Author: Jeff Langston

How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

Smiling, Happy Preschool Girl

Sending your child to preschool is a very big deal. Your baby just isn’t a baby any longer, and it can be hard to realize that your child is growing up. Your young preschooler may be having just as hard a time as you about going to preschool. They may feel anxiety about going to a place where you aren’t going to be with them.

To help calm these feelings of anxiety and worry, it’s important for you to be strong about the situation and to save the tears. See below for some helpful tips to prepare your child (and you) for preschool.

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How Play-Based Learning Helps Your Young Child

Kids with flower

Learning in preschool may not look like what you expect it to. What do you think of when you hear the word “school”? Books? Worksheets? Maybe a teacher standing in front of the class, solemnly instructing students in math, reading and writing. Well, this isn’t what you should see in pre-K.

Preschool learning is child-centered and based in play. That’s right, play is the primary way that preschoolers build new skills, explore new concepts and learn (even when it comes to reading and math). Read on to find out how play and learning go hand in hand in the preschool classroom.

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Bag lunch with a banana and an apple.

Preschool is your child’s first foray into the world of school routines, and you want to get them off to a good start. Establishing an efficient morning routine in the preschool years will set the expectation for all the years of school mornings to come. If your preschooler isn’t a morning person, getting off to a good start in the morning can be harder than it sounds. Take a look at some tips that will help you establish a school morning routine for your preschooler.

Start Early

Don’t wait until the night before the first day of school to start establishing school night bedtimes and school morning wake-up times. If you’ve previously taken a laissez-faire approach to bedtimes and mornings, or if your child is simply accustomed to getting up later then they will need to for preschool, you need to start implementing your preschool schedule before the first day.

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carpoolingpreschoolCarpooling can take the bite out of your daily commute. By dividing driving responsibilities among fellow parents of preschool students, you may simplify school mornings.

It can be the perfect solutions for some families, while it’s a burden for others. It depends on your preferences and unique situation. Here are some pros and cons worth considering as you decide whether it’s a good fit for your family.

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3 Tips to Calm a Child With Separation Anxiety

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that nearly 80% of children and teens suffer from some form of anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder occurs frequently in children ages five to seven, with some children suffering separation distress as early as eight months of age.

If your child repeatedly throws tantrums, cries, or clings to you whenever you leave the house, your child may suffer from separation anxiety. Although your child will likely grow out of this behavior, the tears, screams, and pleas may make day care drop-offs a heartbreaking experience.

So what can you do to calm your child and soothe his or her fears before you leave?

1. Give Your Child Time to Adjust

Ever hear the phrase, “familiarity breeds comfort”? Your child will feel safer spending time without you if he or she is in a familiar environment.

Before you leave your son or daughter alone at day care, spend the first few minutes, hours, or sessions in the room with him or her. Point out fun and exciting objects for your little one to play with. Introduce your child to the caregivers and other children. And share your enthusiasm and confidence every step of the way.

If your child still doesn’t seem comfortable, encourage him or her to bring along a beloved toy, blanket, or book. The item will help your son or daughter maintain a connection to home and family, even if the day care doesn’t feel like a familiar, comfortable place just yet.

2. Start a Goodbye Ritual

When things feel out of your control, you may naturally feel more stressed and anxious about your day. If you don’t know when your in-laws are visiting, if your boss wants you to organize a meeting, or whether your mortgage will close, you may feel at your wit’s end trying to pull your life together.

The same concept applies to your child. When he or she doesn’t understand why you are leaving, where you are going, who to play with, or what to do while you’re gone, the unknown variables may scare your son or daughter to tears.

Regular routines help your child feel more secure with the day, giving him or her exciting events to look forward to and minimizing stress. When you establish a routine of a secret good-bye wave or special good-bye hug, you can quickly reassure your little one that the day will go smoothly, just like the day before.

However, avoid creating long, drawn-out good-byes with your rituals. The extra fanfare and stalling may train your child to continue crying so you don’t leave.

3. Assign Your Child a Job or Task

Children have notoriously short attention spans. Many experts estimate that a child’s attention span loosely measures at the child’s age, so if you have a four-year-old, you can expect him or her to focus on a single object for four minutes. If you have a seven-year-old, he or she may stay interested for seven minutes.

Due to the short attention span, you might not have to work hard to distract your
child from the fear and pain of your absence. A new book, toy, snack, or activity could quickly turn your son’s or daughter’s frown into a delighted giggle or smile.

Before you leave for the day, assign a small job or task that will demand your little one’s complete focus for a few minutes, such as greeting other children at the door, picking up the toys in the room, or reading a book on the shelf. Promise your son or daughter that if he or she finishes the task that you’ll reward him or her for the effort. Your child will be so intent on finishing the task that he or she won’t mind that you’ve left.

Just don’t use the distraction as cover for sneaking away. If you leave without a good-bye, your child may feel even more confused and fearful and you’ll lose some of his or her trust.

Remember to Be Patient With Your Child

The above tips and tricks can help keep your child calm, relaxed, and content while you are away. But remember that separation anxiety comes and goes in phases as he or she develops. Your toddler may go through a rough patch for two weeks, only to run off to day care one morning without a second glance. Or, your child may seem like a social butterfly for years only to revert to an anxious state when he or she goes to school for the first time.

To get through these difficult times, simply be patient with your little one and seek professional guidance as needed.

4 Ways to Help Kids Learn to Love Science

You want your children to find subjects they feel passionate about. You want your kids to love to learn, to develop their natural talents, and to feel inspired in whatever activities they choose. However, you also know that your children will have a more successful future if they foster an early interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

These fields, the STEM fields, direct your kids into high-paying jobs in accounting, manufacturing, and even astrophysics. Many children feel intimidated by these fields, especially as studies advance. But if your children discover an affinity for these subjects early on, they may feel inspired and motivated enough to stick with these disciplines even as studies become increasingly difficult.

Learn more about how to help your children discover a love for science by reading below.

1. Encourage Questions With Praise and Straight Answers

Children often think bigger than you might expect. So, when your kids ask you what the sun is made of, or inquire about black holes, photosynthesis, or genetics, divulge all the details with the appropriate vocabulary.

You shouldn’t try to simplify the answers-after all, the sun isn’t simply made of fire, and black holes are more than just deep space vacuum cleaners. Give complete answers with words your kids understand. For example, an explanation of the sun’s contents could include an explanation of matter’s different states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. You could also talk about the different elements stars burn.

With straight, detailed answers, you show your kids that their questions and thoughts are intelligent, engaging, and praiseworthy. You should even praise your children for their deep thoughts and questions. Praise will encourage your kids to continue asking the same kinds of questions. Those questions, in turn, could help your little ones turn into future scientists.

2. Have Monthly Science Fair Projects

Of course, your kids will have to do official science fair projects as they progress through elementary, middle, and high school. But even if your children haven’t gotten to that point yet, you can still ignite their imaginations by having them do smaller science projects every month or even every week.

These projects can range from building solar systems to making volcanoes out of vinegar and baking soda.
As your children age, you can progress to even more complicated projects, such as building miniature engines. Look at online resources like Exploratorium if you need more inspiration.

3. Encourage Your Children to Read Science Fiction

Lots of science fiction lacks verifiable science, but this literary genre does open kids’ minds to what science and technology could achieve. Children might read different science fiction novels and feel driven to create invisibility or cloaking technology. They might even read about “futuristic” healing techniques and work to make those techniques a reality.

If nothing else, science fiction will generate more deep questions that lead to further learning.

4. Expose Your Children to Real-World, Scientific Problems

Science encompasses so many of life’s facets that your children probably don’t even know what questions to ask. You can expose your children to some of science’s most pressing projects, such as getting astronauts to Mars or converting mass amounts of salt water to fresh water.

When you explain these problems, brainstorm solutions with your kids, and tell your kids about the advances scientists have made toward solving these issues, you could inspire your children. After all, if other humans can do such incredibly creative and intelligent things, your children can feel hopeful about doing the same. And hope is a powerful motivator, especially in fields as challenging as science.

 

When your children end up loving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, the process begins with questions and encouragement. Use the tips above to get started. And if you need any other suggestions,  contact your child’s instructor and see if he or she can do anything to help

3 Ways to Help Your Kids Learn Confidence

You want your kids to learn and grow, which means they will have to try new things. But when certain tasks look like they might get hard, you may notice that your kids want to give up. For example, your kids might decide they don’t want to try to make new friends, stand up to a bully, or try out for their favorite sport because they are scared they may fail.

Your kids need to learn to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. These three tips can help you teach your kids to trust themselves enough to try new things.

1. Praise Effort, Not Results

You may feel that complimenting your children often will help build their confidence. However, praise can be a double-edged sword. If you constantly praise your kids for everything, they can learn to rely on it, which means that if they don’t get glowing feedback, they will feel like failures.

Alternatively, you might only praise your children when they are successful at something, like getting a good grade or making the soccer team. In this case, they might learn that they are only worthwhile when they succeed, even if that’s not the message you intended to send. If your children think they have to succeed to please you, they may be too scared to try anything new.

Use compliments wisely. Instead of giving them out for everything your child does, compliment your child when you can tell he or she tried hard. If you praise your children’s efforts, not the results, your children will learn that trying something is worthwhile and that they don’t need to always succeed to be worthwhile.

For example, if your children are at a competition, you don’t have to comment on whether they win or lose. Instead, you could focus on the effort involved, like saying how great they did on specific skills they’ve been practicing, or on how much you enjoyed watching them compete. Complimenting their efforts will teach them that their hard work matters, even if they fail.

2. Let Them Take Risks

You can’t stop your children from failing at some point. It’s inevitable, and part of confidence is knowing that you can deal with and move on from failure. You have to let your children mess up sometimes.

Next time you see your kid trying to carry too many things, don’t intervene (as long as he or she is safe). If your child drops everything because he or she was carrying too much, your child will better learn the limits of his or her capabilities. Additionally, he or she will learn to clean up the mess and move on, or in other words, your child will learn what to do after a failure.

3. Give Responsibility

Having some sort of responsibility teaches your child that he or she is capable of being in charge. Your children can learn to trust their own abilities more, giving them confidence.

The type of responsibility you give your kids depends on their ages and their abilities. You want to give them chances to grow, but you don’t want to set a goal that they can’t reach yet. For example, a toddler may be ready for the responsibility of making some decisions: you could ask your toddler to pick out his or her own clothes.

Your older children may be ready for more responsibility, like helping their younger siblings, cleaning certain areas of the house, or looking after a pet. You are ultimately the best judge of what your children are ready for. Think about what they can handle, and give them opportunities to take charge and succeed.

 

If your children struggle with trying new things, they could be afraid of failure. They need to learn confidence. Help by praising efforts instead of results, letting them take risks, and giving them responsibilities.

Daycare or after-school programs can also help your children learn to trust themselves in your absence. If you think your kids could benefit from trying new things away from home, contact Kids’ Country.

6 Benefits of Drawing Time for Children

Few activities come as naturally to young children as drawing. Whether your child’s medium is chalk on a sidewalk or crayons on printer paper, he or she likely enjoys the act of creating art.

Along with other forms of expression like dance and storytelling, drawing has numerous developmental benefits.

In this blog, we list six reasons to encourage your child to draw at home, in daycare, and in school.

1. Develops Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills include any specialized movement of the hands, wrists, and fingers. As an adult, you rely on fine motor skills when you type, drive, or even text. It’s important for your child to develop strong fine motor skills at a young age.

Holding and manipulating writing implements represents one of the best ways to improve a child’s fine motor skills. Drawing creates immediate visual feedback that changes depending on the tool your child uses and how he or she uses it. This feedback helps your child identify the best ways to produce the desired result.

2. Encourages Visual Analysis

Young children do not yet understand some concepts that you may take for granted, such as distance, size comparison, and textural differences. Drawing provides the perfect opportunity for your child to learn these concepts in a deliberate way.

Having a child draw specific items, especially in relationship to each other, can help him or her perform fundamental visual analysis of everyday spaces. To support this kind of drawing at home, prompt your child to draw examples of big and small, rough and smooth, far and near, and so on.

3. Helps Establish Concentration

Because most children enjoy drawing, this activity provides time to establish the concepts of concentration and practice. These concepts will be essential to your child’s academic success, even in elementary school.

Learning how to observe small details, concentrate on achieving a specific result, and practice tricky tasks helps your child mature.

4. Improves Hand-Eye Coordination

In addition to improving fine motor skills, drawing enables your child to draw connections between what he or she sees and what he or she does. This hand-eye coordination is important in athletic and recreational situations, as well as in academic scenarios such as penmanship lessons.

For a hand-eye coordination boost, have your child draw an object while looking at it or copy a drawing that you made.

5. Increases Individual Confidence

As a parent or guardian, you probably love to hear the phrase, “Look what I made!” When you child has an opportunity to create physical representations of his or her imagination, thoughts, and experiences, he or she gains confidence.

Drawing can help your child feel more intrinsic motivation, self-worth, and validity. This affirmation will make him or her more confident in other areas that may not come as naturally as drawing.

6. Teaches Creative Problem Solving

Along with visual analysis and concentration, drawing encourages your child to solve problems creatively. When he or she draws, your child must determine the best way to connect body parts, portray emotions, and depict specific textures.

Providing specific drawing tasks, such as creating a family portrait, and talking about your child’s color, method, or special choices can help him or her develop stronger problem solving skills over time.

 

To help your child feel motivated to draw and create, use positive reinforcement. You may want to display finished drawings in your child’s room or in other areas of your home, include personalized drawings in letters to family members, and praise your child for practice and specific achievements.

Encourage your little one to draw throughout his or her childhood to reap all the benefits listed above.

Speech Delays and Daycare

Parents are typically the first people to notice a speech delay in their children. When a parent starts to notice his or her child is missing major speech development milestones, he or she may feel concerned or worried. These speech delays may seem even more serious to parents if they see other children at daycare displaying more advanced speech skills.

Fortunately, early intervention can help significantly reduce the severity of a speech delay.

If you’re worried that your child’s speech isn’t developing normally, here are some things you can do to help.

Identify a Speech Delay

The first step when helping your child overcome a speech delay is to get professional help. Keep in mind that your child may not have a speech problem simply because he or she started talking later than most children.

Children who are late talkers are those who can only speak 50 words or less by age two and use limited, two-word combinations. For example, if your child can only say two-word combinations like “more juice” or “get down,” he or she may have a minor speech delay. The good news is that most children who display minor signs of speech delay will often meet normal speech standards by their first year of school.

Your child may have a severe speech delay if he or she displays the following signs:

  • Has a vocabulary of 20 words or less 
  • Rarely uses verbs  
  • Struggles to understand simple language
  • Doesn’t display communicative gestures, like nodding or shaking his or her head

Seek the help of a speech therapist if you notice these signs. The speech therapist will perform an assessment to determine if your child needs speech intervention techniques.

Help at Daycare

If your child has been diagnosed with a speech impediment, talk with his or her daycare providers. Work with daycare providers to implement recommended treatments from your child’s speech therapist.

As you establish a speech program, you may need to communicate with your child’s daycare providers on a regular basis. Determine how your daycare providers prefer to communicate with parents (e.g. in person, phone calls, emails, etc.).

In addition, be responsive to concerns from your child’s teacher. Do your best to avoid becoming defensive. Instead, work together with your child’s teacher and offer suggestions for ways to help your child improve.

Help at Home

Along with the recommendations from your child’s speech therapist, you can also support your child’s speech development by doing activities at home. Parents often play a major role in helping encourage proper language development in their children. In fact, some studies have found that when children are spoken with and read to regularly, they often have larger vocabularies than children who aren’t.

Try the following with your child at home to help encourage proper speech development:

  • Read picture books with your child. As you read, allow your child to point out familiar objects to help him or her use and listen to new vocabulary. You may also want to participate in story time at your local bookstore or library if available.
  • Ask questions to give your child a chance to use new vocabulary.
  • Narrate situations to help expose your child to new vocabulary. In time, your child may start to make connections with objects and situations to help develop his or her speech.
  • Give your child praise after he or she tries to talk or use new vocabulary.
  • Listen to music together. Many children love lively songs, like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Songs can help children learn new vocabulary in a fun environment.

Fortunately, many child care centers provide many of these activities as well. If both you and your child care center focus on speech building activities, you can bring about environments that foster proper language development for your child.

As you try these activities, follow your child’s lead. If he or she shows interest in a song or picture book, talk about it. When you discuss your child’s interests with him or her, you encourage healthy speech and language development.

For more help, trust the child care providers at Kid’s Country Child Care & Learning Center to help your child reach his or her speech and language goals.

Most children have hard-to-read penmanship when they first start to learn to write. Holding a pencil is a unique action, and it takes time for the practice to become natural. Some children get frustrated with their bad handwriting, though, or sometimes a child just needs a little more practice.

In this blog, we discuss seven different activities that are not only fun but that will also help your child to improve and practice his or her penmanship.

1. Switch Up the Writing Instrument

A plain old pencil gets boring after a while. Switch it up by changing out the writing utensil. Use a
marker, a crayon, or a pen to bring in a little color. You don’t even have to write on paper anymore. Instead, get some dry erase markers and a whiteboard, or find some chalk and go outside to the sidewalk.

You can even take it one step further. Form letters with shaving cream. Use fingers to write in sand or salt. Break out the finger paints. Bake cupcakes and write a letter on each to form messages. Write letters in the air with a magic wand. Use your imagination.

2. Write From a Different Angle

You don’t always need to write at a table. Use a whiteboard or chalkboard to change the angle, or tape some paper to a window. You can even tape paper to the underside of the kitchen table and have your child write upside down. The extra challenge forces your kid to focus more.

3. Pretend to Be Secret Investigators or Spies

Buy a couple notepads or small notebooks and pretend to be secret investigators. Find clues and have your child write them down so you can look over them later and solve the mystery. Or pretend to be spies and leave secret coded messages for each other. These activities don’t force your child to focus on the writing aspect, so a particularly reluctant child may have an easier time.

4. Find a Pen Pal

Pen pals have always been an excellent way to help penmanship. If your child has a friend who lives far away or a cousin, aunt, or grandpa he or she misses, start an ongoing correspondence with your child and that person. For special occasions, make homemade cards.

5. Create Comics or Trading Cards

If your child loves comic books, help him or her to create an original story or strip. It could be the story of a superhero your kid created or the story of his or her favorite superhero. Maybe your child loves role-playing card games, like Pokemon. Have him or her create a brand new Pokemon and design the card.

6. Write and Illustrate Stories

Is your child an avid storyteller? Encourage him or her to put those stories down on paper. Does he or she have a deep love for Nancy Drew or Percy Jackson and want more stories from those universes? Those stories can be created and written by your child. All these stories can be illustrated too, and even that element will help with penmanship by fine-tuning your child’s motor skills.

7. Copy Iconic Fonts

Everyone, even your kids, knows what Google’s and Facebook’s logos look like. Everyone can recognize the fonts for Harry Potter and Star Wars. Have your child trace or copy those iconic logos and fonts. This will help him or her get more comfortable and confident the same way copying any letters will, just this time, it’s something more fun.

Be encouraging. Remember it may take some time before you can see any improvement in your kid’s handwriting, and that’s okay. The main concern is that he or she keeps practicing-and keeps having fun.

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