WHY Does My Preschooler Do THAT?

preschool behavior

You’re not alone if preschool behavior sometimes feels baffling. One minute, your 3-year-old is playing peacefully with a few toys at the table.  The next, she’s running around the room in a fury, dumping every single toy onto the floor.

Why do preschoolers do this? And why do they struggle with the many other challenging behaviors that make you want to pull your hair out?

Rest assured that there is a developmental reason for challenging preschool behavior. Knowing that your child’s frustrating actions are actually evidence that they are right on track with their growth can be helpful.

Meltdowns

It’s time for bed and your 4-year-old falls to the ground crying, refusing to make a move in the direction of their bedroom. Or you give your 3-year-old a snack on the purple plate, and they scream and cry because they wanted the green plate.

Familiar?

What’s Going on: It’s normal. Your child is still getting a handle on their emotions. When things don’t go as they planned, they don’t always have the ability to take that disappointment in stride. Knowing this can help you avoid the urge to moralize their behavior. They aren’t “bad,” “naughty,” “selfish,” or “bratty.” They’re simply a child having a hard time in the moment.

What You Can Do: Show empathy. Hug your child or get near (if they’ll let you) and tell them you’re sorry things aren’t going the way they want. “You really wish you had the green plate, don’t you?”

Remember: This isn’t a time to reason with them. Fight the urge to use logic. It would be tempting to say, “But your favorite color is purple!” Or, “But you’re still getting a sandwich. It doesn’t matter what color the plate is.” But that logic won’t help in this moment. Your child’s brain is flooded with big emotions, and they simply need love, understanding, and connection to calm down.

Once your child’s big emotions have minimized, you can offer a suggestion or ask if your child has a suggestion. “Would you like me to set the purple plate aside for dinner time?” Or, “What would help you feel better about the plate?”

Messes Galore!

You just finished cleaning the playroom when your 3-year-old comes and dumps the blocks all over the room. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it; your child is just making a huge mess!

What’s Going on: Young children want to explore their world. They do this through their senses. The more senses they can use, the better! (That’s why we include multisensory learning in our curriculum.) This is actually a sign that your child feels safe in their environment.

What You Can Do: That doesn’t mean you have to give your house over to your child’s whims, however. Making messes is a great way to learn how to clean up!

First, create an environment where you child can safely explore. Keep non-breakable items at their level. Designate a cupboard or drawer at their height that is filled with things that won’t break (the Tupperware drawer or kids’ dishes drawer, for example). Let them play freely with these items and other toys around the house.

When they are done playing, guide them to clean up. Make clean-up time connected by cleaning up right along with them, make it fun by singing a song, or make it exciting by trying to beat the clock. Additionally, make it easy by storing toys in see-through containers.

Saying No

“NO!” Preschoolers may still be learning how to pronounce the cat’s name, but they absolutely excel in saying no. And when they say it in most of your interactions, that word can get old… fast.

What’s Going on: Again, your preschooler is right on track, developmentally. Preschoolers are learning independence and autonomy, and it’s important for them to express their opinions.

What You Can Do: Let your child know you hear their opinion and that it matters to you. “You don’t want to leave the park, do you?” “You want candy instead of soup for lunch, don’t you?”

Next, give a simple explanation and a choice. “It’s time for dinner and we have to get home. Would you like to go down the slide one more time or two more times?” “Candy doesn’t have the important vitamins we need for lunch, but it’s a great treat. Would you like to have some after your snack or after dinner?”

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we teach character traits like patience, kindness, empathy, and more to help children build on their developing skills. We also provide a learning environment in which children can learn through their interactions with others. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

How to Help Your Preschooler Make Friends

Friendship can be tricky to navigate at any age. While preschoolers have advantages in many ways (kids can typically bond more quickly with a new friend than adults), they also have a lot that can get in the way of positive friendships. This is a time when it’s difficult to share, difficult to manage emotions, and difficult to interpret others’ behaviors. Use these tips to help your preschooler make friends.

Honor Your Child’s Friendship Style

Every child approaches friendships differently. Some want as many friends as they can collect, constantly on the lookout for a new buddy to bring into their welcome fold. Others may stand back, preferring alone time or one close and familiar friend. And of course, there is a wide spectrum of friendship engagement between these two examples.

Pay attention to what fulfills your child in friendship and help your child find situations where they can be comfortable in friendship. 

How to Help Your Child Enter a Friendship Situation:

If your child wants to join a group but doesn’t know how, try these tips:

  • Teach them how to take a minute and watch what others are doing. As they observe the playgroup to see what they are playing, they can come up with ways they can be a part of the make-believe. For example, you could point to a friend and say, “What animal is she pretending to be? Do you think you could be an animal or a trainer?”
  • Your child can also invite children to join in their play by asking for help. “Can you help me build this road?”

Provide Space for Practice

In the safety of your home, you can give your child opportunities to develop skills that transfer to friendship groups.

For example, play a simple card game or have a family soccer match. In these interactions with you and siblings, your preschooler will learn about taking turns, following rules, emotional control, and handling both wins and disappointment graciously.

Around the dinner table, your child can learn about listening to others, showing interest in what others have to say, adding to conversations, and yes — taking turns again! 

During play, you can teach skills like how to introduce yourself. Pick up a stuffed animal, and have it introduce itself to your child. “Hello. My name is Twinkle Toes. Would you like to play blocks with me?”

Model Healthy Communication

Friendship is about respecting the other person, caring about what they care about, and being considerate of their feelings. 

You can model this in your interactions with your child. When you ask them to do something, use a respectful tone and language. When they are upset or excited, show genuine concern or interest. 

If your child gets upset about the color cup they receive, for example, don’t dismiss their feelings; instead, say, “You really wanted the blue cup didn’t you. I’m sorry you’re disappointed.” 

This respectful and caring treatment will transfer to your child’s interactions with their peers, and they will learn to be respectful and empathetic.

Tips for Playdate Success

When you host a playdate, consider how to set up the environment to make the playdate as successful as possible. 

  • Schedule the playdate for a time that the children are more likely to be well rested and happy.
  • Be prepared with healthy snacks.
  • Put away your child’s most special toys, and talk about how to share the rest of the toys.
  • Stay nearby to keep an eye on how the children are interacting. Let them work out problems together — to a point. If things are getting dangerous or unkind, step in and help the children resolve their issues.
  • Consider toys and activities that foster cooperation instead of competition.
  • Finish the playdate on a high note — before the children get too tired. 

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we focus on character traits, like compassion and respect, that help children in their friendships. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

6 Math Activities for Preschoolers to Do at Home (That Take Hardly Any Prep Work)

math activities for preschoolers

Some of us love math, and others cringe when we even think of it. But for all of us, math is a crucial life skill. And your child’s math knowledge will influence their academic achievement. Your role in your child’s math knowledge is important, and you can incorporate these six math activities for preschoolers into your day.

The bonus? These ideas require very little prep work!

First Things First: Don’t Stress Out

Your child’s preschool teachers will do an excellent job with math. If you feel nervous about guiding your child’s math skills, take a deep breath. You can make this easier by simply noticing basic math concepts in your daily routines.

Math is everywhere, and you can do a world of good by simply noticing the math that surrounds us. Ask your child: “How many banana slices are on your plate? How many will be left after you eat one? Two?”

Remember: Math isn’t always complex, especially at the preschool level. It’s sorting, finding patterns, measuring, building, counting, shapes, and comparisons. These things surround us every day. When you keep this in mind, math activities for preschoolers become second nature.

Second: Keep It Fun

You don’t need flashcards. Since math is everywhere, and since children learn best through play, keep math concepts fun and organic. Point out math concepts during play with the following math activities for preschoolers at home.

Rows and Shapes

Find similar items and line them up in a row (toy cars,  rocks, action figures, etc.). Ask your child to count them. Then, change the arrangement of the items: put them all in a circle, a triangle, or a square. Ask your child how many there are now.

Your child may need to count them again. As they grow and develop, they will understand that the number will remain the same even as the shape changes.

Measure

Preschool children may not be ready to grasp formal measurement yet. (inches, feet, etc.) But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach measurement skills! Using different items, like pumpkins in this photo, helps children begin to understand the concept of measurement.
What do you have around your house that you can use to measure items? Use blocks, teddy bears, or matchbox cars to see how long baby sister is when she lays on the floor. How many cups high is your child’s jack-o’-lantern? Try lining up leaves to measure your child’s shadow.

Shape Art

Have you ever stopped to wonder why we teach shapes to children? Shapes are the building blocks of geometry and spatial understanding. Help your child identify shapes by pointing them out in your home: the doorknob is a circle, the TV is a rectangle, etc.

And try this simple math activity for preschoolers: Cut out basic shapes in colored construction paper, and let your child glue the shapes onto paper to create art. Maybe they’ll make a building, and animal, a vehicle… whatever inspires them!

Sort with Candy

At snack time, give your child a few colored candies (M&M’s, skittles, jelly beans). Have them sort the candy into piles according to color. To add to this activity, guess at the biggest pile and then count each pile.

Ask your child what will happen if you add two piles together? How many candies will there be? What if you eat one candy? What if your child eats two?

Go on a Treasure Hunt

math activities for preschoolers

Send your child on a treasure hunt in your home! Hide a special treat, and then make a simple map of your home on a piece of paper. Indicate where your child should go with arrows or landmarks as checkpoints. This helps your child develop spatial awareness.

Then, make a map together and give it to another family member to use. Making the map together will give your child spatial language.

Compare Measurements

An important aspect of math is measuring and comparing. Find objects around the house and guess at which object is bigger. Then set them side by side and measure them.

Trace each other’s hands and feet to measure and compare.

Guess what’s farther: the distance from your bedroom to the stairs, or the distance from your child’s bedroom to the stairs? Then measure to find out.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we know the critical importance of math skills for your preschooler.  That’s why we incorporate math activities for preschoolers into every aspect of our curriculum. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

 

8 At-Home Activities to Improve Your Preschooler’s Communication

improve your preschoolers communication

We’ve all experienced frustrating miscommunications, and this is especially difficult for preschool-aged kids. Imagine how your 3-year-old must feel when they can’t quite explain why they don’t want to share — frustration overload! While it’s developmentally normal for your preschooler to have a difficult time expressing themselves, you can help to improve your preschooler’s communication with these eight fun at-home activities.

1. Play Pass-the-Time Games

You know those old games you used to play on long road trips when you were a kid? Many of those are great tools for helping to improve your preschooler’s communication. Try these three the next time you’re in the car, eating lunch, or taking a walk.

  • Guess where we’re going/what we’re about to do: Give your child clues about the next thing you’re planning to do to help them piece together verbal information. For example, if you’re going to the movies after lunch, you could say, “We’ll eat popcorn, it will be dark, and we’ll watch a story on a screen. Where are we going?”
  • I Spy: The game I Spy is a great game for improving your preschooler’s communication because it encourages the use of descriptive words in relation to your environment.
  • Play 20 Questions: Another childhood favorite, 20 Questions requires  communication that involves reasoning, ruling things out, and the use of descriptive words.

    2. Increase Nonverbal Communication Skills

    So much of communication is actually nonverbal. You can help your child decode nonverbal cues with a few different activities.

  • Write or draw directions to somewhere in your neighborhood or home. Ask your child to follow them.
  • Silently give directions to somewhere in your neighborhood or home. Use hand gestures, pointing, and exaggerated facial expressions.
  • Look at pictures in books and make guesses about what someone is feeling, based on their facial expressions.
  • Try and do a cooperative activity together without talking. For example, run a relay race in your backyard, clean up the toys in the living room together, color a picture together, or play a sport in the backyard. The idea is that you’ll have to look to each other’s body language and facial expressions to determine next moves.

3. Play Telephone

Telephone helps your child develop good listening skills. With a group of people, sit in a circle and whisper a message to the person next to you. That person then whispers the message they heard to the next person, and so on. The final person shares the message out loud.

Undoubtedly, the final message will sound much different than it started out. The hilarity is what makes this game fun, but it also teaches a lesson — we have to pay close attention when communicating, or we have a hard time hearing the correct message.

4. Take a Nature Walk

Some of the best ways to improve your preschooler’s communication skills are in the simple, everyday connected activities.

Take a no-pressure nature walk and point out what you see. Ask your child what colors, animals, and plants they see. Point out letters and words on street signs. Collect nature items and talk about how they feel and smell.

5. Play Show-and-Tell

Kids love to describe their favorite toys and items. Ask your child to pick something and do a show-and-tell for the family. When they finish describing their item, ask questions about it. This not only helps build vocabulary, it’s another no-pressure way to increase confidence — which, in turn, improves your preschooler’s communication.

6. Play Pretend

Luckily, kids have a natural desire to play pretend — and luckily this is a simple way to improve communication skills. When children play pretend, they use  new vocabulary to describe their pretend situations. They problem-solve out loud, they cooperate with other playmates, and they use descriptive words to explain what’s going on.

{Read: Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

7. Play Charades

Sure, charades doesn’t rely on verbal communication. But it can still increase your preschooler’s communication skills by encouraging your child to think of non-verbal ways to get their point across. Remember, not all communication is verbal!

8. Tell a Story with Pictures

Give your child a few pictures and ask them to tell a story with them. You can clip pictures from a magazine, use family photos, or draw a few pictures. Put them in order, or let your child come up with their own order.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we know how important communication is for your preschooler.  That’s why we provide a verbally-rich environment and curriculum. We are also always watching for markers of appropriately-developing language, and recommend intervention when those markers are not being met. Learn more about our curriculum. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

10 Transportation Activities Your Preschooler Can Do at Home

Preschoolers are fascinated by vehicles. And transportation activities for preschoolers can actually help teach important concepts, like letters, numbers, cooperation, planning, and more.

Whether your kiddo is obsessed with tractors, trains, or trucks, these 10 transportation activities for preschoolers will give you something to do on a lazy afternoon while boosting important preschool skills.

1. Chairs, Chairs, Chairs

Let your preschooler rearrange the kitchen chairs to create a world of pretend transportation. Line the chairs up in a row to create a train, add aisles for an airplane, or create a replica of the family car.

Grab a few props from around the house — a suitcase, dress-up clothes, backpack, books for the flight, cardboard IDs for check-in, and more. Your child will have a great time playing pretend, but they’ll also be building vocabulary, increasing planning skills, and strengthening their imagination.

{Read: Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

2. Workin’ at the Carwash

A carwash sensory bin is a great backyard activity for a hot day, or a perfect kitchen-sink activity when it’s too cold to play with water outside.

Fill up a tub with soapy water, give your child some cleaning items (washcloth, brush, toothbrush), and let them give their toy cars a carwash. This sensory activity helps their brain create stronger connections, develops motor skills, builds imagination, and more.

[Read: The Benefits of Multisensory Learning]

Another fun sensory bin transportation activity for preschoolers is to make a construction sensory bin with sand, gravel, and rocks.

3. Make a Steering Wheel

Use construction paper or cardboard to make your own steering wheels, and then let your child use the wheel in their play. Have them bring their steering wheel along on car rides so they can backseat drive!

4. Active Transportation Activities for Preschoolers

Get your preschooler moving by teaching them to use their body as transportation in their pretend play. They can “fly” around the room as airplanes by putting their arms out to their sides. Crawling on the floor, they can use an arm to scoop up toys as they pretend to be a tractor (this could be helpful during cleanup time too!).

5. Car Painting

Have your child express themselves creatively with the transportation theme by painting with toy cars. Using washable paint, let your child use plastic toy cars as paintbrushes on their canvas. This will build creativity, reinforce the concept of cause-and-effect, and build fine motor skills.

6. Pull Out the Sleds

You might have some fun transportation props sitting in your garage. For example, a sled can make a fun boat on your living room floor. Your preschooler can take the lead in pretending where that boat is headed — is it going on a fishing trip, heading across the ocean to another continent, or ferrying stuffed animals across a river?

Let your child’s imagination drive this activity.

7. A City on the Floor

You might already have a rug with roads, buildings, and stop signs. These are great tools for imaginative play. But if you don’t have one, build one with your child.

Use masking tape to create roads. If your child wants a more-involved city, you can build buildings out of cardboard, toilet paper rolls, and more.

8. Make a Parking Lot

Use a cardboard box to make a parking lot for your child’s toy cars.

This is a great way to practice numbers or letters. Label each parking spot with a number or letter, and then label each car with a corresponding number or letter. Ask your child to park each car in its coordinating parking spot.

You can increase the challenge by asking them to park their car in the spot that is “plus 1” or “minus 1” from their car’s number.

9. Make Vehicles out of Shapes

Cut out triangles, squares, circles, and rectangles (or have your child do it), and then use those shapes to create vehicles. The vehicles can look like real vehicles, or your child can make up their own.

10. Visit Big Vehicles

transportation activities for preschoolersTake your preschooler to a construction site or fire station to let them observe big vehicles. What colors does your child see? How are the vehicles the same as your family car? How are they different? What sounds do the vehicles make? What features help the vehicles get their jobs done?

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Salt Lake City, thematic pretend play helps us teach reading, writing, science, social studies, and so much more. Learn about our curriculum. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

 

12 Popular Preschool Activities to Do at Home

Learning should be fun, and at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Utah, every activity we do is carefully thought out to teach important skills and concepts, while being fun and memorable.

With summer coming up, we thought it might be helpful to round up some of  our most popular preschool activities you can do at home. We love to make home life easier for our preschool families, so for each activity in this article, we made sure it meets certain metrics:

  • It must be fun
  • The activity must be easy
  • It must require few supplies and little prep
  • It must strengthen a skill or concept (while being fun!)

To that end, here are 12 popular preschool activities for you to do at home. Keep these ideas in your back pocket for spur-of-the moment mood-lifters, gatherings with friends, or a way to get through the lazy days of summer.

Remember, none of these activities need to be done to perfection. And if anyone gets frustrated, it’s always okay to stop!

Indoor Snowball Fight

When it’s too hot outside, retreat indoors and have a snowball fight. Use rolled-up socks and get as creative as you feel. Build forts, construct barriers, or simply use the couch as no-man’s land.

Skills this builds: This builds strength, coordination, creativity, and helps your child find joy in being active.

Travel by Plane or Train

Need to mop under the kitchen table? While you mop, set the chairs in two rows in the living room as if they are a plane or a train. Pull a suitcase out of storage, and let your child “travel” around the world.

Skills this builds: Pretend play builds imagination and creativity, increases vocabulary, enhances problem-solving skills, and so much more.

{Read: Pretend Away: Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

Treasure Hunt

Hide something fun (a treat, small toy, special note, or even your child’s favorite stuffed animal), and send your child on a treasure hunt to find it! Make this as simple or complex as you’d like: The simplest way is to write or draw simple clues like, “Go to the refrigerator.” Once your child is at the refrigerator, they’ll find another clue.

You can move up in difficulty by writing or drawing clues that make your child think, like “Go to the place where our food is kept cold.”

Want it to be more complex? Make it an alphabet hunt, where each clue takes your child to the next letter. Or draw a map for your child to read.

Skills this builds: Treasure hunts, even in their simplest form, help your child build critical thinking skills. They have to read or interpret pictures and figure out what to do with the information. Treasure hunts also build reading skills.

Make Your Own Pizza

English muffins are a great canvas for pizza items. Set out pizza ingredients and let your child build their own pizza.

Think of other food items your child can make on their own, or with minimal help: fruit salads (they can cut bananas, grapes, and strawberries), quesadillas, cold-cut sandwiches, etc.

Skills this builds: Making their own food helps children build independence. It also gives them confidence in making their own choices. Plus, it builds fine motor strength.

Try New Foods

Pick a country or region, and learn about the foods that are eaten there. Then, try them together.

Another way to have fun with trying new foods is to pick one type of food and try its different variations: apples are great for this. Family members can vote on their favorite, and you can add different dips to select another favorite.

Skills this builds: Your child learns how to try new things, while paying attention to multiple senses. They also learn about world cultures. And if you make a hypothesis about which will be the family’s favorite, you’re introducing the scientific method.

Car Wash

Indoors or outdoors, car washes are always fun. Fill a bucket with water, soap, and sponges, and let your child give a bath to the toy cars. Want to keep an eye on your child while you’re preparing dinner? Fill the kitchen sink!

Skills this builds: This activity gives your child a multi-sensory experience, which engages multiple parts of the brain. Your child also develops fine-motor skills while having fun.

Red Light, Green Light

Red light, green light is an easy and fun way to kill time. As with all of these activities, you can make the activity as easy or complex as you want. On the easy end of the spectrum, you can simply take turns being “It” and shouting out “Red light” or “Green light.” On the more complicated end, you can make red lights and green lights on papers or craft sticks.

You can change it up — and add some creative thinking and memory-building skills — by designating different colors to mean different things. For example, purple light could mean to hop or dance forward.

Skills this builds: Red light, green light teaches your child skills like following directions, self-regulation, and self management. It also helps your child be active.

Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are fun ways to pass the time. Use what you have to create areas where your child can jump, spin, climb, balance, crawl, skip, and more.

Skills this builds: Your child gets to develop their gross motor skills, find joy in movement, and learn how to follow directions.

Teddy Bear Picnic

For lunchtime, head outside, under the kitchen table, or spread a blanket on the living room floor. Invite the household teddy bears to join a picnic in their honor.

You can do this popular preschool activity on the spur of the moment, or make this an elaborate, drawn-out celebration where your child creates invitations and party games for the teddy bear guests.

Skills this builds: Creativity! Your child will come up with imaginative scenarios at your teddy bear picnic. This is also a fun and nurturing connection for your family. And if your child turns this into a day-long event, complete with activities and party games, your child will develop writing skills, planning skills, and leadership skills.

Paper Plate Ice Skating

Keep a few paper plates handy for the inevitable choruses of “I’m bored.” Simply step on the paper plates and move around — now you’re “ice skating” in your kitchen and living room!

You can make this activity last longer with races, obstacle courses, and challenges. Write movement suggestions on cards that your child draws at random — backwards, spinning, to music, dancing, etc.

Skills this builds: This activity builds your child’s strength, dexterity,  coordination, and motor skills. If you use cards to suggest movements, your child can also improve reading skills.

Paint with Unique Brushes

Find unique tools for painting. Head to the dollar store, and select kitchen items like whisks, spatulas, and brushes. Use vegetables, like peppers and potatoes. Ask your child for suggestions too!

Skills this builds: Your child gets to experiment, which builds imagination, an understanding of the scientific process, creativity, and artistry. They also build fine motor skills.

Scissor Practice

Give your child some safety scissors and head outside to cut the grass. (Just keep an eye out, because your garden might look tempting too!)

Or draw fun lines on paper, and have your child try and cut on the lines.

Skills this builds: Cutting with scissors builds the small muscles in the hands, which are critical for writing, brushing teeth, buttoning, tying shoes, and more. Cutting with scissors also builds coordination.

Come see how we incorporate these, and other fun skill-building activities, into our curriculum at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online to schedule a tour.

Why We Use Centers in Preschool

If you’ve ever visited us at UDA Creative Arts Preschool when we’re using centers, you’ve seen a buzz of happy activity and play. Centers in preschool are  fun — that’s undeniable — but they’re also key to learning, development, and growth for your child. Learn what goes into centers in preschool, and how your child is benefiting.

Academic Skills

Children build their academic skills when they explore and create during their chosen centers. This happens organically, because children are allowed to choose the centers that appeal to them, and then once there, they get engaged and active in using the materials.

Children learn through play. At centers, children use designated materials that are designed to build learning and skills, and they get to be hands-on and exploratory with those materials.

Safe Place to Make Mistakes

We learn through mistakes, but when children’s learning has a heavy emphasis on worksheets, there isn’t as much opportunity to learn from those mistakes. Center time, on the other hand, is low on stress — there’s no right answer here — which allows children to try, mess up, and still enjoy the process.

Extend the Learning

Centers are also designed to allow children to keep learning the concepts they are being taught. If they practiced learning the letter A, for example, they might want to paint an A in the art center. Or they may look for the letter A in  the books at the reading center. They may use manipulatives in the literacy center to sound out other letters.

This provides an environment ripe for making academic discoveries on their own, further solidifying important concepts.

Free Choice

Children have so little say in their world. In a world where big people call almost all the shots, centers at preschool are liberating. Children need time to make their own choices, and the freedom of choice is abundant in centers. This helps children develop a true love of learning and exploration.

Cooperation

Children build social skills, including cooperation, when they play at centers.

Children have to learn how to respect the materials, how others use the materials, and the ideas of their classmates. They learn to build on each other’s thoughts, and they learn to take turns. They also learn to problem solve together.

And because centers are open for free play, children get the opportunity to learn how to join in on play that’s already going on, and to welcome people into an activity.

Observation

We also use centers in preschool to observe the children. We note what they are drawn to, where they struggle, who they interact with and how, and so much more. And often, as teachers, we engage with the children at specific centers to monitor their skills and understanding.

Time Management

Surprisingly, children can even learn a bit of time management through centers at preschool. With only a limited amount of time each day, children have to learn how to prioritize what’s important to them. Over time, they begin to better understand that if they spend all day at the puppets, they won’t have time for blocks. They then get to make their own decisions about what is more important to them, and act accordingly.

The Types of Centers at Preschool

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we have a variety of centers where we often rotate materials and items according to our themes.

{Read: Why We Use Themes Each Week at Preschool}

Art

We supply the art center with a variety of materials that help children build skills while expressing themselves creatively. Here, they practice drawing, cutting, gluing, and so much more that helps with hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and creativity.

Reading

We stock our reading center with books that support our weekly themes. We often change the objects in the reading center to match our themes as well, like when we bring in a spaceship tent during our unit on space.

Dress-ups

We encourage dramatic play in all we do, as it allows children to make sense of the world and draw important connections and conclusions. Dress-ups are a fun and important process of dramatic play. They allow children to literally try on different roles.

We love that children often keep their dress-up clothing on while they move to different centers. They take their dramatic play with them to new situations!

Puppets

Puppets help in dramatic play, building vocabulary, storytelling, sharing, building listening skills, learning to improvise, and so much more.

Sand, Water, Sensory Bins

We often have a sensory bin filled with objects that correlate with our weekly theme. For example, during our “Under the Sea” unit, we filled sensory bins with blue sensory beads and ocean animal figurines. This allows the children to get more familiar with a subject through their senses.

We also often bring sand and water into our sensory bins, as those allow children to discover the world in new ways.

Music

Providing musical instruments is a great way for children to explore cause-and-effect, creativity, emotional expression, and a variety of elements of music.

Blocks

Playing with blocks helps children learn engineering and architecture concepts, teaches planning and cause-and-effect, builds creativity, fosters cooperation, and so much more.

Math

Using manipulatives in a math center is a great way for math concepts to come to life for children. It also helps math feel accessible and positive, giving children a good foundation for a subject that tends to intimidate as time goes on.

 

 

23 Family Activities to Boost Preschool Learning and Skills

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Utah, we have loads of fun every day. It’s meant to be that way! But our activities are also carefully curated to help children learn and develop in several areas: Reading/Writing, Math, Science,  Art, Creative Movement and Dance, Social Studies, Character Development,  and Music.

Because children learn through play, all these areas of focus are presented in playful, imaginative ways so that children can grasp concepts more thoroughly and at their own pace.

You can do this in your family too, both at home and on the go! Read on for 23 ideas for family activities for preschoolers in math, reading, science, and creative movement.

Math Family Activities for Preschoolers

Math is everywhere, and simply pointing that out can be a huge boost to your child’s understanding of numbers. You can incorporate math activities into your everyday life. For example, ask your child to count how many stop signs you see on the way to preschool. Or at snack time, count out 10 goldfish crackers together, and ask your child to tell you how many will be left when they eat one. Or count the steps to your front door.

And then try these fun math family activities for preschoolers:

  • Have a Numbers Picnic: Plan a picnic where your food items go in numerical order. For example, maybe there’s one orange, two sandwiches, three cookies, four bunches of grapes, etc. Have your child help you prepare the picnic, and then have them line the items up in numerical order. As you decide what to eat first, you can go in numerical order, backwards, evens first, odds first, etc.
  • Cook or Bake Together: Let your child read the numbers of the measurements if they’re able. Have them measure the ingredients (or help you).
  • Make Playdoh Together: Not only is playdoh fun to make and play with, the process of making it can boost your child’s math understanding. Plus, it’s a great multi-sensory activity — this is a recipe your child can really stick their hands into.{Try this easy playdoh recipe together}
  • Work on a Puzzle Together: One study found that puzzle play between the ages of 2 and 4 helped children develop better spatial skills, an important concept in math.
  • Play Card Games: The old standbys, like Go Fish, War, and Uno, have simple-enough rules that young children can grasp the concepts.
  • Play Bingo: Everyone loves the chance to call out Bingo, and playing Bingo can help your child improve number (and some letter) recognition.
  • Make Fruit Kebabs: For a tasty math activity, work on patterns by making fruit kebabs

Science Family Activities

Look around you — you’re holding technology in your hands, there’s nature just outside the window, and electricity is pumping through your home. Being an observer is one of the most important skills of science, and just like math, science is everywhere. Help your child become an observer too, and try these fun science family activities.

  • Look at the Stars: Stay up late and look at the stars and moon. Observe what you see, and share what you remember from elementary school science. (Read a little beforehand if you don’t remember much!) Stargazing almost always leads to big questions, so be prepared to look up the answers.
  • Make Tie-Dye: Freshen up your family wardrobe with some new tie-dye. Talk about the chemical reaction that’s taking place between the dye and the fabric molecules.
  • Go for a Nature Walk: A good scientist observes. Take binoculars, magnifying glass, and notepad to observe and study what you see in nature. Responsibly take back leaves or pebbles to use in  artwork.


  • Grow a Garden: Plant seeds, and tend a garden together. Make predictions for what will happen. Observe the plant’s growth.

Movement Activities

Creating a family culture of movement and play will help your child develop healthy exercise habits. Plus, movement is important for young children, who need to develop strength and mobility. Try these fun family activities for preschoolers.

  • 4-square: Bring back an old playground favorite that involves eye-hand coordination, quick feet, and strength.
  • Make an Obstacle Course: Kids love obstacle courses, and they’re a great way to encourage different types of movement.
  • Play Charades: Laugh together as you try to use your body to act things out. If your child isn’t reading yet, draw your clues instead of writing them.
  • Play Balloon Games: Balloons are great tools for teaching hand-eye coordination, because they move so slowly and give your child enough time to get where they need to be. Play catch, keep the balloon off the floor, balloon volleyball, and more.
  • Freeze Dance: Freeze dance is one of those perfect ideas to keep in your back pocket. Not only does it inspire movement, it can quickly turn a sour mood happy. Use this game liberally.

Family Activities for Preschoolers to Help with Reading

Read! Read as much as you can! And then have fun with these reading and pre-reading activities.

  • Have a Letter Picnic: Can you pack something that starts with every letter of the alphabet? If that’s too much, how about every letter of your child’s name?
  • Put on a Play: If your child can read, write a script together. If they can’t yet, draw images to remind them of each scene. Or let your child put on a play free-style — storytelling in and of itself is an important pre-reading skill.
  • Go on a Treasure Hunt: Send your child on a treasure hunt, in which they have to follow written clues (if they can read) or certain letters.
  • Spot Your Letter: Even young preschoolers can learn to recognize the first letter of their name. Make this their special letter, and search for it everywhere you go: on traffic signs, on stores, etc.
  • Play Pass the Story: Start a story, and pause dramatically at a critical point. Ask your child to finish it. You can do this with familiar stories, like The Three Little Pigs, or you can make up stories as you go.
  • Tell Family Stories: Pull out photo albums and tell the stories of your family. Storytelling is an important reading skill, and hearing about family members keeps children engaged and grounded.
  • Keep a Travel Log: Get a special notebook for your summer activities, your vacations, or your weekend adventures. Have everyone take a turn writing or drawing a picture about your experiences.

Learn how we incorporate all of these subjects and more at UDA Creative Arts Preschool. We invite you to come watch us in action.  You can schedule a tour today by calling (801) 523-5930.

Why Mindfulness for Preschoolers Is Important – and How to Do It

Mindfulness is a trendy buzzword these days, but that doesn’t minimize its importance and effectiveness in emotional regulation. When it comes to mindfulness for preschoolers, what do we need to know? And how do we help children so young access the power of mindfulness?

Read on for both the benefits, and the how-to, of mindfulness for preschoolers.

Benefits of Mindfulness for Preschoolers

Think of mindfulness as a tool — it’s something you can reach for when you’re overwhelmed. By directing our attention to the present, we can better manage overwhelm and anxious feelings.

When preschoolers learn mindfulness techniques, they learn to focus their attention, strengthen resilience, and even self-soothe.

Some other helpful benefits of mindfulness for preschoolers include:

  • Improved emotional regulation skills
  • Greater calm in stressful situations
  • An expanded ability to keep things in perspective
  • Self-compassion, as children learn to treat their feelings with warmth and understanding
  • Less shame
  • Better physical and mental health
  • An increase in kindness for others
  • Self-control
  • Better decision makingWe all want our children to develop these strengths, skills, and characteristics. Read on for how to teach mindfulness to preschoolers.

Model Mindfulness

As in nearly everything you want to teach your child, modeling is critical in teaching mindfulness to preschoolers. Why? You can’t teach something you don’t know. If you don’t understand mindfulness for yourself, the lessons for your child simply won’t sink in.

That’s why it’s important to develop your own capacity for mindfulness. Incorporate mindfulness into your own day, and not only will you reap the benefits for yourself, you’ll know better how to teach the practices to your child.

Don’t Expect Perfection

Mindfulness is a skill, and it will take time for your preschooler to learn to be more mindful. Recognize this, and understand your child is going to need you to co-regulate with them for a while. They will also need plenty of practice with the skills.

Follow this simple three-step process:

  1. Help your child understand their feelings as they experience them. You can do this by naming your child’s feelings without judgment. “You’re feeling frustrated that your baby sister drooled on your toy, aren’t you?” “You’re feeling excited that you get to go swimming today, aren’t you?”
  2. Demonstrate mindfulness skills, without expecting your child to do them. In this stage, you’re simply modeling. Let your child see you doing breathing exercises when you’re upset, calming your body, taking time to be still, and more.
  3. Guide your child through mindfulness techniques. (See below for ideas.) Practice these techniques when your child is calm, so there is no pressure. Then, when your child is dysregulated, invite them to use a technique along with you.Don’t force any part of this process. And don’t worry if it takes a long time for your child to use the techniques when they’re upset. Just keep naming feelings, modeling mindfulness, and gently guiding when your child allows it.

    This is not an outcome-based approach. If your child doesn’t reach for their mindfulness techniques, nobody has failed. Just trust that this process will eventually give your child the tools they need to regulate their emotions.

Follow Your Child

Your child’s mood should be your barometer in how you approach mindfulness with them. Have a stash of mindfulness activities ready to go, and then choose the one that best fits the mood.

For example, you can have a calming corner where your child goes to calm down. Keep sensory activities and toys at the ready. You can also be prepared to co-regulate with a hug and soothing voice. And then, when your child needs calming, you can determine which of those techniques/tools will be most effective in the moment.

Use these techniques and tools throughout the day, even when your child isn’t upset, and it will be easier to use them in the tough moments.

18 Mindfulness Activities for Preschoolers

mindfulness for preschoolers

  1. Pause and notice how you’re feeling emotionally. (Do you feel happy? Excited? Sad? Gloomy?)
  2. Pause and notice how you’re feeling in your body. (Is your tummy full? Can you feel your heart? What does it feel like when you wiggle your toes? Take a breath and feel your belly and chest.)
  3. Pause and listen for one minute. What sounds did you hear?
  4. Think of the five senses: Name five things you see, four things you feel, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste.
  5. Take a bite of food, and keep it in your mouth with your eyes closed. Describe what it feels like and what it tastes like. (Is it crunchy? Sweet? Slippery? Bitter?)
  6. List things you are grateful for.
  7. Try this breathing technique: Smell the rose (breathe in), blow out the candle (breathe out)
  8. Blow bubbles. (You can imagine this, or do it with real bubbles.) See how slowly you can do it (take a big, deep breath and blow slowly on the bubbles).
  9. Pick a muscle to squeeze for five seconds, and then slowly release it.
  10. Feel each other’s heartbeats. This is great for co-regulating.
  11. Go outside and look for different textures. Pick up rocks, leaves, sticks, and more, and describe how each one feels.
  12. When creating arts or crafts, describe what you see, feel, hear, and smell. (Probably best to leave taste out of this one!)
  13. Take a mindful walk. Pay attention to the five senses as you walk, and discuss them as you go.
  14. Turn routine activities into slow-motion activities. Washing hands, eating a snack, putting the flatware away. Describe the senses you’re noticing as you go.
  15. Let your child smell the spices and ingredients as you cook.
  16. Download a guided meditation to do together.
  17. Listen to music together. Talk about the instruments you hear and the feelings the music invokes.
  18. Learn yoga poses.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah, we incorporate mindfulness into every day of learning. To learn more about how we teach, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.

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  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.