Communicating with your preschooler in a nurturing way

According to the American academy of Pediatrics, children go through many important communication milestones between 24 and 48 months. This means that what your child can understand, and the complexity with which he or she can express and communicate with you increases greatly around this age.

Communication is very important not only for language development, but for your kid’s social and emotional skills as well. Positive and effective communication sets the base with which to build and mend relationships, and here we’ll give you some tips on how to apply this at home! Continue reading

Making new foods appealing to my preschooler

Because young kid’s senses, personality and cognition are still developing, it’s normal for them to have somewhat rigid food-preferences regarding texture and flavor, especially when a new food is just being introduced. Therefore, it is necessary to take their developmental stage into account when exposing them to new foods, so that the experience can be positive and build their emotional, verbal and physical skills as well.

With this challenge in mind, here are some ideas on how to successfully introduce new foods into your daughter’s diet:
• Read together a book that features a new food and talk about its characteristics before getting to experience it in real life.
• Make sure that your child has a good posture while eating, so that she is not uncomfortable or too occupied trying to stay upright.
• Let your child help in the preparation of the food. Cooking together provides interesting and positive experiences around food, and it has been proven that it boosts the child’s self-confidence, while also encouraging them to try their creation.
• Take into account the food temperature and try to make sure its pleasantly warm.
• Monkey see, monkey do. Model how trying this new food is safe and fun to do.
• Consider the food’s texture, as some kids will turn down stringy of lumpy foods, or those that need lots of chewing.
• Make the food presentation interesting. This can be easily done by serving different colors or shapes of foods, like brightly colored veggies, fruit wedges, square chunks, triangle-shaped sandwiches, etc.
• Introduce one new food at a time, accompanied with healthy and familiar foods to avoid overwhelming your kid. Baby steps go a long way in the long run.

Teaching my kid how to get dressed

Getting a preschooler dressed can be a cause for morning stress for many parents. You might be in a hurry and your child won’t put on his coat without making a tantrum, or he has decided to wear tree pairs of socks today or has buttoned his clothes wrongly and feels betrayed by you when correcting the situation. You might think that the only way around this is dressing your child yourself, because if it’s still such a struggle, it might be too early to be working on self-care skills like dressing.

In fact, learning to dress independently is an important skill that your child can start to tackle between 36 and 48 months old. Meeting challenges like pulling clothes off, opening large zippers, putting on shoes or buttoning and unbuttoning large buttons actually helps your child build many new skills. For example, he develops multiple different areas, like fine and gross motor skills when mastering necessary hand movements, or his memory when recalling steps and their order when putting clothes on and off. He also works on his attention span and learns through experience about shapes and colors, not to mention the self-awareness, the sense of achievement and the confidence that is built by learning to get dressed.

Here are some tips for you to help your kid learn how to get dressed:
• Be supportive and acknowledge progress. If you make getting dressed a positive experience, your child will be more likely to cooperate with you.
• Teach undressing first, as it takes less coordination.
• Try to practice getting dressed when the pair of you are not in a hurry and set a realistic allotted time for dressing.
• Let your child choose clothes from a couple of weather-appropriate options and talk about the weather and how its related to the clothes you choose.
• Explain the difference between clean and dirty clothes and how you put them in different places.

My little one wants to choose what to wear

If you are raising a preschooler, chances are your kid has started to insist on going to school dressed as a pirate or wearing dance clothes. Beyond how cute or unpractical these fashion statements might be, between two and four years of age, children start to express a need for independence and autonomy that is usually exteriorized around bath and dressing-time.

Having a say in what to wear and choosing clothes is a safe form of self-expression, and your daughter’s way of showing you how much she has grown, and all the wonderful things she is now capable of doing. Because this expression of autonomy and self-care is important to a child’s social and emotional development, here are some tips on how to allow liberty in the wardrobe, and avoid power-struggles with a preschooler that sees no wrong in going outside to build a snowman dressed like Aladdin.

• If you have an important event to attend to with your child, select a couple of outfits your preschooler can choose from. This way she can pick out what to wear for the day, while, at the same time, you make sure that the clothes are appropriate for the weather and the occasion.
• Make sure the clothes buttons and zippers aren’t overly challenging for your little one’s hands to avoid overwhelming her. Encourage independent dressing, but nonetheless offer some help with small zippers, tricky buttons or shoe-laces to keep your child interested and not so frustrated that she won’t want to try it again.
• Let your little girl have a say in shopping for her clothes. Having your kid be invested in the clothes from the very beginning can make it easier to engage in getting dressed in them. For little kids, you can look for very comfortable clothes that include a figure or character your child loves.

Nurturing honesty in preschoolers

We have all been there. You suddenly hear a loud noise, turn your head, see a knocked-over box of toys scattered all across the room like a mined field and then you hear the feared lie coming out of your preschooler: “It wasn’t me!”.

Don’t worry, although witnessing your kid lie for the first time can be unsettling, it’s important to know that this is a completely normal behavior in small kids. They are still learning the social and emotional skills that allow older kids to know that honesty is the best policy.

Your kid might have indulged in a white lie for many reasons. It might be to avoid the consequences of a naughty action, because of her faulty memory-recalling, to avoid disappointing you when an accident happens or because distinguishing reality from fantasy is still challenging at her age. Because these preschooler lies aren’t malicious, they shouldn’t be a cause for either concern nor punishment. Your daughter will soon outgrow the need to lie, especially if you surround her with honesty and trust.

Meanwhile, you can nurture the development of honesty in your child by making it easy for her to tell you the truth. Show appreciation for her honesty, helping her remember the whole truth of a story and, above all, trust your kid and model truthfulness.

Can my child start eating independently and tackle new milestones?

Between the excitement of achieving new milestones and the fear of messy floors and tables in the nearby future, figuring out when your child is ready to start eating by himself can seem complicated. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the independent feeding skills and table milestones that are usually met between 3 and 4 years of age.

According to doctor Tiffany Hays, director of Pediatric Nutrition at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, allowing your kid to be independent early on during mealtimes is crucial because it will not only foster a sense of autonomy, but also make it easier for your kid to respond to his natural hunger and fullness cues. Remember that some spills and accidents will inevitably happen, although with decreasing frequency, but you can safely start working toward the following skills with your 36 to 48-month-old:
• Pour liquids from a pitcher using a cup.
• Use the fingers and hand to hold a fork, apply the correct amount of pressure to pierce and pick up soft foods with it and accurately direct it into the mouth.
• Wipe mouth with a napkin when prompted or reminded to do so.
• Take notice to swallow the food before taking another bite.
• Pour and scoop with minimal spilling.
• Open different kinds of food containers, like jars, food bags, juice bottles with a straw, etc.
• Drink from a small open cup using only one hand.

If you want to read more about independent feeding skills for your toddler, you can check out this link:

Cognitive flexibility starts in early childhood!

According to a team of researchers from the University of Sheffield, cognitive flexibility is the ability we have to take into account new information that may arise in any give situation, and that may result in modifying a behavior that was usually done based on an initial and implicit rule. This important cognitive capacity is usually developed during the preschool years and marks a crucial moment in early cognitive development. The capacity to adapt and respond to new challenges and solve problems is essential to every aspect of human life.

To illustrate what this means, in 2006, University of Toronto’s professor of psychology Philip David Zelazo did an experiment in which he gave a group of 3 and 4-year-olds two sorting tasks. The first one was to sort colored shapes by one rule (either by their color or their shape) while the second task was to sort these same figures by another rule (color or shape, depending on which rule each kid had been given for the first task). He found out that both the 3-year-olds and the 4-year-olds were able to sort the shapes by a single rule, but after switching the rules to sort the shapes by another characteristic, only the 4-years-old were able to reliably take the second rule into consideration and sort the shapes according to the new information.

What developmental psychologists have found about the development of cognitive flexibility is that it develops between 3 and 4 years of age, and its emergence involves a wide set of cognitive skills developed around that age. According to a 2015 paper published in Journal of Child Development by developmental psychologist Emma Blakey and her team from the University of Sheffield the attention control, memory, impulse control and abstract and conceptual thinking are some of the capacities that allow preschool children to develop cognitive flexibility.

How to boost your 3-year-old’s memory

Although you have already seen a tremendous progress in your daughter’s capacity to recall events from the past, your little one’s brain is still very young. Toddlers can store information and memories, but because their brain, specially the hippocampus and cortex, is still developing, they have a much harder time than adults retrieving memories. This means that, although your 3-year-old might not be able to recall many aspects of daily life, memories are never truly lost. Psychologist Dima Amso from Brown University assets that every memory is essentially a unit of experience and even if specific memories are forgotten, the whole of our memory, even from a very early age, is the basis of every person’s identity.

As time passes and your little girl continues growing, her ability to process information, discriminate sensory information, understand concepts of time and use language to recall past experiences will grow as well, and all this will contribute to her memory skills.

Like with many other skills, there are many activities you can do to help and encourage your daughter’s memory development. Here are some ideas:
• Recall the day. Having the family share the events of their days during a mealtime or before bed is a good habit that can foster both linguistic and cognitive development by encouraging conversational skills.
• Two heads remember better than one. After an activity, a visit to a relative’s house, a playdate or an outing, sit down with your little one and recall the things that you did and saw. Prompt your kid with fun questions.
• Play memory games, like remembering cards with pictures.

Just remember never to scold or show frustration about your little one’s developing memory, its normal at this age for kids to forget things.

Helping my toddler to solve conflicts with his friends

It’s completely normal for toddlers to sometimes get overwhelmed and as a parent you’ve surely witnessed how interacting with playmates or making new friends can, at times, seem as an unsurmountable challenge. Don’t worry, occasional conflict between young kids is normal, and a necessary component for your kid’s socio-emotional development. When this happens, you have the opportunity to teach your kid about conflict-solving.

Following the work of psychologist Kelly Tu from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies of Auburn University, here are some tips on how to help your young child manage conflict with his peers:
• Be a positive role model of conflict-solving.
• Encourage cooperation. Suggest using words instead of aggression to deal with conflict.
• Propose sharing. If the popularity of a single toy among playmates is proving problematic, remind your child that when two kids share a toy, they each get an equal turn playing with it. You can also be in charge on timing the turns if you see the need.
• Reformulate. If your child is crying or is overwhelmed with an emotion, ask him to restate the problem in a way that opens up possible solutions. Ex. “She won’t give me the purple crayon” can be reformulated by you as “So we have two artists, but only one purple crayon”.
• Teach alternative solutions. If sharing is too challenging for your child’s developmental stage right now, suggest finding another activity or toy to play with instead. Acknowledging the situation and then proposing an alternative is very useful to manage toddler-conflict.
• Help him see the situation from the other person’s point of view. This strategy can be very useful for discouraging aggressive behavior, because you foster empathy.
• Give praise. Supporting and encouraging positive solutions will reinforce this behavior. Let your son know that solving conflict is valuable to you, that it feels good and that you recognize his efforts.
• Practice makes perfect. Make sure you give your child plenty of opportunity to spend time with other kids and playmates.

Tips on how to foster good parent-child communication

Research done by academics Almudena Sevilla, of the University of London, and Cristina Borra, of the University of Seville, has shown that parents spend less than 40 minutes a day engaging in conversation with their child. And that is not enough!

Following Michigan State University Extension advise, as well as recommendations featured in the book What to expect: The toddler years, here we offer you some tips on how to make communication a central part of your relationship with your young girl.

• Have an early jumpstart into it! Even if your child’s verbal skills are still limited, laying a good base for dialogue with her is still very important.
• Be a good listener. This might be the best communication advise we can give. Be patient if your child is taking her time to go into the details of a story or to express an idea, and try not to jump too quickly into conclusions.
• Make a big deal of talking about things and set aside time for it. Try to have a good stretch of unbroken time in your daily schedule to talk with your toddler. This means staying clear of distractions such as your cellphone, televisions or reading materials for this period of time. A good idea is having a “good morning” and a “goodnight” ritual of talking before school and before bedtime. Now is a great moment to start these new family rituals.
• Help her to express things when they’re complicated. Since your child is still developing her language skills, she might experiment feelings that she can’t yet put into words, simply because her vocabulary is still growing. You can aid by providing lots of words to name both positive and negative feelings.
• Be attuned to both verbal and non-verbal communication. Try and focus completely on your toddler, and demonstrate your interest by making comments and asking questions. In that way, your child will know that what she is saying is important to you.