Tag Archives: preschool

School Success Rx

 

Guest Blog by Calgary’s Child — original link here

With Preschool and Kindergarten Registration starting now, Calgary’s Child share their prescription for school success:

Read, read, read to your child

“Being read to is the single most consistent and reliable predictor of academic success later in life,” says Kurumada Chuang. She recommends reading to your preschooler for 20 minutes every night at bedtime. While you’re at it, stop every so often and ask your child a question about the story before turning the page, such as: “Gosh, why do you think she was sad?” Or, “What do you think is going to happen next?” Making reading more interactive makes it more fun and helps build your child’s comprehension skills.

Help your child learn to follow directions

To help your preschooler get the hang of following directions, practice at home by giving simple commands, such as: “Please help me pick up your toys and put them in the
toy box.” Then, encourage your child to follow through by offering an incentive to do whatever it is you’re asking. Tell your child they can play outside, for example, once they’ve finished putting away their toys. An incentive helps your child understand that following directions makes other fun activities possible. If they don’t follow your directions and, for example, don’t put their toys away, calmly explain that they won’t be able to play with those toys for the rest of the day or go, for example, to the park. Keep it positive by focusing on how clean the playroom will look when you’re done. Then praise your child when they’re successful. “You followed my directions so well. Thank you for helping me put your toys in the toy box like I asked you to! That was so helpful.”

Help your child master sharing and turn-taking

From age 3 to 5, children tend to hoard coveted toys and objects. They’re not really ready to grasp the concept of sharing yet. But you can help your youngster practice by having them ‘take turns’ with toys and catching your child when they share on their own. To help them develop the empathy that true sharing requires, state what they did and how it makes others feel, such as: “Thank you for sharing. It makes your sister feel good when you share the ball.” Your child should be able to ‘own’ special or new toys, though, so keep them out of sight on playdates or in their room, away from siblings. By Kindergarten, children are capable of sharing well and taking turns. If your child isn’t there yet, help them get the hang of it by inviting a friend over for a cooperative task such as baking cookies. If things aren’t going well, calmly ask your child to sit out. Pretty soon, they’ll get the idea and want to join in on the fun again. You can also read your child books about sharing and discuss them. In the classic tale, Stone Soup, retold by Heather Forest, two hungry travelers make soup from ingredients everyone in the town contributes. What makes the soup extra delicious is the sharing it took to make it.

Help your child make friends

If you get the sense your toddler or preschooler needs a little help in the social department, try hosting playdates with others your child likes or with whom they have common interests. Playdates offer an opportunity to break away from the group and foster individual friendships. You might begin by asking your preschooler: “How about a playdate with Grace? I notice that she likes to draw too.” If you’re not sure whom to invite over first, ask your child’s preschool teacher if there’s anyone in the classroom who might be a good match for your child. Then feel free to go from there and make the rounds so your child gets the chance to know several children better. To help your child play host(ess), let them pick the snack and ask them beforehand what games and activities s/he and their friend might like to do. On the playdate, feel free to play along and stay close by to make sure everyone stays safe. But give your child and their friend the chance to play on their own too. To help things go smoothly, keep playdates to two hours; children start to get tired after that. And keep it simple by inviting just one child over at a time.

Practice sharing

From age 3 to 5, kids aren’t yet capable of grasping the concept of sharing, but you can help your preschooler get the hang of it by having them ‘take turns’ with toys and catching them when they share on their own. “Stating what she did and how it makes others feel, such as: ‘Thank you for sharing. It makes your sister feel good when you share your toast,’ helps her develop the empathy that true sharing requires,” says Marcy Guddemi, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development. You can also read your child books about sharing and discuss them together. Hone your child’s listening skills. At the dinner table and during car rides, help your preschooler hone their listening skills by asking them to wait to speak until their brother (or vice versa) has finished his sentence. When it’s her turn, remind her, “Now it’s your turn to talk. Thank you for being patient and for being such a good listener while your brother was talking.” Explain that being a good listener shows respect for the speaker, whether it’s her brother or her teacher and the other students at school who are trying to hear what the teacher has to say. Mention that it’s a two-way street: When she’s a good listener, she’s showing the same kind of respect that she gets when others listen to her. If she continues to interrupt, keep reminding her that she’ll get the chance to talk. Becoming a good listener, like many things, can take lots of practice.

Prepping for Preschool: Five Tips for Success

The wait-lists are long, sometimes years at a time. The philosophies are broad; Montessori, Reggio Emelia, Waldorf, TLC, Community, Classic Play?! Advice abounds, and with constant conflicts.

No… it’s not the road to your child’s Post-Secondary Education — it’s just the first step on their educational journey, into the wonderful world of preschool.

The early years of life are a critical period of opportunity and skills-building. The things we learn in the first five years of childhood lay the foundation for our successes for the rest of our lives. This is why preschool registration is as intense as it is — finding the right fit for your family is hugely important. Regardless of what route you end up taking, here are some tips to help make sure the transition is as smooth as possible:

  1. Read about it

There are a lot of great books with themes revolving around the start of preschool — many of them involve characters that your child already knows and loves (keeping familiar things close is very comforting during times of big change). Snuggle up together and share a story: you’ll be increasing your child’s feel-good sensations around learning, and practicing one of the most valuable preschool activities, storytime.

  1. Plan a Visit

Most preschools are going to have open houses and parent education nights, but if you miss these, call ahead to see if you can arrange a quick tour through your child’s new school space. Familiarizing ourselves with new settings gives us a chance to manage our expectations. Start frequenting the school’s playground or another in the neighbourhood, so that the adjustment in September doesn’t also have to require an orientation to place!

  1. Practice makes Permanent

Start implementing a more tangible routine at home and practice skills that your child will need to do on their own (like self-care tasks around washing hands, taking off and hanging up jackets, putting on and filling backpacks, etc).

Incorporate imaginative play into your day! Make believe that you’re at preschool with your child and take turns being the teacher and the student!

If you’re worried about aspects of school like sustaining attention or pro-socialization, sign up for a session of early education classes; we cover all sorts of topics around early development, and your child can practice sitting quietly in a circle time, group sharing and conversations, and exploring personal needs, identities, and behaviours. We promise they’re also just a lot of fun!

  1. Validate Feelings

Try not to diminish or deny the feelings your child has around starting school. Avoid saying things like “don’t be nervous” or “there’s nothing to worry about!”. Instead reassure your child, saying “I understand that you’re feeling nervous about school — it’s such a different and exciting experience!” and then brainstorm ideas on ways your child can comfort and calm themselves.

Putting a label to our emotions, allowing ourselves to feel them, and building strategies before the meltdown allows us to move towards action instead of being overwhelmed by feelings. Having a strong emotional vocabulary and sense of resilience is an important pre-school skill to work on, and one even adults need help with sometimes… which reminds us:

  1. Brace Yourself

You are excited for your child’s new adventure, looking forward to regaining some of your alone time, sad to say goodbye to those awesome early years, and worried about your child’s future success. You’re probably feeling a million other conflicting emotions on top of these! Starting preschool can be as difficult for you as it is for your child. Help manage some of those feelings by following your own advice — don’t deny or diminish them; acknowledge them and build in some strategies!
Plan a first-day coffee date with other parents who have school starters this year.
Organize a special event with other family members who are home with you during the school day (they’ll be missing your little one too).
Go ‘back-to-school’ yourself and pick up a new hobby or activity that you’ve always wanted to develop!

This is a time of big change for everyone, but it’s a positive and exciting one. With a little bit of planning and some solid strategies, it’s going to be a good first year of school!

 

Don’t Be Scared By The Name: What Music Therapy Can Do For Your Typically-Developing Child

Guest Blog by:

Hilary MacAulay, BMT, MT-BC, MTA

MasterworX Music Therapy

We all get a little nervous around the word ‘therapy’. Misconceptions about the type of people who require therapy, and the perceived social ramifications associated with the term make us hesitant to get involved in any program with that word in the title. But according to Webster’s Dictionary, something therapeutic is simply defined as ‘producing good effects on the body and mind’. This is the way I like to define music therapy. I like to think of it as using music to produce good effects on the body and mind, with a particular emphasis on the specific needs of the person or people involved. It sounds much less scary now, does it not?

Group Of Children Playing In School Orchestra Together

Music therapists are accredited through the Canadian Association for Music Therapy, and use a variety of music and musical interventions, such as songwriting, listening, or drumming, to work on their client’s individual goals. They work in a wide variety of healthcare, educational, and community programs, as well as in the client’s own home. But you would probably be surprised at how often you will come across music therapists in early childhood settings. We run the music program at the local daycares, and classes with the preschool down the road. We host mom-and-baby classes, or teach instrument lessons. We may even be the performer at a holiday party.

Usually when we speak of music therapy and early childhood, we are talking about kids with special needs. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of using music therapy with children with autism to work on communication and social skills 1, those with physical disabilities to work on strength or range of motion 2, and in special education settings 3. But the benefit of goal-oriented music reaches beyond just special needs.

Many of the skills that need to be acquired in early childhood, such as literacy, physical coordination, social, and mathematical skills, can be worked on using music. Songs lyrics that use wordplay can help to work on early literacy skills, while songs that use counting and numbers can help to improve early mathematical skills. Playing and sharing instruments is a great way to practice social skills and self-expression, as well as encourage curiosity and experimentation. But it gets better, because none of this work actually feels like work. Music groups or individual sessions look and feel just like playing, and children often do not even realize that they are learning to wait their turn and count higher than ever while they are singing, dancing, and jamming.

Group Of Elementary Age Schoolchildren In Music Class With Instruments
Music therapy can also be beneficial when times get tough for your child. Events such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, or a parents losing their job can be hard on young children, who may not have developed the words they need to express what they are feeling. A music therapist can help the child to express those difficult emotions through playing instruments, movement, or a number of other expressive forms to help alleviate the stress that the child is experiencing. The music therapist can also help the child to develop some personal coping skills, to be used when those feelings appear again in the future.

These sessions do not just benefit your children either! Singing, dancing, and creating music with your child can strengthen your bond. Studies have shown that singing with another person actually releases oxytocin (you may have heard it referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’ or the ‘love hormone’) in your brain, making you feel more connected with your little one 4. It may also help you feel less stressed and more energized, ready to tackle whatever else is headed your way for that day. And who knows! You might even find that you become a better singer, drummer, or car-dancer in the process!

There are numerous early childhood music programs out there, and they are all fantastic in their own way. What makes music therapy different is that the entire program is designed to best suit your child, family, or group. You can decide what your child or group needs, and the music therapist will work with you to ensure you are getting what you want. It can supplement other music programs or lessons your child participates in, help to practice physical skills such as balance and hand-eye coordination, provide the opportunity to practice social skills in a fun, engaging environment, or address any other goals or interests you may have.



 

MasterworX Music Therapy
If you would like more information on music therapy, check out the links below, or contact Hilary at MasterworX Music Therapy by email at masterworxmt@gmail.com or by phone at 403-999-1497.

Canadian Association for Music Therapy: http://www.musictherapy.ca/en/

Music Therapy Association for Alberta: http://www.mtaa.ca

American Music Therapy Association: http://www.musictherapy.org



 

1 Alvin, J. (1978). Musical and Autistic Behaviour. In Music therapy for the autistic child (2nd ed., p. 12). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2 Davis, W., & Gfeller, K. (1999). Music Therapy for Children and Adults with Physical Disabilities. In An introduction to music therapy: Theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 154-155). Boston, Mass:

3 Davis, W., & Gfeller, K. (1999). Music Therapy for Children and Adults with Physical Disabilities. In An introduction to music therapy: Theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 413-416). Boston, Mass:

4 Grape, C., Sandgren, M., Hansson, L., Ericson, M., & Theorell, T. (2003). Does singing promote well-being?: An empirical study of professional and amateur singers during a singing lesson. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science, 65-74. Retrieved December 30, 2015.

My bedroom, myself

Mommy Blogger Kat from motherfunctions.wordpress.com, shares her tips for making sacred spaces for ourselves and our children — especially important during these often crazy holiday months!


 

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There is something to be said for the sanctity of a bedroom.  As adults, when the day is long and hectic, we seek our beds as sanctuary from the onslaught of the day.  It is our space to put our feet up without people walking into the scene with loud voices, deadlines, and demands.

So here are a few pieces of advice to help kids love their bedrooms:

  1. Make the Bed

First thing in the morning, have your kid make their bed.  Don’t make the bed for them.  Don’t supervise the task.  Don’t even help (unless asked),  Of course, their best efforts to do it won’t be hotel-quality, but it is a task that involves patience, focus and a bit of strength to lug all the blankets and pillows into a rough proximity of where they should be.

At the end of the day, when it is time to settle down to bed, that is the time to reward the job.  “Did you make this bed?  It looks great!  You did a great job!” Suddenly the bed becomes a point of pride and comfort.  Make a big deal out of how comfortable they made their bed and how much their stuffed animals love the work they did.

This holds true for ourselves as well.  When we put time into making our beds, or cleaning our rooms, we appreciate the work we put in earlier to make our experience in this moment even better.

  1. Toy Free

When we go to our bedrooms as adults, we are acknowledging that we need to go somewhere quiet and stimulation-free where we can process our day and put our hectic world aside to focus on ourselves.  We may not necessarily fall asleep, but we have a place that is wholly ours, separate from any other communal space in the home.

The same holds true for children.  A toy-free room establishes a quiet area that is just for your child to focus on sleep and relaxation.  When their bedroom is loaded with toys, there is no boundary between this room and any other room in the house.  When the bedroom is filled with quiet books and their most loved possessions, they get the satisfaction of knowing their room is a place of solace and introspection, free of distraction.

A toy-free room also adds to the next point:

  1. Friend Free

By removing toys from the bedroom we eliminate the desire for our children to bring friends up to their bedrooms.

This is a tough rule.  Why wouldn’t we want our kids to have their friends playing in their rooms when we have just established that their room should be a place they love?

Our bedrooms often house our most loved items.  That ceramic unicorn you got on your 5th birthday may not fit in well with your adult décor, but it has a place in your heart, and in your bedroom where no one will break it or judge you for loving it so much.

Kids deserve the same space.  By keeping friends out of the bedroom, we set up a space where a child can house the special items that they don’t have to share.  So often our kids are bombarded with the need to share that we forget that not all items should be shared.  That very special teddy bear and baby blanket do not need to be handled by a friend that doesn’t understand the special nature of the precious item.  That is your child’s possession and we know how their heart would break if anything happened to it; friends in the bedroom adds a risk that that item won’t make it to maturity alongside your child.

  1. No Timeouts

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean no timeouts at all.  Quiet time can be a very effective strategy, but the bedroom should not be a place where your child is sent when they are acting up. Or, not angrily at least, with the feeling that they are being punished.

A timeout in the bedroom establishes a negative association with that room.  The bedroom isn’t really supposed to be a place where you go to when you’re scared, crying and worked up.  The bedroom is a place that you would choose to be when you want some close distance from a situation.

For some kids, bedtime is a difficult time because they feel isolated and alone, and a timeout in a bedroom just drives the point home that your bedroom is for removing you from everyone else.

A different approach is to provide a close-proximity timeout spot where your child can do their time near you.  After a number of timeouts throughout the day and no change in their attitude, it can help to calmly remove the child from the noise and chaos to their bedroom with you.  A calm talk on the bed about their behavior, a cuddle, bonding time and a story reinforces that the bedroom is a soothing place and that it is okay to walk away when the stress and excitement of the day can’t be handled.

The upside to a toy-free room means that your child won’t be distracted during their quiet time and also any siblings that have to be lumped into the process won’t cause an issue when they’re playing with toys while you’re trying to give the other child a quiet time.

  1. Sibling Separation

Sometimes it is hard as a parent with more than one child because there are issues when your older child is trying to play and a younger one comes along trying to snatch the toy they’re playing with.  That tends to be the point where we find older kids get frustrated because they understand polite rules of play while their sibling isn’t at that stage yet.  The older kid can’t reason with the little one, and they know better than to lash out against them.  Often that frustration turns into the oldest kid not knowing how to let that stress out and feeling like they have no place to go.

That is when a bedroom that is a positive space comes in handy.  It becomes far easier to suggest to the oldest kid that they might want to take those toys they were playing with and go play with them in their bedroom, by themselves, when they view their bedroom as a nice place to be, rather than a punishment when they obviously haven’t done anything wrong.

Now, this clearly seems like it flies in the face of point #2 where toys have been banned from bedrooms.  However, the occasional need to retire to a bedroom with a toy or two is a wildly different experience than having a bedroom filled with toys at all times.

Again, we establish that the oldest child has a place solely for them to relax in while also fostering independence and rewarding good behavior.  We are also recognizing their need to be viewed as a separate entity from their little sibling.

The youngest sibling also learns that their sibling has the ability to walk away and can help to establish proper rules of play, a model they can then follow themselves.

Another added bonus is that a separate space for the oldest child can help ease any animosity they might feel towards a younger sibling because they are able to walk away at any time instead of having to put up with whatever the young one decides to put them through.


Don’t forget to follow some of these tips yourself — reclaiming some close distance and retiring to your own sacred space is a great way to recharge your battery and maintain a healthy level of self-care! Don’t be afraid to reinforce the idea of me-time with your children — everyone needs it, and it is important to make it!

Promoting Resiliency

The idea of fostering “Resilient Children” is a hot topic in parenting and child psychology right now, and for such a seemingly simple concept, it’s actually a very complicated and many-layered issue. Perhaps one of the best ways of defining what ‘resilience’ is looking at it as our human capacity to “bounce-back” from difficulty or adversity in our lives – it’s a pattern of positive adaptation.
Be Your Own Hero
It is very hard to tell if someone “has” resiliency – there isn’t really a valid measurement tool, and people can be extremely resilient in some areas of their lives and very vulnerable in others. Some people have said it’s easier to spot a LACK of resiliency than it is to identify resiliency in action – sometimes it’s easy to see when people are having a hard time coping with stress in their lives, but even this isn’t always true (some people look like they’re doing just fine to other people, but are struggling internally). Resiliency looks different in and to everyone.

There are quite a few things you can do if you’re a parent and are looking to help your child become more resilient. Here are some of the most basic:

1) It seems very obvious but the first thing that you can do is create a loving, supportive and communicative home environment for your family. This means being demonstrative of your affection, open and approachable to talk about ANYTHING, and encouraging of your child’s endeavours. It is also very important for your child to feel safe at home, and for you to spend time together as a family.

2) Set clear boundaries and rules with real consequences, and monitor your child’s whereabouts – trust them to do things on their own, but show them that you care deeply about where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. Part of resiliency is allowing our children to learn from their mistakes — we can’t expect to have independent problem-solvers if we are always fixing things for our kids. But our children do need to know that somewhere, someone is thinking about them and loves them, and that they have responsibilities to these other people in their lives.

3) Promote healthy relationships with other adults. Kids need a variety of  safe “Important People” and Role Models to turn to in times of crisis. Support your child in having positive relationships with other family members, teachers, coaches, youth workers, etc. Promote healthy peer friendships in the same way. There are going to be times in your relationship with your child where they just might not be able to come to you with their problems. Make sure they have somewhere else safe to go to in times of need.

4) Have high, but achievable expectations for your child. Everyone needs something to look forward and live up to, but we also have to set our families up for success –  be reasonable about what you expect your child to achieve. Empower a sense of self-esteem and the belief that your child has control over the things that happen to them, so they don’t feel helpless or lost when things don’t go according to plan.

5) Get involved. Engage in your child’s school and extracurricular activities. Go out together in the community and be part of something bigger than your home environment, like helping out at one of Calgary’s many amazing volunteer organizations, creative arts or sports organizations, or religious organizations. Surround your child, AND YOURSELF with a wide support network, because it is so important for you to be happy and healthily functioning too!

Guest Blog: What your child REALLY needs to know for Preschool

As you start to look at preschool readiness blogs or talk to other parents, you are going to hear that your child needs to be able to count or have rudimentary math skills or even be able to write in order to be successful in preschool.

As a preschool teacher who gets asked all the time about this issue, I’d like to clear a few things up. Here is a list of things that your preschooler REALLY needs to know or be able to do prior to attending preschool.

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1. Be toilet trained

This means just that. Plain and Simple. Your child needs to be able to know when to go to the bathroom and be able to perform the function by themselves.  If your toddler has to wear a pull-up “just in case” they are not toilet trained and therefore not ready to attend.  This being said, all teachers know that during times of growth spurts or the beginning of the year when children are excited about new friends and experiences that more reminders will be required and sometp accidents are bound to happen.

You may be asking why this is so important: Preschool is meant to get your child prepared for school and gain some independence.  They will not be reminded once they enter school, nor will a teacher help your little one each time they need to go.  As well, many schools adhere to ratios (a set number of children to one teacher) and if a teacher is out of the room, or in a place where they cannot see the class for long periods of time it is actually unsafe for the other children. This is one skill your child must have mastered before school.

2. Be able to follow one-step directions

It is very helpful if your child can retain and complete one-step directions — we work on adding more as the school year progresses.  If you can tell your child go get your bag, or come sit “here” and have them complete the task they are ready! If you can ask them to get their bag, sit on the stairs and wait for you, even better! One, two and three-step tasks are appropriate for this age range.

3. Be able to let you leave

As teachers, we know that your child (and likely YOU) may have some separation anxiety in the first days of school, which is reasonable and understandable.  If this is your child’s first time away from you, and you haven’t practiced or prepped beforehand and know that your child is anxious, please understand we may ask you to leave with your child on the first day.  This is not because we do not want your child to attend; we would love your child to stay.  If your little one is having a full-on meltdown we may ask you to try again, or ask to contact you later to arrange a way to transition your child in.  This is again due to the fact that we have x amount of other little ones that are probably a bit anxious about their first day as well, and we need to get to all of them.  There are many schools that have staggered entry for just this reason. Your child may not start on the first day of classes or may start later than the beginning of class time so that the teacher can give each child their attention and set everyone up for success as they move into the classroom setting.

UncertaintyA good way to practice this with your child is to walk them through what will happen on the first day (which you can get from your teacher). You can then see about arranging a playdate where you can leave your child after going through the same routine as at the school.  If you register before the school year ends, prior to your child starting in September, you can also ask to come and join part of a class with your child as a transition to prevent anxiety.  Try getting a schedule from your teacher and set aside a morning to have a mock school-day; practice circle time, gym, snack, etc. Tell your child that you will return for them after class (without giving them a time, which is meaningless at this age).  With this your teacher can also reinforce what you have been saying:  if your child gets upset they can repeat the schedule (children thrive on routine) and THEN say that mom/dad/guardian will be back to get them.

4. Have some practice sharing

Now while this skill does help us teachers (it cuts down on the time we spend negotiating conflicts and give us more time for learning activities), it is primarily a skill that will help your child’s success.  If right from the start your child is unwilling to share, takes toys from others, pushes and so forth, other children learn right away to leave them alone.  Not only will your child have to work harder to make friends, they might have fewer chances to practice their social skills or learn cooperative play. Your teacher will of course work with children on this situation, but we cannot force interactions between any students.

balance-game-block_thlGames or puzzles are a great way to introduce the idea of sharing.  You each have to take turns, you put a puzzle piece down, and then your child does.  Matching games where they have to wait their turn works as well.

Alternately if your child is not interested in puzzles or games, any activity can turn into a sharing one! Like building a tower — your child can add one block then you can add yours. Take turns when it comes to knocking the tower down too (as we all know this is everyone’s favourite part) taking turns will help your child practice sharing and learning to control their reactions and anticipation will boost their emotional maturity!

5. Be excited for school!

We love nothing more than when your child comes in excited about making new friends, experiencing new things and learning! The more excited you are about going to school and the more positive your talk about it, the more your child will feel the same way! This is a wonderful new experience in both of your lives – Enjoy it!

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Jennifer Nahu (BEd) is a Preschool Teacher, Mother of two little girls, ECMAP Government Coordinator and all around super-woman! She has been working with children for the better part of 20 years in various different capacitites, and has found her joy in working with preschoolers, helping them prep for school, and watching them blossom.  This also allows her to be home part-time with her own two little girls who are a constant source of wonderment and joy! Recently she has been lucky enough to be included in the Government of Alberta’s ECMAP (Early Childhood) Program and the First 2000 Days Network, which is working on providing all families and children in Calgary with the necessary tools and skills for their First 2000 Days of life.