Here are some of our favorite tips and tools for helping you help your preschooler develop his/her natural competence in all areas of development. These positive ideas build on a young child’s own strengths.
Stoplight for Peace. Print out an image of a stoplight. On or next to the red light, write: “STOP. Take a big breath.” On or next to the yellow light, write: “LOOK at each other. LISTEN to each other.” On or next to the green light, write: “Figure out a solution. GO.” teach your children how to use the Stoplight for Peace, and then send them there to resolve their disputes, stepping out of it as much as possible yourself!
Use puppets. Have 2 puppets act out a dispute with each other. They can fight about wanting the same toy, or they can call each other bad names, or they can push each other, or whatever your children’s current issue is. Have your children think of ideas for how they can solve their problem. (Yes, it works! Here’s a story from our classroom to inspire you: When we had our puppets argue about what to do–one puppet wanted to play with dolls and the other wanted to draw–our kids came up with some great ideas for them! One child said they could draw pictures of the dolls. A second child added: “Yeah, and then they can cut them out and play with paper dolls!” Like we say–aren’t preschoolers amazing?)
Use fewer words. Kids tend to tune out adults talking at them, especially when we go on at length (and we’re all guilty of that). When you want your child to do something, or to respond to something, keep it short and sweet, and make sure you have their attention first.
Use more visual and sound signals. For transitions and routines, do what teachers do:
- Flick the lights
- Use an auditory signal to indicate that it’s time to leave (we use a train whistle)
- Ring a bell to call the family to dinner
- Clap your hands in an interesting rhythm
- Sing a song (such as, “It’s time to clean up, it’s time to clean up, high ho the derry oh, it’s time to clean up!”)
Use sign language. Please see our Links page for a link to sites for standard ASL signs that are very effective with young children, such as those for “sit down”, “more”, “I’m sorry”, “bathroom” and “please” and “thank you.”
Use visuals. Create a picture schedule for the day, or a place to post a photo of whatever unusual thing will be happening that day–grandma’s house, the library, swimming lessons, etc.
Make a Job Chart. Vary the jobs each day, to keep it interesting. Preschoolers love doing jobs, and will be thrilled to check it each day to see what they are going to do–set the table, sort socks in the laundry basket, take in the mail, give the dog water and food, etc. Use photos of the job along with the words to increase literacy.
Use your digital camera. Here are 50 ways you can use your camera and the photos you take to enhance the life of your child:
Feelings: Book about feelings. “I Can” book to promote self-esteem. Miss my mommy/daddy photos (to take with him when he’s going to be away from you). Stay-in-touch photos of far-flung friends and relatives.
Daily Living: Job Chart. Picture schedule. Flip book for use in car of items to spot on the way. “Find It” game for items to spot in grocery store. Photos of how child’s room is supposed to look when clean. Photos of order to get dressed, esp. for outdoors in winter.
Toys and Games: Personalized car mat. People blocks (tape photos of child and family members onto blocks to use with block play.) Me paper doll. Memory game (print 2 photos of things and people in your child’s life, flip them over and he has to find the matches.) Rhyming game (finding pairs that rhyme, using photos from the child’s life, such as “cat” and “hat” or “chair” and “bear.”)
Books/Literacy: Rebus books (see our downloads for one you can use). Story books about trips and vacations. Books about family members. Foreign language vocabulary books with photos of common objects. Story books about things child has done. Story books about places child likes to go. Story book about the seasons at child’s house. Book about child’s pet. Write story with child: child sets up dolls/blocks, toys etc. to show the story and you photograph them. Rhyming photo book. Look how I’m growing: pic of child at birth, and on each birthday. Holiday books. Sports book. ABC book (if your child knows some letter sounds, she can help you think of and find things that start with each letter which you can photograph.) Let your child use your camera or phone to take pictures herself that can be put into a book. [Note: You can either print out, or put onto your iPad or other digital devices, any books that you create on your computer.]
Art: Imaginary me: Photo of child’s head cut out and pasted onto a piece of paper–he can make himself into anything–a monster, a knight, a fairy, a superhero, whatever. Photo of child sleeping–child illustrates what she is dreaming about. Print black and white photos. Many possibilities–of child, which child colors (variations: colors self/background/whole thing/create set with one b & w and one colored), seasons–child can color in the garden in the summer, trees in the fall, etc., photo of house which child can color. Cut out photos of child’s family and friends, paste onto paper and child draws the illustrations around it: whatever child imagines (at the beach, at the park, in a castle, flying through the air…) Preserve children’s art through photos, esp. transitory art such as sidewalk chalk drawing.
Gifts: Bookmark with child’s whole body, says “I love you!” Personalized thank you notes child can write. Make your own photo standouts. “Why I Love Grandma” Book. Placemats (laminated.) Personalized cards.