Archive for the ‘ Preschool ’ Category

5 Helpful Resources for Talking to Kids About Tragedies

Friday, December 14th, 2012

As we struggle to comprehend what happened on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, we’re also trying to find the words to talk to our children as they ask questions. It’s a difficult topic to talk about as our children look to us for guidance. As parents, it’s our job to grieve for fellow parents and the young children whose lives were taken but at the same time, provide answers to our kids who are wondering if this could happen at their school.

When today’s events unfolded, I was immediately transported back to my first grade classroom and the discussion that I had with my students as a new teacher about Columbine. I remember my principal talking to us as staff about what to say and about addressing student questions as they came up. As expected, many of my students asked about the safety of our own school.

Having talked about tragedy with children before, I shared my parent and educator perspective with helpful tips on talking to your kids for parents who are looking for guidance on talking about these difficult topics. But knowing that conversations in houses across the nation will be different and suited to our kids and family values, where else can you turn as you’re trying to make sense of today?

I always turn to trusted resources who I can count on to provide helpful tips and age-appropriate talking points for my own children. Here are some helpful links that I found with sound advice for discussing the Sandy Hook tragedy with your children.

PBS Parents offers flexible suggestions about answering kids’ questions about current events. I like that the tips in Talking with Kids About News can be applied to news of any kind and not just about tragedy.

Explaining the News to Our Kids by Common Sense Media provides differentiated messaging for kids depending on their ages. There are tips for talking to those under 7, between 8-12, and teens which is especially useful for families who have kids of different ages and need to address everyone’s concerns in an age appropriate way.

The Mother Company offers expert advice on their site and Talking About Devastating News with Our Kids includes an interview with Pattie Fitzgerald, who advises bringing up difficult topics in context and “explaining that certain events are rare occurrences, or far from where you live” reassuring kids “that as parents you take thorough precautions to keep them safe.” There’s also a very helpful list of tips parents can use to navigate tough news topics.

Sesame Street’s Here for each other: Helping Families After an Emergency is a downloadable PDF that is a fantastic resource for parents of young children. It urges parents to model a sense of calm in front of children since kids take cues from parents and caregivers. There are also simple ways to stay positive after an emergency along with ways to address a child’s fears based on their age.

The American Psychological Association has a post about Helping Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting. Wise words include “What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all children need to be able to know you are there listening to them.” APA also encourages parents to find times when kids are most likely to talk but to express your opinions while making a concerted effort to listen and not interrupt.

Sadness – a lonely child via Shutterstock

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5 Screenless Gifts to Activate a Preschooler’s Brain and Body

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Preschoolers are always clamoring for our digital devices, but in the name of maintaining a healthy balance between imaginative play, outdoor time, and screen time, gift them with some toys that will exercise their mind, imagination, and bodies. Open-ended toys allow for endless play possibilities that preschoolers thrive on. Toys that get them moving help burn off excess energy, even in the colder winter months. Challenges for the mind help young brains develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. Here are 5 toys that are well worth adding to your family’s list of must-haves.

Tegu Blocks— In our home, blocks are always being used in some sort of play from designing make believe worlds to using them for more practical things like weighing down blanket corners for a fort. Blocks are a classic toy because they provide limitless possibilities for a child’s imagination, but what if there were magnets inside your blocks to allow you to build up and out? Tegu’s eco-friendly blocks revolutionize building thanks to their magnetic nature. They stick together and make a satisfying clicking sound and attach to each other in gravity-defying ways to form structures that can be created on the floor or any magnetic surface like a metal filing cabinet in our home office or the refrigerator door. They are as much fun for the kids as they are for adults!

Perplexus Rookie— There’s something very addictive about this maze inside a sphere. Rotate the sphere to move the enclosed ball along the length of track and through obstacles in order to reach the end while practicing hand-eye coordination and spatial skills. Perplxeus Rookie features wider tracks than the Original and other models, making it a great introduction to the Perplexus line. Kids have a tendency to spend long periods of time completely engrossed in moving the ball from start to finish and often take pleasure in being better at it than the grownups in the house!

Plan Toys Play House— This darling three-story house is made with sustainable, eco-friendly wood and features a panel that divides the doll’s living space from the outside. The panel also serves as a two-sided play mat that can be a wall, roof, or garden. Parents will love that it comes with furnished with furniture for the two dolls and doesn’t require screws for assembly, while boys and girls will delight in the endless play scenarios that they can create.

Legos— This classic toy is something that you can never have enough of because of the endless play possibilities. Structures with or without doors and windows that open and close, vehicles, towers, and more!  Giving the gift of Legos ensures that there are always more to add to a child’s collection.

Balance Bike— Riding a bike is hard but not if the skills involved are broken down into manageable tasks. Since learning to ride a bike involves mastering the tricky art of balance and learning to pedal and brake, Balance Bikes are great for giving preschoolers a head start in learning the fine art of balancing on two wheels so they can move right to riding a bike sans training wheels. Look for quality brands such as balance bikes from Skuut and Like A Bike so they will last well beyond your first child for siblings and even be passed down to cousins.

Little girl with gift box via Shutterstock

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Tags: , | Categories: Must Read, Preschool

Dress Up Goes Digital

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Toddlers and preschoolers thrive on imaginative play that helps them understand the world around them and love dress up. A dress up bin full of clothes, hats, and accessories has unlimited possibilities but what about when you’re out? Today’s kids can exercise their imagination through digital dress up options to unleash their inner fashionista at any age.

Fairies Fashion Boutique— Fans of Disney, Tinkerbelle, and the fairies, will enjoy the new free Fairies Fashion Boutique app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPads that allows fans to create and style their own Fairy. Select from a variety of hairstyles and over 500 patterns and 100 color options in the clothing and accessories lines. Parents should note that while the app is free, fashions are available to purchase and charges go directly to your iTunes account. Be sure to have a conversation with your child to point out free fashions versus the paid ones so you don’t rack up an abundance of charges. Also, the undressed fairy figures are modeled after curvy women, rather than the bodies of girls, and could result in questions and concerns about body image.


Fashion Playtes allows budding fashion designers the fun of designing their own clothes via the website with the option of purchasing products from their very own line. Girls can design endlessly by personalizing tops, bottoms, dresses, outwear, loungewear, accessories, and even doll clothes for themselves and miniaturized matching versions for their favorite 18” doll. Select the color of the garment, choose embellishments (appliqués, rhinestones, lace, and more), and then add a personalized label saying who it was made by.  Items are affordably priced even after customization! Choices that were plentiful but not overwhelming. Parents should know that girls can create as many designs as they want without having to pay for their creations. Payment comes when a girl wants to have her article of clothing made and delivered to their house. Once you use the site, it’s probably best to not have Fashion Playtes remember your credit card info in the event that the check out button is hit accidentally

Imagine Fashion Designer

Imagine Fashion Designer New YorkPart of the Imagine game series for the Nintendo DS, Imagine Fashion Designer New York allows tweens to pretend they’re upcoming fashion designers trying to make it in New York City as part of a famous fashion house. They’ll style, design, and trend set their way to the top! Wii owners can get in on the fashion action with Imagine Fashion Party, a game that uses the Wii controller to go through as series of challenges to prove you’re the best designer. Imagine Fashion Designer is similar to the other Imagine games in that it allows for fantasy role play with a healthy dose of dress up where girls can style the models they will use to show off their fashion on the runway. Parents should know that while both games are rated E and designed for ages 6-14, it’s important to preview the games first before turning your daughter loose to ensure that the content is just right for her.

Images courtesy of the aforementioned companies.


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4 iPhone & iPad Apps to Teach Preschoolers and Early Elementary Ages Math and Literacy Concepts with Favorite Characters

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Learning is always more fun when done with a favorite friend. New apps from Disney Publishing and PBS allow preschoolers to engage in early reading, math, and foreign language lessons with familiar Disney characters like Winnie the Pooh and the cast of Toy Story. PBS provides cross platform learning by reinforcing concepts in their shows, on, and also through apps featuring favorite characters. These 6 new apps are easy for young learners to navigate and fun at the same time. You might never get your iPhone or iPad back again!

Pooh’s Birthday Surprise

Features he beloved characters of the Hundred-Acre Woods in an interactive storybook that focuses on early literacy and pre-math skills. Kids ages 3-5 are invited to join in Pooh’s birthday party planning where they practice activities such as identifying and extending simple patterns, problem solving, vocabulary awareness, and story comprehension.  $1.99 from iTunes until September 12.

Toy Story Showtime!

Toy Story is an interactive storybook aimed at children ages 4-6.  Learners explore essential early reading concepts through engaging with content.  For example, “Toy Story Showtime!” features Buzz Lightyear as he sets out to impress Jessie the Cowgirl in a talent show. Readers can assist him with his comedy and juggling acts while they discover new vocabulary words through context and story-based repetition. $1.99 from iTunes until September 12.

SUPER WHY! ABC Adventures: Alphabet

Kids ages 3-6 can travel around the world on an alphabet adventure with SUPER WHY! friends. Young learners will enjoy an around-the-world alphabet adventure while playing an engaging collection of five mini-games with a literacy curriculum. $2.99 for iPhone and iPod touch or $3.99 for iPad.

All Aboard the Dinosaur Train!

Have some Jurassic Park fun on the iPad with All Aboard the Dinosaur Train! The Dinosaur Train is getting ready to leave and needs passengers! Children ages 3-6 are needed to match the passengers with the right train cars, challenging them to problem-solve by estimating dinosaur sizes and comparing them with the train cars’ capacity. $1.99 for iPad.

Portrait of a young child in a home interior engrossed in a game on a digital tablet via Shutterstock.

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3 Tips for Finding Great Apps for Kids

Monday, August 27th, 2012

More often than not, learning with a friend is more fun, especially if it’s through an educational app featuring a beloved character. It’s no surprise that a new study from market research firm NPD Group stated that kids are increasingly adopting tech. One finding indicated that tablet use increased 13% from 2011 to 2012, making it more important to find the apps that will provide quality learning experiences for the youngest ages.

But how do you know what apps are entertaining and educational at the same time?

Luckily apps aren’t a large investment like a monthly subscription to some paid kids’ websites or new gaming system but a dollar or two here and there can add up.

Here are 3 tips for finding great apps.

  • Visit Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media is a wealth of information that provides reviews for movies, video games, websites, TV, books, music, and also apps. It’s an easy to use site that allows parents to do a search and quickly figure out if content is age appropriate for their child. To stay up to date, their emails provide helpful information and food for thought about raising kids in this digital age.
  • Rely on trusted names in education. PBS, Scholastic, and many other companies that are rooted in educating young minds have jumped into the app game. They have developed high quality learning experiences that include interactive games and storybooks that keep kids engaged and tend to be so fun that kids forget that they’re learning!
  • Ask friends and teachers. Your village can be a great source of information. Teachers with children can be a wonderful resource because it’s likely that they’re looking for educational apps for their own children to use at home. A savvy friend who is always knows about products before everyone else probably can provide some suggestions too.

Where do you go to find great apps? Do you have any tips?

Family playing video game on smartphone via Shutterstock

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