Whenever images or videos of violent events around the world invade your home through the news, social media, and press, adult conversations start around the dinner table.
These events echoed in the family environment have the destructive power to confuse, worry, and scare them. One thing is sure; children will turn to their parents and caregivers and look for explanations and help to make sense of what they witnessed.
It is an opportunity for adults to help young children.
Establish a Sense of Safety
Young children depend on adults to feel secure and well. But, if adults are subject to anger, fear, and other strong emotions, how can they help children?
If you have anxiety, feel depressed, anxious, or angry, you will emotionally affect your child. Therefore, practice self-help first. Turn off the news, find inner peace and strength to move on.
Make time to discuss together and listen to children. Sometimes, conversations are triggered during activities or playtime. Hence, engage in activities like drawing, painting, or cooking with them.
Depending on your child’s age, help them share their feelings and reinforce the idea that it is good to share them. Young children may express fears and certainly ask, “why?” Therefore, take the time to observe, listen, and think about your answers.
Your answers should be simple, age-appropriate, and ultimately reassuring. It is essential to emphasize that your family is safe and that nothing will happen. It will help you reinstate a sense of normalcy because it is fundamental to young children’s wellness.
Some Young Children Do Not Speak
If children do not express themselves verbally, it does not mean that everything is OK. They may have a different way of expressing themselves.
Hence, you should observe any behavior change over time. Does your child cry at the childcare drop-off? Is there any change in appetite, sleeping patterns, or concerns with other children during playtime? Some new behavioral patterns, like intense reactions, can mean that something abnormal is going on.
It is crucial to assess the emotional impact that events may have on children and never believe that what they see and hear has no consequences because they are too young to understand. If you observe anything, contact your pediatrician and caregiver and team up to discover the root cause of the issue.
Limit The Flow of Continuous Information
Switch off. It is that simple.
If that’s too hard, try to do your best to limit TV viewing, tablet use, and compulsory phone swipes. In other words, reduce the source of ongoing depressing or violent information.
If the media can create depression, confusion, anger, and fears in adults, children can suffer from that same exposure. If they are exposed to inappropriate language or behaviors they observe, children will be confused or believe that it is customary to adopt the same behavioral patterns.
Therefore, make sure that the content they are exposed to is age-appropriate and mindful of your words and acts because they will replicate them.
What Are Your Takeaways?
How about creating spaces in your home without any technology? Or, take the time to engage in playtime and age-appropriate activities?
Ultimately, remember that some content may hurt or disturb young children. So, be attentive to what you view and remember that they hear what you say.
If your child loves pretending and engaging in dramatic play or games, they are learning and developing. Pretend play is an excellent way to learn to solve a problem, socialize, cooperate, use intellectual flexibility, and boost creativity.
Indeed, pretend activity offers all these benefits. Yet, pretend play’s educational value is often devaluated because it is fun, although many studies have proven that children learn better when they have fun.
What’s more beneficial to cognitive development than using imagination to create situations, become someone else, alleviate fears, develop communication, thinking strategies, and cooperate to achieve a goal?
Pretend Play is Learning
Pretend play is more complex than it appears. Where adults would see a game, children actively learn about themselves, others, and their environment.
A child engaging in pretend play is intellectually multitasking, experimenting with making sense of the world around them. It is a hands-on experience of the world, an opportunity to come back on patterns that they observed, memorized, and try their own version.
Ultimately, your child learns essential skills, like distributing roles, leadership, developing a scenario, clarifying expectations, and how to deal with different opinions or ideas.
In other words, pretend play helps them to learn how to interact with others. It is an essential skill that helps us evolve in society in any aspect of life. While maturing knowledge and emotional intelligence, your child learns concepts and symbols by using imagination.
Once involved in playing, they will learn to take turns and self-regulate emotions even without adult intervention to regulate and direct them into behavioral patterns.
Pretend play helps children cope with scary or emotionally involved events. For instance, your last “scary” wellness at the pediatrician can become a play from the child’s perspective.
Have you ever observed your child pretend that a toy is sick and give it an injection?
It is how pretend play can be cathartic for specific life events. In a way, adopting the parent or pediatrician’s point of view, in our example, can help them prepare for future wellness visits.
Pretend Play is Simple
You do not need to invest in extravagant toy sets. Although many online shops sell pretend play playsets, all you need is imagination and eventually cardboard boxes and a doll or stuffed animal.
Anyone can turn a cardboard box into a spaceship, a car, a storefront, or a pirate ship with the strength of imagination. If you run out of ideas, take some pillows, blankets, or chairs and create a fort together, and you are good for hours of fun.
The most important is to engage with your child. Trigger the game, and why not be part of the pretend play? It is a great way to bond with your child while helping them to learn.
It is also an opportunity to reverse the roles.
Let them lead the game and try to follow their instructions. It is an excellent way to develop their sense of independence, self-esteem, and leadership.
Adults tend to regulate the activity and guide children. Sometimes in excess. Unless they ask your specific input to generate prompts or an idea, let them come up with the ideas and create their scenario.
Let Children Be Children
It is important to keep these islands of fun and pure imagination in a schedule timed with activities. If you see your child creating a universe of fun, do not interrupt them; just let them carry on. No guided activity or practice can replace minutes of pretend play.
So, next time you see your child play pretending they are grocery shopping, enjoying tea time, or pretending they are superheroes, join them. Be part of the fun.
Routines for babies are essential to create a sense of comfort and safety. Predictability for playtime, naptime, feeding time helps your baby anticipate what comes next.
We do not suggest to control and plan every minute of the day. Leaving some flexibility in your schedule and that of your baby is healthy.
Yet, consistent routines for babies help them bond with you and connect with the world.
How is it done?
What Do Routines Do for Babies?
All our lives, we learn patterns, and it started during infancy.
Babies are exposed to social interaction. First, with mommy and daddy, siblings and then friends, and caregiver.
Say “Hi” and waving to someone, smiling, sharing a toy, waving “Good-bye,” are ways to bond and connect with people in our environment.
Through exposure, repetition, and consistency, social interactions can become routines.
Establishing routines early in a baby’s life can help with transitions, especially if you plan to integrate a caregiver into your family life.
Reducing anxiety, building self-confidence, improving self-control, and enforcing socially acceptable behaviors are all the fruits of daily routine activities that will accompany your child for their entire life.
Can you control tantrums through routines?
If you cannot eliminate them, you can reduce their occurrences or the time they last.
And it goes the same for hitting and bitting.
In other words, routines offer opportunities to learn and integrate concepts by using ordinary moments and turning them into teachable moments.
So, ultimately they influence the cognitive development of your child.
That’s for the learning part.
Now, routines for babies can also do more than that.
How About Cuddles and Love?
Cuddles, expressing feelings, demonstrating love for a family member can be part of a routine. It reinforces a sense of security and helps strengthen a connection.
Ritualizing a connection through a cuddle will not transform your child into a weak individual.
It does quite the opposite.
A cuddle can go a long way in your baby’s brain chemistry. If you do not believe us, try to think last time you got a big bear hug from a loved one.
How did it make you feel?
It helps relax, communicates affection, and strengthens the feeling of safety.
If your words are important, so do your actions.
Therefore, forget the old ways of letting a baby cry to teach them that they have self-control. If your baby has a hard time, pull them close to you. You will observe the almost instant calming effect of touch.
Anxiety appears because of a lack of security. Ritualizing cuddles help to enforce a sense of security.
Your child will understand that they belong to your circle.
So, when they wake up, say “Good morning” or “Hello” and give a little cuddle.
Hold their tiny hands when you read them a story.
In other words, multiply the demonstration of small gestures of affection. If they consistently happen during the day, they will go a long way.
Routines for Babies Are an Opportunity
Routines create a rich context for learning skills. They help make the ground for social skills, self-confidence, and self-control.
We do not realize the importance of the little things. We often also diminish the value of the “daily routine” verbally.
Yet, these ordinary moments are a source of learning for babies and young children and a way to bond for adults.
So, embrace the ordinary moments with your baby because they are actively learning from them.
Therefore, start introducing numbers consistently in their universe and make them part of a daily routine like brushing teeth.
Typically, you can start teaching them numbers very early. As your child grows up and reaches preschool, numbers will not be something new in their life and daily routine.
Remember that children learn better when they have fun, and their attention span is short at a young age.
Therefore, keep it short and entertaining, and here are some fun activities you can try at home.
Teach Numbers Every Day
Consistency is everything.
The more frequently you practice and establish a routine, the better.
Therefore, exercise every day with games.
For instance, go on a scavenger hunt, and ask your toddler to bring “one stuffed animal,” “two books,” “three blocks,” etc.
We do not suggest to go on a scavenger hunt every day. Try once or twice per week.
Then, try to vary the activities:
There are many activities that you can do with your child. Only imagination is the limit.
Teach Numbers With Songs
You do not need to be the best singer; you need to be a fun one. Therefore, bring on the joy and sing songs like:
If you are tired of singing the same songs, and if you have no idea what to sing, check YouTube, for instance. The platform has thousands of kids’ songs about numbers.
What is essential is to be consistent and entertaining for your child.
Do not forget to show the numbers with your fingers. Ask your child to mimic what you do.
Ultimately, your child will start correlating and associate what they see with what they hear.
Teach The Number of the Day
Do you remember The Count Von Count from Sesame Street?
That’s the best example of what you should try to do.
You can focus every day on a different number and organize your toddler’s activities accordingly.
Let’s assume you try to teach the number four. Here’s an example of what you can do:
Of course, each child is different, and some exercises may be easier than others. We all have different paces when it comes to learning. It’s not different for your child.
Therefore, do not lose your patience.
Successes and failures are equally important to learn, and sometimes, it takes more than once before you know a new number.
What Have We Learned?
Children have the immense ability and willingness to learn.
If you introduce numbers early enough and create routines around learning numbers in a fun way, they will memorize them.
At an early point in the learning process, repetition and mimicking will help them integrate something new.
Ultimately, with hands-on experiments on various activities, they will make sense of the numbers and understand their meaning.
At Willowdale Children’s Academy, we use Singapore Math to teach numbers and mathematics.
Are you interested to learn more about this methodology? Click here.
There are different ways to teach your toddler to read, and you do not have to wait for Kindergarten.
Well, it depends on how you define “reading.”
Reading is a complex process involving a set of different skills, and there are many different factors involved that go into developing each skill.
Your toddler may recognize a letter, a number, their name, or a word. But, realistically, they may just be repeating what you said, thus mimicking reading.
Some toddlers may pick up faster on some things than others. But, clearly reading as adults understand it is not the norm.
So, what to do to teach your toddler to read?
Remember a simple fact:
Each age has its set of milestones and the acquisition or maturation of skills will take time. Ultimately, your child’s cognitive development is not compressible and there are no cookie-cutters. There is no fast-forward function.
That said, it does not mean that you cannot expose your toddler to literacy.
For instance, practicing their alphabet, manipulate books, show them how incredibly fun reading a story can be or engage in play-based activities involving phonetics and sounds.
Children are curious by nature - although their attention span is very short. Therefore, make it short and fun. Every day, focus for a few minutes on one skill and move on.
Ultimately, the best tip for parents is to practice patience, consistency, and accept that the reading skill will take time to acquire. Never make it a chore or a painful activity for your child because you lost patience or had unreasonable expectations.
Involve them in the process
Let them pick their favorite story and their favorite spot in the house. Sit comfortably together, and create a little ritual.
Tell them to follow your finger on the book and read clearly.
Try to pause in a part of the story and ask them questions about what they heard, what they think happened, or what will happen to the characters. Try to understand what they liked about the story, or what their favorite part is.
Have them repeat a word, have them associate a word with a picture.
In other words, take the opportunity of reading a story to connect, interact, and start a conversation with your toddler to create a memorable fun experience.
With time, repetition, and consistency, they will start associating a word or a letter with what they see or hear. This is how you can start to teach your toddler to read and enjoy reading.
Of course, your sanity might be challenged to read over and over the same story or paragraph. But ultimately, the reading experience you create for your toddler will be associated with fun and something they love.
Teach your toddler to read keeping in mind what they can do at their age.
If you do not know what kind of skills toddlers can develop try to observe the following:
Clearly, this is not reading per se, as would a fourth-grader, although all these steps are essential to establish the reading process.
Therefore, none of the above steps should be regarded as anecdotal or unimportant. Simply remember that before learning to run, you need to be able to stand up and walk.
Our conclusion about how to teach your toddler to read
We established that children follow specific cognitive development steps and that there were no shortcuts. Ultimately, some children gain some literacy skills between 4 and 5 and learn to read between 5 and 7.
Even though you will always find exceptions, most children follow the same developmental steps. So, do not crack under peer pressure and non-fact-based comparisons.
Therefore, if you want to teach your toddler to read, be realistic first, set the example, and routines. Remember that reading should be a pleasure, should always be a moment of fun, and a way to help enable communication and exchange.
Reach out to our team for any questions.
What can parents do to prepare for kindergarten and offer the best experience for your child?
Emotionally, kindergarten is a big step.
To set your child on the right path, and help to smoothly transition and adjust to the new rhythm, there are a few things you can do. Here’s what to know.
Talk to Your Child
It sounds simple, right?
Yet, talk to your child and explain what is about to happen.
Children are naturally inquisitive. Take advantage of that natural inclination to talk to them and answer any question they may have.
Do not wait the day before, of course. Start conversations early.
Try to give them enough time, to discover, process, and ask their questions. Explain what kindergarten is, what it will be like, what they will learn, the new friends they will make, and what they will do.
How about driving to their future school building and show them how it looks like?
Take the opportunity to show them where they will go, where they will play and learn, and let them share their feelings about the new change.
Take the opportunity to introduce your child to their new director and teacher and have them discover the new classroom environment.
In other words, plan visits before the start, to make sure they feel comfortable.
Get Them Involved
If you are about to buy some school items for kindergarten, it’s the perfect time to involve your child in the process.
It’s fun to get new stuff. We all agree with that.
So, why no giving them the opportunity to choose their backpack, favorite lunchbox, or clothes for their first day at school?
It will increase their confidence, self-esteem, and independence, and help them emotionally prepare for kindergarten.
Shopping together is fun and creates special memories.
Prepare for Kindergarten by Establishing Routines
The recent new normal literally had an impact on everyone including your child.
With families staying at home, most of them struggled to keep their daily routines or got somewhat looser keeping schedules. And that’s okay.
If flexibility in schedules has its place in a child’s development, to prepare for kindergarten, it is important to bring these routines back.
Typically, consistency is an essential part of your child’s preparation and adaptation to the new environment and rhythm.
So, where to start and what to do?
Prepare For Kindergarten Without Stress
The transition to kindergarten is a big change. The transition from play-based activities to more academic learning, longer days at school, a new environment with new people, as exciting as these changes can appear to be, can cause fear and anxiety.
Do not underestimate their impact on your child.
All of that can be mitigated by providing children with a framework of routines and discussions. There is no other secret success recipe than preparation and implementation.
If your child is about to start kindergarten this year, start engaging and communicating with them early enough as you reinforce routines.
Routines offer a sense of security and stability in their environment. Do not expect children to react as adults. As a parent, you need to gain an understanding that the predictability of their environment help them thrive.
Have you already connected with your child’s future kindergarten teacher?
Outdoor learning can act as a great supplement to your child’s current at-home quarantine learning curriculum.
Let’s face it; being stuck at home for a few months, ideas could be running thin. However, the energy and curiosity of the kids are not running out any time soon.
Whether at home, in the classroom, or during a summer camp, it is always important to mix up the learning environment. That is why we, and many other professionals, believe that outdoor learning can present a great adjunct learning method.
Let’s explore that some more.
The Many Ways That Outdoor Learning Benefits Children
Great, outdoor learning can present a new environment for learning. But what exactly does that mean for the long-term impact on children?
First of all, taking the educational setting outside presents opportunities for students to apply their knowledge. Rather than in a classroom, they can see, in the real world, how things work.
Whether it’s observation, building, or collaborating, applying themselves outside the classroom will stick. This means that it will be easier for young students to remember what they learn!
Outside, you can always be learning with new and exciting tools and in new places.
So, the learning becomes “applied” and therefore “memorable.”
The outdoor learning experience can help to boost the self-esteem of children. This can be done in a variety of ways, as we will explain later, but it rings true every time.
Whether taking care of plants or being active outdoors, children can experience that sense of accomplishment. They can refine motor skills while learning about the natural environment.
As we know, physical activity is key for children. What’s better than being outside in the fresh air, playing with water, observing insects, birds, experiencing the smell of flowers, touching a tree?
Indoors, this is simply impossible. Outside, however, children have the freedom to play and explore differently.
Now that the benefits are clear, let’s get to the real kicker; what is the best way to incorporate outdoor activities with my child?
Inspire Learning for Your Child
We know that outdoor activities can enrich a child’s learning experience. But, of course, that requires to think of ideas.
We have put together a few ideas for you and your child to do together. These are tried and true outdoor activities.
One of our favorite activities is to go on a picnic. It’s simple, easy, but it makes an impact. How is this a learning experience? Well, that’s up to you. You can bring a few books, make lunch together, or go on a walk after you eat. Simply changing the environment is enough!
Another great activity is to go on a hunt for wildlife. This can be anything from plants to bugs, to birds, you name it. If there is one thing we know, it is that kids love animals.
Not only can you ignite their curiosity, but they can also learn something new on the hunt. This is a great opportunity to talk about different animals and how they live.
The outdoors is full of opportunities; how about bringing those opportunities right outside your door? Consider small-scale gardening, or planting a few potted plants. With your child, you can learn how plants grow and learn lessons along the way.
These are just a few of the many things you can do outside. If you’re curious about more activities that you can do at home, reach out to our team for suggestions.
Learning Never Stops, Neither Do The Chances
Now that you know a little more about outdoor learning, it’s in your hands!
Whether getting outside for a little walk or starting a garden, the possibilities are endless. Only your imagination is the limit.
How do you plan on getting outside and changing up the environment for your children?
All in all, spending more time with your toddler is really rewarding, but after weeks and weeks of being stuck at home, with home-base work, parents are all starting to run out of ideas.
In addition, with being inside, away from friends, it should be expected that our toddlers are getting a little antsy.
This just means that there is a great opportunity for hands-on attention, activities, and creativity!
Because of this, we have decided to put together a few of our favorite indoor activities for toddlers that you can do during COVID-19.
Most of these activities are relatively easy to set up - and, more importantly, clean up. The beauty of these activities is that they can be done at any time.
So, parents, let’s regroup, put our heads together, and get back out there with some awesome activities!
Here are some of our favorite ideas for activities to do at home with your toddler during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Get Creative with Arts and Crafts
If you are stuck inside long enough, everything becomes a possible art project.
How about those old boxes from the toilet paper delivery last week?
It always amazes us how creative kids can get with something like cardboard.
Not only is it possible to build forts (either for the toddler or their toys), but they can be cut into different shapes.
Especially during COVID-19, we all have a box or two lyings around.
If your toddler has a favorite animal, you can cut and color the cardboard in the form of the animal.
Cutting, coloring, and designing cardboard can be a great tool for exploring:
Plus, these are learned while using and practicing fine motor skills.
Even if there is no cardboard, this can be done with a lot of different materials; old shirts, construction paper, post-its, and more.
Count that as one score for the parents!
Keep Toddlers Active While Inside Your Home During COVID-19
As long as COVID-19 has been locking us down, you might have had enough of your toddler running around the house.
In many cases, organized sports are not currently a possibility, and it’s even tough to bring over friends!
Our solution? An indoor obstacle course!
This is a fun one; but, space-specific.
Anybody can set up an indoor obstacle course. It can be as long or as short as you’d like. Plus, you can use almost anything as a part of the course.
This is a guaranteed hit, whether your obstacle course includes:
Ultimately, an obstacle course is an ideal way to stay active and to keep those motor skills engaged.
By adding new elements or switching the order, they can become a daily facet in the house.
Create a New Version of your Favorite Activity
What did you love to do before COVID-19?
Whether it was cycling, skating, playing soccer, or others, there is always a way to bring it inside.
If there is anything that toddlers love, it is familiarity.
What’s better than a game of newspaper-ball soccer, with makeshift goals?
Or, set up an indoor bowling alley with water bottles and a few balls from the garage?
Realistically, there is no limit to the number of activities you can do inside. Even though we are in a different environment, try to consider those activities that you can bring back in a new way.
Loved singing in the car on road trips? How about a karaoke night?
Home Activities For Toddler During COVID-19
As COVID-19 continues to alter our usual routine, take this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with your toddler.
Ultimately, doing activities together is fun for all family members and they create fun memories.
What are some of your favorite indoor activities to do over these times?
Watching TV or being stuck on a tablet all the time may not be healthy for young children. Yet, everything doesn't have to feel like a classroom lesson, either.
We’ve seen in previous blogs that kids learn better if they have fun. Now, you have an opportunity to implement that approach. In other words, get your kids excited, engaged, and eager to explore and learn by keeping the activities fun.
If you are interested to learn more about some great learning activities, read on!
Engage With Young Children Through Learning Games
To attract interest and increase engagement, “play” is an efficient way to approach education.
Turning a formal learning approach about a variety of subjects into a learning game will inspire learning and engagement.
For instance, pick a topic like “animals in the forest”. Create a scavenger hunt and integrate count, shapes, colors, and natural history.
Then, have them draw their favorite animal of the forest that you discussed using different materials.
You can adapt that game according to your personal preference, knowledge, educational objectives.
The great thing about this approach is that you can use your imagination and creativity to do something new.
Identify & Learn Colors
This activity is a big winner! Kids love colors.
Have your child identify a color. To do so, draw characters of different colors on a piece of paper. Ask your child to attribute a colored sticker corresponding to the color of the character.
Then, ask your child to find a specific color in their environment. Ask them to pick that object and bring it to you.
Not only do you encourage developing motor skills, but you also help them to learn about making independent choices.
Teach Them Sounds
Teaching children how to read, of course, will follow their natural cognitive development.
However, teaching them how to make phonic sounds can be the first step that you consider.
Consider showing them how a letter or letters associated together make specific sounds. This is a great step to prepare them for what’s coming next.
Practice Writing By Helping Them To Shape Letters
Help show them how to grab a pen naturally. We typically use the Handwriting Without Tears® method in our classrooms.
Then, take a piece of paper, draw a letter of their choice, and outline the letter with dots. Ask your child to connect the dots using a pen with their favorite color.
Do a few lines like that to have them repeat a movement. As for many things in life, consistency and repetition help to gain confidence and self-esteem.
You can use Play-Doh to shape letters or draw letters or gather different materials. Then, ask them to use their imagination to write a letter.
Teach Fun Math
Play games where kids group objects together sorting them by shape, size, color, material, etc.
Create sub-categories and ask them to count, add, or subtract by asking them what they see before them.
Try to have your child touch the objects they count. A direct connection with their environment helps them to make sense of things surrounding them.
For example, you can first ask them to put small bottles of water on a table. Next, ask them to count them all.
Then, ask them to take two away.
Finally, ask them to count what is left on the table. Usually, short math lessons work best.
Yet, if you multiply mini lessons like this one throughout the day, their math skills will improve over time.
Try Simple Science Experiments
Try little science experiments without transforming your kitchen into a full lab. For instance, take an ice-cube and make them touch and feel how cold it is.
Then, ask them to place the ice-cube in a glass and have them observe what happens over time. Ask questions, try to probe and have them express in their own words what they see.
For toddlers and preschoolers, science experiments do not need to be involved in an extreme. Talk about the little stuff but in an engaging manner.
Learn Natural Science
The beautiful weather is finally back in our counties!
Hence, there’s nothing more fun than planting seeds in the ground with the kids. Once planted, you can add water and observe what happens with time and care.
A small flower pot or your backyard is a great material for science lessons.
Do you need more ideas?
There are many ways to keep your toddler or preschooler busy. If you need more tips, please let us know and get in touch with us.
What do you think is your main challenge to implement our ideas?