development

what should preschoolers learn

Creative movement opportunities let your child build their physical strength while also building memory, increasing concentration, and more. Coordination, large motor skills, rhythm, expression, emotion, and balance are all improved when a preschool includes physical development in its curriculum.

Music

The world is so much better because music is in it. And your child benefits in countless ways when music is a part of his preschool curriculum. Language skills, social skills, academic retention, listening skills, discipline, concentration, and so much more are developed through a music education. Plus, many preschools use music to teach concepts, like the days of the week, the life cycle of insects, and much more.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we spend time in all of these areas each and every day. We know that preschool is a critical time to help your child develop her whole self, and we feel honored to be a part of that journey. If you’d like to learn more about what we do, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online for a tour.

 

11 Fun Water Play Activities for Preschoolers

water play activities for preschoolers

Heat can turn even the sweetest preschooler into a sweaty mess of anger and tantrums. If you’re frantically searching for ways to beat the heat this summer, use these 11 fun water play activities for preschoolers that help build developmental skills.

Before jumping into water fun, make sure you review water safety rules with your preschooler.

  • Never swim alone.
  • Never go to a swimming area (lake, pool, river) alone.
  • Always ask permission before playing in or with water.

Mom and Dad, remember it only takes a moment for your child to slip into a body of water. Be vigilant and watchful around all standing water — even kiddie pools.

1. Small-World Sensory Tubs

water play activities for preschoolers

Water beads are fun sensory experiences for preschoolers who are past the stage of putting things in their mouths. They’re soothing and fun to handle, which keeps kids at the bin longer, allowing their imaginations to take off. Get a bin and set up small worlds by adding themed toys: ocean animals for an ocean theme, pirate ships and figures for a pirate theme, etc.

You can also make a sensory world with water and toys. This fun sensory tub from Danya Banya shows how to make a watery ocean world.

2. Kiddie Pool Add-ins

Preschoolers love jumping in and out of the kiddie pool, dunking their hair, and splashing around. Give them some add-ins, and they’ll stay in the kiddie pool even longer, having a great sensory, imaginative experience. Some fun ideas:

  • Water balloons
  • Pool noodles
  • Water balls
  • A kickboard
  • Plastic toy animals
  • Measuring cups, strainers, spoons, and small buckets
  • Colored ice cubes

3. Wash the Lawn Furniture or Yard Toys

Grab some sponges and a bucket of soapy water, and direct your preschooler to wash the lawn furniture or yard toys. It’s slippery and wet, which makes the process a fun sensory activity. Plus, preschoolers hone their scientific observation skills as they see what happens when they squeeze the soapy sponge. If the lawn furniture actually gets clean in the process? Bonus!

4. Splash Pad Play

Head to your local splash pad for some cool gross motor development. Running, skipping, jumping, and crawling through the spray structures helps your preschooler learn where her body is in space and gives her confidence in what her body can do. Plus, it’s incredibly refreshing on a hot day!

5. Ice Play

water play activities for preschoolers

This science-based activity is so fun, and it helps to improve fine motor skills while learning cause and effect. Fill a plastic container with water and add small objects, like buttons and small toys. Place the container in the freezer.

When ready, take the ice block out and put it in a bin (or on the lawn if it’s a hot day!). Give your preschooler some tools that will help in freeing the toys:

  • A spoon
  • Salt shakers
  • Driveway salt (you can use food coloring to dye the salt for a fun effect)
  • A bowl of water
  • Syringes

Then sit back as you watch your preschooler work with determination to find a way to free the toys. If this can be done with a friend or sibling, it’s even better because the preschoolers learn cooperation as they problem solve together.

6. Water Potions

water play activities for preschoolers

Let your child be a scientist for the day with this water activity for preschoolers. Gather a variety of utensils and containers from your home:

  • Spray bottles
  • Empty hand soap bottles
  • Ice cube trays
  • Dishes and bowls
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Whisks

Add a few drops of liquid watercolor to water in different containers, and then let your preschooler experiment with the water and utensils. They’ll get hands-on experience with how different colors change when mixed together, and they’ll also be fully immersed in fine motor development — scooping, carrying, squeezing, transferring, controlling how much they pour… it all combines for a colorful, wet, fun learning experience.

7. Toy Car Wash

Gather your plastic cars (make sure you don’t grab any with batteries) and set up a car wash in your backyard. Use buckets, bowls, tubs, cups, spray bottles — whatever you have on hand — for the wash. Fill some containers with soapy water and some with clear water. Give your preschooler some wash rags, a toothbrush, and/or sponge, and let her imagination finish the job.

8. Go Fishing… in Your Backyard… with Balloons

This fun idea from The Empowered Educator builds fine motor skills, gives you an opportunity to practice color recognition, build hand-eye coordination, and more. Add small balloons to a tub filled with water. Give your preschooler a strainer, cup, bowl, and/or spoon and challenge him to “fish” for the balloons.

9. Water Relay Race

If you have a few kids at your house one day, cool them off with some fun water relay race games.

  • The children can build balance as they walk with a bowl of water on their heads and empty it into a bucket at the end of the relay.
  • Increase hand-eye coordination as they carry a small water balloon on a serving spoon, trying not to let it drop and break.
  • Poke a few holes in the bottom of a disposable cup. At one end of your relay, have the children fill the cup with water from a full bucket. Challenge them to pass it overhead from person to person until it gets to a bucket at the end where the last person dumps the remaining water. This builds gross motor skills (and is refreshingly cool!).
  • Set up an obstacle course and give each relay runner two buckets full of water. Have the children run the obstacle course with the buckets, trying not to spill. Whoever has the most water at the end wins.

water play activities for preschoolers

10. Water Limbo

Create a limbo “bar” with your water hose. Use your thumb to make the water shoot in a line. Have your preschooler try to go under the line (the traditional limbo move is fun, but you can also have them crawl, hop like a frog, go backwards, run under the line while spinning, etc.). Keep lowering the line for more fun. This builds gross motor skills and coordination.

11. Pool Noodle Race — A Pool Game

Your preschooler can play this game even if he needs to wear a Puddle Jumper or life vest in the pool. Have each player straddle a pool noodle and race from one point in the pool to another. This builds muscles, coordination, and gross motor skills, while also encouraging sportsmanship.

These fun water play activities for preschoolers will keep your child busy — and cool — all summer long!

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we believe children learn through play. Scientific observations are more meaningful, fine- and gross-motor skill activities are more impactful, and cause-and-effect hits home far stronger when children are having fun. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online for a tour of the preschool.

How to Take Your Preschooler to a Museum

Sure, you don’t have any reservations about taking your preschooler to a children’s museum. Those places are designed with kids in mind; every display screams “TOUCH ME! TOUCH ME WITH ALL OF YOUR BODY!”

But what about an art museum? Have you braved the quiet, still, cavernous rooms filled with priceless works of art, or are you telling yourself you’ll try an art museum visit when your kids are older?

You don’t need to wait until your child reaches a certain age or milestone to visit an art museum. In fact, your preschooler will get heaps of education and experience from the visual stimulation, interactions with you, and lessons in appropriate behavior in a museum right now.

Don’t put it off. Use these tips to make the experience at an art museum with your preschooler an enjoyable (and manner-filled) one for both of you.

Ahead of Time

A museum trip for anybody is made better by doing a little prep work, and when preschoolers are involved, the more you do ahead of time, the better your trip is likely to go.

Study up

Before you head to the museum, spend some time on its website so you can become familiar with the current exhibitions. This will help you know the highlights, and you’ll also see some pieces of art that might be of particular interest to your child.

Most importantly, you’ll know something about what you’re going to see. This will help you to point out interesting facts or images that relate to your child, keeping her engaged while at the museum.

Show Your Child

Show your child a little bit of what you’ve learned on the museum’s website. Print out a few images you know you’ll see and point out the shapes, colors, or other big ideas about the artwork. When your child sees the actual artwork in person, he’ll be thrilled he knows something about it.

Talk About Manners

The last thing you want is for your preschooler to run screaming through the museum, touching everything in her path. Have a brief conversation about museum manners. You can compare it to a library or church.

“When we go to the museum, we need to use our library voices and our quiet walking feet. This helps everyone to enjoy the art.”

At the Museum

So you’ve prepared. You know a thing or two about what you’re going to see, you’ve told your child about what to expect, and your child knows how to behave. How can you make sure all this works out to an enjoyable museum trip? You are attending the museum with an unpredictable preschooler, after all.

Play I Spy

Most children won’t give the paintings more than a cursory glance, unless someone shows them how to do it. Playing fun, interactive games with the paintings gets kids involved — and keeps them that way.

I Spy is a simple-enough way to get started. “I spy a yellow hat. I spy a gray animal.” Your child can point or quietly move to the painting once he spots the spied item. When he tells you what he spies, he’ll be examining the paintings even closer.

Copy the Poses

We can’t wait to try this great idea from My Kids’ Adventures. Have your child try to imitate a pose they see in a painting or sculpture. This not only helps kids wiggle in a place that is quite still, it keeps the kids looking at the paintings longer than they otherwise would. And they may notice quite a bit more than you expected.

Draw or Photograph the Art

If photography is allowed in the museum, your preschooler will be thrilled to take photos of her favorite pieces. You can even send her on a photo hunt, giving her specific items to look for in the paintings (an animal, a baby, something blue, something silly, someone sad, someone happy…)

If photography is not allowed, give your child a small sketchbook and a pencil. Ask him to sit on a bench in every other room and copy his favorite painting or sculpture.

Bring Something to Touch

how to take a preschooler to a museum

You know your preschooler may have trouble with the strict no-touch rule in the museum. Why not bring something your child can touch? If you’re going to an exhibition of ballerina paintings, bring some ballet shoes to hold. If you’re going to an exhibition of landscapes, perhaps a fake flower would be soothing to hold.

Time It Right

Head to the museum before the meltdowns of nap time and the hangry pangs of lunchtime. If you can get to the museum early, you’ll likely encounter fewer people, your child will be well-rested, and nobody will be screaming for a snack (yet). Plan on two hours as your maximum.

Be Flexible

Don’t expect to see everything. A preschooler’s attention won’t last all day. If you have a favorite painting you want to see, go there first. Be willing to take breaks when needed. Bring snacks (but head to the cafeteria or outside to eat them). It’s okay if you only see one exhibition or one floor. You don’t want to tire out and bore your child. You want to see just enough to keep your child interested and involved.

 

Bring It Home

how to take a preschooler to a museum

Keep talking about what you saw at the museum. If you were solo parenting at the museum, encourage your child to tell the other parent about her favorite painting, the silliest thing she saw, or the happiest or saddest thing she saw.

Do an art project that relates to something you saw.

Check out children’s books about museums from the library and look through them together.

Don’t be surprised if your preschooler remembers very little. It’s hard for him at this stage to articulate everything he experienced.

And don’t worry if your preschooler had a meltdown, didn’t love the museum, or tired out sooner than you thought she would. Not everyone is destined to love museums, but everyone can find something to enjoy. As you continue to keep art in your life, and continue to visit museums, your child’s enjoyment will grow.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we know that art is a valuable tool for your child’s emotional well-being. It also refines visual perception and fine motor skills, increases creativity and imagination, and helps your child develop an appreciation of his surroundings. That’s why our students engage in art projects every single day, along with our seven other areas of focus. Call us for more information about our preschool program at (801) 523-5930.