Building Fine Motor Skills in Preschool

Many parents confuse preschool with daycare. The fact is, daycare is primarily for childcare while parents are working, while preschool prepares pre-K children for the experience of going to school. One of the key areas that preschool will focus on is your child’s fine motor skills, building hand-eye coordination, balance, and other mobility.

The Importance of Fine Motor Skills

A recent study performed by Oregon State University supports the idea that a child’s fine motor skills will impact their ability to focus on class assignments, get along with other children, and other aspects of school readiness. Learning to master fine motor skills in preschool is tantamount to giving your child a head start when they enter kindergarten.

School Readiness Begins at Home

Preparing your children for school is the goal of preschool, but the responsibility for most of the work belongs in the home. Engaging your child in home activities which improve coordination will help them be ready for the tasks they will face in preschool. Today’s children have more to learn in less time than children only a generation ago, and the more of the stress you can take off preschooler’s teachers, the easier it will be to keep your children on track for a successful future.

Activities to Build Fine Motor Skills

Your child will be doing many of the same types of activities in preschool as you incorporate in your at home teaching. This might include playing with play-dough or clay, using scissors, and physical activities which combine general coordination with fine motor skills. Playing games with other children will also help improve fine motor skills, including age-old games like jump rope. Talk to your children about their daily routines and adopt their favorite activities for use at home to keep their education moving forward all year long.

Fine Motor Skills and Differently Abled Children

Some children have different mobility capabilities than others. These children need more focus on their fine motor skills, rather than allowing those skills to be neglected. In preschool, the needs of differently-abled children are taken into account and activities which focus on each child’s specific needs are addressed. Maria Montessori’s educational method takes the abilities of children into account and provides each child with age and ability appropriate activities to help them develop naturally.

By the time your child graduates from preschool into kindergarten, they will have developed all of the fine and gross motor skills necessary to interact appropriately in normal classroom settings. The Montessori method offers a play-based, child-centric program which helps kids learn while developing social and intellectual skills, with the ultimate goal of producing well-rounded citizens for tomorrow’s demanding world.  To learn more about the Montessori method, contact the Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus today.

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Teaching your Preschooler the Importance of Sharing

Maria Montessori observed the behavior of children who would not share and came to the conclusion that refusing to share is a sign that those children did not perceive themselves as having adequate means to interact with others. The result is that instead of sharing and taking turns, these children preferred to hoard toys and objects for themselves, even when they had no intention of actually using them. The solution was to provide children with more productive activities which negated the desire to accumulate and control toys and resources.

Sharing Doubles the Fun

It is also important to impress on your preschooler that sharing a toy can be more fun than having it all to themselves. A good example of that is a ball. One child playing with a ball will become bored fairly quickly, but two children playing with a ball can result in hours of giggling enthusiasm. Instilling the idea that two can have more fun than one encourages your children to be more open and interactive. It is also helpful to praise your child for voluntarily sharing because it will enhance their self-esteem and give them a reason – getting more positive reinforcement – to share more often.

Sharing is Caring

Preschoolers are discovering everything about their world and forming associations between cause and effect. One such connection that we have all witnessed is a child’s desire to show that they care by performing a small service or offering a gift. Parents can reinforce the concept by pointing out that the child really liked when they were allowed to play with this or that toy, and the same thing is probably true for kids in their preschool class as well. Once your child has associated sharing with caring, they are more likely to become more of a giver themselves. Once they know how good it feels for someone to share with them, they will want to pass that feeling on to someone else.

Learning the Golden Rule

It can be difficult for a preschooler to understand the importance of treating others the way they would like to be treated. Sharing resources is often the fastest way, and learning to put themselves into another child’s shoes makes it obvious that doing something he enjoys will be enjoyable for others. Parents can help instill the concept by using conversation such as “Remember how much you liked playing with that toy yesterday? Do you think Johnny would like it as much as you did?”

Sharing can be a difficult concept for preschool children, and even more difficult if the child does not have any siblings. With practice, praise, and regular reinforcement, your child will learn to associate sharing with the “warm fuzzy feeling” that only comes from knowing that you have made someone else happier by sharing with them.  The teachers and staff at Day Star Montessori work with students to ensure they understand the value and importance of sharing.  To learn more about the Montessori method, contact us today.

Healthy Lunch Options you can Make for your Kindergartner

Lunch is an important meal for kindergartners. Research has shown that eating a nutritious lunch gives kids the energy and stamina to get through the rest of the day. This means being better able to focus on classwork and less likely to have emotional issues, along with other positive benefits. For parents, the need for a nutritious lunch can lead to a confusing foray into what is healthy, what is hype, and how to provide better meals without breaking the bank.

Grilled Delights

The downside of sending a grilled sandwich to school is that it will not be hot when lunchtime rolls around. On the plus side, however, kindergartners enjoy the taste of a grilled sandwich, and healthy choices abound. For instance, a grilled cheese is relatively healthy, and slipping a couple of pieces of tomato between slices of cheese and bread before grilling adds a nutritiously tasty variation to the already popular cheese sandwich.

Variety Burritos

Another area where fun, nutrition, and variety meet is the common burrito. Almost anything can be used as the filler for a rolled tortilla. Peanut butter and fruit is one example, but you can use any kind of lunch meat, and many children will be thrilled to get a spaghetti or ravioli burrito for their lunchbox. You can even make a vegetarian burrito out of lettuce, bean sprouts, and other garden-fresh vegetables.

Lunchable Leftovers

Anytime you are having one of your child’s favorite dinners, why not set a little aside to be the perfect lunch for the following day? As with grilled sandwiches, the food will not be hot, but kindergartners are seldom bothered by such details, and many prefer their food to be cold before they begin to eat anyway. You could even send a bowl of salad with a side of dressing if your child likes the taste of a salad.

Snacks and Treats

No lunch is complete without dessert, and including a special snack will always earn a smile from the little ones. The trick is to find snack foods that your child enjoys without giving up the goal of a healthy meal. Some suggestions for that include coring an apple and filling the hole with peanut butter; sending slices of celery with a cream cheese filling; or healthful favorites such as dark chocolate covered apples, strawberries, or bananas.

Packing your child a healthy lunch can be fun as well. Make their lunch the night before, and allow your kindergartner to get hands-on and help you in the process by putting condiments on bread, filling a zip-top plastic bag with grapes, or packing the individual packages as you get them prepared. When you include your child in making their own lunches, they will get a sense of pride in their lunch and may be more likely to eat the whole thing.

At Mission Valley Montessori, we encourage parents to incorporate their kindergartner into the learning process at home as well, through hands-on activities such as preparing lunch.  Montessori education encourages children to learn at their own pace, while being guided by older students.  To learn more, contact us today!

School Time: Setting up a Routine for your Preschooler

It is sometimes difficult to make the switch from summer to school days, and preschoolers who are just starting the routine may have trouble adjusting. It is important to emphasize that going to school is part of being a “big kid,” and remind them that they get to spend time with their friends and will make lots of new friends as well. To help you transition into busy daily routines, we have compiled some ideas to make the days go more smoothly.

Setting a Daily Schedule

The best time to start implementing a daily schedule is a week or two before the school year begins. This gives the family a chance to adjust to early mornings and daily responsibilities. It might be helpful to make a list of daily activities, or a calendar which mixes daily events with weekly or monthly ones. If you encase the sheet in a plastic page protector, your preschooler can mark off the things as they are done, and the page can be wiped clean later.

Clocks Lend a Helping Hand

A clock with hands gives you an easy way to show the time slipping away. Make a noticeable mark at the time when you have to leave for school, and talk it over with your little ones. The ability to see time running out will encourage preschoolers to pick up the pace, easing the way towards a peaceful morning routine.

Tackling Daily Routines

Some routines take place in stages, such as your children’s daily school clothes. The routine begins with getting dressed in the morning and then changing clothes after school is over. To round out the pattern, help your children select the clothes they will wear the following day before bed at night. As your children get a little older, this routine will be well-established, and they will be ready to begin taking their dirty clothes to the laundry hamper or learning to start a load of laundry. Similar, progressive routines are everywhere – from bathing to setting the table – and young children will be eager to play a part.

Breakfast Themes

Some routines are a lot of fun, such as making breakfast a themed event. Waffle Wednesday is popular, and you can use the toaster varieties to save time and effort or go all-in for eggs-n-toast Tuesday. Something simple works just as well, such as Muffin Monday when children can help select the baked treat of the week.

Dinner Table Discussions

Another good routine to maintain a bond with your children is to talk to your children at dinner time. Leave cell phones and other personal electronics in another room, and communicate with each other over dinner. Talk about what your kids learned in school, any special things they experienced that day, or talk about the weekend trip to the mountains. Setting aside time to communicate builds self-esteem, vocabulary, and trust, as well as enforcing a much-needed break from electronic screens and devices.

At Montessori Children’s Center in North Fremont, California, we encourage families to set up a routine for their preschooler.  It will help the child get used to following a schedule of activities just as they will experience in school.  Montessori education invites children to be active participants in their learning and the same is true when working to set up their routine.  For more information about Montessori education, contact us today.

Preparing your Child for Kindergarten

Ahh – the first day of kindergarten! There are few early childhood milestones that can be as exciting and simultaneously anxiety-inducing for both parents and their child, and it is for good reason. The moment that a parent waves goodbye to their child and leaves the classroom for their child to navigate and explore on their own is an important one. The first day of kindergarten is a culmination of all the learning and preparation that parents and their child have done up to that point, and there are several ways to make the transition to their Montessori kindergarten a smooth one.

Practice motor and cognitive skills

Your child will learn many things in kindergarten, and as with most things, it helps to have a foundational understanding and familiarity with the concepts they will expand on and enhance in their schooling. Kindergarten is well-known for its many creative crafts and art projects, so helping your child become comfortable using the tools required for the projects means even more beautiful creations to display in your home. When you introduce your child to pencils, markers, scissors, and glue, you help them explore the many ways these tools can be used safely, as well as refine their motor coordination in order to use the classroom tools with skill. Kindergarten math and language arts programs also mark the start of your child’s education in subjects they will follow throughout their education. Parents can help prepare their child for these subjects by practicing counting, classifying objects by size, shape, color, or quantity, recognizing letters of the alphabet, hearing and saying rhyming words, actively listening to stories and directions, and being able to write their name.

Strengthen social emotional skills

The equally important counterpart to learning about reading, writing, and math are the social emotional skills children acquire and enhance in kindergarten. They will be encouraged to play independently as well as cooperatively with their peers and teachers, to clean up after themselves and share, to identify their emotions and communicate their needs to others, and to separate and spend time away from their parents easily. To prepare them for navigating the classroom, you can start by talking to your child about their emotions, both positive and negative, about going to school, and working with them to express and interpret those emotions through drawing or play. It can also be helpful to introduce and encourage them to play with children of many ages and backgrounds, as well as take advantage of opportunities for your child to spend time away from you and your home with other trusted adults like family and friends. It is also recommended that you help your child pick out a token, or transitional object, from home, like a favorite shirt, toy, or picture, that they can bring with them to school.

At Montessori Children’s Center in Fremont, California, we know how stressful transitioning to kindergarten can be.  We work with our families to ensure their child is comfortable in their new environment and encourage them to start exploring on the first day.  We also welcome our parents into the classroom to help out.  To learn more about our Montessori kindergarten program, contact us today!

Helping your Child with First Day of School Jitters

The first day of school is a brand new kind of experience for many children. To suddenly be thrust into a sea of strange faces and unknown places can be terrifying for adults, let alone a child with no previous away-from-home experience. Above all, try to emphasize that school is not some kind of punishment, but rather a special achievement your young one has accomplished.

Prepare for the Inevitable

Talk to your little one about going to school before the big day arrives, and do it repeatedly. Explain what is going to happen, what the classroom will be like, and how they are going to make new friends. Talk about how it is going to be hard but is an important step in growing up and becoming a big kid, just like learning to walk and talk. Above all, make sure you express yourself with confidence and a positive attitude. If you have doubts or fears, you will project them to your child.

Meet and Greet

Accompany your child on the first day of school and display a camaraderie with the teacher. If your child feels like you and the teacher have a friendly, trustful relationship, it will help to ease tension and uneasiness about left in the teacher’s care. Some parents will even set up a meeting with the teacher and other important school staff before the year begins. Doing so allows the child to be more familiar with the surroundings when that first day arrives.

Build Anticipation

Give your little one a reason to look forward to school. Watch videos about the first day at school so that they will be prepared for the events of the day. The book bag itself is another way to ease the tension if you and your child decorate it in some special way. If your child has a friend who is starting the same school, they may look forward to spending more time with the friend. Try to instill your confidence that school is a fun and exciting experience.

Avoid Becoming Emotional

The first day of school can be frightening for the parents as well. Even if your child will be riding in a bus or van, try to make arrangements to take them that first day. This reassures the child that you know and approve of where they are at. Don’t drag out your farewell. Part just as you would do at any other temporary parting.

To be on the safe side, give your cell number to the teacher. If your child does panic, it can be helpful if you are available to offer reassurance. The more back-to-school confidence you can build ahead of time, the better; however, have a backup plan to prevent total chaos if things do not go exactly as planned.  At the Montessori School in Newark, we invite our families to be a part of the learning process.  This includes spending time in your child’s classroom to help out.  Volunteering in this way may help ease those jitters as well.  To learn more about Montessori education firsthand, contact us today to schedule a classroom visit.

The Value of Attending a School Near Home

The many benefits of enrolling your child in a school that is near your home often go without saying. However, the value is so great for children’s and their family’s experience that it can be worth naming and enumerating. From enjoying a shorter commute to fostering a stronger community, attending a school near home, particularly a Montessori school with strong ties to the neighborhood, can enrich the lives of all involved.

The value of a short commute

At this point, most of us spend a lot of time in our cars. And yet it can still be easy to forget this truth when weighing the options for which school our children should attend. A long commute to school, however, amounts to more than just a lot more car time when you consider what could be done with that time instead. With a short commute, before- and after-school time can be used intentionally to spend time with family and friends, to participate in enrichment activities like sports, music, or art programs, or simply to extend learning outside the classroom through real-world experience and play. A short car commute also means that it may be more likely that your child can walk or bike to school when they reach the appropriate age. Walking or biking provides regular exercise as a part of your child’s daily routine, is shown to help students concentrate better in school and can increase their sense of independence and self-efficacy.

The value of proximity

Even if the time spent in the car, twice a day, commuting to and from the school were omitted, there are other, less obvious benefits of the convenience of proximity. Many schools have wonderful amenities outside the classroom and school structure that are open to the community outside school hours, such as playgrounds, ball fields, or basketball hoops. These are great spaces for your whole family to enjoy on the weekend or during the summer.  One less tangible, but nonetheless important, amenity of schools is the safety of the school zone. Attending a school that is near home means your child gets to spend a great deal of time in that safe space, both in and outside of the school day. Additionally, when your child attends a school near home, the opportunities to volunteer or become more involved with the classroom and school become easier and more convenient for you. You can ask parents in your community for Montessori school testimonials to learn what schools have the resources you are looking for.

At the Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus, we seek to build a community with our families – both children and parents.  This means being involved at school, as well as participating in after school activities to further support the child’s learning and curiosity.  If you are looking for a looking for a new school for your preschooler or kindergartner in Flagstaff, contact us today!