How to Improve Your Preschooler’s Communication Skills

We’ve all been victims (and perpetrators!) of bad communication. A misunderstood message can ruin a mood, a day, and even a relationship. Conversely, good communication can heal, improve, and enlighten. When it comes to preschoolers’ communication skills, they have a lot to learn — and parents have a lot to learn from them!

Your preschooler is absorbing communication messages and skills everywhere they go. And at home, you can help strengthen and develop your preschooler’s communication skills with the following tips. (You’re probably already doing many of these!)

Don’t Worry So Much About Correcting Your Preschooler’s Communication Skills

preschooler's communication skills

First things first, take a breath and relax. You don’t have to be hyper-vigilant and correct every communication mistake from your child. In fact, it’s best if you let mistaken words slide.

Part of a preschooler’s communication is using the right words for the right things. But this is a skill that takes time to develop. Don’t demand your child repeat a word or phrase until they say it right. This will turn communication into a negative interaction.

Wait a Minute

preschooler's communication skills

Part of good communication is hearing what another person has to say. Make sure you’re doing this for your child by waiting five to 10 seconds to let your child respond to a question or conversation.

Not only will this teach your child about respecting the back-and-forth of conversation, it will give your child time to process their thoughts and how to talk about them.

Encourage Play

Kids learn through play, and play provides ample opportunity to develop preschool communication skills.

In play, children take on different roles, which requires using different vocabulary. When playing doctor, they’ll use medical terms and when playing school, they’ll use teaching terms. They may use terms incorrectly, but the point is that they’ll expand their vocabulary and their ability to express their thoughts verbally while they play.

Not only that, but when your child plays with another child or with you, they’ll develop critical skills like listening, contributing to conversations, and speaking respectfully.

{Read: Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

Model Good Communication Skills

Your child is always watching and learning from what they see you doing. Model good communication skills by talking with and truly listening to your child. Show that you care about what they’re saying by giving them your attention, making eye-contact, and waiting until they’re done speaking before you say something.

{Read: How to Get Your Preschooler to Open up After School}

11 Fun Ways to Develop Your Preschooler’s Communication Skills

While the above examples are techniques you can incorporate into every day conversation, use these ideas to add some fun to your preschooler’s communication development.

  • Play games like Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, and Mother May I. Dance to The Hokey Pokey, or start a game of I Spy. These games will help your child pay attention to cues.
  • Read together. This can never be done too much! Reading exposes your child to new vocabulary and ideas, and helps them learn to think critically. When you read, stop occasionally to ask questions about the story: “What do you think will happen next?” “How do you think this character is feeling?” Keep books and magazines at kid level, so your child can access them whenever they want.
  • Watch a show or movie together. Yes, screen time isn’t ideal all the time, but you can use it as an enjoyable tool to help your child develop communication skills when you talk about what you’re watching, ask questions, and create opportunities to take the screen into the real world.
  • Cook or bake together. This is an excellent way to improve preschooler’s communication skills, as you read instructions together and follow them.
  • Pick a category and identify all the items in view that fit within that category. For example, find everything that is orange, everything that is edible, everything that smells good, and so on. As you play this game, your preschooler will be challenged to learn new words (like edible, for example) and how they relate to the items surrounding them.
  • Play guessing games with clues. For example, “I’m thinking of something soft and living. It has long ears and it likes to eat carrots.” Your child will be absorbing vocabulary, while learning to interpret information and speak about it. Ask your child to give you clues next!
  • Talk about feelings. Give your child a large emotional vocabulary by naming your feelings. “I’m feeling frustrated that I forgot to pick up milk.” “I’m feeling excited that your birthday is coming up!”

{Read: How to Help Your Preschooler Develop an Emotional Vocabulary}

  • Create artwork together. Art gives your preschooler the opportunity to describe what they see, what they’re thinking, and what they’re feeling.
  • Listen to music together. Discuss the instruments you hear, the lyrics, the tempo, and more. Bring up the emotions you feel.
  • Go for a nature walk, looking for specific items. “Let’s find everything that is round/living/green.” This will open up conversations, and it will also add to your child’s vocabulary as they identify different objects.
  • Make a photo album together. Pull it out often to discuss the pictures. Let your child do the talking, and prompt them with simple questions to get them going. “Remember the silly thing that happened that day?”

When You Might Need Professional Help with Your Preschooler’s Communication Skills

Trust your intuition, and if you feel your child is struggling or lagging in their communication skills, seek professional help. Your preschool or pediatrician may be able to refer you to a speech-language pathologist.

Some signs of communication problems to watch for in preschoolers:

  • Talking very little, or not at all
  • Trouble understanding and following directions
  • Not speaking in full sentences
  • Trouble making certain sounds, like k, g, f, t, d, and n 
  • Difficulty asking or answering questions
  • Poor vocabulary
  • Struggling to hold conversations
  • Stuttering (repeating words or parts of words)
  • Difficulty learning concepts like counting and colors
  • Unclear speech

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we’re committed to helping preschoolers develop communication skills. We watch for signs that a child is struggling and communicate those to parents. Our preschool is also a vocabulary-rich, communication-friendly environment with activities and lessons designed to help children continue to improve in communication. To learn more about us, or to enroll your child, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

Simple Ways Preschoolers Can Make a Difference in the World

acts of kindness

Small children have an innate sense of fairness. They know intimately what it’s like when something doesn’t feel fair to them, and they can clearly see when something isn’t fair for somebody else.

Use these ideas to help them turn their need for fairness into action that supports and helps others with acts of kindness.

Listen to Your Child

child healthy habits

It’s likely your child is going to notice unsettling things in the world. They will see sick people, people experiencing homelessness, and even violence or hatred directed at other people. When they do, don’t try and change the subject. Listen to what they have to say, what they’re confused about, and what they wish was different.

 

Have the Conversations

Don’t shy away from discussing these hard things your child is noticing. Keep your conversations appropriate for your child’s age, but be willing to answer questions. Be willing to say you don’t know the answer, and be willing to search for more information.

Hear Your Child’s Solutions

Your child is full of compassion. They’ll come up with ideas for fixing the world’s problems. Not every solution will work — Maybe we should use a magic wand! — but some will. When your child offers a solution to help someone, hear their solution and keep the conversation going.

“A magic wand would be so great. When you wave the wand, what would change?” Let your child think through the helping process, and when a real solution is found, see if you can help facilitate it in some way.

 

 

Model Kind Behavior

It’s obvious, but we don’t always think about it. Our behavior has a direct impact on how our children will behave in similar situations.

If you are unkind online, mock strangers, or gossip, your children will pick up on it. On the other hand, if you thank a cashier, help your neighbor look for their lost dog, or donate to the food pantry, your child will want to do good too.

Pay Attention to Emotions

Help your child develop empathy for others, so they will want to help others. One way to do this is to teach them to put themselves in another person’s shoes. You can do this by paying attention to the emotions of others.

In a book or magazine, find a picture of a person and ask your child what emotion they’re feeling. Ask them to make up a story of why they’re feeling that way. It doesn’t matter if the story is wrong. The point is, you’re teaching your child to notice emotions and consider what might lead to those emotions. This will help your child be empathetic to others.

Be Kind to Your Child

acts of kindness

This is an obvious tip, but parenting can be so tiring that it’s worth mentioning. If you’re overwhelmed, you’re not alone, and you’re not a bad parent. You just need a reminder that even when children are behaving in difficult ways, they need kindness.

Maria Montessori said, “Let us treat them [children], therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.”

If we want our children to be kind and make a difference in the world, our kind treatment of them will go a long way.

12 Acts of Kindness to Do with Your Preschooler

acts of kindness

When it comes to teaching your preschooler about kindness and making a difference in the world, think: short and quick! Your preschooler’s attention span is short, so don’t plan elaborate acts of kindness. Keep them simple and short, and your preschooler will get the satisfaction of helping others without losing interest.

As they get older, you can expand.

  • Pick up Trash. This simple activity can be done anywhere at any time of year. Just glove up and keep an eye on what your child picks up.
  • Shovel Snow. Be prepared to take over after your child tires out. Or better yet, bring a shovel for each of you. When your child loses interest, it’s okay if they play in the snow.
  • Be a Friend. A simple way to make a huge difference in someone’s world is to be their friend. Practice sentences your child can say at preschool when they see someone who is lonely. “Want to play with me?” “Want to be my friend?”
  • Show Gratitude. Point out community helpers, like the mail carrier, firefighters, and the librarian. Draw a picture or write a positive note to deliver.
  • Feed the birds. Animals need love and support too!
  • Visit an animal shelter. Many shelters let families spend time holding different animals.
  • Donate food to the food pantry.
  • Call, or safely visit, someone who is lonely. Faraway grandparents, and homebound seniors close at hand, love to hear from children.
  • Make a sibling’s bed, set the table, take out the trash, etc. 
  • Participate in a walk for charity.
  • Organize a donation drive among your neighbors and friends. Have your child help design and pass out flyers, assist with organizing donations when they come in, and go with you to drop off the donations.
  • Make a crying baby smile, or play a game with a younger child. Know someone with a new baby? Offer to take the other kids off their hands, and have your preschooler come up with activities they can all play together.

    At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we teach kindness, empathy, and service throughout our thematic units.   To learn more about how we teach, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

Stop! Why You Shouldn’t Intervene in Preschool Art

 

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, art features heavily into every day of school. This isn’t just because art is fun (although, it definitely is!), but because when children are free to express themselves artistically, they develop in critical ways.

One key element in successful preschool art is how the ADULT behaves. It’s critical for the adult to:

Step. Back.

When adults give artistic opportunities — and refrain from intervening — kids thrive.

Read on for the benefits of art — and why you shouldn’t control it.

Experience

Preschoolers need to experience the world in a variety of ways. Art allows them to get in the moment, feeling their emotions right along with the senses that are activated when creating art.

Letting your child feel the smoothness of the paint as it glides across the paper is more important than what the end product looks like.

Sit back and watch your child create. You’ll notice they’re fully immersed in the experience of the art. They aren’t self-conscious or worried about the end product. This is a gift — to be able to experiment and enjoy the process.

Health and Well-Being

Children who have experience expressing themselves freely know how to learn. They know how to soothe themselves when they are stressed. And they know how to work through difficult things.

Freedom in art can give your children practice developing coping skills, learning skills, and even grit.

Other Benefits of Self-Expression in Preschool Art

Art has been shown to build analyzing and problem-solving skills. It teaches cause-and-effect, and even basic math as children count and add elements .

Children build fine-motor skills as they manipulate the art instruments.

Perhaps most importantly, children who are free to experiment in their art get comfortable with making mistakes — and even improving mistakes. And this allows them to attempt new skills in other areas of their life, even opening their minds to new ways of thinking.

What It Looks Like to Let Go

Letting go is hard for many parents, and it makes sense! We’re a results-driven society. It can be hard to feel like your child is getting anything out of the activity if all they’re doing is scribbling over the page.

If you struggle with this, remind yourself that children learn as they play. Your child may be releasing stress while scribbling. They may be building focus as their mind imagines. Maybe they enjoy watching what happens as more color fills the page. They may like the feel of the vibrations as their crayon moves faster and faster.

And they may not be able to tell you any of this. Trust that they are learning and developing as they are free to explore art on their own terms.

Process Over Product

Sure, you might have an idea of what the end result is supposed to look like. But when your child is creating art, step back and let them focus on the process.

If they feel bound to an end result, not only will their creativity be stifled, they may learn to create for approval rather than enjoyment in the activity.

Encourage effort and exploration as your child creates.

A Few Rules for the Adult

If you watch us in our classrooms at UDA Creative Arts Preschool, you’ll see that we don’t intervene in our children’s art projects. We don’t want to take away their own artistry, and we know it’s important for children to own their art.

As a result, no two projects ever look the same.

And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Keep these six rules for YOU in mind:

How to Support Your Child’s Art

  1. First, don’t give direction. Don’t tell your child how to draw a house. If they choose to draw a house, let them add any element they wish.
  2. Don’t intervene. Certainly, if your child needs help with sharpening a crayon, you can guide them. But don’t intervene in the artistic process. It may be tempting to say, “A rabbit has TWO ears, remember?” Hold your tongue, and let them draw however many ears they want.
  3. Encourage experimentation. It’s fun to mix colors or use different materials together. Allow, and encourage, this to happen.
  4. Talk about the art. Your child will hold up their painting, looking for your approval. A generic compliment won’t be encouraging — remember, the final product isn’t the point. Instead, take that opportunity to ask specific questions that allow your child to discuss their artwork. “I notice you used every color in your crayon box. Why did you choose all of them?”
  5. Encourage process. Use questions that encourage your child to talk about their process. “Did you enjoy making this painting?”
  6. Don’t criticize, or suggest additions or removals of any element. Don’t tell them they could have done a better job. Accept whatever they create.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we know how important art is for your child’s intellectual, physical, and emotional development.   To learn more about how we teach, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

But What If You Don’t LIKE to Play Pretend With Your Preschooler?

how to role play with your preschooler

Role-playing isn’t just a fun thing for your child to do. It’s actually a critical component of your child’s development.

For the most part, your kiddo can handle their role-playing on their own; after all, it’s what preschoolers are designed to do!

But what about the times when your child wants you to join in? What if you find role-play with your preschooler boring? Difficult? Tear-your-hair-out tedious?

Read on for tips on how to role-play with your preschooler.

Why Role-Play Is So Important for Preschoolers

how to pretend with your preschooler

But first. Why does your preschooler even need to role-play?

Role-play boosts your child’s creativity and imagination, helps them learn how to problem solve, enhances communication skills, and so much more.

Let’s pretend (See what we did there?) that your child is playing store. They’ll likely act out scenes they’ve witnessed firsthand (exchanging of money, for example), while also adding their own bits of creativity (They’re the billionth customer, and they get to have all the candy in the store!). But then they realize that if they eat all that candy, they’ll get cavities. How can they solve this problem? Well, they’ll share the candy with all their friends, of course! Or they’ll come up with a magic spell that protects their teeth!

It may look like silly fun, but that one scenario helped your child develop in several areas. Your child “tried on” an adult role and practiced real-life scenarios. They brought in imagination, cooperation, and problem solving.

How to Role-Play with Your Preschooler

So what happens when your preschooler invites YOU in to the fantasy world? How can you play, especially if you lost your imagination when you lost your last baby tooth?

Don’t fret. Don’t run away. This is something you can do. We promise. Read on for how.

Understand the Types of Role-Play

how to role play with your preschooler

First, understand the common types of role-play. 

Children tend to pretend in three different ways:

  1. Occupational: This is the type of play where your child pretends to be, or interact with, familiar occupations. Teachers, doctors, firefighters, astronauts, cashiers, etc. are some roles that children like to play. (This play encourages empathy as children “try on” different roles.)

  2. Fantasy: Think superhero, fairy princess, giant trolls, unicorns, and more. This is the big imaginary world where everything is possible. Children focus on “good” and “bad,” often trying bravery on for size.

  3. Real-life: What happens in your child’s life? Do they go to amusement parks? Help you cook? Do they play soccer? Go to museums? In real-life play, your child will enact these real-life scenarios.

These types of role-play for preschoolers are flexible. A troll can easily stop at the store on her way home from work, and a firefighter can suddenly need to save the world from invading aliens. Children don’t live within bounds when they play pretend.

Now, why is it important for you to understand these types of play? 

Well, if you struggle to play pretend, you can focus on one of these types that feels most comfortable for you. For many adults, real-life or occupational play will come more naturally. You might find it less daunting to be a cashier or doctor than to be a princess hunting dragons.

Go with what you feel comfortable with.

Follow Your Child’s Lead

Playing pretend with a preschooler feels overwhelming to lots of adults, because we think we have to come up with the scenarios. After all, that’s what two children will do when they play together: one pretends one thing and another adds to it, and back and forth.

But you don’t have to have that pressure!

Play therapy techniques make playing simple, while focusing on strengthening your bond with your child.

  • When you get down to play with your child, simply follow their lead. If they tell you they are going to drive their cars on a ramp, say, “I’ll drive my cars on a ramp too.” Your child will let you know if that’s what they want you to do or not.

  • If you don’t know what to do, ask your child! “What should I do?” They’ll tell you!

  • Describe what your child is doing. “I see your toy horse is galloping on the play kitchen.” Your child will let you know if that’s right or not. They might say, “The horse is running away to the mountain! Hurry! Your horse needs to come too!”

  • Sit, watch, and reflect: Sometimes, you don’t need to join in. You can simply watch. When your child tells you they made a vegetable stew, reflect back. “I see you made a delicious vegetable stew!” They may invite you in, or they may be fine with you observing.

When you follow your child’s lead, you don’t have to think of imaginative scenarios. You simply follow along. The pressure is off of you, and the focus is on your child.

This gives your child freedom and connection.

Don’t Correct

When playing with your child, remember that it’s their world. If your child picks up a toy horse and calls it a dinosaur, don’t correct them. Just go with it. “Yes, that’s a ferocious dinosaur!” Your child might continue calling it a dinosaur, or may switch back to seeing it as a horse. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that your child is in charge of their own imagination.

Don’t tell them they’re playing with a toy wrong. They may put a phone to their foot instead of their ear. Don’t tell them that’s not how to use a phone. Just go with it!

This is your child’s special time. This is their world where they’re in charge. Don’t micromanage or take away their freedom in this special place. 

Simply observe and follow.

Remember: your child is developing skills as they “try on” different roles, situations, and solutions. They simply can’t play wrong! And if you just follow their lead, neither can you!

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

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.

teach your preschooler compassion

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.

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.”

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.

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 a 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 — 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 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.