Tag Archives: teaching preschoolers

Building a Child’s Independence Part 2 – In the Kitchen

10 Apr

Working on building independence in our kitchen is always a tricky affair – especially having a 5 year-old and a two year-old – what the 5 year-old is able to do is not always what a 2 year-old should be doing.  But we’ve found some ways to balance both.  There are three things to think of when planning kitchen independence:

  1. Access – what should the kids have access to?  This also includes items they can help unload and put away from the dishwasher, as well as items they need to eat or drink.
  2. Capability – Can your child operate the toaster?  Can he/she make their own sandwiches, or pour milk to drink or for cereal?
  3. Responsibility –  Part of this is the ability to clean up after themselves (unfortunately spills will happen A LOT – so they need access to rags/paper towels) , as well as what expectations you have – are your kids responsible for setting up the table?  Then they need access to plates, napkins and utensils etc.

Here are a couple of things we’ve used or done —

My then 2 1/2 year old on our learning tower cooking fun!


We love our learning tower!  It actually can support both our kids (although shoving does happen).  This tower enables kids to stand at level with kitchen counters.  They love watching me cook – it does teach self-control as well – since my kids know they can’t be touching and moving everything when I’m cooking.  They have helped me chop vegetables, stir batter etc. on this.  I’ve also placed this by our island so they get to work on puzzles or color while I putter around… The tower has 4 levels so you can adjust as your child grows.  My kids have slid in and out of this and it has proven to be pretty sturdy.


Our kid kitchen drawers - plates, bowls, cups, utensils (in their own little plastic container bought at a dollar store)

We’ve moved three times and all three times I’ve been able to find a spot in the kitchen for a drawer or cabinet where the kids can access their own bowls/plates/cups/utensils.  Another plus is they empty the dishwasher and know where they can put their stuff back – our toddler has been doing this since she’s been able to grasp and walk (with varying degrees of success but she does it nonetheless).  I’ve found that the fear of little fingers getting squished to not be an issue.  It is important you show them first how to reach in, where things are and how to close the drawer.  My oldest has never caught her fingers in the drawer and my toddler did it once (and never again, she’s figured to close the drawer with her little belly instead while holding her plate and cup in both hands LOL).  Kids are resilient and rise to the occasion when given the chance.


Stainless Steel Chopper — We’ve used our so much I’m not even going to show a photo of it – mine is Farberware but I can’t seem to find it on their website – But they had it in the Bed Bath and Beyond site.  You can probably find it in any major store.  Our daughters have used this to help me chop carrots and celery.  TAKE NOTE – always attended by me.  I like that they can use both hands to hold on to the handle and chop down.

Kid-sized tools – we were able to buy kid-sized rolling pins and spatulas – surprisingly they are pretty common now – I got mine at Target.  You can also get A LOT of kid-sized tools in Montessori-based catalogs (forsmallhands.com) — too cute and tempting for me ;o)

In Bed Bath and Beyond they called it the 'bash and chop'

It is important to note that Kitchen Independence does not mean overlooking safety  – we are not advocates of  ‘oh well they get hurt and they’ll learn’ , yes, kids get hurt but it is our responsibility to teach them well, set expectations and guide them.  In many ways the right way to independence (in my opinion) is harder than doing it for the kids or leaving them to fend for themselves (the two opposite ends of the independence spectrum).  It means being watchful but not hovering, guiding but not ordering.  It is a balance that I try to learn/practice everyday.

See Part 1 – Building Independence in the Bedroom and stay tuned for Part 3 – Building Independence in the Bathroom next week!

Teach Your Preschooler Good Behavior Through Games!

21 Feb

Parenthood – don’t you feel each day, week or month brings a new challenge…along with tons of joy?  I sure do!  With an active 4 1/2 year-old and a 14 month old, our days (and nights) are usually filled to the brim and my wife and I address things at home, school, playdates, etc.

When I came across the following article on Parents.Com, I thought it had wonderful ideas and I need to try The Hot or Cold Game, I Never Thought of That Game and A Few of My Favorite Things Game with my preschooler!  Check out the list, educational fun is the best!

My preschooler, Julia, loves I Spy – we have a couople of the DVDs and several of the books (great for road trips/travel!).  And this simple game is something we often do while driving in the car, sitting in a restaurant or waiting in line for ride/entry into an attraction at the zoo, carnival, etc.

We have a different spin on The Cheer-Up Game – role-play is fun and a great way to drive the message home.  Whenever there’s a “situation” we hear about at school or a friend’s house or even with Julia’s little sister, we discuss it and take turns role-playing different ways to better handle the situation.  This makes it fun, educational and Julia gets to practice how to  handle it next time.

We also have a different spin on the Loo on the Bright Side Game – most nights when we read a story before bedtime, we’ll talk about the story when we are done – favorite parts, characters in the story, what happened and why…this all helps drive the understanding of emotions, cause & affect and exercising that memory muscle!  

So, have fun with your kid(s) and continue to develop their minds and good behavior through educational fun! 

Please feel free to share your tricks/special games by leaving a comment. 

Good Behavior Games for Preschoolers



How to play: You’ll need several cardboard boxes large enough for a kid to sit inside. Put out a variety of art supplies — markers, stickers, construction paper, glue — and tell each child to turn his or her box into a train car. Once they’ve decorated the outside of their box with wheels, windows, and whatever else they can think of, help them arrange the cars one behind the other, then hop aboard for an imaginary choo-choo ride.
What it teaches: Perseverance. Games that require team prep work give kids a sense of accomplishment, says clinical psychologist Sandra McLeod Humphrey, author of Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs. The positive payoff introduces children to the good feeling they get when they achieve their hard-earned goals.
Parent tip: Be prepared to hang on to those boxes; the kids will want to get together and hit the track again and again.

The Cheer-Up Game
The Cheer-Up Game

How to play: On large squares of paper, draw a series of faces with different unhappy expressions — sad, angry, scared, sick (at least one for every child in the game). Put the papers in a basket and ask kids to take turns choosing a face then acting out the feeling shown. For example, a “sad” child might pretend to cry. It’s the job of the other players to help her feel better. First, they should ask questions: “Why are you sad? How can I help?” After the “upset” child gives her explanation — “My friend was mean to me” — the other kids role-play solutions. They may give hugs, say “I’m sorry,” or offer to fix a snack.
What it teaches: Empathy. This is the “core” virtue, notes Parents advisor Michele Borba, EdD, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know. “Until children know how it feels to have their feelings hurt, they won’t understand why it’s important to treat others with respect and kindness,” she says.
Parent tip: Have a variety of props on hand for this imagination-powered game: plastic food, stuffed animals, a doctor’s kit. The more options available, the more creative kids will be about ways to help out, from putting a bandage on the injured kid’s boo-boo to baking pretend cookies for a bummed-out buddy.

children dancing
The Hot or Cold Game

How to play: Choose one child to be the “Finder.” Send him out of the room while the rest of the players hide an object, like a red ball, somewhere in the room. Ask the Finder to come back and look for the ball, while the other players shout out hints: “You’re getting hotter” or “you’re getting colder.” Play until the object is found, then give everyone a turn as the Finder.
What it teaches: Cooperation. This game puts the emphasis on encouraging other players, not competing against them, so preschoolers learn to help each other out in a fun setting.
Parent tip: Try asking kids to speak louder or softer depending on how close or far away the Finder is from the hidden object.

two year old
“I Spy”

How to play: Take turns spotting nearby objects and describing them: “I spy with my little eye something that is green….” The other players try to guess what the object is: “A tree!” “Dad’s shirt!” Whoever guesses right gets to be the next “spy.”
What it teaches: Patience. “Patience is all about waiting,” explains Dr. Borba. Any game that forces kids to listen politely while other players have their turn drives this lesson home.
Parent tip: This is a great one to try in situations where kids are likely to get bored and edgy, such as on a long airplane flight.

kids playing in the grass
“Mother, May I?”

How to play: Line up the players facing you, about 10 feet away. Give commands to one kid at a time: “Sarah, take one hop forward.” If Sarah responds, “Mother, may I?” you can say either “Yes, you may” or “No, you may not.” If your reply is “yes,” make sure that Sarah says “Thank you” before she goes. Anyone who forgets her manners or makes a move without permission is sent back to the starting line. Keep playing until one child reaches Mother. Give each kid a chance to be Mother.
What it teaches: Respect. You can’t just tell kids to be respectful, you have to teach them the skills. “This game reinforces courtesy, which is a big part of respect,” says Dr. Borba.
Parent tip: To avoid frustration over misunderstood consequences (“I didn’t know I had to say thank you!”), make the rules of the game perfectly clear before you get started.

mother and son
To Tell the Truth

How to play: Gather the family in a favorite spot and give every player a chance to finish the sentence: “I was scared when….” Mom and Dad can get the ball rolling by telling their own stories (“I was scared when Josh hid at the grocery store and I couldn’t find him”). After everyone’s had a turn, repeat the game using other emotions like “happy” or “surprised.”
What it teaches: Honesty. When you give kids the go-ahead to talk about their feelings, positive or negative, you help them feel safe to tell the truth. “Children learn values best from watching and listening to Mom and Dad,” says Bob Sornson, PhD, founder of the Early Learning Foundation. “If you talk openly and if you are supportive of family members in front of the kids, you set a healthy example of how to act with others.”
Parent tip: Use kids’ stories as a springboard for further discussion: “Do you still think thunderstorms are scary? What helps you feel brave?” “Can you remember other happy times?”

Sock Sort 'n' Toss
Sock Sort ‘n’ Toss

How to play: When you unload the dryer, put aside all the socks. Pile them up on the living-room floor and ask your child to find the match for every sock (make sure all still have their original partners). Once he’s sorted the socks, show him how to roll the pairs into balls. Next, set up several shoeboxes a few feet away, each marked with a family member’s name. The goal is to toss the correct socks into the appropriate person’s box.
What it teaches: Responsibility. “Getting kids involved in chores is a way for them to learn that everyone in the family needs to pitch in,” says Dr. Sornson. When you make tasks fun, you’ll inspire even the littlest ones to help out.
Parent tip: After the laundry is put away, tell your kid she did a great job — she might ask to help fold the sheets next time!

child holding balloons
Balloon Bash

How to play: Find an open area where your kids won’t bump into furniture. Then give each child two balloons (don’t try this with kids under 3, since balloons are a choking and suffocation hazard). When you say “go,” they must team up to keep the balloons in the air for a set time (start with 30 seconds). You can also have them try bopping the balloons with just one silly part of their body, such as their nose or their pinkie fingers.
What it teaches: Teamwork beats arguing.
Why it works: Your children will see the value of working together toward a common goal. Remind them of this lesson the next time you ask them to clean their room or set the table.

child looking under bed
Treasure Hunt

How to play: Make a certificate good for an extra story, a back rub, or your child’s favorite breakfast. Hide the slip of paper in her room, then let her look for it after she’s brushed her teeth. If she’s having trouble, give hints, such as, “You’re getting warmer.”
What it teaches: Bedtime cooperation.
Why it works: Bedtime becomes fun for kids when they get extra time with Mommy and Daddy and have little bonuses to look forward to.

child singing
Voice Lessons

How to play: Read 10 sentences from a children’s book into a tape recorder, using a pleasant voice for some and a whiny voice for others. Play them back and ask your child to raise her hand when she hears the sentences read in a nice voice. When she gets them all right, have her record sentences in her silliest, whiniest, and nicest voices.
What it teaches: Whining is annoying.
Why it works: This game shows that something as familiar as a favorite story can be changed simply by the way you speak, and it helps kids understand how their tone comes across to other people.

The Wishy-Washy One
Look on the Bright Side

How to play: Start telling a story in which something negative happens (“One day Steve was feeling cranky because it was too hot outside”). Ask one child to continue by describing a positive turn of events. For instance, “The good thing was, there was a nice, cool lake nearby for taking a dip.” The next player then introduces another negative idea, which is answered by a positive one from the next player.
What it teaches: Optimism.
Why it works: It helps kids develop a more positive outlook so they can deal with real-life frustrations more easily.

child putting away toys
Follow the Helpful Leader

How to play: Gather your kids outside a cluttered room. Explain that you’re the first “helpful leader” and that they should do what you do. Lead them, skipping and clapping, into the room. Then start straightening up. Make sure they’re copying you. After a few minutes, let one of your children be the leader. Encourage the kids afterward by saying, “This room looks really clean!”
What it teaches: Tidying up.
Why it works: Children will realize they’re capable of cleaning up after themselves, and that doing so can even be fun — especially when everyone helps out.

The “I Never Thought of That” Game

How to play: Gather a few everyday objects, such as a trash bin, a shoe, and a pencil. Hold up an item and ask your child to think of as many uses for it as he can. (For a trash bin, he may come up with ideas such as “sit on it,” “hide in it,” “use it like a bucket,” and “bang it like a drum.”) Take turns letting players think of as many ideas as they can in a minute, using a different object for each.
What it teaches: Problem solving.
Why it works: Kids learn that it’s fun to think things out on their own. You can also use this technique for helping them come up with options for settling sibling squabbles or dealing with a kid who teases them.

ice cream
A Few of My Favorite Things

How to play: Make a list of five things that make you feel happy, such as ice cream, big smiles, sunny days, Daddy, and getting a good night’s sleep. Ask your child to repeat these five things. If he does it correctly, add a sixth item, and ask him to repeat them all. Keep adding to the list until he can’t recall it. Then it’s his turn to say five things that make him happy and have you repeat them. Continue playing by choosing different feelings (sad, angry, afraid) and naming things that make you feel that way.
What it teaches: Empathy.
Why it works: Your child will start to consider other people’s likes, dislikes, and emotions, not just his own. This game will also make him think about how his actions affect the feelings of friends and siblings.

toddler clapping
The Same-Time Game

How to play: Think of some things you can do at the same time (such as clap your hands and sing) and things you can’t (such as stand up and sit down), and demonstrate each. Feel free to do something silly, such as frantically trying to sit and stand simultaneously. Then let your children come up with their own examples (“I can’t hold my nose and breathe through it at the same time, but I can touch my toes and laugh at the same time”). Take turns until every player has come up with at least five sets of cans and can’ts.
What it teaches: Interrupting is rude.
Why it works: Children have a hard time accepting that they can’t always get your attention right away. This game will help them be more patient — and less likely to interrupt — when you’re on the phone or making dinner.

Wear It and Live It
Wear It and Live It

These toys and books will help you reinforce the values you aim to teach.
Dress your little one in a tee that says Courage, Tolerance, or Kindness. Explain to him what the word means and tell a story that teaches the virtue. Wash and repeat.

Toddler Virtue Tees, $20, available at www.toddlervirtues.com

Politeness Counts
Politeness Counts

Karen Katz’s intro to etiquette basics like “please” and “thank you” is perfect for the toddler set.

Excuse Me!, $6, available at www.barnesandnoble.com

How to Behave and Why
Timeless Truths

Originally published in 1946, Munro Leaf’s endearing book is a smart guide to being a good friend (one must be honest, fair, wise, and strong), illustrated with charming stick figures.

How to Behave and Why, $12, available at www.powells.com

Join the Sweep Brigade
Join the Sweep Brigade

Cleanup time is breezy fun thanks to this kid-size little helper broom set from Schylling.

Little Helper Broom Set, $8, available at www.amazon.com

Make a Difference
Make a Difference

Good Citizenship flash cards feature whimsical illustrations of animals doing their part by recycling, feeding the dog, and helping to set the table — and will inspire kids to do the same.

Good Citizenship Flash Cards, $12, available at www.eeboo.com

Mr. Nice(Big) Guy
Mr. Nice (Big) Guy

Through his efforts to save an invisible creature who lives on a speck of dust, the elephant in this Dr. Seuss classic displays kindness and determination — and provides plenty of laughs.
Sources for slides 8-15: Lawrence Shapiro, PhD, a family therapist in Norwalk, Connecticut, and Myrna Shure, PhD, a Parents advisor and professor of psychology at Drexel University, in Philadelphia.
Originally published in the September 2006 and January 2009 issues of Parents magazine.

Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who Pop-Up!, $25, available at www.randomhouse.com

Tea Time


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