{     Offering the Best Childhood Preparation for Social and Academic Success.     }

Archive for the ‘EAB’ Category

Helping Children Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

testing-blog-graphics-5

By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

This is the time of year when social media, magazine and news stories and blogs (like this one) encourage us to reflect on the parts of our lives that we are most thankful for and to express appreciation for those who make our lives full. As a parent, my thoughts go immediately to my children. I am grateful to be sharing the experiences of life with them, and I hope that the things I say and do show them how important they are to me. As I write this post, though, I wonder what am doing as a parent to help them develop an attitude of gratitude.   

One place to start is to use the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday as a reason to think about how much we appreciate our family members and help your children come up with ways to show them how much we value them. Although gathering with family members may be tricky this year due to pandemic-related health concerns, we can be grateful for the resources of the modern worlthat provide us with many ways to stay connected, even from a distance. Here are some ideas for preschool-age children that might inspire them to feel and show gratitude toward others. 

Art with Heart – Making art for others is an enjoyable childhood activity – not only do children get to create art, but they get to enjoy someone’s enthusiastic response when they receive it. I’m a big fan of process-oriented art in which the focus is on using materials creatively in an open-ended way rather than producing a specific set outcome. Instead of asking children to make a leaf wreath or handprint turkey, provide them with a variety of materials and invite them to create something they think Grandpa would like. As they think about Grandpa, encourage them to reflect on what makes him so special, and write down what they say.  You can send Grandpa the artwork in the mail, take a photo and send it to his phone or ask your children to show the artwork to Grandpa over video chat. Include a note in which you share why your children think he is so special 

A Week of Warmth – Print out pictures of family members, turn them facedown and pick a new face from your pile each week. Start a conversation about that special family member in which you help your children reflect on how this person shows care and interest, what they do that your children appreciate and how your children feel when they think about that family member.  Each day of the week, have your children send a short video or text that they think will make that family member feel special. 

Sweet Treats – Invite your children to think of a kind of treat they’d like to make and who they’d like to send it toThis idea is a two-for-one – it has all of the benefits of a fun cooking activity (link to Lee’s blog on this topic herecombined with a way to show appreciation for family member far away.  When the family member receives the treat, ask that person to call (or start a video chat) so that your children can explain why they’re thankful for that person in their lives. Pro tip – Make a double batch so you can also leave one out to thank the mail carriers for what they do for your community, or make a triple batch and give one to your children’s teachers. 

Activities like the ones above help children pay attention to what they value about their family members and engage in age-appropriate ways to say, “Thank you for being in my life.” Combining conversations about how children feel with activities they can do to show thanks is the secret recipe for supporting children’s capacity for gratitude 

How to Prevent Meltdowns during the Holidays

family dressed for holidays working togetheron cookies

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

What is not to love about the holidays? There are acres of food, the anticipation of celebrations, traditions and, in some traditions, gifts. From a child’s perspective, it is a winwin. Routines are thrown to the wind, the rhythms of the day (like, say, bedtime or school) are changed over to the holiday pace and, for those who may be quarantining or podding with family or friends this year, there may be guests visiting your home. There’s so much going on and so much novelty. When do we open presents, again?  

From a parent’s perspective, the holidays may feel like a seasonal conspiracy designed to precipitate that dreaded event in any parent’s journey: the meltdown. Parents may have trouble recognizing who their children become when put into the breach of the overstimulation the holidays can bring. The joy of big meals, the hubbub of shared traditions, the sharing of the home and toys and the need to get along with everyone may be too much, leading to tears, yelling, thrown toys and children showing their families that they can go full supernova when they fall apart, spectacularly. (Hey, these can make for some funny memories for years to come, or you may take videos to put aside to embarrass your future high school senior.) In some cases, they can be pretty upsetting or take a while to get past for some children.  
Fortunately, with all of this in mind, there is a lot families can do to prevent the meltdowns in the first place. With a little bit of planning, one can lower the risk of witnessing fruitcake made airborne in a fit of pique or hearing salty oaths muttered to a cousin or houseguest.  

When humans of any age are sufficiently stressed, it can challenge their ability to cope and absorb annoyances or inconveniences. For adults, we have learned to adapt and extend ourselves during the holidays to be at our most polite and on our best behavior (wellmost of us have). We have an enhanced ability to roll with the stresses and quirks of the holiday schedule, leading to our ability to engage in small (or big) talk, connect with our relatives and prepare and deliver on the celebrations. We can behave, usually.  

For infants to children of school age, shifts from the normal patterns of sleep, shifts in meal and snack times and new surroundings or company may lead to them becoming crabby and more emotionally fragile. Whether you are hosting a celebration at home (via Zoom or in person) or whether your family is traveling afar to stay with others, I counsel families to bring some routines and special times with you to support your children emotionally over the holidays. There are some key ways to keep them on track and help them be more likely to hold it together. Have a go bag ready to go this holiday season. 

Are you worried about your picky eater not eating well and getting hangry? Bring his favorite snacks or food items. For my daughter, energy bars and some fruit were a handy goto that kept her smiling and willing to roll with whatever life threw her. 

Are you concerned your child will become edgy if she sleeps poorly? Bring the items that may optimize sleep in a busy time, including a noise machine (or app on your phone), noisecanceling headphones and some favorite books, and create a dedicated space you can escape to for siestas and downtime.  

For older toddlers and schoolage children, alone time may be as important as nap timeGiving children a chance to be on their own or just with their siblings may allow them to recharge and be ready to reenter the holiday fray.  

Preparations to head off meltdowns can start before the holidays themselves begin. I advise that parents talk with their children of all ages in a way that is right for their ages and stages, and give the children a sense of who is coming and what will happen. Keep the dialogue going, and even have them help get decorations or items ready for family members or guests. Praise them for their good work and, in the process, plant the seeds for their enjoyment of this busy time of year.  

For children who may hit the point of no return, there may be some lastminute techniques to head off a meltdown. Keep an eye on the clock, and be mindful of people or situations if you think your child may be having difficulty with them. Like a coach on the sidelines, consider having them take a moment in a quiet place to let them talk through what they are feeling or why they are upset. Redirect and distract them if you think it may help—bust out some crayons or head outside for a walk or a romp to work out the feelings physically if time and weather allow. Take time or make time if you need to. Like us adults, children may have an overflow of energy, but they are just better at playingusing their imaginations and dispelling that frustration. 

You might do all of that. Chances are, you do a lot of this consciously and unconsciously in your daytoday already, but even the most attentive and vigilant parents may find that, in spite of all of their preparation and research, meltdowns may happen anyway. If they occur, do what you can to help yourself and your children leave the crowded area and find some private space. Give children time to emote, and be supportive—it can be tough when you are a child and things don’t go your way. If necessary, delay a return to the bigger group and make some intimate fun – read a book together, sing a song or cast a spell and send those bad feelings packing. If your children are willing to talk about it, let them know that meltdowns happen and, like holidayscan be pretty intenseand it is okay. After a while, they too shall pass, and life will get back to normal.  

Five Books That Teach Children About Caring And Giving

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Educators have long known that storytelling is an essential part of learning. Stories help children absorb information and connect the story to their experiences. Here are five books that teach the lessons of caring and giving in an engaging manner:

  1. Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

Extra Yarn children's book cover

3. Boxes for Katie by Candice Fleming

Boxes for Katje Book Cover

4. When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

5. Random Acts, More Random Acts, –and– Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

Random Acts, More Random Acts, --and-- Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

 

Creative Ways to Teach Your Children to Say Please and Thank You

Toddler spelling Thank You with foam blocks

By Helen Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Parents all want their children to be polite and have good manners. One of the first steps is teaching your children to use the magic word when asking for something and then thanking them when they (hopefully) get what they requested. Teaching your children manners is an ongoing process that takes patience and persistence. Young children respond differently to family members, friends and strangers, and the environment also plays an important role, so children often act differently at school than at home. Don’t be surprised if your children’s teachers say they are very polite at school, but you struggle to get a “please” or “thank you” out of them at home.

Here are some creative ways to encourage your children to mind their Ps and Qs:

  • Engage in pretend play that involves asking for something or provides an opportunity to thank someone, such as imaginary tea parties (“Please pass the cookies.”), restaurants (“May I please order another pizza?”) or schools (“Thank you for sitting so nicely during circle time.”);
  • When reading books with your child, highlight when characters are polite and considerate of other people’s feelings (“I bet the bear felt good when his friend thanked him for bringing him some honey.”). It can also be helpful to point out to your children how happy they feel when someone thanks them for doing something good;
  • Close the day with gratitude and giving thanks. At dinner or bedtime, ask each member of the family to say thank you for something that happened that day. If your children are stuck, prompt them with a question like “What was your favorite thing today?” and guide them to say thank you for that thing;
  • Teach your children how to say please and thank you in a different language. This can be a fun way to introduce your children to a foreign language and show them that there are many different ways to be polite.

 

Taking on the COVID-19 Holidays – Together

children trick or treating

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Many of us are feeling uncertain about the holidays this year. Should we pretend everything is normal and take our children trick or treating? (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shared some fun alternatives to trick or treating this year.) What do we do about the winter holidays? Should we continue our traditions and host the annual extended family gatherings? As parents mull over their options, children take notice. They are astute and sensitive to their parents’ emotions and are experts at listening, even when we think they aren’t.

Children have no problem asking direct questions, which often puts us on the spot. If children have overheard someone say, “No Halloween this year,” they will turn to their family for answers. How parents choose to respond is critical because children can quickly tell if their parents are acting as a team or are divided.

Take the following scenario between a child and father as an example of how an answer may signal a divide. A child asks, “Dad, mom says no Halloween this year! Why not?”

Our pretend dad could say any number of things at this point. How and what he decides to say will clue the child into whether mom and dad are on the same page or even in the same book.

Just for fun, choose the best response for our pretend dad from the following options:

  1. The punt – “I don’t know – ask her.”
  2. The challenge – “What? Halloween is definitely happening this year!”
  3. The consensus – “Your mom and I have talked about this. Let’s go get her and discuss it together.”
  4. The dodge – “Not now, kiddo, I’m busy.”
  5. The subject change – “Hey, did you see all of the pinecones on the ground out front?”

The best answer is one that both parents have already agreed upon. It’s paramount to try your best to reach mutual decisions about your family’s safety during the COVID-19 holidays. Children are looking for secure anchorage during this bizarre time, and they need to know that the anchor line is taught, not dragging along.

It’s completely normal for parents to disagree on certain approaches toward parenting. However, they should agree on the best way to keep their families safe. According to recent research by my wife Marsha Kline Pruett, discrepant parental attitudes and behaviors about COVID-19 safety are toxic for children of all ages. If parents want to survive the approaching influx of holidays, they need to pull together on the following non-negotiable topics.

Agree on schedules and routines. By now, your original routines have likely been worn to a nubbin thanks to the disruptive pandemic. Get ahead of the holidays by brainstorming a new daily routine. Be sure to discuss food, hygiene, play, sleep and screen time, and keep the plan flexible so that holiday celebrations don’t destroy the routine.

Loosen up on some discipline. Agree to loosen the reins a little during the holidays, and pick your battles carefully. Letting certain non-harmful behaviors slide will help ease your stress levels during the holidays.

Practice what you will say to your children. Align your messages about how to discuss the holidays and your children’s feelings during COVID-19. “We’ve never had a [insert holiday or ritual] quite like this one. Some things will be the same, and some will be different.” Each parent may choose to empathize different aspects of the conversation, and that’s fine as long as they are actively listening to what their children are feeling.

Model your expectations. Parents should agree on and model the non-negotiables, such as handwashing, wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing and telling someone when you feel sick.

Consider safe socialization. Support reasonable efforts for your children to socialize with their peers and friends. If your child has a friend whose family is just as cautious as yours, it may be okay to arrange a playdate. Virtual playdates are always a safe option but can be tricky for young children with short attention spans. Unfortunately, our protective urges can lead to social isolation for children, which may upset and sadden them more during the holidays.

Share the love. During times of uncertainty and excitement (COVID-19 holidays), children may experience larger-than-life emotions. Sometimes, all they need is an extra big hug and lots of affection. Be sure to praise good behavior when you see it. Say, “You are a terrific teeth brusher!” or “I love how you helped with the laundry today.” Praise does wonders for children’s well-being and mental health.

Along the same lines, work with your partner to focus on any immediate health and safety concerns that may affect the holidays. Other problems that won’t matter afterward aren’t worth your time and energy.

Remember to care for yourself and each other. No one will look after you or you and your partner except yourselves. Take a deep breath, grab a snack or beverage from your secret cabinet, curl up on the couch and unwind. Remember, the holidays are about your families, so make space to relax and enjoy your time together

 

Learning and Appreciating Cultures during the Holidays

books lined up on christmas background

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

A good place to begin a dialogue with young children about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is through reading stories. It is especially important to engage young children with stories of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Stories help children extend their understanding of familiar emotions and social behaviors by presenting them in new contexts, and they provide opportunities for children to encounter emotions and social behaviors that they may not be exposed to in their everyday interactions within their families and communities. Sharing stories of how different families celebrate their holidays will help children learn more about their community and the world.

The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board has five favorites to help you begin:

Walk This World at Christmastime by Debbie Powell

Book Cover

We love this beautifully illustrated book that shares family traditions around the world. It is a great book, and your little ones will enjoy exploring each page as well as counting down the days with the interactive calendar built into the book.

Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Ho Baek Lee

Book cover

A little girl is excited to make a traditional Korean dish and share it with her extended family.  Your children will love learning about the ingredients and the fun this family shares. It may encourage you to get in the kitchen together and make some bee-bim bop.

N Is for Navidad by Susan Middleton Elya and Merry Banks, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

Book cover

You and your children will read this colorful and inviting story over and over again.  The book helps children explore a holiday in Spanish. Children can learn new words while following the alphabet and discovering wonderful traditions.

Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

peace

The entire community comes together with the hope of peace for all as Maya Angelou’s beautiful poem comes to life in this book. It’s perfect to share with the whole family at bedtime or during a quiet time after dinner.

Winter Candle by Jeron Ashford, illustrated by Stacey Schuett

winter

Children will be curious about the lump of wax and the light from the candles in the small community of one apartment building. The story shares the hopes of the multicultural residents and how they celebrate their holidays. This story always brings joyful tears to my eyes.

We hope you enjoy these wonderful stories as much as we do, and happy holidays!

Our Little Ones and Sugar

testing-blog-graphics-5

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

As a pediatrician, we talk a great deal about childrenfood and children’s growth. For the vast majority of children, this is a topic easily broached by asking what their favorite foods are (pizza and tacos reign supreme) and what they like to drink (many say water, actually, and only a few admit they guzzle juice or soda). It is a fun way to start a conversation on a very broad and potentially complicated topic.  

After more than a couple of decades in practice, I get it. Food is love. Food is culture. Food is fun. Food is delicious. As North Americans, our love of food comes with a rather demanding sweet tooth. Along with this inclination comes parents who are rightfully concerned about their children’s sugar intake.  

I want to assure you, however, that many times the concern isn’t necessary – parents are well informed and smart about offering children nutritious foods. However, the lure of sugar is strong in children, and sometimes it’s hard to say no to those precious, pleading faces. While limiting sugar may seem daunting at times because it’s in just about everything, there are two takeaway messages we should remember: 

  1. Children are not destined to turn into cupcakes or refuse to eat anything but tablespoons of sugarno matter what Mary Poppins says. Has anyone verified her medical license?  
  2. We can help children develop healthy habits and reduce the amount of sugar in their dietscreate sugar hacks, if you will  when considering a tasty snack, confection, fine beverage or dessert.   

(Sort of a chew on this, eschew that, right?) 

I’ll channel a chat I have with parents who are concerned about their child’s weight. Ideally, we’ve been having this conversation all the way along: limiting sweet snacks as you are able and encouraging a balanced diet. It sounds easy, but if you ever walk into a supermarket, there are a lot of options competing for (and winning over) children’s taste buds. It is our role as grownups to push back on the siren calls of cupcakes and Sour Patch Kids and to set some limit, somewhere.  

I am not one to say never: never dessert, never candy, never soda. Absolute vows tend to fail absolutely. I am more about saying *sometimes* for sugary foods and drinks versus not allowing them at all. Should one eat ice cream for every meal? No, that is absurd, and children get it. Should one have more than a cup of soda or juice a day? The answer here is no, but it may require some explanation. Having juice or soda sometimes, but not all the time, can be okayas long as a child eats balanced meals overall for the day. 

So, if you are setting up a menu for a few days, how could you swap in some healthy alternatives instead of having frosted sugar bombs for dinner?  

Here are a few ideas:  

Hot days will continue well into September, so it may be handy to have a cool and smart alternative to sugary popsicles. Aren’t 100% juice popsicles better than the alternative because they’re natural? Great try, marketers, but no. Many products have additional sweeteners. One might do better to blend some fresh fruit (mixed berries, say, or mango or peach) and put the mixture in an ice cube tray. Delish.    

Is the snack cabinet full of cookies and tasty, carb-loaded sugary items? The best approach to this category is to limit how much fun food you purchase. If you don’t have it in stock, then they can’t senselessly nosh on it. Instead, put a bowl of fresh fruit that is in season on the kitchen table as appropriate for your children’s ages, including bananasapples, peaches or a small pile of washed berries.  

I might go one step further and help your preschoolers work with a peeler to learn how to peel an apple. Can they peel the whole skin in one go? Probably not, but trying can be a fun challenge. Just be sure to limit their attempts to one bit of fruit at a time so you don’t walk into the kitchen to see a pile of naked fruit. A grownup can slice the fruit into appropriate pieces for rapid consumption. 

Beverages are an area where there is some latitude. I advise parents to avoid buying juice or soda altogether if it is too much of a temptation. (If you do buy OJ, for example, be sure to buy the variety with calcium and vitamin D supplements.) For children over two years old, 2% milk is fine, within reason. For you fans out there, chocolate milk is a SUGARY drink, best considered almost like a soda for all the glucose it has in there. Drinking two or three cups of cow’s milk a day is ideal for growing, but many children take far less than that, taking water instead, I find. Flavored seltzer can be a great option instead of sugary sodas. Sugarfree juices like Crystal Lite and diet sodas are a bit controversial (the longterm effects of the artificial sweeteners remain an area of concern) but may be a reasonable concession for some families. 

Then, there is dessert. “Should we let children eat dessert? I get asked. Yes, in moderation in terms of amount and frequency. For example, if you have a dessert after dinner of blueberries in a bowl of milk, then no problem. If a child has a hankering for a bowl of ice cream and hot fudge every day, I’d think that through, in terms of how that fits with a child’s or family’s profile. For most children, though, having an occasional bowl or cone of ice cream or some other sugary fare is not an issue.  

I will say that I’d encourage children to eat a reasonable portion of their dinner BEFORE they tuck into a sweet aftermeal snack. Some children get overly clever at this sort of meal replacement and push away their plate and eat a double helping of the afterdinner treat 

Bookstores, cookbooks, family filing cabinets and the internet (such as ChopChopFamily.org – Recipes) are full of ideas for balanced meals and less sugary options for our children. I think we all will be more successful if we think holistically about how our children eat across the days and the weeks. Are they eating a balance of protein, fat and some carbs? Are we offering them, to the extent possible, fresh foods and options that are lessoften sweetened or enriched with corn syrup? Once we have an idea of what we want to offer them, it is important to look at one’s cabinets (or secret candy stashes from last Halloween) and understand where all of their calories are coming from. 

Work with your children to understand their favorite foods, and work with them on a Sunday evening to build a menu for the week using their input for some of the entries (let the children take turns choosing a topfive food for dinner one night each week) and build on their choices and preferences. Fried chicken is okay. Fried Oreos may not be.  

With this in mind, we can get back to the basics that make eating together an occasion of love, culture, togetherness and joy, without the sugar high to follow if you are lucky!  

Bon appétit.  

 

Three Approaches to Teaching Your Child to Be Kind

women holding preschool child

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We all want our children to be happy, well liked and good to others. How do we support our children in learning to be kind? This topic often comes up in fall as children make new friends at school, and it is part of the National Bullying Prevention Month messages. This year, we will want to use same approaches to online interactions since so many children are interacting with classmates, friends and family members through video chats.  

Children develop social-emotional skills in many ways. The three approaches that make the most impact are modeling role playing and playing games, and storytelling. Parents can help to build a foundation for their young children by incorporating these approaches in their families’ daily activities.   

Modeling – Act kind yourself. Modeling is by far the best way to instill kind behavior in your children. Children love to imitate us, and if we act in a kind manner, they will, tooPraise your children when they exhibit kindness, and explain why you thought what they did was a kind thing to do. It’ll become a habit. When you see kindness in others, share your thoughts with your children. “That was so kind of Jane to share her snack with you at school.” In an online situation, compliment your child (i.e., “You waited your turn to speak.  That was great!”). When our children hear the praise we give others, they will want to exhibit the same behavior. Try not to be negative, and redirect your children when they act unkindly. For example, explain how the other person may feel, talk about what your children could have done differently and help your children apologize.  

Role Playing and Playing Games – Create opportunities for your child to play. Your child will act out reallife situations while playing with stuffed animals, robotic toys and dolls. Interacting in unguided play with other children also supports learning to get along with others. Playing games can be part of dramatic play, tooGames help children learn to take turns and develop sportsmanship. Try games where your children need to collaborate with another player to win. Relay races, parachute games and family scavenger hunts are several good choices.   

Reading and Sharing Stories – Read stories where the characters must make decisions about their behaviors. Talk about the consequences of both kind and not-so-kind actions. Children learn through the stories by relating to the characters and the events. Here are some favorites that focus on kindness to get you started: 

  • If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson 
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët 
  • Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton 
  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace 
  • Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter 

You can also share stories from your childhood or from your family’s experiences. These are important to young children and can help them learn life’s lessons. 

 

More Than Just Fun and Games: What Children Can Learn from Playing Games

child playing board game with parent

By Helen Hadani, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

After sheltering in place for several months, many families are digging deep into their closets and garages for games that haven’t seen the light of day for months or even years. For families with young children, classic games like Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish and Candyland are fun ways to enjoy family time, but they also promote important social skills, including taking turns and sharing, and academic skills, such as counting, color matching and comparing numbers.  

By definition, games include rules. Remembering those rules requires working memory (the part of our memory that allows us to hold and mentally manipulate information in our minds), and following rules often requires self-control. For example, children have to resist the urge to touch their toes when playing Simon Says unless they hear the magic words “Simon says.” Similarly, in the classic outdoor game Red Light, Green Light, children need to exhibit self-control and only run fast when they hear “green light.” Even just waiting until it is your turn can be hard! 

Simple card games like Go Fish, Old Maid and Crazy Eights involve matching suits or numbers, which promotes early math skills. When children roll dice or use a spinner to determine the number of spaces they should move, they have an opportunity to practice counting. In fact, researchers have found that playing a number-based board game like Chutes and Ladders can improve preschoolers’ numerical knowledge and skills. 

Games are meant to be sources of entertainment and joy (and they bring out the competitive side in some of us), but research shows that some games can also promote cognitive and social skills.  

Don’t worry if your children ask to play their favorite game more times than you want to count – they are learning along the way as they get to that last spot on the board! 

How to Set Up a Child’s Room for Playful Learning

a photo of a preschool child's bedroom

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Setting up a child’s room can be so much fun, but it can also be overwhelming. Don’t worry – you likely already have more than you need. Do not stress over how educational each toy is or feel like you need to fill up the room. I recall my nephew as we were setting up his room. He lined up all his trucks on a shelf and announced, “Auntie Lee, just leave the blocks and trucks. You can sell the rest.” He was four.

The two most important things are safety and fun. The learning part will come as your child explores, imagines and plays. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Use colorful bins or tubs and sort toys your child can easily access;
  • Create a reading nook by placing books on a low shelf or bin. Add a soft place to curl up and read;
  • Place a small plastic mirror on the wall at ground level – it’s a wonderful addition for infants and toddlers;
  • Add art and science or math spaces in an area that can be made messy and then easily cleaned up again. For art projects, have a variety of papers, paints, crayons and other materials on hand. For math and science discovery, measuring cups, bowls, rulers, dried foods like pasta and even food scales are wonderful resources for hands-on learning;
  • Think about what toys are safe for your children at their current age levels. Place those within easy reach and let your children dump them out and play away;
  • Create a dramatic arts area where your children can dress up, play pretend and use recycled food items to expand their understanding of the world around them;
  • Add new items and rotate older ones out occasionally. Later, bring some of the older ones back;
  • Blocks, puzzles, board games and stacking toys are always a hit;
  • Introduce new toys one at a time and add items that might give your children a challenge. For example, if they can do a 10-piece puzzle, add a few 15-to-20-piece puzzles into the mix;
  • You don’t have to create a designated space for technology since it should enhance other learning experiences. Instead, take a tablet outside for a photo or video-making session, help your child create an e-book in your reading nook or look up steps to create a robot in your science area;
  • Avoid clutter as it can be overwhelming and inhibits creativity and exploration.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun as you set up this space, and be sure to keep an eye out for what fun learning experiences your children have there!