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What Makes a Preschool Curriculum Better Than Just Good?

childcare centersChildcare centers, academic preschool programs, and parents alike have a common issue: what curriculum is right for my children? Sometimes it behooves preschool teachers to consider a curriculum specifically for their students because these early years are developmentally crucial. Let’s face it — they’re not college students. They lack the independence to choose a curricular path that best suits their learning styles. This leaves preschool curriculum in the hands of parents, teachers, and administrators.

What does a good curriculum look like? How do you develop good curriculum? These are driving questions behind an increasing demand for high-quality education from early childhood forward. From 2016 to 2026, the employment of preschool educators is slated to increase by 10%. This research shows now, more than ever, the importance we place upon early childhood development. Part of this process is the development of great curriculum. This is what it looks like.

  1. Child-first, always: It may seem obvious, but putting children first remains one of the most prevalent problems in curriculum development. Childcare centers and preschool teachers (parents are guilty, too) often think about curriculum that they want to teach rather than how the children will learn from it. A proper curriculum must be developed around the children and that looks different per classroom, per child, per day.
  2. Differentiated: Jumping off from child-first curriculum as a whole, lessons must be specifically differentiated. That’s an education buzzword that means it must fit different learning styles. Children all learn differently, but the tough part of the preschool age is this: they’re still in the stage of learning how to learn. It’s a little metaphysical, but entirely true. Not only should a curriculum look into different learning styles, it should teach different approaches to learning as a whole. Think of it as exploratory personal academics.
  3. Expert developed: Listen carefully: your favorite bloggers and Insta-families aren’t education experts. Leave the curriculum arena to experts in education and early childhood development. We have no problem with blogs or family pages, but they cannot and must not replace curriculum properly formulated by subject and age group experts.

Too many childcare centers hash together “curriculum” haphazardly. Some of the most important initial learning will come to your children during these early years. It may not seem so, but they’re sponges and when a curriculum is well-developed and formulated to tend a child’s growth, they blossom beautifully. Is the process arduous at times? Of course. It’s education. Balanced difficulty begets learning and when nurtured properly, they’ll be outsmarting you before you know it.

How To Choose the Right Summer Camp For Your Child

choosing a summer campSummer is right around the corner, which means your young children will soon be on vacation for a few months. Camp is a time-honored American tradition — and it’s one your kids may really love. However, choosing a summer camp that will fit their interests and needs (along with your budget and criteria) can be a challenge. That’s why it’s important to start early and to know what to focus on during your search. The following tips should be a great place to begin.

Decide: Day Camp or Overnight Camp?
Of the 14,000 camps that currently exist in the U.S., around 8,400 are resident (overnight) camps, while 5,600 are day camps. If your child is still quite young or tends to be a bit more attached to mom and dad, you’ll likely want to focus on daytime summer camp programs only (at least for now). While overnight camps won’t usually allow campers under the age of seven, that doesn’t mean your child will automatically be ready for that experience even at age eight, nine, or 10. It’s really up to both you and your child to make that decision when the time comes. Day camp is usually a great place to start because it allows your child to be active and pursue lots of different activities while easing into their independence and remaining close to home.

Choose: Local or Out-of-Town?
Choosing a summer camp located close to home can mean your child will already know some of the other campers and may generally feel more comfortable with their surroundings. It’ll also mean an easier commute for families. If you’re planning on spending some time out of town as a family this summer, that doesn’t mean your child can’t go to day camp elsewhere. It can allow them to make new friends and engage in activities they might not otherwise be able to access. You’ll need to consider these options when looking at sleepaway camps, too. While local overnight camps can provide a bit of a safety net, ones that are farther away may offer unique opportunities that will appeal to your child.

Research: Camp Philosophies and Focus
Once you decide on a type of camp and the general location, you’ll want to look at a camp’s history, as well as its focus or philosophy. You’ll want to ensure a camp’s mission and values line up with your own. You may also want to consider how long a camp has been around. While new camps shouldn’t automatically be discounted, most people would point out that a summer camp that’s existed for many years must be doing something right. That doesn’t mean that a well-established camp is necessarily a good fit for your family, though. Look at the camp’s focus. Do they offer a wide variety of physical activities as well as arts and crafts? Or do they specialize in one specific area like art, swimming, or science? What kinds of summer camp activities would your child enjoy most? You might even consider signing up for one week of general camp (which offers many activities) and one week of specialty camp (which will allow your child to explore one specific interest, like theatre, nature, or a sport they love).

When choosing a summer camp, you’ll need to be assured that the facility is safe and recognized for excellence. No matter what, though, don’t wait until it’s too late to sign up. To find out why we’re considered to be among the best summer camps Palisades Park NJ has to offer, please get in touch with us today!

Is My Child Ready For Preschool? Common Issues and Answers

is my child ready for preschoolBy 2013, the percentage of three- to five-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs reached 65% in the United States. Finding a local preschool program that fits parents’ criteria is the biggest challenge. Before families tackle that problem, they may need to ask themselves: “Is my child ready for preschool in the first place?” Ultimately, the answer to that question can be answered only by the parents themselves. There’s no one right or wrong here; it really depends on the individual child, as each student will develop at a slightly different pace. Although every child is different, there are a lot of common situations that affect families and that prompt this question. We’ll explore a few of these today and provide some guidance that should help you make this determination.

Is My Child Ready For Preschool If…

  • …They aren’t potty-trained?

    The truth is that most facilities will require students to at least be on the road to being completely potty-trained. It’s not a rule that’s set in stone, but you’ll likely find that it’s a requirement for the majority of preschool classrooms. You’ll need to take an honest assessment of where your child falls in the process of potty-training. If you’ve made a lot of progress but they still have the occasional accident, they’ll likely still be a good candidate. However, if they’ve made very little headway and are still in diapers, you’ll probably need to hold off another year until they feel more comfortable.

  • …They have separation anxiety?

    Separation anxiety can impact both children and parents quite a bit. But as an adult, you’ll have the coping skills to deal with it in time. Children who are particularly attached to their parents and who have spent very little time away from their families may have a rough time with this transition. That’s not to say that it’s ill-advised, but you can help both you and your child by cutting the proverbial cord a bit. If your child hasn’t spent much time with a babysitter or relative, you may want to work these times in to get your child more used to being away from you for periods of time. Letting them adjust in small doses can do wonders and can allow them to ease into preschool seamlessly.

  • …They’re not very independent?

    One of the benefits of preschool is that it helps young children become more independent. You shouldn’t worry too much if your child hasn’t had many opportunities to think and act independently. Keep in mind that preschool does involve a lot of individual tasks, though. Children who happily entertain themselves and can focus on a task alone will often do well in preschool. Solo play can help prepare your child for how different their preschool schedule can be. If your child needs constant attention and asks for help with every task, you can help ready them for preschool by building up longer solo play sessions and encouraging them to focus on a single “assignment” (like doing a puzzle, coloring in a coloring book, or making something out of modeling clay) while you take care of a household task nearby. Although they can always ask for help (from you or their teacher), fostering independence will prepare them for what’s to come.

Ultimately, there’s no one universal answer to the “is my child ready for preschool?” question. Only you can really assess whether it’s time to enroll. By taking a look at their developmental milestones, you’ll be able to decide whether to forge ahead or wait a while.

Working Parent Guilt: How to Clear Your Conscience When Choosing Childcare

daycare alternativeIf you’re a working parent, you’ll likely need outside help to make sure your young child is consistently cared for. While some parents rely on other family members or a live-in nanny to provide this assistance, that’s not always possible — nor is it always in the best interests of everyone involved. Many parents determine that enrolling their child in daycare or in a daycare alternative like preschool will be of great benefit to everyone in the family.

However, even if your local preschool program or daycare facility provides a safe, healthy, and stimulating environment for your child, you may still wrestle with feelings of guilt. This is perfectly understandable and quite common. No one can determine what’s right for your family except you.

If you have carefully vetted your choice in childcare center, preschool, or other daycare alternative, you’ll logically know that your child is in highly capable hands. Still, you may struggle with feeling like a “bad parent” because you won’t be caring for your child yourself at every minute of every day. It can be difficult to dismiss those feelings of guilt, but we’ve found that the following considerations can help.

Your child will be more independent and ready for school
The time your child spends in the preschool classroom will be extremely valuable in preparing them for what’s to come. Around 51% of three- to five-year-olds attended full-day preschool programs in 2015, which may seem like a lot to some families. Enrolling your child in programs like these will make them a bit more self-sufficient and less clingy overall. It can be tough for both parent and child to let go on a small scale, but it’s an incredibly important lesson to learn. Although spending quality time with your child is vital, this time without you can allow them to grow in other ways. This will help them to feel more ready for kindergarten and beyond.

Your child will be more comfortable socializing with others
There’s no doubt that your personal parenting skills will benefit your child, but there’s only so much they can learn from spending the majority of their time at home. When you enroll your child in a daycare alternative like preschool, they’ll interact with other adults and children their age. Their social development will grow by leaps and bounds, which can help them both at their local preschool program and at home. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with guilt when you drop off your child in the morning, remember that your decisions are actually going to benefit their development in countless ways.

You don’t have to endure guilt trips from other people
We’ve discussed just a couple of the ways that early childhood programs can promote development. Keeping these benefits in mind can go a long way in keeping the mom or dad guilt at bay, but they won’t always be enough for other people in your life. While most people do understand how great preschool can be for children, some may feel very strongly about caring for a child at home or through other daycare alternatives. If you find that friends or relatives feel the need to assert their own opinions about your family decisions, remember that you don’t have to invite that negativity into your life. Being able to establish some distance (even just momentarily when the subject arises) will let you prioritize the needs of your immediate family over the opinions of well-meaning family members and acquaintances.

Although many parents would love to stay home with their children during their formative years, this simply isn’t possible for those who work full-time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that choosing a daycare alternative like preschool will provide countless advantages for your child and for your family as a whole. Letting go of that guilt starts with remembering how much your child will grow through their participation in these programs. To find out more about how our curriculum can help serve your family, contact us today.

Preschool or Daycare: What’s Best For Your Family?

preschool vs daycareDeciding on the right childcare option can feel like an overwhelming task for families with young children. It’s important to remember, though, that there’s no “one size fits all” solution here. Rather than thinking there’s a single winner in the preschool vs daycare debate, parents need to realize that the right choice comes down to the needs of the individual child and the family. Many facilities will even offer both options to facilitate an easier transition and increase their appeal.

That said, there may come a time when you want to weigh your options. Instead of putting together a preschool vs daycare pros and cons list, we’ve put together some key factors you’ll need to consider when making your choice.

  • Cost: While the price of your childcare option shouldn’t be the only consideration, it’s one that’s a big priority for many families. In some cases, there may not be that substantial of a difference in costs, which means your decision will come down to other factors. Ultimately, whether you choose daycare or preschool, your final choice needs to be affordable and worth the investment. A costlier program doesn’t always indicate quality, either. That said, there are often times wherein you will get what you pay for. You’ll want to take this figure into account, even if it’s not your deciding factor.
  • Hours of Operation: In 2012, approximately 67% of children whose mothers worked part-time or full-time were enrolled in center-based childcare. Working parents will likely need to consider the operational hours of preschool vs daycare options on their list of possibilities. Typically, preschool programs have shorter hours every day; some offer both half-day and full-day sessions, but some programs don’t take place every single day. Daycare centers are often more flexible with their hours and will usually accommodate working parents. They also aren’t as likely to close for the holidays or school breaks. However, if extended or flexible hours aren’t especially important to your family, daycare alternatives like preschool might hold a lot of appeal.
  • Enrollment Age: When trying to decide between daycare vs preschool, you’ll need to take the age of your child(ren) into consideration, too. Many daycare programs accept a variety of ages, from infants or toddlers to preschoolers (and even beyond, in some cases). Preschools, though, usually require students to be between three and five years of age. Some preschools may make an exception here and there, but they’re typically a bit stricter about enrollment age. Additional requirements for preschool often include potty-training and other abilities, so your decision may come down to age and personal development.

While these are not the only factors to consider when deciding on childcare or early education, they often play a key role in making this choice. To find out more about our programs, please contact us today.

Don’t Forget About These 3 Things During Your Preschool Class Tour

tour a preschoolLocal preschool programs play a huge role in the lives of countless families. For young students, the chance to learn in a preschool classroom can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on their development. Between 1993 and 2012, the percentage of three- to six-year-olds able to recognize all the letters in the alphabet increased from 21% to 38%, and the percentage of those able to count to 20 or higher rose from 52% to 68%. This difference can be at least partially attributed to the growing popularity of preschool programs in the United States.

In order for your child to reap the benefits of preschool, you’ll first need to decide which program is right for them. There are countless factors to consider here, like the program’s philosophy, the cost, the location, and the reputation of the school itself. When you tour a preschool, you’ll have the opportunity to see a facility for yourself, meet with staff members, and ask any questions you may have pertaining to the routines or requirements for preschool children. However, when you tour a preschool, you’ll also want to keep an eye and ear out for the following:

Teacher Attitudes

Staff qualifications are important, but you’ll also want to observe their interactions with students and with each other. Ask yourself whether they seem overwhelmed or too busy to really give the students their attention. How do they speak to the children in their class? Has there been a lot of staff turnover? Have many of the teachers been there for many years? Do they seem burned out, or are they cheerful, welcoming, and tolerant? In many cases, these behaviors matter just as much (or sometimes more) than their experience in the field; really, it needs to be a show AND tell situation.

Student Behavior

While not every preschool student will be a poster child for good behavior, their actions can give you a sense of how they feel about their surroundings. When you tour a preschool, discern whether the students seem generally happy and engaged in what’s going on around them. If several students are upset or are fighting over toys or games, this might indicate that the teacher doesn’t have control over the class. Do the children know how to put items away? Do they welcome others into the fold? If so, this will likely show that the teacher has instilled good habits and promoted tolerance among their students.

Sense of Community

When most parents tour a preschool, they’ll want to decide whether there’s a true sense of community there. It’s not just about academics, though the classroom learning component is important. Preschool students need to feel a sense of belonging — and their parents do, too. You may want to observe the student drop-off in the morning to see this for yourself. Are all parents and children welcomed as they come in to the school? Who provides assistance for morning drop-off time? And what happens if a child has a tough time separating from their parents? If teachers and staff are nowhere to be found, that’s not a good sign. When children go into their classrooms that morning, are there lots of activities they can participate in? How do their teachers behave when they arrive? And what efforts are made to make each class feel like one part of the community as a whole? Be sure to answer these questions to gain a better understanding of what it’d be like if your family decides this is the right preschool center for your child.

While these are by no means the only things to look for during a preschool tour, these elements can tell you a lot about how happy your family will be once you enroll. To find out more about touring our facility, please contact us today.

3 Signs Your Child Is Ready For Preschool

is my child ready for preschoolResearch projects that teacher employment will grow 10% between 2016 and 2026 thanks to the increased demand for early childhood education. In other words, there are more options for schools and teachers than ever.

While knowing how to choose the right preschool can be a challenge for many parents, so can answering the question, “Is my child ready for preschool?” Every family and every child is different; in this situation, you are the best person to judge when your child might be ready to attend the local preschool program of your choosing. Still, many parents worry they’re sending their child to school too early or have waited too long to start. There’s no one right answer here, but the following three signs can give you a good indication as to whether it’s time to explore your options for a high quality education.

  1. She’s potty-trained
    This first point isn’t so much a personal judgment call as it is a requirement — at least for some of the schools on your list. If you’ve been asking, “is my child ready for preschool?” but she isn’t yet potty-trained, you may want to keep her home for a little while yet. While it’s not a requirement for every preschool, many do require students to at least be on the journey of potty training. Although being fully potty-trained doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is academically or socially ready for preschool, it can be a decent indicator that your child is ready to master other skills.
  2. She seems bored at home
    When children are yearning for more social interaction or academic challenges, they may start to act out at home. It may seem like a behavioral problem, but in some cases, it’s a sign that your child needs the new activities your preschool program can provide. Ultimately, their newly mischievous demeanor may indicate that grade school readiness is on the horizon. After all, you can’t be expected to provide all the stimulation that preschool can. When your child is clearly craving something more, it may be the right time to get her enrolled.
  3. She’s a fast learner and wants to know more
    Have you noticed your child has become more independent, communicates clearly with you, and catches on more quickly to concepts you teach her? These signs may mean she’s ready to take on all the challenges that come with preschool and that she’s hungry for even more knowledge. Having a strong memory recall and stronger communication skills, along with being able to master new skills, quickly says that your child will likely thrive in preschool.

Being able to openly communicate and grasp new skills has no definitive time table. That’s why so many parents worry about the “is my child ready for preschool?” conundrum. In the end, you’re in the best position to determine whether your child is ready to embrace this new environment. However, if you’re feeling stuck or you’re letting your own attachment to your child cloud your judgment, look for these three signs and see whether they might sound familiar to you. If they do, you may want to start your search earlier than planned.

Your Preschool Classroom Checklist: What Parents Should Look For

preschool classroomApproximately 75% of young children in the U.S. participate in local preschool programs but finding the right preschool for your family can be a challenge. Typically, an important part of this process is making visits to preschool classrooms on your list to see whether they meet your standards as a parent. Do you know exactly what to look for in a preschool, though? While each classroom will differ, this checklist can act as a great guide to help you recognize the outstanding facilities in your area.

Top Things to Look for In a Preschool Classroom

  • Room arrangement: The classroom should be arranged to give enough space for several children to play and move freely in the room’s main areas. In addition, quiet spots and active areas should not be situated directly next to each other. There should also be designated areas for independent use.
  • Personal care and safety: Allergies and dietary restrictions should be posted somewhere in the classrooms, as should hand-washing instructions where sinks are located. Parents should make sure these hygienic rules are enforced during their observation. Electrical outlets should be covered when not in use. First aid kits should be adequately stocked and rules about leaving the classroom should be readily enforced. Exterior doors should remain inaccessible to children.
  • Preschool education activities: An ample number of books — in good repair and from a variety of genres — should be made accessible to students at all times. Books should be read to both groups and individuals, and other storytelling, song, and communication activities should be encouraged. Art materials should be stored in labeled bins or shelves and made accessible to students. Props, clothing, and other dramatic play materials should be organized and accessible. Building blocks should be accessible and housed in a designated area.

Ultimately, not every preschool classroom will feature the same types of displays, activities, and setup, but this checklist is a great place to start. To find out more about our preschool program or to take a tour of our facilities, contact us today.

The Connection Between Preschool and Social Skill Development

how to find a preschoolFrom 1990 to 2013, the percentages of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs increased by 9% and 12% respectively. That means that more families are realizing how big an effect local preschool programs can have on their children’s grade school readiness. It’s certainly true that academic preschool activities can allow children to reach higher levels of achievement in terms of classroom learning, but parents should also take other benefits of preschool into account. Case in point: the connection between preschool enrollment and the development of social skills.

Sharing, Cooperation, and Role-Playing
Very young children will engage in what’s referred to as “parallel play,” wherein they’ll play beside other children without much interaction. In preschool, children start to transition into interactive play, allowing them to engage with other children. This type of play often involves make-believe scenarios, which lets them explore grown-up situations like teaching, shopping, playing house, and more.

This is about so much more than playing pretend, though. In these scenarios, children start to understand sharing, cooperation, and acceptable behavior. Whether this happens through supervised exploration or through mimicry, children develop the foundation for skills on which they’ll rely throughout their lives.

Language: Speaking and Listening
Once you learn how to find a preschool for your family and enroll your child, it’s likely that your son or daughter will start utilizing their language skills more and more. Talking aloud to other children or teachers and learning how to use words to direct actions and express feelings will help quite a bit in this regard. Preschoolers also learn about the hallmarks of listening in class and how important it is to show respect, sit quietly, raise their hand, and wait for their turn to speak. Children start to develop awareness about the words they use and the power those words hold, too.

Self-Esteem and Emotional Expression
An increased sense of independence fosters self-esteem. When children establish and accomplish their own tasks, their self-confidence will start to grow. The same goes for being able to express their emotions and sense of creativity, to follow rules and routines, and to take on classroom responsibilities. It’s important that both parents and teachers take the time to recognize these efforts and accomplishments, as the praise preschoolers receive will reinforce their learning.

Knowing how to find a preschool can be difficult, but there’s so much your children will have to look forward to once you decide — including the development of these social skills.

Half Day Vs. Full Day Preschool Programs: Which Is Better For Your Child?

half day preschoolThere are numerous factors to consider when choosing a preschool for your family. The proximity to your home and work, the cost, the reputation of the facility, and curriculum philosophy will all likely come into play when making this decision — but your family may also need to take a preschool’s schedule into account.

Whether you and your significant other both work full-time or you’re simply trying to determine what kind of routine would suit your family best, you may have to weigh the pros and cons of a half day preschool versus a full day preschool. Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong here; much of this decision will depend on the needs of your child and of your family. In this post, we’ll talk a bit more about full day and half day preschool programs to help you during this process.

Full Day Preschool May Improve Grade School Readiness
In terms of whether most families favored half day or full day programs, it’s currently at about an even split. Of the three- to five-year-olds who were enrolled in preschool in 2015, about 51% attended full day programs. In some cases, those who attend preschool for the entire day may be in a better position to develop their young minds.

According to select studies that have delved into this topic, data shows that full day preschool programs can help children make major academic gains. This is particularly true when the students in question have underdeveloped literacy, math, and vocabulary skills. One study found that approximately 80% of children who attended full day preschool were at or above national school readiness norms, while approximately 58% of children in half day preschool programs were at or above these levels.

Furthermore, an Ontario-based study from the early 2000s found that full day preschool programs had positive impacts on students’ language and academic learning, as well as parental satisfaction with the programs themselves.

But Half Day Preschool May Be Better For Some Families
Ultimately, the right choice here depends on your child’s unique traits and your own parenting values. Many children fare wonderfully in full day preschool programs. Even if the initial adjustment period is difficult, lots of students flourish with this type of routine. But what works perfectly for one family may not be ideal for another. For parents who are able and want to spend more time with their children during the workweek, or for children who may have a much more difficult time adjusting to that much time away from home, a half day program will still provide a high-quality education.

Regardless of the choice you make, it’s important to know that your child will be able to reap the benefits of preschool programs. Before you begin your search, discuss whether you feel a full day setup will benefit both parents and child or whether you want to seek out half day programs. That way, you’ll prioritize this schedule from the get-go and can focus in on programs that truly fit your family’s criteria.