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!

9 Fun Ways to Incorporate Music Into Your Preschooler’s Daily Life

It’s undeniable that music can have a powerful effect on humans. Just think of the last time you heard a song and started dancing around or singing along. It’s almost as if the effect of the music takes over without you realizing it.

But music is even more powerful than getting you to tap your feet, especially when it comes to child development.

Music helps your child develop the skills she needs for school readiness. And we’re not just talking about help with learning intellectual skills, like reading and writing (although music works a powerful magic with those skills too!). But music can also help your child develop social-emotional skills, motor skills, language skills, memory skills, and so much more.

It should come as no surprise then, that a good preschool curriculum should emphasize music in a variety of learning situations.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we use music when we teach math, science, social skills, self-discipline, literacy skills, listening skills, motor skills, and more.

{Music Matters! How Music Benefits Preschool Learners}

Recently, we installed a new interactive musical structure in our outside play area so the children can freely play, explore, work together, and use music in their pretend play.

We aren’t exaggerating when we say the children flock to the musical structure. It’s a joy to hear musical sounds mixed with laughter, cooperative language, and imaginative ideas.

To bring some of the same benefits of music to your home, try one or more of these 9 ideas.

1. Music Painting

The more senses you incorporate into an activity, the more your child learns. Incorporate sight and touch with sound with this musical activity for preschoolers.

Put on some music, give your child some paints and a paintbrush, and ask them to paint while listening to the music. Vary your selections — use classical music, jazz, pop, and more. Play fast-paced and slow pieces; loud and quiet; many instruments and solo instruments.

2. In the Manner of…

This is a fun game to let your child express themselves with music. Make a list of simple songs (Mary Had a Little Lamb, Pop! Goes the Weasel, etc.). Make a separate list of different ways your child can express the beat. Can they jump up and down? Stomp like an elephant? Tiptoe like a ladybug? Roll like a steamroller?

Call out a song from your song list, and an expression type from your other list, and have your child sing and move according to what was called out. Vary your combinations.

3. Go on a World Tour

Experience the world together through music — while teaching your child to be a better listener. Find folk songs and traditional musical styles from different countries and regions, and listen to the songs together.

Talk about what you like (“I love the strong beat!”), what you hear (“I hear a piano”), how you feel (“This song makes me feel relaxed”), what the words in the songs mean, and more.

4. Freeze Dance

This is a classic game for a reason: Everybody loves it! (It also makes a great party game if you ever run out of things to do.) Turn on some fun music, and tell your preschooler to dance. When you pause the music at random times, your child should stop and “freeze,” holding whatever position he is currently in.

5. Name That Tune

See if your child can guess a song from only a few hints. Hum the beginning, sing the start, or tap the rhythm.

6. Dance Competition

Get some exercise with your preschooler while you challenge each other to make up the funniest/happiest/saddest/highest/lowest/fastest/slowest dance moves in accordance with what song is playing. Try and match the challenge to the mood of the song. Let your preschooler suggest ideas!

7. “Meet” Instruments

Look for opportunities for your child to touch, feel, and try different instruments. Ask a friend to show your child how a guitar works, introduce your child to the high and low sounds of a piano, dust off your trumpet from middle school, get as close as possible to the orchestra pit at a performance, etc. Make instruments at home with pots and spoons, beans in jars and cups, and more.

8. Sing, Sing, Sing!

Expose your child to melodies by singing often! Even if you don’t think you have a good voice, sing along to your favorite playlist. Turn the grocery list into a song by singing it to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Sing your instructions to your child with any melody that pops into your head. (Bedtime routines might even go a little more smoothly if you sing your instructions to an old *NSync or Metallica song — you never know.)

9. Learn Nursery Rhymes

If you can’t remember nursery rhymes, look them up on YouTube or attend a story time at your local library. The rhythmic canter and the rhymes in these classics will help your child develop memory, confidence, pre-reading skills, and more.

Come check out our new musical structure, and 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 Help Your Child’s Language Development

how to help your child's language development

Strong language and communication skills are a critical component of your child’s education, and it’s never too early to help your child develop those skills.

It’s important to know that language is much more than what your child is saying. It’s also about what your child understands, your child’s conversational skills, and your child’s ability to understand nonverbal pieces of communication.

Pay attention to these common language deficits:

  • Syntax: This is about how your child puts words together in sentences. “Him is walking,” “Baby sad,” “Me want crackers.”
  • Following directions: Does your child understand and follow directions easily?
  • Pragmatics: This is about conversational skills. Can your child speak about her needs? Does he ask for help? Does she take turns in conversation? Can he stay on topic? Does she use appropriate eye contact?
  • Phonology: This refers to the sounds your child makes. A child with a language deficit might leave a syllable out of a word (nana for banana), leave off the ending sound of a word, use a short sound for a long one (tun for sun), or drop a sound when two are together (top for stop)

Learn more about correct speech milestones and warning signs in this blog post: How to Gauge Your Child’s Speech and Language Development

How You Can Help Your Child’s Language Development

Whether your child is having trouble with language or not, there’s plenty for you to do to help your child improve language development. Much of it can be done while you go about your day!

Sing Songs

Singing songs at any age helps with language development. Why? It increases auditory discrimination, helping your child to pay attention to different sounds. Songs often rhyme, which not only increases auditory discrimination, but also builds pre-literacy skills. The repetition also helps your child to learn new words — and remember them.

Play “Simon Says”

The game of Simon Says encourages your child to pay close attention to your words, while also following directions. When you switch it up and let your child be “Simon,” your child gets practice in putting directions together.

Tell Riddles

Tell simple riddles throughout the day. For example, “I’m thinking of something that lives outside, grows tall, stays in one place, and has leaves.” Your child might guess bush or tree, and in the process she’s connecting verbal clues to what she knows. She’s building context and increasing her language abilities.

Play with Puzzles Together

While playing with a puzzle, give your child directions. “Find the piece with the pig snout.” This helps your child connect what he is hearing with a visual piece.

Give directions that include “before” and “after” to help your child learn to follow auditory sequencing. “Before you put pieces together, turn all the pieces over to the right side.”

You can also encourage your child to ask for help if she is struggling. And the pictures on the puzzle give you both plenty of opportunity to use descriptive language. “The yellow giraffe has a long neck.” “The baby looks happy because she is smiling.”

Color Together

While you color, identify categories in the picture. “I’m going to color all the butterflies blue. What color will you choose for the butterflies?”

Build vocabulary by describing, and asking your child to describe, the pictures and colors.

Tell Familiar Stories

Find a story you won’t mind telling again and again, and tell it to your child while you’re in the car, doing the dishes, taking a walk, etc. Once your child knows the story, ask him to tell it to you.

If this is too tall an order, help him tell the story by pausing at key parts and asking him to fill in what comes next. For example, you could tell The Three Little Pigs. When the wolf comes to the door, you can pause and ask your child, “What did the wolf say?” Praise your child when he tells you the phrase.

Talk About “Go-Togethers”

What goes with a shoe? (Shoelace, sock) What goes with a toothbrush? (Toothpaste) What goes with milk? (Cookie, cereal)

Ask these questions throughout the day to give your child the chance to verbalize connections.

Categorize

Verbally group items together by asking your child to tell you all the animals, colors, toys, balls, etc. she can think of.

Sing the Alphabet

Sing the alphabet together. Watch YouTube videos of the alphabet, and encourage your child to sing along.

Identify Body Parts

Point to a body part and ask your child to identify it. (elbow, knee, leg) When getting dressed, ask your child to tell you what body part he will put into an item of clothing. For example, “What body part goes in your sleeves?

Use Fanciful Words

Expand your child’s vocabulary by using fanciful, descriptive words when you can. For example, the sky isn’t cloudy. It’s full of puffy marshmallows. The cookie isn’t good. It’s sweet, scrumptious, and tastes like happiness.

Children are naturally imaginative. Your child may already use fanciful words, so follow her lead. If she doesn’t use fanciful words on her own, it won’t take long for her to follow you.

Use Descriptive Words

Don’t be afraid to use big, descriptive vocabulary. Your child learns language by listening to you, so go ahead and use your big words! “It rained so much that the grass is saturated.” “I’m going to pull out the condiments for our sandwiches.” “That painting is a masterpiece.” “This book is nonfiction.”

Your child may understand the meaning of the word from the context of your sentence, or they may ask you what you mean. Either way, your child is going to be exposed to a rich vocabulary, giving him much more to draw from when expressing himself.

Talk, Talk, Talk

Just keep the conversation going. Talk about what you see, what you’re doing, what you wish, events or holidays coming up, your child’s school, your pet, favorite colors, anything. Talk a lot, always giving time and space for your child to respond. Listen to what your child has to say, and treat their thoughts as valuable. They are!

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we understand the importance of catching language challenges early. That’s why we bring in a speech therapist each year to evaluate each child — at no cost to our families. Our curriculum also includes teaching children correct speech sounds in fun and interactive ways, as well as providing ample opportunity for children to express themselves in a variety of ways.

Give us a call at (801) 523-5930 to schedule a tour and see the preschool in action.

Why Your Child Should Play at the Playground

benefits of playground play

You know your child enjoys the playground, and you feel great about the exercise it provides. But when you take your child to the playground, you’re also giving her many, many more benefits that extend further than you might expect.

Play Benefits Children

Before we even get into the specific benefits of playground play, remember that play, in and of itself, is actually a critical component of a child’s development. It’s not just a nice thing to do. Play is how children learn. It also helps them develop confidence, dexterity, strength, imagination, math skills, and so much more.

{Why Your Child Needs Play-Based Learning} 

Full-Body Exercise

Playgrounds give your child the chance to get their full body into their play, which means they get to exercise their body from head to toe. Monkey bars increase upper body strength, climbing the ladder to the slide strengthens the legs, swings give a chance for grip to be strengthened while legs get stronger, and more.

Unstructured Play Allows for Growth

At the playground, your child can jump, run, and skip from activity to activity as his mood pleases. Unstructured play puts your child in control, lets him discover what he loves, and encourages him to try new things. Interacting with other children is often simpler in an unstructured environment where children can move from trying one thing to another with ease.

Learn Social Rules

It doesn’t take long for kids to learn to wait their turn for the slide. Older kids even develop sophisticated rules for how long a person can stay on a piece of equipment before letting another child try. (Forming a line and counting to 100, etc.) Children have to learn how to cooperate.

On the playground, children are also more free to interact with children of different races, ages, and economic status. There isn’t any ranking on the playground, which is just how it should be.

Therapeutic Benefits

benefits of playground play

Sand and water features are known to help reduce anxiety, provide a way for positive self-expression, and to provide a way to calm down. When these elements are present in a playground, your child has the chance to unknowingly gain therapeutic and emotional benefits.

Resilience

Children learn resilience as they try different playground equipment. Maybe they can’t get very far on the monkey bars at first, but as they watch other children swing along, they’ll try to go farther. Maybe climbing the slide ladder seems scary, but they’ll give it a try for the fun payoff of sliding down.

Because the equipment is fun, and because other children are also navigating it, your child will have the chance — and the motivation — to try, try, and try again.

How a Swing Can Help in Whole Child Development

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we make intentional choices about the equipment we put in our outdoor play area. Everything we have chosen is there with a learning objective in mind — to help your child develop and grow mentally, physically, and emotionally.

For example, we chose our swing specifically because it is difficult to climb onto and hard to balance on. This helps the children to develop upper body strength.

And we don’t just let the tricky swing dangle out of reach, frustrating the children. We actually coach the children on how to use their arm muscles to pull their weight onto the swing. This helps them listen, follow directions, and receive a big, fun payoff.

The swing is also tipsy, which helps children develop their core strength and balance as they conquer it.

It’s a difficult piece of equipment for most children in the beginning, but every child eventually masters it, overcoming fear, frustration, and doubt.

They also count to take turns to use it, and cooperate by pushing each other (Bonus: They’re learning Newton’s laws of motion along the way!)

So the next time you head to the playground, pat yourself on the back. You’re giving your child a mental, emotional, and physical boost. Well done, moms and dads!

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

Playing with Your Food Is a GOOD Thing! The Benefits of Playing with Food for Preschoolers

“Don’t play with your food! It’s bad manners!”

We’ve had this concept drilled into us from the time we were small, and chances are that we’re drilling it into our children too. And while we don’t think every meal should be a handsy free-for-all, there are plenty of reasons why playing with food could be a beneficial bonus in your preschooler’s life.

Using More Senses Helps Kids Learn Better

The more senses that are involved in an activity, the more your child is going to learn — and retain. Playing with food allows your child to see, smell, feel, hear (what does it sound like when you squish a pea or snap a pretzel?), and even taste. This sensory experience helps with language development, problem solving skills, concentration, and comfort in trying new things.

Playing with Food Decreases Food Battles

We often get into battles of wills at the dinner table. “Eat three more bites, and you can have dessert/go play with your friend/watch a show.” But kids know you can’t actually force them to eat, and so it’s common for them to choose a meal as a time to exert their independence.

Playing with their food removes the battle and gives children a sense of control. It helps them develop curiosity about the food and approach it on their own terms.

Give your child more opportunities to play with new foods, and you may see less resistance during meals.

Playing with Food Helps with Food Aversions

If you have a picky eater, you know how tough it is to get them to try anything new. Letting children play with food lets them experience the food through different senses. They’ll feel the textures with their hands instead of their tongues, which is much more approachable. They may take the time to smell the food or inspect it visually.

And when playing is allowed, pressure is off. This gets your child comfortable with the food so that when it’s presented as a consumable part of a meal, they may be more willing to try it.

Kids Learn Through Play

Kids learn about their world through play. They learn cause and effect, bravery, language development, and so much more. When a child is allowed to play with a food, they’ll learn more about that food. They might ask curious questions, or become fascinated by the food’s details. Again, this will help them get more comfortable with unfamiliar foods.

Let your child guide goldfish crackers on a swim through a new soup. Use bell peppers or apples as sponges for paint. Set broccoli up as a forest for your child’s small animal toys.

But Isn’t It Wasteful to Play with Food?

“You’ll finish your dinner because there are starving children in _______ (fill in the blank).”

Many of us heard this when we were growing up, and it’s a fair point. How can we play with food, when children around the world don’t have enough to eat on a daily basis?

Katie from Preschool Inspirations offers some grounding perspective. She points out that in the United States, we are surrounded by wealth and abundance. Taking showers, driving cars, shopping in a supermarket, and more are all privileges we freely enjoy. And while we know these privileges aren’t available to everyone, we still don’t deprive ourselves of them.

This doesn’t mean we should use our resources wastefully with no regard to anybody else. But perhaps it’s a good idea to focus our efforts on making a difference, like donating generously to someone in need.

Katie also suggests that when playing with food, to use foods that are expired, food that would have been thrown away (maybe you spilled a bag of pretzels or maybe the apple is too bruised), and foods that benefit nature — like birdseed projects done outdoors.

How to Play with Food

  • Let your child cook with you. Try your best not to stress out over messes; this is part of the sensory process.
  • Choose fun ways to present food from time to time. Put chicken on kabob sticks, arrange fruit in rainbow order, cut food into different shapes, let your children build their own tacos, etc.
  • Use food as the subject of an art project. While you prepare dinner, leave an extra cucumber or broccoli stem on the counter and ask your child to draw or paint it. Tell your child to give it arms and legs, change its color, or even come up with a story about their drawing.
  • Have a fun taste test. Choose different food items you know your child likes, and take turns being blindfolded while feeding each other bites of the food. Everyone will have fun as you guess what you’re tasting.
  • Pick your favorites. Buy several types of one kind of food — apples are a good idea. Taste each variety, and vote on your favorites.
  • Before a bite, ask your child what that food will sound like when it’s chewed. Will it be crunchy, soundless, squishy? Similarly, ask your child to describe its appearance or smell.
  • Make food into a math problem. Ask your child to count their grapes on their plate. Then ask them how many will be remaining if they eat one. What about two?
  • Have your child help you make dinner more colorful. What foods can you add to your chicken dinner to make your plates more like the rainbow?
  • String cereal on yarn.
  • Use apples, bell peppers, or potatoes as painting stamps.
  • Use food as checker pieces.
  • Make faces with different food items.
  • Play with pretend food. Invent the wackiest recipes you can.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we eat healthy snacks every day and give the children opportunities to play with their food, prepare their own food, and try new foods. To learn more about UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930

Get Fewer Tantrums When You Use These Transition Strategies for Preschoolers

transition strategies for preschoolers

You announce it’s time for bed, and your preschooler runs into the backyard and rolls around in the dirt. Or she screams and stomps. Or he whines and begs for more time.

It’s time to go to the store, but when you tell your kiddo to get her shoes on, she goes limp and refuses to move. Or he throws his toy across the room and tells you he isn’t going.

No, you’re not raising a monster. Your child just needs a little help with transitions. Fortunately, implementing these transition strategies for preschoolers is something you can start today.

What Do Children Need When Transitioning to the Next Activity?

It’s always good to remember that for the most part, kids have very little control over their days. And this can be frustrating at times. To feel safe and secure in this world run by adults, they need to know three things:

  1. What’s next?
  2. How long will it take?
  3. Why are we doing it?

Think about it: you typically know all of this information for yourself, and so it’s relatively easy to move from task to task throughout your day. But if a child doesn’t know what’s coming after lunch, they’re going to be mighty surprised when they’re told it’s time to go grocery shopping.

Keep these questions in mind as you communicate with your child, and try to be upfront. “After we eat a snack, we’re going to tidy your room so that it can look and feel nice. I think it won’t take very long if we turn on some fun music!”

Stick to a Routine When Possible

Routines work well because they take the guesswork and uncertainty out of what’s coming next. Not every moment of your day can follow a routine, but there are several chunks of each day in which the same things need to be done — each and every day:

  • Meal times
  • Nap times
  • Getting ready for the day
  • Leaving the house for preschool
  • Getting ready for bed

You may have even more routines throughout your day, but these basic ones are good places to start following a schedule.

Here’s an example:

After waking up in the morning, it’s time to make the bed and use the restroom. Then, we go to the kitchen and eat breakfast. We put our dishes in the dishwasher and head to the bathroom to brush our teeth. Next, we get dressed and find our backpack. We put on our shoes, and head to the car to drive to school.

Whether your child can do this whole routine on her own, or whether she needs you every step of the way, by keeping the steps the same each day, she can predict what comes next, and it will be automatic to move from task to task.

Time Your Transition

transition strategies for preschoolers

It’s really hard for a child to leave something enjoyable. When possible, try to time your transitions for moments when your child is naturally wrapping up. For example, wait until your child finishes a coloring page before announcing it’s time for a bath. Don’t yank your child from the produce aisle as he’s sniffing a strawberry; let him inhale, and then tell him it’s time to go find the pretzels.

Give a Signal

It’s easier to move from one activity to the next if there is a signal indicating the transition. In a classroom, a teacher might use a bell that gets children’s attention while signaling that it’s going to be time to do something else.

At home, you can try using a bell or a timer to signal play time is over and it’s time to run an errand. Or, like many teachers, you can also use a simple phrase each time it’s time to stop one activity and begin a new one. “Time to listen” or “Please give me your attention” work well.

Use Transition Words

Make eye contact with your child and say, “In a moment.” This will signal your child’s ears to pay attention to the words that you’re about to say. “In a moment, we’re going to clean up the breakfast dishes and get dressed.”

Give Choices

Nobody likes to be bossed around at every moment of the day. During transition periods, you can sometimes offer choices to help your child feel in control while also being more compliant with what needs to be done.

For example, “It’s time to clean up the toys. Would you like me to help you with the blocks or the dolls?”

Or, “It’s time to go to the store. Would you like to bring one toy or two in the car?”

Practice

If you notice you consistently have a problem with the same transition (i.e. getting ready for bed), it may be that your child doesn’t know everything that’s expected of him. Take a minute at a different time of the day to walk your child through the necessary steps of getting ready for bed. Have him act them out, and praise him for his cooperation. When it comes time for bed, remind him of how well he practiced earlier in the day and tell him you’re glad he knows how to do bedtime now. See if he can manage the steps without resisting.

Remember, no matter how perfectly you teach the principles of making transitions from one activity to the next, your child isn’t always going to like stopping one activity to do another. And that doesn’t mean anybody failed. It just means your child is a normal human being. Keep trying, and you’ll see improvement.

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

7 Ways Preschoolers Can Help Others

how preschoolers can help others

December is a funny month. Children develop a huge case of the gimme-gimmes while simultaneously opening their hearts to do what they can to help others. It’s a paradox for sure. But we have found that when children are guided to focus on opening their hearts and looking for ways to help others, the gimme-gimmes get a little less loud — and certainly less grumbly.

Children naturally want to help others, but as they’re still learning about the world, they don’t always see the needs that are there. (Heck, us grownups are still learning about the world and don’t always see the needs that are there.) With some guidance from parents and teachers, preschoolers can put their natural desire to help to good use.

Use these ideas for how preschoolers can help others. And don’t be surprised if your child begins to come up with her own ideas as well.

1. Shovel a Neighbor’s Driveway

If you have an elderly neighbor, a neighbor who is pregnant or has a new baby, a sick neighbor, or a neighbor with a parent who travels or works multiple jobs, try to get to their house to shovel or plow their driveway before they do. Sure, you’ll be doing most of the heavy lifting as you and your preschooler clear the driveway, but your preschooler can move a shovel around. And she will be learning how to notice others and fill in when there’s a need.

This is something you can talk about ahead of time, so your child can keep neighbors in mind. When you know a snowstorm is approaching, comment to your child about how it may be hard for your neighbor to get outside and explain why. Then, ask your preschooler if she can help you pay attention to the next snowstorm and hurry over to help your neighbor.

[4 Ways to Teach Gratitude and the Joy of Giving]

 

2. Pick up Trash

Go to your local park, or take a walk through your neighborhood with a trash bag and plastic gloves. Pick up any trash you see. This is an easy task for a preschooler, but it provides a great feeling of accomplishment when you see how full your bags are at the end of your service outing. Take a before and after picture to really grasp the full impact.

3. Send a Letter

Preschoolers love receiving mail, and so they can immediately grasp how exciting it would be for someone they love to to get a piece of mail from them. Send a note of encouragement to someone who is struggling, a drawing to a grandparent, or a story (have them tell the story to you as you write it down) to a friend.

Some fun mail ideas:

  • For a fun exchange, have your child create mustaches out of paper and send them to friends, asking them to take pictures wearing their mustaches.
  • Send a “hug.” Trace your child’s hands and have your child cut them out and decorate them. Then, cut a piece of yarn that is the length of your child’s arm span. Attach the paper hands to the ends of the yarn, and now you have your child’s hug that can be sent in the mail.
  • Start a story in a notebook, and ask a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend to continue it and send it back to you.

You can also send a letter to a military member, veteran, or first responder through Operation Gratitude. And Any Refugee is an organization that will facilitate sending postcards of hope to refugees around the world.

4. Spur-of-the-Moment Acts of Kindness

What acts of kindness can your child think up throughout the day? Can she make her sister’s bed? Can he bring the neighbor’s trash can back from the curb? Can you buy an extra can of food while grocery shopping and drop it at the food pantry on your way home? Can he be on the lookout for someone who needs a smile? Can she slip a note into her brother’s backpack?

5. Donut Drop-off

Help your child become familiar with firefighters while also showing gratitude for their hard work. Bring a box or two of donuts to your local fire station and let your child carry it in. Ahead of time, have your child make a thank you card to give the firefighters.

6. Visit an Animal Shelter

Animals that are waiting to be adopted need love and attention while they stay at the shelter, and an animal-loving preschooler is the perfect fit. Carefully supervise your child as you gently pet and talk to the animals at the animal shelter. Call ahead to find out if you can bring items like blankets or dog food.

7. Create Activity Kits

Call your local hospital, refugee non-profit, or women’s shelter, and find out if they need activity kits for children. Once you know what the organization needs, purchase the items and assemble the kits together with your preschooler.

Trying to incorporate your preschooler’s interests in how you give back is always a good idea. As you make giving back a part of your family life, your child will see more and more needs — and will have the confidence to meet them. And the joy your preschooler will feel — and share — while giving to others will be infectious.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we teach gratitude as a character trait during the month of November and we discuss the joy of giving during the month of December. And all year round, we teach children to notice each other and help when they can. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930 or contact us online to set up a tour.

How to Help Your Preschooler Manage Emotions

help your preschooler manage emotionsYour child has been learning about emotions from birth, but that doesn’t mean she’s an expert at emotions yet! And nobody needs to tell parents that. Your child’s meltdown over not being able to sit in the chair he wanted last night is evidence enough that preschoolers are still getting the hang of this whole emotion thing.

In fact, us adults are all still doing our best to regulate our own emotions. It’s no wonder 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old preschoolers still need an extra hand or 12 when it comes to emotions.

But because we’ve spent a few decades learning about our emotions, we often forget that our small children don’t yet know what to do with all their big feelings. Self-awareness does not come naturally. That’s what parents, caregivers, and teachers are for. We’re all here together to guide children to learn about their emotions — and what to do with them.

Children who are supported in their emotions benefit over and over.

Positive Sense of Self

When a child can recognize, express, understand, and manage the many, many feelings that come their way, they develop a positive sense of self. They have the ability to be calm in a variety of situations and to enjoy their experiences, giving them confidence to interact with others and with their environments. A positive relationship with emotions also helps children to be curious learners.

Less Anxiety

We all experience big feelings — sometimes from out of nowhere. These feelings can be scary for adults, so imagine what they must feel like for a small child. To lessen this fear, children need to know that they are allowed to have big feelings. In fact, they should know that big feelings are actually normal. When a parent, teacher, or caregiver validates a feeling instead of dismissing it, the child doesn’t feel the need to fight against the feeling. Any anxiety surrounding that feeling disappears.

help your preschooler manage emotions

Greater Emotional Intelligence

When parents and teachers help children identify their feelings, they begin to understand how to let those feelings out in a healthy way. Not only that, they also have the ability to communicate to you what they are experiencing — because they actually know themselves and know their emotions better.

Quicker Calm

A child who knows how to identify his own emotions is in a better position to calm himself. If he has been validated and has an understanding of what his emotion is, he doesn’t need to fight in confusion. He can learn more quickly what will help him reduce his own stress, and will become emotionally stronger along the way.

Less Brain Clutter

We all know what it’s like when we’re emotionally wrapped up in something and can’t focus on our lives. A child who has learned about emotions gets to use less brain space for unresolved feelings. She gets to resolve her emotions and move on to enjoying her life and her day-to-day activities with confidence and a clear head.

What You Can Do to Help Your Preschooler Manage Emotions

help your preschooler manage emotions

Children develop their emotional skills through their relationships with the important people in their lives. That means parents, caregivers, and teachers play an important role in the healthy development of emotional understanding. Here are some ideas to help you help your preschooler manage emotions.

  • Work on yourself. Many of us were not taught how to identify and validate emotions. Learn to identify your own emotions and be at peace with them. Get help and support if you need it.
  • Model for your child. Let your child know that it’s okay to have difficult feelings by the way you handle them. It’s positive for your child to see you say something like, “I’m really upset because of something that happened at work, and I need to take a minute to sit on the couch and calm down before I start making dinner.”
  • Watch videos about feelings. Find kid-friendly videos that discuss feelings so your child can learn to identify emotions.
  • Validate your child’s feelings. Don’t try and talk your child out of his feelings. Yes, it may seem silly for him to cry because you only put peanut butter on one piece of bread instead of two before putting the sandwich together, but telling him he’s silly is not going to help. Let him know his feelings are okay (because they are!). He wanted something to go a certain way and it didn’t, and it must feel frustrating.
  • Label feelings. Name your feelings throughout the day, and label the feelings you think your child might be having. “You look happy as you ride your bike.” “Are you sad because your sucker fell on the floor?” This gives your child a large emotional vocabulary for identifying emotions in themselves.
  • Accept your child’s feelings. If your child is angry, it isn’t a reflection of poor parenting. Accept that this is how your child feels in this moment.
  • Teach calming techniques. In calm times, teach your child how to breathe deeply, draw a picture to express emotions, do a physical activity to get energy out, and more. Explain that they can use these techniques to calm them when they’re feeling upset.
  • Discuss book characters. As you read a story together, pause every now and then and ask how you think the character must be feeling. Look for clues like facial expressions or behaviors to help identify the feeling.
  • Praise. When your child uses words to express her feelings, praise her. “I like how you told your friend you felt sad when she took your toy.”

Our culture is not always accepting of emotions, and many of us were conditioned to suppress our feelings. As you work with your child, this may turn into a journey of learning for both you and your child. Do your best to be as responsive to your child as you can, but forgive yourself when it doesn’t come naturally or when you make a mistake. Children don’t need us to be perfect. They learn we love them and are there for them through many interactions built up over time. Do your best, and you’ll both find a healthy relationship with emotions.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we know that a healthy emotional framework is critical for a child’s success in life, and we work hard to teach preschoolers how to identify, accept, and appropriately express their emotions. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or visit us online to schedule a time to see how we support emotional health in our classrooms.

Pretend Away! Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play

pretend play preschool

Look in a preschool classroom, and you’ll practically see the imagination floating through the air. Even while doing ordinary things, children are imagining themselves as superheros and animals. Their daily tools (toothbrushes, crayons, plates, socks) become airplanes, dragons, swimming pools and more with no effort at all.

Children are naturally good at imagining, which is a good thing — because they learn their best by imagining and doing.

When your child’s preschool incorporates play-based learning into the curriculum, your child reaps countless benefits. Here are five:

Imagination and Creativity

We may not always think of it this way, but creativity is a necessary skill for survival. When the dishwasher breaks and starts flooding the basement, you have to quickly find a creative solution for capturing the water before it ruins your carpet. When your boss expects you to meet a tough deadline, you have to be creative in your time allocation. And when your preschooler asks you to be a dog with him, you have to get down on your hands and knees and bark if you want to keep seeing that adorable smile on your child’s face.

So if creativity is such an important life skill, it stands to reason that your child needs to learn to develop it as soon as possible. And pretend play is the perfect way for that to happen. When your child gets absorbed in pretend play, her imagination takes over.  She can be anything, go anywhere, and have any sort of power she wants. This lets children think for themselves, keep their brains active and engaged, and build up that creativity they’ll need for their whole life.

Social Development

The world is big and scary. It’s confusing, and its rules are not immediately obvious to the under-4-foot crowd. Engaging in pretend play allows children to work out the social rules of the world in a safe space. They learn who they are and what they love, and they learn who other people are. As they pretend to be someone else (a chef, a doctor, a parent, an animal), they get the opportunity to think like someone else. What would it be like to walk in that person’s shoes? This aspect of pretend play helps preschoolers develop empathy for others.

As children engage with each other in pretend play, they learn to respect other people’s wishes and to notice when someone is having a good time or having a really awful time. They have to agree on the topic of play and negotiate throughout play as roles and rules change.

Language Skills

Did you know that pretend play is building the foundation for your child to learn to read? That’s right. Through pretend play, preschoolers learn the power of language, how to retell and reenact stories, and they build their vocabulary.

As they pretend they’re at the doctor’s office, they develop language appropriate to that location. And because they’re uninhibited through play, they try out words they may otherwise be too self-conscious to try.

Not only that, they need to ensure their meaning is understood as they act out situations. This requires sophisticated language skills that continue to develop through pretend play.

pretend play preschool

Problem Solving Skills

First, your child has to decide what to play. In that process, there will be some back-and-forth with the other children who are involved. Opinions will have to be considered, and solutions found.

Then, everyone has to decide the rules, roles, and materials for the game. And there is always some problem to figure out — a bad guy who is locking up the ponies, a tornado that is going to wipe out the town, a robber who is stealing the fruit at the grocery store. How will the children solve the problem? Sit back and watch their creative problem-solving skills whir into hilarious and ingenious action.

All of this is practice for real life, when cooperation and problem-solving skills need to be relied on each day.

Physical Development

Pretend play often turns into physical play. Children have to chase after the bad guy, climb to escape the hot lava, jump over the swamp of alligators, and more. All of this works to build their strength, while increasing their gross motor development.

Even when the pretend play doesn’t involve jumping, hopping, and running, physical skills are being developed. It takes strong fine motor skills to dress dolls, string beads, or gather items to “buy” at the store.

Bottom line: Pretend play encourages movement in all the ways your child needs for proper growth and development.

pretend play preschool

Pretend Play “Tools”

In pretend play, children don’t always use objects for their intended purpose. Sometimes, puzzle pieces become coins and toy cars become hidden treasure. Keeping a variety of items around your home will encourage your child to tap into her creativity and use them in imaginative and playful ways.

Some toys and objects to keep on hand:

  • blocks
  • old clothes
  • old purses
  • old magazines or phone books
  • stuffed animals
  • old sheets (good for costumes, forts, picnics, pretend meals, etc.)
  • toy dishes or old dishes or utensils
  • notepads and pencils
  • dolls
  • animal figurines
  • a doll house
  • cardboard boxes or tubes
  • wrapping paper

Look at the world through your child’s eyes and see how everyday items can be transformed. Come see how we encourage and incorporate pretend play into our curriculum at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online to schedule 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.