How to Evaluate a Quality Preschool for your Child

Every parent is interested in finding the best preschool for their child. Within my neighboring towns I can think of such a variety of experiences for a preschooler. Some preschools have small classes with one teacher, some have larger classes with 2-3 teachers. Some are highly academic, others stress more play. Some have a curriculum based on nature or the arts, while others are more traditional in their learning units.

Matching your child’s needs with a preschool can be daunting, but I ran across a good article by The National Institute for Early Childhood Research with questions to ask a preschool to evaluate it’s quality: “The Top 10 Pre-K Questions: What Parents Need to Know About High Quality Preschool.” Do we really ask the hard questions of the place we are entrusting our child to? Observations are important so you can see if the school is a good fit for your child. One of the questions asks if the program assesses children for problems and if the staff is equipped to handle children with special needs.

So check out the list and take it along on preschool shopping!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Preschool Class, Toddler | Leave a comment

Babies Talk More to Faces

Babies Talk to Faces to build language

Don’t we all like to talk to someone that is looking at us and not absorbed in some other activity? Well, babies are no different. They love it when we look right at them, repeat what they are saying and give them our full attention.

Research shows that babies prefer faces and talk more to a face–including a doll–like little Caroline who is fascinated with Emily the doll. Make sure your baby toys have bright, distinct faces whether they are a boy, girl, banana or “whoozit.” Recently Lamaze redesigned their plush baby set of animals, “Pupsqueek,” “”Jacques the Peacock,” “Stretch the Giraffe,” and “Mortimer the Moose,” to name a few, so their eyes and facial features are bigger for baby to see and react to.

Hold the toy in front of your baby and talk for it. Engage in a dialogue with your baby, pausing for her to fill in with her coos and goos. You are having your first conversations! Be sure to pause after her little sounds and then imitate what she said. Research was done that looked at 5 month-old babies when parents paused before repeating their child’s sounds. The frequency with which mothers responded to their babies’ attempts to engage them, correlated strongly with the baby’s attention span, ability at symbolic play and understanding or words several months later.

Every time you have a conversation with your baby, you are encouraging language development. Babies are hard-wired to learn language, but they need to hear it to begin making their scientific analysis of it and eventually speak in words. You are their first and best teacher!

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Don’t Forget the People for Pretend Play

Last week I was playing with a little boy in his basement playroom. In a house of three preschool boys, this was clearly the room to move in. It had several kid-sized vehicles lined up against the wall, and smaller trucks, helicopters, fire engines and cars ready for play.

I asked Mom, “Where are the people?” She replied that the little people were upstairs with other sets of toys. I suggested she bring some back downstairs!

Always have play people or animals available to join the pretend play. When you have people, you encourage dialogue and language skills are strengthened. Pick up a little person yourself and start up a conversation with one that your child is holding. Ask an open-ended question like, “I wonder where we should go?” and let your child take off with the direction of play. Remember to to be the producer not the director of your child’s play. You set up the beginning props and watch their imagination take over the theme of play. Follow their lead and they will gain more from pretend play.

Think about props that could be added to a play scheme that your child enjoys. If he likes to ride vehicles, add a cardboard box with a string attached so he can fill his car with gas from the pretend pump. No need to buy every toy–a cardboard box can represent many things. Invite him to make the gas pump with you and decorate it with markers, adding numbers on the outside.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

Encourage Your Child as an Author

One of the perks of having a website is the interesting people that I meet, responding to something that I have written.

Last week I posted an article on “Cool Picks for Hot Summer Reading–Building Language and Literacy.” I shared new children’s picture books that encourage language and vocabulary development. After each review, I gave tips on how to build pre-emergent literary skills (those skills that precede the ability to read).

One of the books that I discovered and reviewed was the Pout-Pout Fish by first-time author, Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Dan Hanna. Read this story in rhyme to your child and the beat just goes on in your head. Today I read it to a 5 year-old and he pointed to the repeated “Blub, Bluuub, Bluuuuub,” read it out loud and told his mom he was a real reader! Check out my tips to build language and literacy in the above article.

Anyways, yesterday I got a letter in the mail from the author, Deborah Diesen, thanking me for my article and giving me a little bit of her story. It is important for our children to have models. Go to Deborah’s website and see her story of writing, revising, and trying again until she got her first book published. Share it with your child how a “professional” writer sets aside time to write and goes back to a story and makes another draft. These are all things that your child is learning to do in school.

Also, Deborah’s website has a “Kids Click Here” which takes you to several free downloads related to the book as well as lists of other rhyming books. Take a look and introduce your child to an author.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Preschool, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment

More Fun with Dr. Seuss

Green Eggs and Ham video

In response to my post on Dr. Seuss, I got a note with some interesting facts for Dr. Seuss lovers.

Do you know what book of his was the result of a bet with his publisher that he couldn’t write a book using just 50 different words? By the way, it was a $50 bet!

Dr. Seuss met the challenge and created Sam to repeatedly ask where you could possibly eat Green Eggs and Ham? Check out this video from Barnes & Noble Studio with the story.

This would be an interesting exercise to try with your child–creating a story or poem with a limited vocabulary, say 30, 40 or 50 words. Draw up a list and see if you can do it together.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

How to Stop Your Toddler’s Whining

Around 2 years of age, your child is transitioning from using gestures, grunts, crying and whining to get what he wants. Now that he is 2, he should have around 50 words and be putting 2 words together like “me go” or “more doh.” Somehow one and two-word sentences don’t feel like enough to him and the whining starts. I work with a little boy who had become accustomed to yelling “Ma ma ma”whenever he wanted something. After several sessions and modeling for mom, he knows that I won’t respond to that kind of talk and that he has to talk quietly and use his words to let me in on what he wants. Here are some tips to curb whining and yelling and encourage using language to make his needs known:

  1. Model quiet, calm talking to your child and label it as using a “good talking” or “using your words.” Try to be positive and not focus on “Stop whining” but rather “I like it when you use your words.”
  2. Play a game taking turns, whether it is adding to a play-doh creation , painting or turning the pages in a book. As you take your turn or make your requests, you model the right way to ask for something.
  3. Ignore the whining or yelling. This is hard but if you are consistent your child will get the message that he won’t get the Popsicle, mom’s attention, or someone to go outside with him if he whines.
  4. When he whines, calmly model an appropriate way to say it such as “More paint” and continue modeling it until he imitates you. Then reward him with the paint.

It is hard work to be consistent but you will be rewarded with less whining and more communication.

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Dr. Seuss Makes Me Laugh Over Language

I love my local library and tend to visit the children’s section about once and week. I check out the new books section to see what is hot off the press and then my other strategy is to peruse the books that are opened up on top of the stacks, presumably selected by the librarians for their interest.

Last week Dr. Seuss’ Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! caught my eye in the display on top of the stacks. I brought it home and read it to a second grade girl who had been studying poetry. I thought it would loosen up her image of a poem! We both laughed our way through this clever, hilarious book.

The kids in Dinkerville go to the Diffendoofer School and have a wonderful assortment of teachers who teach listening, laughing, smelling and yelling. Mr.Lowe, the principal is faced with quite a dilemma–they have to pass a special test to see which school is the best. If they don’t do well, the kids will have to go to the dreaded Flobbertown, where everyone does everything the same. Who knew standardized tests were a problem back in 1998 when this book was published!

An added feature of this book is the story behind it. The last pages are devoted to the drawings and text notes found after Dr. Seuss’ death that were the beginnings of this story. His editor enlisted author Jack Prelutsky and an illustrator to “finish” Dr. Seuss’ story and they did a magnificent job. Seeing Dr. Seuss’ initial lists of possible names for the school and pictures developing characters, shows children that even a master story teller brainstorms, revises, and edits his work.

I won’t give away the end of the story but check this book out if you want to giggle and have some fun with language. Kids need to know that playing with language can make you laugh.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Books, Elementary School, Preschool, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 1 Comment

Taking Turns Strengthens Language and Behavior for 2 and 3 Year-Olds

I just returned from a house of twins that I work with. Mom casually said to me, “Oh, I did what you said and it worked!” Of course I had to be reminded what I had told her.

Last visit, Mom had told me that Max, her 2 1/2 year-old “laid back” twin was in a stage of wanting to everything himself–even when he couldn’t do it!! Apparently he was trying unsuccessfully to get his shirt off, was stuck, she tried to help and he started having a tantrum. There was no way he was going to get his shirt off by himself or accept help. Sounds funny imagining him stuck in his shirt unless you are his mom.

I suggested that she introduce the idea of “taking turns.” Max could take a turn trying to “do it himself” and then it was mom’s turn to help. She carried over the concept to playtime when the twins were arguing about playing with the same toy. Max gets a turn with the toy and then Matt gets a turn. Many times when you are explaining situations like this, using language, kids stop fighting, protesting or whining because they have to listen to you and process what you are saying.

Model taking turns throughout your day. You might be stirring up some brownies or weeding the garden. Stop and say, “Your turn” and hand the spoon or shovel to your child and then take it back, labeling “my turn.”

Life is full of give and take and kids need to learn this valuable lesson lest they think they are in charge all the time!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment

Yes, Boys are Different From Girls

Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb and not be politically correct. Boys are different from girls.

I was working with little 3 year-old Clara today–who by the way had to be dressed in her bright pink platform heels–when her older sister ran in the room sobbing. Her mother immediately detected the problem and took her into her arms saying, “Are you so sad because it is the last day of school?” Her daughter nodded explaining that she would miss her teacher terribly over the summer.

I tried to remain composed but did manage to tell the mom that I had NEVER experienced anything like that with my three boys. The cheers could be heard from down the block as they got off the bus for the last time for summer vacation:)

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Preschool | Leave a comment

Taking Your Toddler Outside to Learn Language

As soon as the temperature rises, the birds start singing and the squirrels chase each other, a whole new world of language opens up to your child. I am constantly reminded of this as I try to work with kids inside on a wonderful summer day. If we are near a window, invariably the conversation turns to the critters moving around outside.

Little David , 2 years old, is fascinated with the bird nests that were built in the bushes outside his kitchen. No matter what we are doing–painting, blowing bubbles or putting little figures down a play slide, if he remembers the nest, we are headed outside!

Research shows that when you follow your child’s “focus of attention” meaning what they are interested in and talking about, they take in more language. As I stepped outside and followed David’s directives about the nest, worms, babies, and mama, he began to talk more and put some words together like “bird nest.” I climbed up on a patio wall and peeked in the bush to report on the babies being fed by the mom. Then I paused to let David reply. He went on and on, telling me about the bird and nest in his single-word format. It is amazing what one can understand when spoken to that way!
Always remember to pause and let your child respond to what you have described, that he is so interested in. Often, as parents, we tend to keep talking and forget to pause and let our little ones excitedly reply to the situation. If it is of interest, as this bird nest was, you will find your child speaks more and expands on what you have said.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment