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

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

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

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

{Kindergarten Readiness in the Time of Covid}

Why Is Physical Development Important for Kindergarten?

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

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

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

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

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

Give Them Space

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

Unstructured play helps your child’s body and coordination.

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

Select Helpful Toys

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

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

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

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

Make It a Family Affair

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

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

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

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

Squirt each other with water. Play in the sprinklers.

Play Simon Says or Follow the Leader.

Turn on music and move!

Do Chores

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

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

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

Encourage Fine Motor Development While Eating

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

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

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

{The Benefits of Playing with Food for Preschoolers}

Help Your Child Be Independent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give Compassion to Your Child

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

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

Trust That Your Child Can Be Compassionate

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

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

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

Know they can do this, and they will.

Treat Your Child with Respect

how to teach your preschooler compassion

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

But make sure you do this respectfully.

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

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

Model Compassion

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

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

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

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

Talk About Compassion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Point It Out

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

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

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

 

Volunteer

how to teach your preschooler to have compassion

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

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

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

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

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

How to Schedule Your Days with Your Preschooler During Quarantine

how to scheduled your day with your preschooler

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

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

Curb Anxiety About the Coronavirus COVID-19

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

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

Provide Structure

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

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

Get Your Child’s Input

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

Keep a Normal Sleep Schedule

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

Learn

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

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

Do Chores

 

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

Have Free Play

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

Get Outside

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

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

How to Work While Your Child Is at Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Better Brains: A Surprising Way to Develop Reading Skills

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

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

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

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

Play?

Yep. Play.

How Play Helps Children Learn Reading Skills

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

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

Letters Are Symbols

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

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

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

Communication

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

Self-Regulation

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

Literacy Is Incorporated Into Play

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

The Play Environment Is Important

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

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

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

How Can You Encourage Literacy Skills Through Play at Home?

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

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

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

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

why preschoolers lie

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

“Did you color on the wall?” you ask.

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

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

Now take a deep breath.

All kids lie. It’s actually developmentally normal.

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

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

Why Do Preschoolers Lie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Model Honesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this look like?

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

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

Keep it calm and straightforward.

why do preschoolers lie

3. Set Them up for Success with Honesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Give Them Additional Chances

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

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

why your preschooler tells lies

4. Give Them Language to Use

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

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

5. Thank Them for Honesty

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

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

Why Your Preschooler Should Play with Puzzles

You probably know that puzzles are good for the brain. But did you know exactly how the brain gets a boost from puzzles?

Cognitive Development

Cognitive skills refer to the skills your brain gains and uses to think, learn, remember, reason, pay attention, and read. As these skills are developed, they stick with your child to help in all areas of their life.

Puzzles help to develop cognitive skills in a variety of ways, as children learn new themes and topics from the puzzles (letters, colors, shapes, animals, etc.). They also build their memory as they remember which pieces fit where.  They use critical thinking to work on and complete the puzzle.

Problem Solving

Puzzles are straightforward, in that there is only one solution: solved. But there are a variety of ways to achieve this solution, and that’s where your child’s problem-solving skills get a big boost.

If your child wants to get all the pieces in the correct places, they’ll need to develop strategies to make that happen. They’ll use trial-and-error, reason, studying, and more to get to the end result.

Fine Motor Development

Fine motor development is talked about a lot during the preschool years. And that’s because it’s a critical life skill. Just think of all the buttoning, zipping, chopping, stirring, tying, untying, writing, typing, and more that you do on a daily basis. If you hadn’t developed your fine motor abilities, these everyday tasks would be a challenge.

When putting together puzzles, your child uses fine motor movements to pick up the puzzle pieces. She uses a finger to smooth the pieces into place. All of this will help her develop fine motor skills so she can manage other fine motor activities. When thinking of future academics, puzzles are a precursor to writing (holding a pencil). They are incredibly valuable for all areas of your child’s future life.

Hand-Eye Coordination

Your child sees the puzzle piece and sees the space where it could go. He moves his hand to grab the puzzle piece, and moves it again to the place where he thinks it should go. Essentially, he’s developing connections between what his eyes see and what his hands do — and how his brain relates this information.

Emotional Development

Patience is not any preschooler’s finest quality. That’s a trait that takes years to develop and fine-tune. (Most adults are still working on it too!)

Puzzles help move that trait development along. Children can’t immediately solve the puzzle. It takes time and multiple attempts. As your child keeps at the puzzle, patience grows.

Cooperation

If you or another child is working on the puzzle with your child, you can talk to each other about the pieces.

“Can you hand me that corner piece? I think I’ve found where it goes.”

“Here’s the teddy bear’s eye. Why don’t you put it in place?”

The puzzle becomes a cooperative effort, and everyone can be happy when it’s solved.

How to Do Puzzles with Your Preschooler at Home

Most small children start with chunky, wooden puzzles, and gradually move to smaller and flatter pieces. A challenge is always great, but don’t push your child if the selected puzzle ends up being a bit too hard.

If you don’t have stacks of puzzles sitting around at home, try making one of these homemade ideas:

Name Puzzle: Write your child’s name in bold letters on a poster board or thick piece of paper. Then, cut in between each letter in zig-zag and curved lines. When you’re done, you’ll have a stack of each of the letters from their name, with edges that fit back together.

Paper Plate Puzzle: Cut a paper plate into pieces, using jagged, curved, and straight lines. You can also do this with cereal boxes, cracker boxes, the box a toy comes in, and more. Take a second look at the things you’re about to throw in the recycling bin, and you’ll likely find a puzzle treasure there.

Random Items Puzzle: Grab small random items from your junk drawer, toy box, or countertops. Trace them onto a cardboard box, poster board, or regular piece of paper. Mix up the items, and then have your child place the items onto the traced shapes so that they fit.

Everything we do at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah is carefully thought out. We select puzzles that will challenge, but not frustrate, each age group in their cognitive development, motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.

Thank You — How to Teach Gratitude to Your Preschooler

The cashier at the grocery store hands your child a sticker, and your child says nothing — no “thank you” escapes her lips. You’re mortified — surely, your child should know how to express thanks by now.

But wait! Don’t be embarrassed. Gratitude is a learned character trait, which means your child isn’t going to express it perfectly every time.

In fact, the Raising Grateful Children project at UNC Chapel Hill looked at gratitude experiences in families as their children grew from kindergarten to young teens. They found that gratitude has four parts, and that while older children and adults are likely to engage in all four, young children only engage in some — and often, only when prompted.

So take a deep breath — your child isn’t the only one who doesn’t consistently say thank you.

The Raising Grateful Children project found that children show more gratitude as they develop cognitive skills, practice their skills, and begin to connect the four parts of gratitude together.

What exactly are the four parts of gratitude?

  • Notice
  • Think
  • Feel
  • Do

These four parts take time to develop. You can help by asking questions of your child. And remember — it’s an awful lot to learn, so be patient as your child figures it out.

Notice: The first part of gratitude is noticing the things in your life that prompt gratitude. Have you been given a gift? Did someone think about you and show you love and care? Do you have an abundance of something?

Think: Why do you have the gift? Were you born with it? Did somebody give it to you? Do you owe somebody something in return? Gifts given without attachment will prompt greater gratitude as you think on them.

Feel: How do you feel when you receive this gift? As a child begins to notice and think about gifts given to them, they will also connect positive feelings with the gift, adding this third important component of gratitude.

Do: This is the part of gratitude we think of when we think of gratitude, but it’s only one element — and it begins to come naturally once the other three parts are developed. This is when you demonstrate how you feel about the gift. It may be saying “thank you”; it may be returning a gift or a favor; it my be paying it forward. You can help your child develop this by asking your child, “Is there something you would like to do to show how you feel about this gift?” Give suggestions.

It’s one thing to say thank you without Mom or Dad prompting, but it’s something else when your child actually means it. Use these ideas to help your children notice, think about, and feel gratitude.

Teach About Your Family History

What did their grandparents and great grandparents go through? How did your ancestors survive immigration, the Great Depression, or war? How did they communicate, cook, style their hair, travel, and play with their friends without the technology of today? Knowing the circumstances that their own family members have gone through provides your children with perspective that, over time, can help them feel grateful for what someone went through before them — and grateful for their own challenges and lives.

Serve Others

From organized volunteering events to random acts of kindness, letting your children have the opportunity to serve others helps them understand what goes into helping. This guides them to see what others are going through, and also helps them be more appreciative of help that they receive.

Think Positive Thoughts

Humans experience a wide range of emotions every day, and preschoolers can run the gamut of those emotions in about two minutes flat! Let your preschooler experience their emotions, but periodically throughout the day, point out positive things in your life and surroundings.

Say Thank You

Model the act of gratitude by saying thank you to the people in your life. When your partner picks up the kids, makes dinner, mows the lawn, or buys new toothbrushes, say “thank you.” It’s easy to get so used to the people in our lives doing daily tasks that we overlook the work they’re doing. Saying thank you goes a long way. Similarly, thank your preschooler!

Do Chores

Have your preschooler do chores. Your child will better understand what is done for him when he participates in taking care of the house and family. Give him age-appropriate chores, and thank him when he completes them.

Be Careful with Stuff

Be mindful of how much stuff you give your child. Remember that buying them whatever they want, whenever they want, doesn’t teach respect for what they have. And when they have too many things, nothing is truly important.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we focus on the character trait of gratitude during the month of November. We talk about what we are grateful for; notice, point out, and thank people who help us; identify feelings of gratitude and more. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online for a tour.

 

9 Things to Do During the Summer to Prepare for Kindergarten

get your child ready for kindergarten

It’s here already! How did you get to this place so quickly? This is the summer before your little sweetie goes to kindergarten, and whether you’re excited, scared, tearful, or all of the above, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prepare your child for kindergarten.

First things first. Don’t get stressed out this summer about getting your child ready for kindergarten. This should be a fun and exciting time of life. Don’t feel pressure to push your child to meet milestones. Remember that your child learns a lot every day through play, routine, and observing life. Your child is soaking up knowledge simply by talking with you each day.

{Pretend Away! Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

The following items aren’t meant to overwhelm. Rather, keep them in mind and try to incorporate them throughout your summer days. We’ll give you tips on how to do that. Keep reading!

1. Have Play Dates

In kindergarten, your child will need to know, and continue to learn, how to share, take turns, respect other people’s bodies and property, and more. Play dates, whether formally set up with parents in attendance or casual playtime with the neighbors, are helpful for developing these social skills. Give your child opportunities to play with other kids her age this summer.

2. Practice Name Writing

Your child will need to write his name on his kindergarten work, so take the time now to let him practice both his first and last name. You can buy a special notebook, or just use loose-leaf paper. Or have him practice with sidewalk chalk or paint. Let him spell it out with pretzels or raisins at snack time. Ask him to spell his name as you’re driving in the car.

3. Practice Letters and Numbers

Find opportunities to practice letter and number identification. This doesn’t have to always mean worksheets. Point out letters in your daily life, encourage your child to sound out words on the cereal box, ask her what letter comes next in the alphabet, and encourage her to write the names of her family members or her favorite toys.

Count items out loud, challenge your child to count as high as he can, and ask him to identify numbers in addresses as your drive.

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

4. Teach Your Phone Number and Address

By kindergarten, your child should have a good handle on his phone number and address. One simple way to teach these is to set them to the tune of a simple song. Try “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Then, as you go about your day, sing your phone number or address. Sing it while you prepare lunch, while you’re driving in the car, when you take a walk, etc. After your child has heard it, encourage him to sing along.

Let your child type your phone number into your phone.

To help your child write her phone number, post it where she can see and get familiar with its appearance. Let her trace the numbers. Encourage her to copy the numbers. Eventually, ask her to write the phone number and address from memory. Praise her for her efforts, even if she doesn’t get it perfectly. Give her plenty of opportunities to try again!

5. Read

prepare your child for kindergarten

Reading is a crucial skill for every person, and while your child doesn’t need to be independently reading before kindergarten, exposure to books and reading in all forms is going to help with his future academics.

Incorporate reading into all aspects of your day. Pick a regular time each day to read to your child. If she can read, select books at her level and ask her to read them to you. Encourage her to look at or read books on her own.

Let your child see you read a recipe, read a map, read street signs, read books, and more. Bring your child into your reading world by pointing to the words in the recipe as he looks over your shoulder. Ask him to help you find a street name by telling him the first letter to look for. See if he can find the letters of his name as you run errands.

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

6. Do Chores

Chores are a great way to teach your child responsibility, as well as following directions — two things she’ll need to have a handle on in kindergarten. Every family does chores differently, but figure out your rhythm. There are certain chores, like making the bed, that can automatically be done every day. And then you can add additional weekly chores or projects that make sense for your child.

You can have your child set the table, weed the garden, make her bed, fold his laundry, feed the cat, help prepare meals, sweep, vacuum, empty wastebaskets, dust, and more. Remember it will take time to learn how to do the chores properly.

7. Work on Independent Tasks

In kindergarten, your child will need to use the restroom by himself, so use the summer before kindergarten to make sure he’s able to do all the required steps. Help him learn how to button and unbutton, zip, put on and take off a coat, and tie shoes. Just take one skill at a time, and help him work on it each day.

8. Eat Independently

If your child will be eating snacks or lunch at school, make sure she can eat the whole meal on her own. Can she unzip and zip her lunchbox? Open her packaged snacks? Open and close storage containers? Use plastic forks or spoons? A great way to make sure she has these skills is to eat lunch out of her lunch box a few times throughout the summer.

9. Have Lots of Free Time

Remember to give your child plenty of free play time. Children learn best by playing, and much of preparing your child for kindergarten actually will come in the everyday, informal moments. Plus, your child needs time to be herself and be confident in who she is, and free time is likely to give that to her.

Always remember: It isn’t a race. Let your child progress and develop at his own speed while you work to prepare your child for kindergarten.

How to Help Your Preschooler Build an Emotional Vocabulary

preschool emotional vocabulary

Your child has been busily adding new words to her vocabulary for years now. In fact, just yesterday, she used the word vehicle instead of car, and you marveled at how much she has retained and how grown up she’s getting.

But have you thought about your child’s emotional vocabulary? Expanding an emotional vocabulary is something that children need help with. Learn why it’s important for your child to have an emotional vocabulary, and what you can do to expand it.

What Is an Emotional Vocabulary?

Your child’s emotional vocabulary is the collection of words he can access to describe how he or someone else is feeling. Most children understand words like “happy,” “sad,” and “angry,” but they often don’t have an extensive vocabulary to describe their other feelings accurately. This can lead to acting out in other ways — biting, hitting, throwing, etc.

When children can more accurately tell you how they are feeling, they are empowered to control and manage their own feelings better. Likewise, when they can read the emotional cues of other people, they can interact in more appropriate ways, leading to better social situations.

Emotional Vocabulary Needs to Be Taught

This is not a subject where we should assume our children will pick up the necessary components by osmosis. Children need to be taught emotional vocabularies. Telling your child to “use your words” when she hasn’t been taught the appropriate words to use will only leave her confused and frustrated.

There are many ways to build your child’s emotional vocabulary. Try one or two this week!

Make Sure You Have an Emotional Vocabulary

First things first, make sure you understand what you’re going to be teaching. Do you have an extensive emotional vocabulary, or do you resort to the same basic adjectives or behaviors to express your emotions? If your lawnmower keeps jamming, do you curse and scream? Or do you tell yourself you’re frustrated and worried you won’t get the lawn mowed before it gets dark?

There’s no shame if your answer fell closer to the curse and scream spectrum. Our culture hasn’t done a good job of allowing us to have a range of emotions. As parents, it’s important we take the time to understand our emotions, label them, and let ourselves feel them. This will not only allow us to have more empathy and patience for our children’s emotions, it will give us a greater vocabulary to teach our children.

And remember — kids are always watching. When you express your emotions in a healthy way, they’ll try to do the same!

Label the Emotion

Label emotions so children can build their emotional vocabulary. Name what your child might be feeling. “You’re feeling sad because Daddy has to finish cooking dinner and can’t hold you. That makes you feel lonely, doesn’t it?”

Name emotions you see in other people as well. “Your brother is smiling and laughing on the trampoline. He must be feeling happy!”

Identify Emotions in Books

Picture books are a perfect place to learn about and identify emotions. As you read a story to your child, pause occasionally to point to a face. “Gretel looks worried, doesn’t she? I bet she doesn’t know what to do next.”

Play Games

Play emotion charades, in which one of you has to act out a certain emotion and the other one guesses.

Make faces at each other and guess what emotion each person is trying to convey.

Make sounds that go along with emotions,  and guess which emotion the sounds match. (“Yippee!” for excited, blowing air out of your mouth for frustrated, “Grrr” for angry, etc.)

Use Art

Let your child illustrate different emotions by asking your child to draw a person who is cheerful, furious, afraid, grateful, joyful, loving, etc.

Turn on some music and ask your child to tell you what emotion he is feeling as he listens. Have him select a color of paint, crayon, or marker and draw, paint, or color as he feels the emotion of the music.

Make a feelings collage by cutting out pictures from magazines.

Move!

Talk about actions that go along with feelings — and then perform those actions. For example, frustrated might make us feel like balling up our fists and stomping. Joyful might make us feel like leaping lightly around the room.

Play music, and ask your child to identify an emotion that she feels through the music. Then ask her to move or dance with that emotion in mind.

Role Play

This is especially helpful if your child tends to have a consistent problem. For example, if a child at preschool tends to take your child’s toy, you can talk about the feelings your child might feel when it happens. Then, you can talk about helpful and unhelpful ways to react. You can then role play the scenario, with your child choosing one of the helpful ways to react. Identify the feelings your child might feel after choosing a helpful method.

Some Helpful Emotion Words

Remember, there are so many more emotions to talk about than happy, sad, and angry!

Use this list to help expand both your and your child’s emotional vocabulary:

  • Annoyed
  • Afraid
  • Worried
  • Brave
  • Confused
  • Grouchy
  • Loving
  • Lonely
  • Nervous
  • Peaceful
  • Pressured
  • Concerned
  • Considerate
  • Kind
  • Careful
  • Disappointed
  • Uneasy
  • Uncertain
  • Thankful
  • Unhappy
  • Secure
  • Surprised
  • Puzzled

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we work to help children identify their emotions and express them in healthy ways. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or sign up to come to one of our open houses.

8 Ways to Help Your Preschooler Fall in Love with Reading

help your preschooler love reading

Reading independently is undeniably a critical academic skill, but a child’s ability to read also affects their entire life — beyond academics. Of the adults at the lowest level of literacy proficiency, 43% live in poverty, while only 4% of adults with strong literacy skills live in poverty. Students who read frequently are higher achievers than students who read rarely.

Access to books at home helps children to go further in school — and in life. And when children decide to read independently, they become better readers and even score higher on achievement tests across all subject areas.

So how do you help your preschooler love reading so that she reaps the many lifelong benefits?

1. Get Familiar with Books

Read books to your baby. In the beginning, your baby will notice the pictures. Then, he’ll learn how to turn the pages. Soon, he’ll understand that the story is the same every time you read it. These are all pre-reading skills that can develop simply from reading and spending time with books from a young age.

2. Don’t Push It

At a young age, pre-reading skills are more important to literacy than being an early reader. Don’t push your child to learn to read. Certainly point out letters and discuss the sounds they make. And if your child is interested, follow her lead and help her learn how to sound out words. But follow the cue of your preschooler. If she would rather hear you read her favorite book than try and sound out The Cat in the Hat, go with that.

Let your preschooler love reading — in all forms, including looking at the book and being read to — so she will continue to naturally develop reading skills.

3. Location, Location, Location

help your preschooler love reading

Setting up cozy or fun reading nooks makes reading both enjoyable and special. This could be as simple as pulling out a cozy blanket to snuggle with on the couch, or it could be as detailed as designing and decorating a reading corner with fashionable furniture.

Throw a blanket over a few chairs and read together in your makeshift fort. Pick a theme (teddy bear picnic, beach day, snow day) and throw a few props together for an instantly-fun reading corner.

4. Read TO Your Child

When your child is young, it’s obvious that she’ll need you to read to her. But remember to keep reading to your child as she grows up. Reading can be taxing and tiring for emergent readers. When you read to your child, you take the pressure off and let your child experience the joy and pleasure of getting lost in a story.

tips to help your preschooler love reading

5. Go to the Library

There’s magic in a library. Just ask a children’s librarian. Let your child discover this special magic by making regular trips to the library. Go to story times and craft afternoons. Attend special events and participate in raffles and summer reading programs. Hold your child’s hand and walk up and down the bookshelves looking for covers that jump out at you. Show enthusiasm when your child selects a book.

The more you make the library a meaningful part of your family’s life, the more your child will associate happiness and joy with the library — and books.

6. Keep Books Within Reach

Keep books throughout your house. Put a bookshelf in your child’s room, keep books on the coffee table, decorate with books, and fill your bookshelves with books you love to read. Keep a basket or shelf just for library books that constantly rotate. Bring out seasonal books as you decorate for different holidays. Make books a familiar part of your child’s life and he’ll be more likely to reach for a book more often.

7. Connect Books to the World

Does your child love Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books? Go to a local farm to see the pigs. Search for elephants nearby, and have a conversation about why they aren’t in the same place.

Read Giles Andreae’s Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, and then head to the zoo to contemplate whether or not the giraffes dance when you aren’t looking.

Read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and then look for letters on store signs, street signs, and refrigerators.

Read Dr. Seuss‘s Green Eggs and Ham, and discuss foods or experiences you and your child might be afraid to try. Then go try them!

8. Let Them Read What They Want

Introduce your child to new books regularly, but also let her read what she wants. If she’s a pre-reader, this may mean you’re going to have to read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish 100 times, but if your child is enjoying the story and the process of reading, you’re on the right track to help your preschooler love reading.

When your child gets older and reads on their own, don’t criticize them if they only want to read Junie B. Jones or Captain Underpants. Let them read what they love on their own, and continue reading other books to them out loud to expose them to new authors and stories.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we work on pre-reading and reading skills constantly and immerse the children in a reading environment. Come see us in action. Come to an open house or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.