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

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

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

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

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

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

Give Compassion to Your Child

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

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

Trust That Your Child Can Be Compassionate

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

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

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

Know they can do this, and they will.

Treat Your Child with Respect

how to teach your preschooler compassion

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

But make sure you do this respectfully.

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

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

Model Compassion

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

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

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

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

Talk About Compassion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Point It Out

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

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

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

 

Volunteer

how to teach your preschooler to have compassion

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

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

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

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

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

7 Crucial Steps to Help Your Preschooler Become a Problem Solver

One of the most important aspects of a successful life — at any stage — is having the ability to solve problems. Every day, we have to think on our feet, make adjustments, and move forward.

It’s important that we take the time to nurture a problem-solving ability in our children. Most of us know and understand this on an intellectual level — we know our children will be on their own one day, and will have to solve their own problems. But when it comes down to daily practice, we’re often guilty of stepping in too soon, underestimating our children, and removing chances for growth by solving their problems for them.

  • This may look like quickly getting a new cup of milk for our child after he’s spilled his first — instead of involving him in solving the problem.
  • It may look like inflicting consequences when our child won’t share — instead of involving her in a solution.
  • It may look like carrying all the things from our child’s hands when they have too much — instead of asking them what their idea is to solve the problem.

It doesn’t mean we’re bad parents when we do this. In fact, we’re great parents! We’re efficient parents! We’re working hard to keep our day moving forward while keeping our children safe and happy.

But the ability to problem solve is a gift, and if we open our eyes to opportunities to teach and guide our children to solve their own problems, they will be able to use that gift in all areas of their life.

The more we help our children be problem solvers, the less frustrated they’ll be when they encounter a challenge. They’ll be less likely to give up when faced by obstacles, and they’ll learn how to manage their emotions. They’ll also develop creative thinking abilities and persistence.

These benefits are worth the extra time it takes to guide our children to become problem solvers.

This is how we teach our preschool students to be problem solvers at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah.

1. Guide Children to Solve Their Own Problems

When a child comes to us with a problem, we hand it right back to them!
But we don’t tell them it’s their problem and walk away. We stay by their side, and guide them through the problem-solving process.
It may look like this:
Child: “Johnny took the dinosaur.”
Teacher: “Oh, did you like that?” Or, “Is that okay with you?”
Child: “No.”  
Teacher: “This sounds like a problem. It is a good thing you are a problem solver! Did you tell Johnny you didn’t like it?”
Child: “No.”
Teacher: “How do you think you could help Johnny know you didn’t like it?” Or, “What are you going to do about it?” 
At this point you may get a few different answers. Maybe your child will say she doesn’t know, maybe she will think to use her words, or maybe something else.
If your child comes up with a solution, like using her words, tell her that’s a great idea and support her as she carries it out.
If your child can’t come up with a solution, offer suggestions and discuss the potential outcomes of each choice. This may take some time, but it is worth the effort.
It’s far simpler to take the problem into your own hands and solve it by telling Johnny that “we don’t take toys.” And while your child might be happy with the immediate result, she won’t feel empowered. She also won’t know how to solve her problem the next time.
The next step walks you through how to continue to guide your child.
preschool problem solver

2. Show Confidence in Your Child’s Problem-Solving Abilities

Remember that Johnny took your child’s toy. While your child may have come up with a solution to use her words to talk to Johnny, that doesn’t mean everything is going to go smoothly at this point. Stay in the game, and continue to offer guidance, while still showing confidence in your child’s problem-solving abilities.
It might look like this:
You help by getting Johnny’s attention. Say something like, “Johnny, please listen to Suzi’s words. She has something important she would like to say.”
You can then turn to your child.
Your child may or may not verbalize her feelings. Help her out by saying something like, “Suzi, Johnny is listening to hear what you have to say.”
If she takes the reins and speaks for herself, great! Encourage her.
If she doesn’t, you can continue to guide. Say something like, “Did you like it when Johnny took the dinosaur from your hands?”
She’ll most likely say no.
You can then ask Johnny if he would like it if a friend took something from his hands.
He will most likely say no.
At this point, the problem is identified and clear for everyone.
Now you can again put the problem back in the children’s hands. Say, “You are both kind friends. What do you think we can do to solve this problem?”
Allow them both to come up with ideas, and stay with them to coach them if they still need it.
3. Show Pride and Joy in Their Problem-Solving Skills
Praise your child when he comes up with ideas to solve a problem. Use the phrase “problem-solver” so he comes to understand the skill he is developing. “You are a problem-solver!” followed by a hug or high-five is a great reinforcement for the hard work your child is doing.

4. Model Problem-Solving

Your behavior is often your child’s best teacher. Use your problems as a chance to model problem-solving to your child. Often, we solve problems in our head, and our children don’t see the process we’re going through.

When you can, think out loud so your child can see your problem-solving process. Say, “I forgot I scheduled a doctor’s appointment during your dance class. This is a problem. I think I will solve it by calling the doctor to see if I can reschedule.”

Sometimes you won’t be able to solve a problem immediately, and it’s okay to let your child see that. You can say, “I’m frustrated about this problem, and my problem-solving ideas haven’t worked yet. I’ll keep trying.”

5. Encourage Creative Play

Did you know creative play helps build problem-solving skills? When your child is playing hot lava, he has to figure out how to get from the couch to the pillow on the floor without touching the carpet. When your child is building with blocks, she has to figure out how to keep her tower from falling over again.

And just watch two kids play pretend together. They’ll invent dozens of problems they have to solve, and their solutions will be so creative! Practicing this skill in pretend play helps your child use it in the real world.

6. Allow for Failure

Don’t expect perfection. Don’t expect each problem to be solved the way everyone wants. It’s okay if things don’t go according to plan. Being okay with failure lets your child feel free to learn and try new solutions.

7. Read Problem-Solving Books

Read about characters struggling with problems and finding solutions. These are some of our favorite problem-solving books for preschool-aged children:

“I Got This!”- Steve Herman
“Can I Play Too?” Mo Willems
“Talk and Work it Out”- Cheri J Meiners
“Share and Take Turns” Cheri J Meiners
“What do You Do WIth a Problem?”- Kobi Yamada
“I Can Handle It” by Lauri Wright 

Everything we do at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah is carefully thought out. We actively and formally teach problem-solving skills, and look for organic opportunities to help our children naturally develop those skills. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Improve Executive Functioning Skills

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

Give Your Child a Quality Preschool Education

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

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

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

Model Good Executive Functions

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

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

Don’t Expect Perfection

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

Support Imaginary Play

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

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

Play Movement and Music Games

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

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

Tell Stories

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

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

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

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 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!