How to Teach Safety to Preschoolers

A few years ago, one of our preschool families had a house fire. Their preschool-aged child said, “I know just what to do,” and coached her parents through the process of getting low to crawl under the smoke and out of the house before calling 911.

She even explained to her parents that the fire department would soon be there to help save their house, and they didn’t need to be afraid because the firemen were “very nice, even if they looked scary in their masks.”

How did she know how to not only stay calm, but the right actions to take? Because she had recently gone through our “S Is for Safety” week at UDA Creative Arts Preschool!

Talking about safety, practicing safety, and even playing pretend with safety themes helps young children be prepared for emergency situations. And when done right, it also helps children approach potentially-scary topics in a non-threatening way.

It’s never too early to incorporate safety themes in your family. We want to share with you some of what we taught during “S Is for Safety” week, and how you can bring the messages home.

Some Things to Keep in Mind When Teaching Safety to Preschoolers

The topic of safety is not a one-and-done topic. (Really, nothing is a one-and-done topic!)

To teach safety to preschoolers, you should have ongoing conversations, practices, and learning.

Remember these important items:

  • Young children don’t know what you instinctively know by now. You know you need to point scissors down when you walk, and you know you should walk slowly when carrying a hot drink. But your child doesn’t know this. Remember that you need to go back to basics.
  • Preschoolers don’t think about consequences of their behavior. They may climb up a wall without realizing they won’t be able to get down. This isn’t stupid or wrong; they just live in the here-and-now. As you remember that, you can have patience for their impulsivity as you teach.
  • Preschool children don’t fully understand that their behavior affects others. They may not remember that they need to make sure nobody is at the bottom of the slide before they head down, because they’re thinking only about their own experience. This is normal.
  • Keep your rules and explanations short and clear. Your child won’t absorb a lecture. “We wear helmets when we ride bikes,” is short and to the point.

Safety Rules to Teach Your Preschooler

First, it’s important for your preschooler to understand what is and what is not an emergency. For example, they may feel frantic if they aren’t allowed to stay up late, but this isn’t a time for them to call 911.

Define emergencies: fire, car accidents, someone is choking, someone is having trouble breathing, someone is unconscious, or a crime is happening.

Be sensitive to your child’s imagination and fears, and don’t tell your child more than they need to know.

How to Call 911

Your child needs to understand three things about 911:

  1. It is for emergencies only
  2. How to actually call
  3. How to speak to the dispatcher

Let your child practice dialing 911 on a pretend phone, or a larger-than-life phone pad like we show in the image above.

Teach your child how to speak to the dispatcher. They will need to be able to tell the dispatcher:

  • Their address, or describe where they are
  • What has happened
  • Their name

Practice memorizing their address by putting it to a nursery rhyme song: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Start” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb” often work.

Firefighters Aren’t Scary

A challenge for firefighters is that children often view them as scary strangers, leading them to hide in a dangerous situation.

Exposing your child to firefighters in a friendly way can help your child be willing to accept help if they are ever in a dangerous situation.

We invited the Draper City Fire Department to preschool to help the children associate positivity with firefighters. As a parent, you can visit the local fire station and look at pictures of firefighters in their full gear.

Help your child understand that even though the gear may make a firefighter look or sound scary, the person under the gear is there to help them.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Teach your child to stop, drop, and roll if they ever have fire on their clothing or body. An easy way to do this is to actually do the actions.

By practicing, your child is making this idea more permanent in their minds. If they ever encounter this emergency, they will have an easier time remembering what to do.

In addition, teach your child to “stay low and go” in a fire. Remember our preschooler who taught her parents to get below the smoke? Practice this together, so it becomes an automatic reaction if needed. Remind your child to cover their face.

Street Safety

teach safety to preschoolers

Children are small and can be missed by motorists. Teach your child about street signs, like stop signs, stop lights, and crosswalks, so they understand what they should do when they encounter one.

Teach your child to stop, look, and listen any time they approach a street or driveway. And teach them to stop when their name is called.

Teach your child to stay near an adult when they are in a street or parking lot. In fact, a good rule is to hold hands when getting in and out of the car, and then again while walking through the street or parking lot.

When riding bikes, children should wear helmets and avoid riding in driveways or the street.

Safety at Home

First, do what you can to create an environment that keeps dangerous objects out of children’s reach.

Then, empower your child to know what to do when they encounter a dangerous object.

  • Teach them not to touch sharp things, but to ask an adult for help if one is in the way.
  • Point out electrical outlets, and teach your child not to put anything in them.
  • Walk around the house to show your child “hot zones”: the stove, curling irons, space heaters, toasters, the fireplace, etc. Tell your child not to touch these items.
  • Keep medicines out of reach, but be sure to tell your child not to eat or drink any medicine, even if it looks like candy. Additionally, teach your child not to eat candy without first talking to a grownup. Explain that many things look like candy that actually aren’t.

    Water Safety

    Never leave your child alone near any body of water (including the bath tub, wading pool, or activity bucket in the backyard).

    Further empower your child by teaching them water safety rules:

  • Never swim alone. It should always be a group activity.
  • Never play near water alone. They should find an adult if they want to play in a backyard with an unfenced pool.
  • If your child encounters a fenced pool, they should never climb the fence.
  • Wear appropriate life vests when participating in water activities.

Strangers

Teach your child they shouldn’t go anywhere with anyone unless their parents have personally told them it’s okay. If someone they don’t know approaches them, tell them to find a trusted adult.

Have your child find you before answering the door.

How to Teach Safety to Preschoolers Without a Lecture

Conversations about safety with your preschooler are great, and should be happening regularly. When you do, make sure you’re leaving time and space for your child to ask questions and share their feelings.

But help the subject of safety become more real to your child with these tips:

  • Encourage your child to dress up like community helpers who keep us safe, like firefighters, nurses, and doctors.
  • Give your child toy tools and props that safety workers use.

  • Let your child act out a rescue situation, like calling 911 when a stuffed animal is choking, or putting out pretend fires in the living room.
  • Take a walk or drive around the neighborhood, and point out all the signs and what they tell us to do. Create a sidewalk chalk path, and include those signs. Have your child ride their bike or take a walk, and follow the directions of the signs.
    • Read books about emergency helpers.

    At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we work to prepare children for all aspects of life. To learn more about how we teach, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

How to Get Your Preschooler to Open up After School

“How was preschool today?”

“Good.”

“What did you do?”

“I don’t remember.”

Does this conversation sound familiar? Getting your preschooler to open up after school can be a challenge!

The reason? Their brains are darting from idea to idea at rapid speed, and their working memory hasn’t fully developed yet. They may have LOVED when Miss Vicky led them on a hunt for the gingerbread man, but that was two hours ago. Plus, right now they’re distracted by something they see out the window.

But you (naturally!) want to know what your child did at school, and you want to know how they felt about it all. And it’s actually good for your preschooler’s brain if you do ask them to open up about their day. Revisiting their day helps their brain to develop while making important connections in their life.

So how can you get your preschooler to open up after preschool? Try these seven tell-me-about-your day tips.

Check Your Questions

It’s natural to say, “How was your day?” And there’s nothing wrong with this question. But if you want your preschooler to open up, try to ask fewer questions that prompt only one-word answers. Questions like, “Did you have fun?” or “Did you have a good day?” don’t invite your child to revisit their day and think about something to share.

Instead of “Did you have fun?”, try, “What was the most fun part of your day?” This will help you get more information, while also helping your child build their memory and communication skills.

Become Familiar with the Preschool Schedule

how to get your preschooler to open up

The more you know about what goes on at preschool each day, the more you can get your preschooler to open up. Use what you know to form your questions.

For example, if you know the preschool does show-and-tell every day, you can ask who brought an item, what it was, and what the child said about that item.

Use the teachers’ names, and ask questions about what they did during different subjects. “What kind of wiggly activity did you do in Miss Kris’ movement class today?”

What other routines or traditions happen at your child’s preschool? At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we have a special puppet named Tiki who introduces our character traits. Ask your child, “What did Tiki teach you?”

Use the 5 Ws

how to get your preschooler to open up

Help your child think back over their day by asking specific questions that ask them to recall details.

The 5Ws are a helpful guideline in this:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

Who did you sit next to at snack time? What art project did you work on today? When did you feel excited today? Where did you play during free time? Why did you get in the car with a smile/frown?

You can also add how questions: How did you feel during playtime? How were you friendly/silly/curious today? How did you solve a problem today?

Be Fun

how to get your preschooler to open up

Get your preschooler to open up by being fun or silly.

“Today, I wished a unicorn would knock on the door. It didn’t happen, but I did get a fun package. What silly thing did you wish for today?”

“I’m sure you did nothing today! You sat on the floor and stared at the wall, right?” If your child is in a playful mood, this might prompt responses like, “Noooo! I played with Emma! We were firefighters and we saved all the ponies!”

Take Your Time

Some kids are ready to share all the details of their day as soon as they get in the car, but some kids need time to decompress. And even chatty kids will have days when they need some time.

Gauge your child’s engagement, and if they need some time, wait. Try again when you’re both eating a snack together, driving to an after-school activity, eating dinner, or going to bed.

Get Your Preschooler to Open up by Showing How It’s Done

Start your conversation by sharing about your own day. Think of moments in your day that are relatable to your child’s day.

For example, “I had an orange for a snack.” Or, “I had a good time talking with my best friend today.” Or, “I felt frustrated today, and I helped myself feel better by taking deep breaths.”

Sometimes your child might take your cue, and offer up a similar tidbit from their day. Or you can then ask your child a similar question. “What did you have for snack today? What did you do with your friend today?”

Change the Scenery

Pay attention to when — and where — your child opens up about their day. If they clam up in the car, they may still be decompressing. Or they may be distracted by what they see outside. Try asking about your child’s day at a more calm time, like at bedtime.

If they can’t answer your questions face-to-face at dinner time, they may prefer talking when you’re doing a side-by-side activity, like putting together a puzzle or going for a walk.

15 Questions to Get Your Preschooler to Open up After School

Add a few of these questions to your rotation, and see how it goes!

  1. What did your teacher say to you today?
  2. Who did you spend the most time with today?
  3. What was the best thing you did outside?
  4. What was the hardest thing you did inside?
  5. Why was (fill in the blank from their answer) so fun/hard?
  6. Where is your favorite place at preschool?
  7. What did you have for snack?
  8. Sing me a song your learned today.
  9. What was the worst thing that happened today?
  10. What made you smile today?
  11. Show me your artwork. Tell me about it.
  12. What made you laugh today?
  13. Show me something you did in your creative movement class.
  14. Tell me about something that made you sad today.
  15. Tell me about something you learned today. 

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we enjoy full days of learning, exploration, and fun. To learn more about how we teach music, art, reading, math, science, creative movement, social studies, and so much more, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

How to Help Your Child Develop Healthy Habits

child healthy habits

We’ve never been more aware of healthy habits, like proper handwashing, as we are now in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other healthy habits — like buckling up, brushing teeth, choosing healthy food, exercising, and more — are still just as important.

Yet, these aren’t always easy to teach — after all, parents have a whole lot on their plates! The trick is to make healthy habits a part of your child’s routine, so they become automatic.

Small steps every day eventually build up to routine actions. Just take one step forward at a time, using these tips.

Model Good Behavior

Just like everything in parenting, when you set a good example, your child can see how to do a desired behavior.

Not only that, remember that if you’re asking your child to do something you aren’t willing to do, they won’t buy in to your ask!

For example, if you want your child to buckle up, make sure you always buckle your seatbelt as soon as you get in the car.

Teach Healthy Habits

child healthy habits

Before you can expect your child to manage healthy habits on their own, they need to know exactly what’s expected of them. Telling them to wash their hands, without first teaching the steps, may end with a child who only runs water on the tips of their fingers for a few seconds.

Stay by Their Side

As your child is learning how to develop healthy habits, like proper teeth brushing, make sure you’re close at hand. Eventually, you’ll be able to step away and trust that they can do it correctly. But while they’re learning, stay close so you can gently guide their attempts.

Stay Positive

child healthy habits

Remember, you want your child to develop healthy habits for their whole lifetime. So it’s important to make this process positive.

Keep mealtimes positive, where you all enjoy eating healthy foods. Exercise in fun ways that make everyone happy. Sing a silly song while you wash hands, or have a race to get buckled first. Buy a fun sticker for a bike helmet, so it’s fun for your child to wear it.

Don’t Reward with Food

Most of us understand from personal experience what it’s like to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Your child is going to get many mixed messages from advertising, but you can help them develop a healthier relationship with food right now by keeping food neutral.

Keep food out of rewards for good behavior or successes. Avoid calling food “bad” or “forbidden.” Don’t excessively control your child’s food habits by restricting or forcing. Rather, teach about healthy food and provide plenty of healthy options.

Make Healthy Choices a Family Affair

Think of ways you can all participate in healthy habits together. Parents have a strong influence on their children, and when you join in healthy activities together, you’ll create positive memories and a family culture of health.

Go for a family walk together, learn a new sport together, cook healthy meals together, make the grocery list together, and more.

7 Healthy Activities to Add to Your Family Culture

Adding one or two of these ideas to your family routine will help your family create a culture of healthy habits.

  1. Grow your own food. This could be a huge project in your backyard, or as simple as growing a few herbs on the windowsill. Don’t stress yourself out; just enjoy the process of planting, watching seeds grow, and harvesting your efforts together.
  2. Cook together. Some children are likely to try new foods they had a hand in preparing. Invite your child into the kitchen when you’re preparing a meal, and give them meal-prep tasks to do. 
  3. Invite your child to help with meal planning. Teach your child about the foundations of a healthy meal: protein, healthy vegetable, and healthy starch. Then have them look through cookbooks with you to find a meal that interests them. Have them write down the ingredients, and even take them grocery shopping.
  4. Sit down together for a meal. This gets trickier and trickier as children grow up. Don’t stress about having a perfect sit-down meal together. Just try to have the family all together for a meal as often as possible. Aiming for one meal together a day is helpful for some families.
  5. Instigate an active tradition in your family. Maybe you all go for a Sunday walk together. Perhaps Saturdays are for the park or a hike. Maybe Tuesday evenings are a perfect time for a family bike ride. An easy way to do this is to swap out one sedentary activity for something active. If both Friday and Saturday nights are movie nights, change one of them to a family sport night.
  6. Don’t forget your relationships. Healthy habits are more successful when people feel connected and loved. Spending positive time together in any activity helps your child feel safe and secure — and that’s a sure foundation for healthy habits in other areas of life.
  7. Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand. Make it easy for you and your child to make heathy choices by choosing healthy food for your pantry and fridge. Think: apples, bananas, grapes, berries, clementines, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, yogurt, cheese, hummus, whole wheat bread and tortillas, frozen fruits, granola, pretzels, salsa, popcorn, nuts, and raisins.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we teach healthy habits in a variety of ways — through practice, music, art, creative movement, and so much more.  To learn more about how we teach, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

How to Teach Your Preschooler Responsibility

how to teach your preschooler responsibility

We all want our children to grow into responsible adults who are capable of handling their problems, maintaining their homes, caring for their future families, and doing good work in their jobs.

But that’s a long way off, and there’s a lot to do before you get there!

Don’t stress. Teaching responsibility comes little by little. See responsibility as a joyful development for your child, and you’ll be able to teach it step by step.

Begin Young

Don’t wait until your child is a teenager to expect them to take responsibility around the house and in their life. Begin when they are small — right now — and expect that this is a skill they can learn.

Teach Them

Just like you shouldn’t wait until your child is a teenager to take on responsibilities, don’t throw them into something now without taking the time to teach them what to do.

Don’t say, “Dust the living room” without first showing them the steps to take. And remember — they may need you to teach them again and again. It could take several tries over several weeks or months. But keep at it. Little by little, your child will learn the skills they need to be more responsible.

Set Them up for Success

How can your child best succeed at developing responsibility?

One way is to use routines to help your child take responsibility throughout their day. If they have a morning routine that follows the same pattern each day, it will be much easier for them to be responsible in each step: brushing teeth, making their bed, cleaning up breakfast dishes, etc.

Another is to give second (and third, and fourth, and…) chances. If they forget to bring in their toys after playing outside, don’t punish them. Instead, help them remember. “Oh, it looks like your toys are still outside. I’m worried they’ll get ruined by the rain/sprinklers/dog. Let’s go get them.”

Look for ways to help you child succeed, not for ways to punish if they fail.

Model Responsibility

Let your child see you taking responsibility. As you take responsibility over certain tasks each day, narrate what you’re doing. “Now that we finished the movie, we put away the blankets.” Those “we” statements, accompanied by your action, will help your child see  what it means to take responsibility over their actions.

Modeling doesn’t mean you always have to put on a cheerful face and act like you love doing everything you’re responsible for. Sometimes, letting your child see that you don’t enjoy the task, but you do it anyway, can teach a valuable lesson.

For example, you can say, “I really don’t feel like doing the dishes now, but if I don’t clean up, the food will harden on the dishes and it will become difficult to do later. Plus, I’m really looking forward to a clean kitchen, so I can have time to play with you!”

Have Your Child Help You

Invite your child into your daily chores. When you’re sweeping the kitchen, ask them to grab the dust pan. When you’re folding laundry, have them sort socks. The point is to help them understand that they can contribute to the household — they are valued and appreciated.

When a child feels valued, they take more ownership of responsibilities.

Help Your Child

how to teach your preschooler responsibility

When you’re a kid, it’s lonely and overwhelming to be sent to do a task on your own. You might not know where to start. You might not know how to do the task alone.

If your child is refusing to take responsibility for something, look at them through this forgiving mindset, and realize that maybe they just need help this time. Remember: your child learns responsibility bit by bit, and it’s okay for you to be a part of the process.

Catch Them in the Act

Nobody likes when their efforts go unnoticed. When you see your child taking responsibility for something — maybe they put their shoes away without being asked; maybe they helped a younger sibling reach a snack — point it out.

“Thank you for taking responsibility for your shoes!”

“Wow, I really appreciate it when you are responsible and look for ways to help your sibling!”

Teach Problem Solving

Try not to give orders or rush to solve your child’s problems. When going through your evening routine, instead of telling your child to get pajamas on and brush their teeth, you could ask them what comes next in their routine.

When your child spills crackers on the floor, instead of telling them how to clean them up (or doing it yourself), ask your child how this problem can be solved. Be prepared to help, but first get your child’s input.

{7 Crucial Steps to Help Your Child Become a Problem Solver}

Avoid Criticizing

Learning responsibility is a process. Your child won’t remember to manage all aspects of their life every day. They won’t make their bed perfectly. They’ll forget to throw their fruit snack wrapper away sometimes.

Don’t criticize. Keep modeling, teaching, reminding, and showing appreciation. Little by little, they’ll take more and more ownership.

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 Tells Lies – and What to Do About It

why preschoolers lie

why preschoolers lie

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

“Did you color on the wall?” you ask.

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

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

Now take a deep breath.

All kids lie. It’s actually developmentally normal.

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

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

Why Do Preschoolers Lie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Model Honesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this look like?

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

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

Keep it calm and straightforward.

why do preschoolers lie

3. Set Them up for Success with Honesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Give Them Additional Chances

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

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

why your preschooler tells lies

4. Give Them Language to Use

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

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

5. Thank Them for Honesty

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

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

Building Better Brains: Get Ready for Kindergarten with Play

You know your child is happier when she’s allowed to play, but is she getting all her learning needs met? Is she getting ready for kindergarten? Certainly, she should sit down with some worksheets so she can learn to read and write, right?

Actually, while structured learning has its place, one of the best things you can do to get your child ready for kindergarten and help him build a better brain is to allow for play.

Play-based learning is one of the best gifts you can give your child. The bonus is that play will help your child get ready for kindergarten — even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface.

Yes, play will even help your child with reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

Kindergarten Readiness Skills That Are Developed Through Play

When your child and her friend don pirate hats and go in search of hidden gold, they are developing essential kindergarten readiness skills. 

They’re building social skills — negotiating, adapting, taking turns, listening, sharing, problem-solving, and more — which allow them to be more confident. These skills also set them up for more success in academics. A confident child won’t struggle to ask for help or reach out to other children. He’ll also learn from his mistakes. 

In fact, children who attend schools with play-based programs even score better on measures of cognitive flexibility, working memory, and self-regulation — all skills that will help them in the kindergarten classroom… and beyond.

Play also fosters creativity, which fosters both a love of learning and a motivation to learn. No matter how well your child picks up the functions of ABCs and 123s, she’ll need motivation to learn if she’s going to be successful with her knowledge.

Down with Drills

Many of us were taught important concepts with drills. We used flashcards, worksheets, recitations, and more to have concepts hammered into our heads. And while we may have learned some concepts through memorization (and fear of getting them wrong), did we actually take those concepts into ourselves and learn how to use them in real life?

Drills teach children there is only one right answer. This leads to fear of getting the wrong answer, stifled curiosity, and shame and embarrassment for having questions.

When your child is learning to read and enjoy books, do you want stifled curiosity and fear to be the leading emotions in their brain?

Instead, play-based learning allows your child to approach new letter combinations with curiosity and interest. It allows your child to form connections between numbers and their concepts. Reading and math become something that is a fun experience. It’s something that applies to your child’s life, and they can feel confident in their abilities.

Social-Emotional Development — Let’s Be Friends

Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy social-emotional development in your child’s academics.

Yes, reading, writing, and math are critical life skills. And yes, your child is going to be tested on those for the next 12 years. And yes, the results of those tests are going to influence your child’s college acceptance and future jobs.

Academics are important.

But we tend to focus so strongly on academics (those pesky test scores) that we don’t give enough credit to the other crucial areas of our children’s development. Social-emotional development is actually a crucial component of your child’s academic development (not to mention your child’s holistic development).

Play is one of the best ways for children to develop socially and emotionally. They learn to imagine different perspectives, understand other viewpoints, and how to interact with people who are different.

Children “try on” different lives and roles, coming to understand their world on a new level. Friendships and confidence are developed. They learn to resolve conflict.

And they become empowered in their own decision making, learning to trust their own brains.

Plus, play reduces stress!

Cognitive Development — Building Better Brains

Because we live in a test-based society, academics are of utmost importance to most parents. Fortunately, cognitive development — or the ability for your child to use her intellect — is developed and strengthened through play.

Children learn language and solve problems through play.

They also use math concepts (exchanging money while playing grocery store).

Children build literacy skills (telling stories with beginning, middle, and end, using symbols to represent something else — a key to reading and writing, etc.)

And they even discover science concepts (experimentation: what happens if I do this?, observation, cause and effect, physics of movement, etc.).

Physical Development — It’s Just As Important!

We know we need to make sure our children exercise. But formal, structured exercise is not the only way to go. Play develops both gross and fine motor skills, helps children understand where their body is in space, and gets them moving in fun ways (so they will want to continue!).

Through play, children come in contact with many tactile experiences, helping them understand their world on a deeper level. 

They build their muscles and coordination as they run, hop, skip, climb, and more during active play.

Parents, Relax

If you’re worried about your child’s academic readiness for kindergarten, you aren’t alone. But instead of stressing out, purchasing boatloads of flashcards, and finding a tutor for your child, sit back and let your child play.

Worry less about whether your child can read and write, and look at your child’s skills as a whole. She has many attributes that are going to help her be successful. Value her imagination, problem-solving skills, creativity, and energy as much — or more — than her academic skills. These are the skills that are going to help her be successful in life — and in academics. 

The more she plays and develops confidence through play, the better she’ll be able to handle everything that is expected of her in life and school.

Play is not a waste of time. In fact, it’s the best way your child can occupy their time.

How to Help Your Child Play

  • Give your child open-ended toys. Items like blocks and dress-ups can be used in countless ways.
  • Let your child have open-ended play. Don’t try to guide them to learn a lesson. Let him play how he wants.
  • Play with your child. If you struggle with open-ended play, you can start by playing more structured games (Simon Says; puzzles; Duck, Duck, Goose). In open-ended play, don’t worry about doing it right. Just follow your child’s lead. When you don’t know what to do, ask your child! “What does Princess Mommy do next?” Your child will tell you, and it won’t be as hard as you may have thought.
  • Read stories together, and talk about them. Your child might incorporate elements of the stories into their play.
  • Sing! Learn a few rhyming songs, and sing them while you go about your day. They helpyour child learn concepts and language skills that can be brought into play.
  • Go on family field trips to places that encourage play — the playground, discovery museums, the children’s library, and more.
  • Get outside. Provide your child with fun outside toys like bikes, jump ropes, hula hoops, and chalk.

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.

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.