All posts by Kinedu

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.

Helping around the house, toddler-style

All parents would love their young children to be responsible and help with some of the household chores, but you might be wondering if it’s too early to ask your 3 or 4-year-old to tackle some of the chores already. Even though it’s true that toddlers are messy and still have limited attention spans and tolerance to frustration, raising a responsible child as early as 3 years old is possible!

It’s certainly too soon to expect your kid to perform the chores an adult would, but there are lots of things your little one can help you with. In fact, many young kids enjoy imitating their parents around the house and that proves an excellent opportunity to assign him simple and safe tasks. Just make sure to keep reasonable demands. Overwhelming a toddler with responsibilities may prove counterproductive if he gets burnt out and resentful of helping out. So, this isn’t the time to pass over the duster to the next generation!

Based on the What to expect: The toddler years guide, here are some ideas of which house chores you can ask your 36-month-old to help with. Most of them will be fun to do and will exercise his cognitive and physical skills as well!
• Pick up toys and putting them away
• Mix cake batter, just make sure your kid doesn’t lick the spoon when there’s raw eggs involved
• Shape cookie balls
• Place dirty clothes in the laundry bin
• Help sort color clothes and white clothes for washing
• Unload clothes from the dryer machine after they’ve cooled down
• Set placemats on the table
Just make sure that your kid has adult supervision, and you’re all set!

Growing together: your 3-year-old social and emotional development

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ book Caring for your baby and young child: birth to age 5 (2009), arriving at 36 months marks an important moment in your child’s social and emotional development. Around this age, you’ll notice that your daughter has already achieved many social milestones when compared to her social skills of last year. You will see how your kid will be very interested in interacting with other kids, instead of staying with you or play independently side-to-side with other kids. You might sense that your child has gotten better at tolerating frustration, ending temper tantrums or sharing with others. As her sense of self and identity grows, you’ll discover that your little one starts having specific playmates that she drifts towards as the first friendships start to arise.

This means great news for you! After the so-called “terrible twos”, you’ll probably have calmer playing sessions in your horizon! Although sometimes kids are able to solve conflicts with playmates on their own, keep encouraging her to engage in positive social behaviors, as this will prove enriching to your child’s emotional intelligence and relationship-building skills.

Friendship: an important part of my child’s socio-emotional development

Beyond being lots of fun and encourage imaginative and physical play, being friends with other kids and interacting with peers is an important building block for your preschooler’s social and emotional skills development. According to The University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service, having frequent experiences with other children can help your child learn how to handle social interactions and challenging, but normal, situations, like being fair, share, take turns, set and respect limits, arrive at a compromise, and cooperate with others.

Although for some kids making friends comes naturally, other children might need to experiment with some trial and error before feeling comfortable enough to make new friends. Be patient and supportive as your kid learns new social skills, and try to give helpful and positive feedback on his progress. Giving a bit of praise, smiling or hugging goes a long way with preschoolers!

Here are some of the recommendations made by the child psychologists authors of the book What to expect: The toddler years:
• Teach your kid social skills. Children that are friendly, take turns, show kindness and tolerate frustration, tend to make friends easily. Help your kid identify these behaviors and point them out when other’s do them.
• Show and tell. Be specific about the things that might make it easier to play with other kids or to make new friends. For example, if you instruct your kid to be nice with his playmates, show him that this means sharing or taking turns, smiling or saying “please” and “thank you”. If you tell your child that playing too harshly or being aggressive will push away other kids, explain how hitting or biting hurts and how it makes other kids sad. You can also use this as an opportunity to learn to apologize by saying “I’m sorry”.
• Model trust, support and consistency. Young kids learn their starter-pack of friendship skills from their relationships with mom, dad and siblings.
• Practice makes perfect. Children need to try out things by themselves in order to acquire new skills, so giving them the opportunity to practice making friends is essential.