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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Improve Executive Functioning Skills

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

Give Your Child a Quality Preschool Education

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

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

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

Model Good Executive Functions

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

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

Don’t Expect Perfection

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

Support Imaginary Play

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

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

Play Movement and Music Games

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

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

Tell Stories

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

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

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

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.

 

How Singing Helps Language Development

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

Auditory Discrimination

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

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

Phonological Awareness

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

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

Vocabulary Development

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

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

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

Auditory Memory

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

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

Imagination

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

{The Importance of Storytelling for Preschoolers}

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

Teach Concepts

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

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

Coordination

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

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

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

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

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

How to Encourage Courage in Your Preschooler

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

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

{The Importance of Teaching Character Traits in Preschool}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How You Can Encourage Courage in Your Preschooler

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

Model Courage

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

Don’t Fix Every Problem

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

Talk About Courageous Acts

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

Use a Mantra

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

Praise Effort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{Music Matters! How Music Benefits Preschool Learners}

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

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

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

1. Music Painting

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

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

2. In the Manner of…

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

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

3. Go on a World Tour

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

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

4. Freeze Dance

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

5. Name That Tune

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

6. Dance Competition

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

7. “Meet” Instruments

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

8. Sing, Sing, Sing!

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

9. Learn Nursery Rhymes

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

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

How to Help Your Child’s Language Development

how to help your child's language development

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

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

Pay attention to these common language deficits:

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

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

How You Can Help Your Child’s Language Development

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

Sing Songs

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

Play “Simon Says”

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

Tell Riddles

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

Play with Puzzles Together

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

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

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

Color Together

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

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

Tell Familiar Stories

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

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

Talk About “Go-Togethers”

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

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

Categorize

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

Sing the Alphabet

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

Identify Body Parts

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

Use Fanciful Words

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

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

Use Descriptive Words

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

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

Talk, Talk, Talk

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

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

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

Why Your Child Should Play at the Playground

benefits of playground play

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

Play Benefits Children

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

{Why Your Child Needs Play-Based Learning} 

Full-Body Exercise

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

Unstructured Play Allows for Growth

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

Learn Social Rules

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

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

Therapeutic Benefits

benefits of playground play

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

Resilience

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

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

How a Swing Can Help in Whole Child Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using More Senses Helps Kids Learn Better

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

Playing with Food Decreases Food Battles

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

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

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

Playing with Food Helps with Food Aversions

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

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

Kids Learn Through Play

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

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

But Isn’t It Wasteful to Play with Food?

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

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

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

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

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

How to Play with Food

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

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

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

the importance of storytelling for preschoolers

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

The Importance of Storytelling for Preschoolers

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

Stories Introduce New Vocabulary

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

Stories Develop Imagination and Curiosity

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

Stories Build Listening Skills

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

Stories Build Connection

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

How to Incorporate Storytelling into Your Family’s Life

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

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

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