How to Get Your Preschooler to Open up After School

“How was preschool today?”

“Good.”

“What did you do?”

“I don’t remember.”

Does this conversation sound familiar? Getting your preschooler to open up after school can be a challenge!

The reason? Their brains are darting from idea to idea at rapid speed, and their working memory hasn’t fully developed yet. They may have LOVED when Miss Vicky led them on a hunt for the gingerbread man, but that was two hours ago. Plus, right now they’re distracted by something they see out the window.

But you (naturally!) want to know what your child did at school, and you want to know how they felt about it all. And it’s actually good for your preschooler’s brain if you do ask them to open up about their day. Revisiting their day helps their brain to develop while making important connections in their life.

So how can you get your preschooler to open up after preschool? Try these seven tell-me-about-your day tips.

Check Your Questions

It’s natural to say, “How was your day?” And there’s nothing wrong with this question. But if you want your preschooler to open up, try to ask fewer questions that prompt only one-word answers. Questions like, “Did you have fun?” or “Did you have a good day?” don’t invite your child to revisit their day and think about something to share.

Instead of “Did you have fun?”, try, “What was the most fun part of your day?” This will help you get more information, while also helping your child build their memory and communication skills.

Become Familiar with the Preschool Schedule

how to get your preschooler to open up

The more you know about what goes on at preschool each day, the more you can get your preschooler to open up. Use what you know to form your questions.

For example, if you know the preschool does show-and-tell every day, you can ask who brought an item, what it was, and what the child said about that item.

Use the teachers’ names, and ask questions about what they did during different subjects. “What kind of wiggly activity did you do in Miss Kris’ movement class today?”

What other routines or traditions happen at your child’s preschool? At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we have a special puppet named Tiki who introduces our character traits. Ask your child, “What did Tiki teach you?”

Use the 5 Ws

how to get your preschooler to open up

Help your child think back over their day by asking specific questions that ask them to recall details.

The 5Ws are a helpful guideline in this:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

Who did you sit next to at snack time? What art project did you work on today? When did you feel excited today? Where did you play during free time? Why did you get in the car with a smile/frown?

You can also add how questions: How did you feel during playtime? How were you friendly/silly/curious today? How did you solve a problem today?

Be Fun

how to get your preschooler to open up

Get your preschooler to open up by being fun or silly.

“Today, I wished a unicorn would knock on the door. It didn’t happen, but I did get a fun package. What silly thing did you wish for today?”

“I’m sure you did nothing today! You sat on the floor and stared at the wall, right?” If your child is in a playful mood, this might prompt responses like, “Noooo! I played with Emma! We were firefighters and we saved all the ponies!”

Take Your Time

Some kids are ready to share all the details of their day as soon as they get in the car, but some kids need time to decompress. And even chatty kids will have days when they need some time.

Gauge your child’s engagement, and if they need some time, wait. Try again when you’re both eating a snack together, driving to an after-school activity, eating dinner, or going to bed.

Get Your Preschooler to Open up by Showing How It’s Done

Start your conversation by sharing about your own day. Think of moments in your day that are relatable to your child’s day.

For example, “I had an orange for a snack.” Or, “I had a good time talking with my best friend today.” Or, “I felt frustrated today, and I helped myself feel better by taking deep breaths.”

Sometimes your child might take your cue, and offer up a similar tidbit from their day. Or you can then ask your child a similar question. “What did you have for snack today? What did you do with your friend today?”

Change the Scenery

Pay attention to when — and where — your child opens up about their day. If they clam up in the car, they may still be decompressing. Or they may be distracted by what they see outside. Try asking about your child’s day at a more calm time, like at bedtime.

If they can’t answer your questions face-to-face at dinner time, they may prefer talking when you’re doing a side-by-side activity, like putting together a puzzle or going for a walk.

15 Questions to Get Your Preschooler to Open up After School

Add a few of these questions to your rotation, and see how it goes!

  1. What did your teacher say to you today?
  2. Who did you spend the most time with today?
  3. What was the best thing you did outside?
  4. What was the hardest thing you did inside?
  5. Why was (fill in the blank from their answer) so fun/hard?
  6. Where is your favorite place at preschool?
  7. What did you have for snack?
  8. Sing me a song your learned today.
  9. What was the worst thing that happened today?
  10. What made you smile today?
  11. Show me your artwork. Tell me about it.
  12. What made you laugh today?
  13. Show me something you did in your creative movement class.
  14. Tell me about something that made you sad today.
  15. Tell me about something you learned today. 

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we enjoy full days of learning, exploration, and fun. To learn more about how we teach music, art, reading, math, science, creative movement, social studies, and so much more, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

8 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress for Preschoolers

reduce holiday stress

Yes, preschoolers can get stressed out at the holidays too!

While adults are stressing about expenses, travel, obligations, overeating, and a full plate, preschoolers might be feeling the stress in the air. Not only that, kids can get over-stimulated by the busyness, the lights, the activities, the gatherings, and more.

Your child may react to stress by crying for small things, having meltdowns, withdrawing from family and friends, biting nails, and complaining of headaches and stomachaches.

If your child is already struggling, or if you’d like to avoid stress, follow these 8 tips to reduce holiday stress for preschoolers

1. Stick to Routines

As much as possible, try and keep your normal routines. Go to bed and wake up close to your normal times, and eat meals and snacks at normal times. If bedtime always includes a story and a song, don’t forego that routine now.

While events and traditions will understandably throw a wrench in your routine, keep things as close to your normal schedule as possible. This helps your child feel like they know what they can expect from moment to moment.

2. Tell Your Child Your Plans

Even when you try to follow your normal routine, many days will look drastically different than what your child is used to.

Help your child feel safe and secure with their day by letting them know what to expect. You can write a list or draw pictures, but even a verbal rundown of what to expect will be helpful.

Telling your child, “After dinner, we’ll wrap presents,” will avoid what could have been a meltdown when your child was expecting to watch TV. 

3. Remember, They’re Kids

A lot of what we expect during the holidays — long church services, extended visits with older relatives, hustling from store to store — can be too much for kids. When your child gets restless or even melts down, remember they’re being put in situations they wouldn’t have chosen.

4. Get Their Input

No doubt you have a long list of what you’d like to do this holiday season. You might even run yourself ragged wrapping all the gifts with the same paper, making 10 types of cookies, and hustling to dozens of events.

But check in with your kids first. What’s actually important to them? What do they picture when they think of the holidays? Even small children can tell you what they want to do this holiday season.

You may find that your to-do list can be shortened when you hear what’s really important to your family.

5. Let Them Help

Let your child be a part of preparations for your traditions. This will not only help them stay productive and less stressed, they’ll feel pride for contributing to the work that goes into a great celebration.

6. Let Them Vent

Things are not going to go well every second of the holiday season. When your child melts down or complains, don’t shush them or punish them. Let them feel their feelings. When they are validated, they can work through those feelings more productively and quickly.

7. Remember the Importance of Giving

Help your child forget so much about the “getting” part of the holidays by focusing on the giving. Donating to a local toy drive or local family is a great way to do this. But if that feels like one more thing on your to-do list, you can still teach the value of giving by helping your child get excited about the gifts they’re giving to their family members.

Helpful tip: Instead of asking your child, “What do you want for the holidays?”, ask, “What are you giving for the holiday?”

8. Plan for Downtime

This is a hustle-bustle season. If you don’t plan to slow down and rest, it will be easy to skip that need altogether.

Schedule downtime each day so you and your child can rest your bodies and your minds. And take breaks if stress levels rise in anybody in the family.

Remember, this is a time of family connection. Downtime contributes to that important need.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we care about the emotional development and wellbeing of our students. To learn more about us, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

How to Help Your Child Develop Healthy Habits

child healthy habits

We’ve never been more aware of healthy habits, like proper handwashing, as we are now in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other healthy habits — like buckling up, brushing teeth, choosing healthy food, exercising, and more — are still just as important.

Yet, these aren’t always easy to teach — after all, parents have a whole lot on their plates! The trick is to make healthy habits a part of your child’s routine, so they become automatic.

Small steps every day eventually build up to routine actions. Just take one step forward at a time, using these tips.

Model Good Behavior

Just like everything in parenting, when you set a good example, your child can see how to do a desired behavior.

Not only that, remember that if you’re asking your child to do something you aren’t willing to do, they won’t buy in to your ask!

For example, if you want your child to buckle up, make sure you always buckle your seatbelt as soon as you get in the car.

Teach Healthy Habits

child healthy habits

Before you can expect your child to manage healthy habits on their own, they need to know exactly what’s expected of them. Telling them to wash their hands, without first teaching the steps, may end with a child who only runs water on the tips of their fingers for a few seconds.

Stay by Their Side

As your child is learning how to develop healthy habits, like proper teeth brushing, make sure you’re close at hand. Eventually, you’ll be able to step away and trust that they can do it correctly. But while they’re learning, stay close so you can gently guide their attempts.

Stay Positive

child healthy habits

Remember, you want your child to develop healthy habits for their whole lifetime. So it’s important to make this process positive.

Keep mealtimes positive, where you all enjoy eating healthy foods. Exercise in fun ways that make everyone happy. Sing a silly song while you wash hands, or have a race to get buckled first. Buy a fun sticker for a bike helmet, so it’s fun for your child to wear it.

Don’t Reward with Food

Most of us understand from personal experience what it’s like to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Your child is going to get many mixed messages from advertising, but you can help them develop a healthier relationship with food right now by keeping food neutral.

Keep food out of rewards for good behavior or successes. Avoid calling food “bad” or “forbidden.” Don’t excessively control your child’s food habits by restricting or forcing. Rather, teach about healthy food and provide plenty of healthy options.

Make Healthy Choices a Family Affair

Think of ways you can all participate in healthy habits together. Parents have a strong influence on their children, and when you join in healthy activities together, you’ll create positive memories and a family culture of health.

Go for a family walk together, learn a new sport together, cook healthy meals together, make the grocery list together, and more.

7 Healthy Activities to Add to Your Family Culture

Adding one or two of these ideas to your family routine will help your family create a culture of healthy habits.

  1. Grow your own food. This could be a huge project in your backyard, or as simple as growing a few herbs on the windowsill. Don’t stress yourself out; just enjoy the process of planting, watching seeds grow, and harvesting your efforts together.
  2. Cook together. Some children are likely to try new foods they had a hand in preparing. Invite your child into the kitchen when you’re preparing a meal, and give them meal-prep tasks to do. 
  3. Invite your child to help with meal planning. Teach your child about the foundations of a healthy meal: protein, healthy vegetable, and healthy starch. Then have them look through cookbooks with you to find a meal that interests them. Have them write down the ingredients, and even take them grocery shopping.
  4. Sit down together for a meal. This gets trickier and trickier as children grow up. Don’t stress about having a perfect sit-down meal together. Just try to have the family all together for a meal as often as possible. Aiming for one meal together a day is helpful for some families.
  5. Instigate an active tradition in your family. Maybe you all go for a Sunday walk together. Perhaps Saturdays are for the park or a hike. Maybe Tuesday evenings are a perfect time for a family bike ride. An easy way to do this is to swap out one sedentary activity for something active. If both Friday and Saturday nights are movie nights, change one of them to a family sport night.
  6. Don’t forget your relationships. Healthy habits are more successful when people feel connected and loved. Spending positive time together in any activity helps your child feel safe and secure — and that’s a sure foundation for healthy habits in other areas of life.
  7. Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand. Make it easy for you and your child to make heathy choices by choosing healthy food for your pantry and fridge. Think: apples, bananas, grapes, berries, clementines, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, yogurt, cheese, hummus, whole wheat bread and tortillas, frozen fruits, granola, pretzels, salsa, popcorn, nuts, and raisins.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we teach healthy habits in a variety of ways — through practice, music, art, creative movement, and so much more.  To learn more about how we teach, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

Preschool Separation Anxiety in the Time of Covid

It’s been a whirlwind these past few months, and our youngest members of society are shouldering an awful lot. Your preschooler may have been suddenly pulled from preschool back in March when the pandemic began. They may have had to stop seeing friends, grandparents, and more. They may have had to stop their dance classes, sports, and other activities.

And all while the stress level of families went up. Many families have dealt with unemployment, working from home, sickness, and fear.

Little children have seen and experienced a lot.

Sending your child back to preschool this fall, where safe to do so, is a good idea. 85% of who you are as an adult was developed before you turned 6. A quality preschool education is important during normal times, and during the time of Covid, it becomes even more necessary.

At preschool, your child has the chance to develop emotional and social skills (even during Covid) in ways they can’t develop at home. Plus, they’ll benefit from exercise, play, routine, and learning a variety of subjects from trained teachers.

But your child may deal with more separation anxiety this year than other years. They’ve likely been at home with you for months. Even if you’ve been working from home, your child has grown accustomed to seeing you all day. Plus, the uncertainty of the last several months may have been upsetting.

This is no ordinary back-to-school.

Follow these tips to make the transition back to preschool an easier, happier one for your child.

Think Back to P.P. (Pre-Pandemic) Times

Before the pandemic, we all had routines. We had to leave the house at certain times of the day, which meant we needed to wake up at certain times of the day and follow certain routines. Bedtime was likely very structured.

Once shut-downs began, many of us relaxed our routines since there was no place to go. Bedtimes relaxed, we may have slept in more, and screens became more prevalent.

To be clear: There’s nothing to feel guilty about. This is just the reality. For now, think back to your schedule before the pandemic, and try to re-incorporate it.

Get to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every day. Follow a getting-ready routine. Wean off the screens a bit.

Don’t worry about academics now. Just focus on getting back on a school routine. Your child’s teachers will handle the academics.

Walk Away

If you’ve been home all together since March, it might be upsetting for your child to be away from you. Begin now to help them separate from you by finding pockets in the day where you actually leave.

Leave the house to run an errand while someone else watches your child. Say goodbye, and when you get home, find your child to give them a hug. This will help them understand that when you leave, you come back.

Validate Feelings

preschool separation anxiety in the time of covid

Every feeling your child is having is valid. Let them know it’s okay to feel how they feel.

Once you’ve validated (and not before), talk to your child about how to cope with their feelings. If they get worried at school, what is something they can do? If they feel worried in the car, what is something they can do? Always reiterate that it’s okay to feel how they’re feeling, and that you can help them through it all.

Explain What’s Happening

It’s been a LONG time since school has been open. Make sure you’re clear with your child about what is going to happen. But keep it simple:

“I have loved being home with you, and now I’m also excited that you get to go enjoy preschool. You’ll get to make friends, and you’ll have a teacher who will take care of you and teach you important things.”

Stay positive. Be careful with your language. Don’t emphasize how much you’ll miss your preschooler. Don’t tell them about fun things you’ll be doing while they’re at school. Instead, focus on the positive of what they’re going to experience: “You get to go on a dinosaur dig today! You are so lucky! Preschool is so fun!”

Allow Your Child’s Teacher to Earn Their Trust

It can feel so hard to walk away, but remember that if YOU are in the vicinity, your child will always see you as the best option. This makes it difficult for your child’s teacher to build a relationship.

Trust your child’s teachers. They’re experts at engaging children in activities that make the transition from Mom or Dad to preschool a positive one. They’re also experts at loving children and helping them feel comfortable.

When your child feels safe and loved, they’ll join in the fun activities at preschool.

 Get a Goodbye Phrase Ready

preschool separation anxiety in the time of covid

Make parting from each other a cheerful event. Create a happy goodbye routine, and use it ahead of time.

Kids love rhymes and fun phrases. Try one of these: “See you later alligator.” “See you soon, baboon.” “TTFN” (Ta-ta for now).

Add a fist bump or blow a kiss to the routine to make it a friendly, positive connection.

Expect Bumps in the Road

Nobody has returned to school in the midst of a pandemic before. This is new territory for everyone. Expect your child to have behavioral challenges, and that way, you won’t be caught off guard.

Remember that children can’t always tell you what they’re feeling, but their behavior will send you a message if something is wrong. Connect with your child, talk to your child, and validate all feelings.

Give this process time. If, after about three weeks, your child is still struggling with separation anxiety, talk to the teachers about allowing your child to bring a comfort object with them to school.

 

Remember Yourself

It might be hard to send your preschooler back to school. Along with the normal emotions of watching your child grow up, you’re now raising your precious child in an uncertain time. If this is jarring or upsetting, you’re not alone.

So take care of yourself. Rely on a support system, get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and take time for yourself. And remember: all your feelings are valid too.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we understand the special challenges of this time. We’re taking precautions to keep our staff and students safe, and we’re committed to continuing to provide the best preschool education in Utah.

We understand separation anxiety, and that’s why we distribute a special book, video, calendar, and tips to help you get your child ready for this big transition. Your child is strong, and you are too. And we’re here to help every step of the way.

To learn more about us, 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.

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.

The Crucial Skills Your Preschooler Needs — And How You Can Help

Executive function. It’s a really unflashy way of describing something that’s absolutely crucial in your child’s development.

Executive function refers to the skills we have that help us organize our thoughts, set goals, plan, get things done, manage impulses, control how our feelings impact our actions, and more.

If you’re a parent, nobody needs to tell you that young children still have a ways to go when it comes to developing executive functions. For example, when your 2-year-old wants a toy, she may snatch it out of a playmate’s hand without a thought (difficulty managing impulses). If you have her give the toy back to her friend, she may erupt in tears and flailing limbs (difficulty controlling how her feelings impact her actions).

Your 4-year-old may climb a tree or rock wall to get to a toy, only to find that once he’s there, he doesn’t know how to get down (difficulty with planning).

There are three main areas of executive function: working memory, cognitive flexibility (or flexible thinking), and inhibitory control (including self-control).

As children develop their executive functioning skills, they get better at:

  • regulating emotions
  • keeping track of what they’re doing
  • listening to and understanding other points of view
  • starting tasks and finishing them
  • paying attention
  • organizing
  • planning
  • prioritizing

It’s perfectly normal for your preschooler to struggle with some of these skills. In fact, executive function is still developing well into the mid-twenties, so you can expect struggles in different areas at different ages.

From preschool to about second grade, it’s common for children to have trouble following directions, give up instead of asking for help, and fall apart emotionally over minor things.

How to Improve Executive Functioning Skills

Your child’s ability to use executive function will play a huge role in their later school and life success. Use these ideas to give your child the best chance at success.

Give Your Child a Quality Preschool Education

Penn State study showed that children who were involved in a quality preschool education that focused on emotional and social education, as well as early literacy, had dramatically improved executive function skills as opposed to those who were not. They followed the children through third grade, and found that not only did those children continue to have strong executive function skills, their academic skills were stronger as well.

And it makes sense. If a child struggles with executive functions in the classroom (regulating behavior and emotions), it will be hard to focus and learn.

A strong preschool education is one of the best gifts you can give your young child. When looking for a preschool, ask the director how they support social and emotional skills. A director who discusses a play-based curriculum and child-directed learning will likely focus on supporting children through their executive function development.

Model Good Executive Functions

Whenever you’re trying to teach your child something, improving that behavior or skill in yourself is one of the best places to start. Children watch you and learn from you. Practice better self-control. If you lose your cool and yell at your child, catch yourself and say, “I was frustrated and I yelled. I wish I hadn’t done that, and I’m going to try to do better next time.”

Practice calming down before you explode by saying, “I’m feeling frustrated and like I want to yell. I’m going to go cool down for a minute and then we can talk again.”

Don’t Expect Perfection

Remember: kids get tired. Kids get hungry. Kids are still learning. Don’t demand your child practice or use their executive function skills when a meltdown is brewing. Save practice for times when everybody is already calm. Eventually, your child will use those skills more and more.

Support Imaginary Play

Imaginary play is the perfect practice field for strengthening executive functions. In imaginary play, children develop and remember complex rules. They take turns. They take on the role of another character and behave as that character. They even regulate each other’s behavior, which is an important step in self-regulation.

  • Let your child have plenty of imaginary play time, and provide props and toys that encourage this type of play.
  • Choose a preschool that supports play-based learning.
  • Read stories together to continue building imagination.

Play Movement and Music Games

Learning games that involve music and/or movement is a fun way to improve executive function skills. These types of games require your child to put words and actions together, to move certain ways, and to remember sequence — all of which is a rich foundation for executive skill building.

  • Let your child try physically challenging things, like climbing play structures and walking on balance beams.
  • Play freeze dance. Your child dances around while the music plays, but when it stops, your child “freezes” in the position they are in, while turning their attention back to you.
  • Sing songs that repeat previous sections, such as “This Old Man” or “5 Little Speckled Frogs.”

Tell Stories

Learning to listen to a narrative is an important skill for your child to develop. In addition to reading stories, occasionally tell stories too.

  • Begin a story (made up or familiar), and stop at a critical moment. Encourage your child to pick up the story and tell what happens next.
  • Pull out your laptop and ask your child to tell you a story. Write what she says, and read it back to her later.
  • Have your child act out stories he has made up.
  • Listen to audio books while you drive.

Come see how we encourage executive function skills at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online for a tour.

How Singing Helps Language Development

For kids, singing is more than just a fun way to pass the time. It packs in loads of benefits, including helping your child with language development. Dust off your voice box; these benefits are too good to leave on the table.

Auditory Discrimination

When your child was a baby, she was already soaking up the language around her. That doesn’t mean she knew the meaning of everything that was being said; babies first listen to the different sounds of language. Meaning comes later.

Hearing songs helps babies and children notice and recognize the differences between sounds. In this way, they’re building up their auditory discrimination — picking up on words that sound similar but still being able to tell the difference between, and also noticing, words and sounds that are different.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness refers to your child’s ability to notice, remember, and manipulate sounds. It’s a reliable predictor of later reading ability, and wouldn’t you know it? Singing helps build phonological awareness.

So many songs include rhymes, which helps your child pay attention to sounds, building up to that important phonological awareness. Rhyming is something children can understand from a young age, and the more your child is exposed to the rhyming of songs, the more their awareness will increase.

Vocabulary Development

What is your child’s favorite song? Have you ever stopped to think about the many words it includes?

Even the simplest songs include new vocabulary: In “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” your child is exposed to words like “wonder,” “above,” “world,” “diamond” and more. These words may not enter their vocabulary on a daily basis, but the repetition of the songs brings them to your child’s attention.

Hearing and repeating songs builds your child’s ear, helping them understand phrases, sentences, and syntax — and adding in new vocabulary words without even trying.

Auditory Memory

Auditory memory refers to the ability to hear information, process it,  retain it, and later recall it. This is a big academic skill, and yet again, singing will help build it up in your preschooler.

Help build auditory memory by singing songs in different ways — faster, slower, louder, quieter, silly voices, etc.

Imagination

Songs tell stories and paint pictures in our minds. Exposing your child to a variety of songs, and encouraging him to sing along, will build his imagination.

{The Importance of Storytelling for Preschoolers}

Imagination is critical, because it allows your child to make sense of the world, try on different scenarios, and enjoy life. Singing helps your child express her imagination, and it even lays the foundation of poetry basics. It also provides the opportunity for your child to express themselves in multiple ways — bringing in hand gestures, dance movements, and facial expressions as they sing.

Teach Concepts

Ever wonder why we don’t just recite the alphabet in a monotone voice? It’s learned so much easier when set to music. Songs teach character traits, the seasons, morals, counting, and so much more.

If you’re having a hard time getting your child to make their bed or brush their teeth, just set your directions to the tune of a nursery rhyme and watch your children remember the concept!

Coordination

It’s easy to put hand gestures to simple children’s songs — think “Five Little Speckled Frogs” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Your child won’t know it, but singing and moving along to these songs is teaching coordination, fine motor skills, and memory!

Can’t remember the songs of your childhood? Glance at the list below for a refresher. Chances are, the words will come back to you. And if you’re at a loss, YouTube is your friend!

Engage your child by singing these songs during bath time, on a walk, while prepping dinner, at bedtime, or to calm a meltdown.

  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Row Row Row Your Boat
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low
  • The Grand Old Duke of York
  • Where is Thumbkin
  • London Bridge Is Falling Down
  • Down By the Bay
  • Going on a Bear Hunt
  • Baby Bumble Bee
  • Farmer in the Dell
  • Old MacDonald
  • Five Little Ducks
  • Five Green Speckled Frogs
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • Ants Go Marching
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It

See how we incorporate 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.

How to Encourage Courage in Your Preschooler

Children have a lot to learn about the world (don’t we all?), and preschool is a safe, nurturing environment to begin to grasp big, important concepts. Along with reading, writing, math, science, art, music, dance, and social studies, we focus on character development at UDA Creative Arts Preschool.

Most children don’t naturally have the skills of gratitude, patience, responsibility, courage, and more. Just like learning shapes, letters, and numbers, these character traits need to be taught in gentle, patient ways.

{The Importance of Teaching Character Traits in Preschool}

At UDA Preschool, the puppet Tiki helps us introduce our monthly character trait to the children.

Each week, our teacher knocks at Tiki’s house while the children ask, “Tiki, are you home?” Sometimes she’s home, and sometimes she’s off exploring, but has left a clue as to what’s happening that week.

She also has a guest house next to her home. Each month a new puppet moves into her guest house, and teaches the children about a new character trait. Kindness, Courage, Respect, and more will all take up temporary residence in Tiki’s guest house throughout the year.

With the help of Tiki and her guest puppet, we discuss character traits and their importance.

During the month of October, Tiki introduced Courage to the children. We have been learning that courage doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at something before you can try. You just have to have courage to try new things.

And preschool is the perfect learning ground for trying new things. Every day, the children are given new opportunities — maybe they’re offered a new food during snack time, maybe a new animal comes to visit for the day, maybe they’re asked to write letters that are hard to form, maybe they’ll do a science experiment, maybe they need to share a toy with a new friend, maybe they will be given the opportunity to stand in front of the class and share about themselves on their special day.

The children even get to encourage others to have courage. In September, we brought caterpillars into the classroom, and observed as they turned into chrysalises, and finally to butterflies. Now, during the month of courage, the butterflies are ready to live their lives outside.

When we released the butterflies, the children shouted things like, “You can do it!” and “Have courage!” We cheered when the butterflies finally found their courage and took flight.

How You Can Encourage Courage in Your Preschooler

Like all character traits, courage is something that can be taught. Use these ideas to encourage courage in your preschooler.

Model Courage

You knew this would come up, didn’t you? Children learn to follow what they see. That means you have to muster up your own courage, and let your child see it. If it’s difficult for you to talk to a new person, take a deep breath and go over and introduce yourself. Later, tell your child it was hard, but you did it. Let your child see that not everything comes easy to you, but you’re willing to try.

Don’t Fix Every Problem

Step back a little, and let your child problem-solve. (Problem solving is another character trait we learn at UDA Preschool!) At this age, that might mean letting your child come up with a solution for how to share a toy, struggle to zip a coat, wipe up spilled milk, or clean up the toys. It’s okay to step in and help when your child needs you — they are still developing and learning new skills, after all — but challenge yourself to wait a few beats before rescuing your child. You might be surprised at how much your child can accomplish on her own.

Talk About Courageous Acts

Regularly discussing courage will allow your child to feel more courageous while seeing more opportunities to step outside their comfort zone. Consider asking your child to tell you about a courageous thing they did or witnessed. Think of your own courageous acts from the day, and share them too.

Use a Mantra

Incorporate a mantra about courage into your day. This can then be something your child can use when he’s feeling nervous. “I have courage,” “I can do hard things,” and “I can be brave” are all simple enough that your child can recall and rely on them when faced with something tough.

Praise Effort

When you see your child take a courageous step, no matter how small, make sure to comment on it.

“I noticed you waved when our neighbor said hi” can help a shy child feel more confident in interacting with other people.

“That was great when you climbed on the new structure at the playground” can help a child feel more confident in her physical abilities.

“I’m so proud of you for standing in front of the class and sharing about your favorite stuffed animal” can help a child know they can do hard things.

We’ll be encouraging courage all month long at UDA Creative Arts Preschool. Be sure to talk about it with your child!