How Structured Play Benefits Your Preschooler

In the United States, approximately 75% of young children participate in a preschool program. While there are several different types of preprimary educational facilities, many parents are interested in enrolling their children in academic preschool programs to promote a higher level of learning from an early age. While we certainly believe in the effectiveness of the academic preschool curriculum, it’s important to note that the preschool games and fun activities your child participates in are often just as valuable for their learning. Even if you already know the differences between academic vs play-based preschools, you might want to take a closer look at what’s known as “structured play” and why it has a place in all kinds of preschool classrooms.

What is Structured Play?

Structured play is sometimes known as “play with a purpose.” This method uses fun preschool games, sports, and other activities to teach a learning objective and help young participants develop certain skills or understand specific concepts. These preschool games and other forms of play are led by teachers (or sometimes by parents, in a home setting), who help the children meet their goals and/or further understand the learning objective. Structured play is not necessarily formal or extremely organized; activities in this category may include puzzles, board games, music classes, organized sports, or even folding clothes.

What Are the Benefits of Structured Play?

Although you might assume that the only object of preschool games is to have fun, structured play can actually foster ample opportunities for your child to learn and develop their skills and their personality. Here are just a few benefits of having structured play built into the preschool curriculum.

  • Physical Development: Through structured play, your child will likely develop their fine motor skills and coordination. Preschool Swimming lessons, soccer, or even a round of catch can help your child to become better coordinated and develop an early love for physical fitness.

  • Listening Skills: Preschool games like “Simon Says,” “Duck, Duck, Goose,” and “Follow the Leader” can all foster coordination and fine motor skills. They can also help your child develop their listening skills. By learning that following directions will allow them to fare better in the game, your child will come to connect this philosophy to other areas of their life.

  • Social Interaction: In a conventional classroom setting, children may not always have an opportunity to form individual bonds with their teachers or even with other students. Structured play allows for social interaction in the name of learning. By promoting the importance of communication and personal expression early on, your child will value these interactions throughout their life.

  • Self-Confidence: Your child will learn the value of becoming more independent and more self-assured through structured play. That’s because structured play promotes creative problem-solving and critical thinking. By mastering the goals set forth by a given activity or game, your child will feel a sense of accomplishment they can carry through to other disciplines.

Looking for a good preschool can be difficult, especially when finding a preschool that offers both an academic-based curriculum and structured play can be hard to find.  However, through these kinds of varied activities, your child will continue to learn and grow in all sorts of ways.

Preschool Readiness Checklist: Considerations For Parents

preschool checklistSummer may have only just started, but In 2013, approximately 42% of three-year-olds and 68% of four-year-olds were enrolled in preprimary programs throughout the United States. Although the majority of parents plan to enroll their children in preschool, knowing exactly when to do so can be a bit of a challenge. How do you know if your child is truly ready for the preschool classroom? While every child develops differently — and every school has different requirements — the following preschool checklist can give you a pretty good idea about whether your family should start exploring local preschool program options this year.

Your Preschool Checklist: Is Your Child Ready?

  • Reading and Writing
    During this early phase of life, your child won’t be expected to come into the classroom with a certain reading level. It may help if they can display certain signs of readiness in this area, including trying to write their name, doodling or scribbling, attempting to write down numbers, holding writing utensils, recognizing certain letters, holding a book properly and/or turning the pages, and simply enjoying having a book read to them. These signs indicate an eagerness and an affinity to make progress in the classroom.
  • Motor Skills
    In terms of physical development, parents should be on the lookout for certain signs of preschool readiness. Although you might not think that bouncing a ball or playing a game of catch could indicate that your child is a good candidate for preschool, mastering tasks like these can actually tell parents a lot. The ability to put together an easy puzzle, playing with building blocks or LEGOs, jumping on one foot, riding a tricycle, tying shoelaces, cutting with scissors, or enjoying outdoor playtime can all point towards a child being ready to go into the preschool classroom.
  • Creativity and Reasoning
    our child’s growing ability to use their imagination and explore their own curiosity about the world may play an important role in your preschool checklist. If they’re eager to use a variety of materials and tools to create pieces of art, show a basic understanding of shapes and objects, likes to imitate their favorite songs or rhythms, participates in dramatic play or likes to play pretend, can recall short sequences, matches objects, or shows an interest in how objects fit together and function, these are all great signs of early development. Remember that there’s a lot that can be discovered through play, so be sure to engage their interest in these areas on a regular basis.
  • Social and Emotional Development
    Even at this young age, your child might start to show initial signs of independence and social development. For example, their initiation and maintenance of independent play and their willingness to spend time without their parents (at a relative’s house, a play date, or even while getting dressed in the morning) can tell you that they’ll be a great fit for preschool. Responding well to routines, expressing their emotions and needs through their words, taking turns and cooperating with others, enjoying group activities, and following instructions consistently can also indicate this to you.
  • Other Milestones
    Most of the suggestions included in this preschool checklist are merely a good place to start. If your child possesses some of these skills but not others, do not be discouraged; your choice of preschool won’t discriminate against children who are still learning! But keep in mind that there are some milestones that may be requirements for preschool: namely, being potty-trained. Some preschools are willing to be flexible on this, while others request that all students will have at least made substantial progress in this area. Be sure to ask about this at every school on your list and work on this skill at home during this process.

Every parent’s preschool checklist for student readiness may look a little different, depending on that child’s development and your school. These points can be a helpful jumping-off point for families who are unsure about whether to start the application process or wait another year.

Enrolling in Preschools: Tips and Tricks to Follow

local preschool programSummer may have only just started, but many families are already looking forward to fall. If it’s almost time for your child to start attending preschool, you may be overwhelmed with the process of deciding on a school and enrolling. Knowing what to look for in a preschool can be tough enough, but submitting enrollment forms and waiting to hear if there’s a spot open can be downright nerve-wracking. The following list of tips and tricks will help take some of the mystery out of this process and help you feel totally prepared when enrolling in local preschool programs.

Focus On Your Priorities
Before you inquire about enrollment, you’ll need to determine what’s actually important to your family. Do you want a local preschool program with a distinct focus on academics, or would you rather the emphasis be on playing and learning? Would you rather the class sizes be small and separated by age group? What kind of schedule would work best for your family? Once you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to narrow down the possibilities and really zero in on the programs that make sense for you.

Take a Tour
Now that you’ve eliminated certain schools and piqued your interest in others, it’s time to take a tour. When you tour a preschool, you’ll be able to see how the other students interact with each other and how the teachers engage with them. You’ll also be able to assess whether you feel the facility is safe, healthy, and a good environment for learning. Typically, you’ll want to sign up for tours in advance (they often begin in early fall) to give yourself enough time to visit all of the schools on your list and decide whether you want to go through with the enrollment process.

Enroll Early
Although three-fourths of young children in the U.S. participate in local preschool programs, that doesn’t always mean that they’ll get in the first time around. With so many families trying to enroll, it’s understandable that programs fill up very quickly. Keep in mind that enrollments are usually accepted between December and February, so make every effort to reach out as early as possible.

Consider Summer Camp
Some preschools will also host summer camp programs for young children. This can be a great way to get your child involved in their curriculum and get to know the program teachers there. Summer camp enrollment is typically a bit less stressful than the process of enrolling in a preschool. Plus, it’ll give both you and potential teachers a good indication about whether your child is ready for preschool classes. Whether you enroll in school the following year or want to take a chance to see if a slot has opened up, going this route can help you make a memorable impression.

Enrolling in local preschool programs can be a lengthy process. But as long as you’re well-prepared, you’ll be in great shape when it comes time to take a tour and enroll. To find out more about our programs, please contact us today.

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.