The Growth and Giggles Blog

Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.

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Getting Preschoolers to Cooperate: A Tiny Change for Big Results Do you have trouble getting your preschooler to cooperate? (That was a joke…of course you do—they’re preschoolers!) One simple change you can make--without much effort, without discussing parenting philosophy with your spouse, without brainstorming rewards or meting out punishments— can make a significant change in how cooperative your preschooler becomes. And don’t tell, but it will probably work on the adults in your life, too. Let me show you the idea, starting with a personal example. I grocery shop once a week, and I go with a detailed list, which usually doesn’t include ice cream. But every week, as I walk through the coffee and tea section, I know I am coming up on “the aisle of temptation.” At this point, I might say to myself, “Don’t go down the ice cream aisle!” At which point, I involuntarily start picturing cold, sweet, chocolatey goodness melting around my tongue. My other option...
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How to Help your Preschooler Deal with Irrational Fears Three-year-old Jonathan would not go anywhere without wearing a hat. He called it his “helmet.” One day, Kirby and Jonathan were out walking in the woods, and Jonathan realized that he had forgotten his helmet. He started to get panicky. Kirby quickly offered him the knit hat she was wearing because of the cold, and he calmed down. After a while, Kirby asked him, “How do you like wearing my helmet?” Jonathan replied, “I like it. It keeps me from falling down.” “How does it do that?” asked Kirby. “Just fine,” answered Jonathan. Later, Kirby was able to figure out that Jonathan had observed his dad wearing a bike helmet, and had asked him why he wore it. His dad told him that it kept him safe. Jonathan interpreted that to mean that the helmet kept his dad from falling down while biking. Don’t you wish we could crawl into our...
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Crab Walk, Arches (Bridges), and Backbends Kids like moving their bodies! Here are three fun activities that build flexibility, balance, strength, and coordination. Safety Tip: Remember, do not force yourself (or children) to flex farther than is comfortable, with a slight pulling feeling in the muscles. Hold the stretch, then gently stretch a bit further. Never force a stretch. Crab walk: Have children sit with their knees bent, feet flat on the floor in front of them, feet apart. Next show them how to place their hands down by their sides, but slightly behind their backs. Then, they can raise their hips off the floor. Now they can walk forward, backward, and sideways, pretending to be crabs. Arches: Have the children lie on their backs. Help them place their hands on either side of their head beside their ears. Their fingers point back toward their shoulders. Help them place their feet flat on the floor near...
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20 Learning Games for When Mom or Dad is Exhausted Parents of preschoolers are tired people. Caring for little ones is exhausting work. We have the best intentions of providing enriching activities for our kids, but when exhaustion sets in, good intentions go out the window. To help you plan for those times when you need something your child can do while you are lying down or sitting, here’s a list of 20 activities. Finger paint in shaving cream spread on a cookie sheet. Play with play dough. Read. If you’re reading a well-known book, try changing some of the words or sentences and let your child have fun catching your “mistakes.” Play Chutes and Ladders or Candyland. Put on music and let your child dance. Try giving her a bean bag and challenge her to dance with the beanbag on her head, between her knees, or on her elbow. Play “red light, green light.” Play a following directions game. Give...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
What do I do with a Sandbox? When my oldest daughter was 15 months old, her dad built a sandbox. I (Kirby) knew it was going to be perfect! I could hang clothes out to dry while my toddler blissfully discovered pouring and measuring and building and dumping. Montessori had come to my house! I gathered up my basket of wet clothes, led my little girl over to the new sandbox, and headed for the clothesline. But she just stood there, staring at the sand and looking puzzled. Then it hit me—she didn’t know how to play with sand. So I abandoned my laundry and we spent time making mountains together and filling up her dump truck, pouring water onto the sand, and digging holes. After that, she knew what to do, and she knew how much fun it could be. It’s not just kids who haven’t learned how to play with sand. Lots of parents don’t know...
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Posted by on in Parenting
Overcoming Parenting Fears This is a little different from our usual posts, but I want to talk about something that is a familiar face to parents—fear. A friend of mine just had her second baby; her first son is a toddler. This week, she wrote about her worries that all the attention she is giving her baby will damage her older son. Will he feel unloved? Neglected? Will he start to resent the baby? Will this hurt him for life? Can she be a good mother to both kids? What if she’s not doing enough? Does any of that sound familiar? I bet it does, even if the thoughts are not about the same issue. From pregnancy through having adult children, we have fears about whether we’ve chosen the “right” approach or philosophy, about how our own personality, limitations, mistakes, and choices will affect our kids, and how in the world to handle all...
Tagged in: fear love parenting
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Getting Ready for Kindergarten: What Your Preschooler Needs to Learn It's back-to-school time! Like with every decision, parents agonize over preschool options. Do you send your child to preschool? What kind? Would your child be better off at home? Will they be ready for kindergarten if you opt out of preschool? To help you think through your options, here's a basic checklist of what kids need to know to succeed in kindergarten. You can help your child learn these things at home, or they can gain this knowledge through any number of preschool programs. Language and Pre-reading skills: They need to be able to: Listen Follow directions Have an attitude that learning is fun Recognize and name basic shapes Recognize and name basic colors Understand the difference between “true” and “make believe.” Make rhymes Hear syllables Identify characters in a book Pre-Math Skills: They need to be able to: Tell the size differences between piles of items Recognize coins Count out...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Games to Play with String If you’re looking for a versatile toy with tremendous developmental benefits, a simple length of string, rope, or yarn is the way to go. Here are some games you can play with that string that address various areas of a child’s development. Many of these can be played anywhere! Keep yarn or string in your purse or pocket to pull out when your little one is getting bored and needs something fun and challenging to do. Balance and Coordination String, yarn, or rope makes a perfect balance beam. Stretch the string out on the floor, and show your child how to walk on it, putting one foot in front of the other. Your child can do lots of fun things on a balance beam: Walk on a curvy or zigzag line Balance on one foot on the string Do an arabesque (or scale) Jump zigzags back and forth across the string...
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Teach Your Child to Use Scissors Bouncing spirals hanging from the ceiling fan. Paper dolls. Hula skirts for toys. Fringed placemats. Paper-plate angels. Toilet-paper-tube puppets. When you know how to use scissors, you can make the best crafts! So how do you teach the skills necessary for all those fun crafts? Introduce the Scissors Show your child a pair of safe scissors. Tell him it’s like a little bird. The finger holes are the wings, and the blades are the mouth. You can make the bird flap its wings, and then it can open and close its mouth. Teach a Proper Grip Have the child put his thumb in the top hole and fingers on the bottom. A lot of kids try to put their thumbs on top. While they might be able to maneuver this initially, it won’t work at all when they try to cut around curves or cut more complicated shapes. So be sure...
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Teach Your Preschooler to Tell the Truth Josie’s (age 3) parents had been trying to teach her not to lie. They had been talking with her about lying, giving consequences for lying, and making a concerted effort to stop the behavior. One day Josie accidentally knocked over her milk. She quickly started cleaning it up, and said to her mother, “I don’t know if this is a lie or not, but I spilled my milk.” Josie knew that a lie was something she shouldn’t do…but she didn’t understand what it was. Lying is a lot more complicated of a concept than adults tend to think. And even once a preschooler really understands the concept of true and not true, their brains aren’t mature enough to always get it right. Of course, we can still work with preschoolers to teach them to be honest. It’s just that it’s important to take a gentle teaching approach that is appropriate for...
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Teaching Kids About Race, Disability, and Other Differences Between People “Mommy, they're talking funny!” “Why does she walk like that?” “Why is his face brown?” “What’s wrong with that lady?” Why is it that kids always ask those questions so loudly? People usually understand that our little ones are just discovering the world, rather than being prejudiced, but it can still be mortifying when they ask awkward questions! Can we do anything to pre-empt these kinds of questions? How do we respond to them? How do we cultivate the respect for diversity that we want our kids to have? Dealing With the Questions Preschoolers aren’t really capable of thinking inside their heads. Pretty much everything that goes through their brains comes out of their mouth. (You’ll see this as kids learn to count. Even if you tell them to count quietly, they will mouth the numbers because they can’t do it internally.) So when they encounter something they haven’t seen before, you can...
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Posted by on in Discipline
The Toys Are Being Mean! “My son (2.5) is finally into imaginative play. However, the characters aren't always nice to each other. They say things like "you're not my friend". Sometimes they are really bad and get put into the corner. Do I intervene when the characters are being mean and saying things I wouldn't let my son say?” Sometimes our sweet babies come out with words and behaviors that we haven’t taught them. It can be upsetting, and we wonder, “Do I need to nip this in the bud? Or should play be correction-free territory?” Preschoolers like to “try on” words and actions that they have observed—whether from siblings, preschool, the playground, or tv. Imaginative play can be a safe place to do this experimentation. It doesn’t mean they’ve internalized the behaviors, or that they’ll start talking like that all the time. So, the first thing to do is to keep watching over the course...
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Teaching Your Child Early Writing Skills “One of the best predictors of whether a child will function competently in school and go on to contribute actively in our increasingly literate society is the level to which the child progresses in reading and writing. Although reading and writing abilities continue to develop throughout the lifespan, the early childhood years—from birth through age eight—are the most important period for literacy development.” -- The International Reading Association As you can see from the above quote, writing skills are crucial for ensuring success in school and life. The good news is that activities that teach writing are things that kids love to do! The first step to learning to write is strengthening finger and hand muscles. For ideas on how to do this, see this post. Even while you are still working on hand strength, you can begin a progression of building writing skills in your child. A great way to...
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Build Pre-Writing Skills from Birth Through Preschool The ability to write, once a child is old enough, largely depends on the finger and hand strength and the coordination he has developed in his early years. You would think this would happen naturally, but teachers and physical therapists are seeing more and more children whose hands and fingers are not up to the task. Even in third and fourth grade, teachers are sending home notes asking parents to please help their children to do tasks which develop finger strength. Good news! There are many fun activities from infancy on that you can do with your child to prepare him for success in this important area of life. Tummy Time Giving your baby tummy time from her newborn days is an important part of developing needed strength. (If your little one is no longer an infant, and she didn’t get much tummy time, don’t worry! Read further down.) As babies...
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How to Help Your Distractible Child Follow Directions Does this sound familiar?    “Evan, put on your pajamas.”    “Take off your pants and put on your pajamas.”    “Evan, put down your LeapReader and put on your pajamas!”    “Evan, what are you supposed to be doing right now?”    “I don’t know.” Preschoolers, and even many elementary schoolers, are highly distractible, and that can make it hard for them to follow your directions in a prompt manner. This can be frustrating for parents, who just want their kids to do what they ask! Here are some strategies for working with a distractible child to maximize cooperation. Give a heads up. A few minutes before you want an instruction carried out, let your child know what’s coming. Say, “In five minutes, when the timer goes off, it will be time to stop what you’re doing and get your pajamas on.” This is especially true if your child is...
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How to Make Grocery Shopping a Learning Experience Grocery shopping with preschoolers isn’t easy. We get goal-oriented about shopping and feel frustrated that our kids are slowing us down. But grocery stores offer a wealth of stimuli for a child’s brain, and shopping is a great opportunity to help your little one learn and grow. Below are some ways you can engage your child while getting your shopping done. Name everything. Everything you buy, hold it up and name it. Let your child hold, feel, and smell items. This will help your child’s vocabulary explode. Work on colors. Once your child knows lots of nouns, you can begin to work on colors. Hold up a banana and say, “Yellow. Yellow banana.” Do this with anything that has a clear color. Show your child something red, and then say, “Can you find anything red?” Let them name everything they can find that’s red. Play “I Spy.” Keep in mind that...
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Posted by on in Uncategorized
Textures for your Toes So often we think to let children feel textures with their hands, but we seldom think to let their feet experience new textures. Feeling textures with the feet is great for toddlers and preschool aged children. It stimulates the nerve endings in their feet as well as working on balance. And it is fun. How Do We Play? Place several textures in a row on the floor. Examples: Soft spongy foam from packing or bubble wrap. The large bubbles make a loud bang when popped, so avoid those for toddlers and young pre-school aged children. It can frighten them and ruins the experience. You also could use a mesh bag that oranges come in, a terry cloth towel, clear cellophane that makes crinkly sounds when  stepped on, fuzzy fabrics like velvet and fake fur, the bottom of a Styrofoam egg carton, or clean meat trays. Tape them down to avoid slips and falls.  Have all ages walk  barefooted on the...
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Posted by on in Uncategorized
Bubbles in a Cup Bubbles in a cup is a great summer activity for outside. It teaches concentration and attention span, strengthens the muscles of the mouth, provides a science lesson, teaches following directions, and is lots of fun! Materials:  Towel to soak up spills if inside Tray under the cup or bowl Flat-bottomed bowl or cup – one per child A little Liquid detergent for dishes in water Straw – one per child (for bubbles that float, add a little cooking oil) Procedure: 1. If inside, put down a towel on the floor under their work. 2. Squirt dishwashing liquid into the bowl.  Not much is needed. 3. Add a little water – maybe 1 inch). 4. Hand them a straw (If they do not know how to blow, blow air through a straw onto their arm, then let them try.) 5. Let them blow bubbles galore – the bubbles may overflow the bowl.  They’ll love it! 6. Warn them not to...
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Activities and Classes for Preschoolers Structured activities and classes for preschoolers abound these days. Amid the dazzling array of opportunities, how do we know what choices are beneficial for our kids, and how much is too much? A good rule of thumb for preschoolers is to use their age as a guideline for the number of group activities a week. A two-year-old probably can’t handle more than two classes a week (this includes religious services/Sunday school), and a three-year-old shouldn’t have more than three a week. It’s also important to know your child’s personality here. Are they energized by being around people? Do they do better in smaller classes or just doing activities with one other friend? Follow your child’s lead. Art, music, and sports can all be fabulous for preschoolers. The important thing is that they be physically engaging, age appropriate, and focused on experience rather than outcome. Look for activities that provide tactile learning...
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How to Make a Travel Activity Book A travel activity book is a spiral notebook filled with learning games and fun activities for times your child needs to do something quiet, like in the doctor’s office, waiting rooms, or during car trips. It’s a combination of activities drawn onto pages, games held in envelopes stapled into the notebook, and blank pages for creative fun. Grab a notebook and let’s get started! Envelope games Pipe-cleaner people. In one envelope put in pre-made pipe-cleaner people, bits of cloth for clothes, and plain pipe cleaners for making props. Playing with posable pipe-cleaner people is great for your child's finger muscles and fine motor skills, and it makes for fun pretend play. You can tie pipe cleaner people onto a car seat for a preschooler so if your child drops them, he can pull them back up again. Tangrams. This doesn’t actually have to be tangrams. Just cut out a variety of...
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