Summer Activities to Promote Development

Summer Activities to Promote Development

by Tricia Smith

 The summer months provide a different schedule for families with young children. Preschools are often closed from June through September; however, that does not mean that the youngest people in our community have stopped learning. For more information on simple ways you can continue to promote development during the summer months, please read the following suggestions:

Social Emotional:

  • Talk about feelings when the opportunity arises. For instance, if you forget something for a trip you could say, “I’m feeling frustrated that I forgot to bring the sunscreen.” Labeling emotions and then moving on to problem solving provides a helpful template for children when the going gets tough!
  • Consider setting up a Safe Place in your home. The Safe Place is the structure where people can take a break to breathe, name their emotions, and gain composure.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, doing “The Pretzel” (crossing the midline of your body), or visiting a special made Safe Place in your home.
  • Take opportunities to connect with your family. High fives, eye contact, and laughter create neural connections in the brain. Cooperation is fostered with connection!
  • Focus on the activities that you want your child to do. Rather than saying, “no running”, use “walking feet look like this.” The behaviors you focus on will be those that you see more often.
  • Freeze dancing and stop and go games are fun ways of helping children develop impulse control. It’s hard to stop moving when you are having a good time!

Gross Motor:

  • Take walks with your child. Visit venues where you can walk on sidewalks, grass, or mulched trails. Walking up hills is a great way to develop large motor control. Young children do tire easily after walking/hiking; however, each child differs in their physical stamina.
  • Play catch! Throwing and catching a soft ball is a great way to develop upper body strength, and hone hand/eye coordination. Rolling a ball back and forth is another great way to strengthen larger muscles and hand/eye coordination.
  • Plan on climbing. Climbing safe structures strengthens whole-body gross and fine motor muscles!
  • For an age-appropriate version of “Simon Says,” try moving around like bunnies, birds, elephants, and snakes. For a cognitive twist, ask your child to guess what type of animal you are!

Fine Motor:

  • Playdough and clay provide resistance that small hands need to write, use scissors, and zip jackets.
  • Weaving is another method to strengthen fine motor muscles. Looms can be created from cookie cooling racks and ribbon. This type of activity is also great for strengthening hand/eye coordination, and creativity!
  • Provide opportunities for your child to write in sand, dirt, mud, or tempera paint. Tracing fingers through different materials is an opportunity to strengthen index fingers.
  • Clothes pin pick up: Provide a bin full of materials and a clothespin. Ask your child to pick up the materials with the clothespin. Doing so helps greatly strengthen the pincer grasp needed to hold writing implements!
  • Blowing bubbles is a great activity for strengthening the small muscles around the mouth. Another fun activity involves blowing cotton balls across a table!


  • Provide a variety of open-ended toys and materials. When children have the opportunity to decide how they will use an item, they are becoming active learners and problem solvers.
  • Provide a variety of loose pieces for children’s play. Keep in mind that young children under the age of 3 are still in the sensorimotor learning stage, which means that items often end up going in their mouth.
  • Utilizing loose parts during play strengthens children’s creativity, is open-ended, and can strengthen one-to-one correspondence (pointing and counting) concepts.
  • For older children, loose parts play can promote cardinality of numbers (the last item counted tells how many), and conservation of numbers (5 pinecones are the same whether they are in a basket, or spread out on a table).

Creative (closely related to cognitive!):

  • Provide items other than paintbrushes for painting activities. This supports divergent thinking!
  • Consider saving recyclable materials for process art activities. Young children enjoy creating 4-dimensional art and creations. These creations may be ongoing works in progress!
  • Music and movement is a wonderful way to tap into creativity. Young children, and adults, need to move!
  • Gather flat rocks for your child to decorate. Mod Podge can be used to seal in the child’s work!

Self Help Skills:

  • Each child has a job when they come to preschool. Consider continuing this ritual at home. Young children are capable of many tasks which contribute to the family. Toddlers can pick items up to keep the floor safe, and are capable of throwing their own trash away.
  • Two’s can utilize spray bottles filled with plain soapy water to help clean tables.
  • Three’s and four’s can utilize brooms, but will need some assistance with a dustpan.
  • Children can ensure that doors are securely closed to keep pesky mosquitos out. Consider having a “Door Helper” as part of your household contributions!
  • Consider keeping a similar schedule during the summer months in regards to dressing, eating, and bedtime. This makes the transition back to school that much easier!


  • Make story time a part of your day. Reading to your child for twenty minutes a day promotes early literacy, and listening skills.
  • Point out environmental print: from labels on food products, store signs, street signs, etc…
  • Provide time for singing or chanting nursery rhymes and songs. Songs that provide rhyming, repetitive verses allow children the chance to practice newly-found words. Older children can clap along to differentiate syllables, which strengthens phonological awareness.
  • Provide writing and drawing materials. Young children enjoy drawing and writing about their experiences and ideas. Say to your child, “Tell me about your drawing.” Write their dictation, and show them the words. These activities strengthen concepts of print: the fact that what we say can be written down, that printed words tell the story, and that print in our culture follows a left-to-right directionality.
  • Write in mud, sand, and dirt. This provides a small motor and literacy in one activity!
  • Tell stories, and invite your children to craft their own Practicing story telling helps children understand that most stories have a sequence; a beginning, middle, and an end. This is an essential skill for reading comprehension.
  • Take pictures of your activities. Ask your child to dictate what they did, and create a book. Children love reading stories about themselves and the important people in their lives.

We wish you a summer filled with fun, laughter, and learning!


Crime and Punishment!

Consequences are a part of our daily lives; unfolding with each decision we make. If we hit the Snooze button on our alarm clock, we are likely to run late. Taking the time to stock up on groceries over the weekend’s consequence almost guarantees that we won’t be making last minute grocery store trips several times during the week. How we feel about the natural consequence of our actions is a catalyst for change.

Young children are actively studying the complex world of pro-social behaviors and social norms. As with any subject, there is a learning curve. When a child has difficulty remembering the letters in their name or zipping their coat, our response is to teach the skill until the child gains mastery. Social skills fall under the same umbrella as traditional academic behaviors. This approach does not mean that children get a “pass” for hurtful behaviors. Again, the consequence and the way the child feels about it are catalysts for change. Adults can be helpful by noticing the impact of the consequences. At this point, the child’s feelings need to be validated so that they learn from the consequences of their actions. Telling children how they should feel removes the natural learning opportunity the situation can offer. (e.g., “You should be ashamed/feel badly for what you did today.”)

Let’s look at some potential scenarios which illustrate the difference between imposing consequences versus using natural consequences as a catalyst for change:

Intent to Punish:

Adult: “You pushed your friends at our playdate. You should know better! We will not be going on any more playdates.”

In this scenario, the adult has taken over responsibility for the child’s actions by doling out consequences. Notice that there is no dialogue, and that the adult is telling the child how they should feel and act.

Intent to Teach:

Adult: “You pushed your friends during the playdate, and now they are choosing to play on their own.”

Child: “They kept getting in my way, and now they don’t want to play with me.”

Adult: “You were hoping that your friends would play with you. You didn’t know the words to use when your friends got too close. The next time it happens, say, ‘Move back.’ Say it with me so we can practice now.”

In this scenario, the adult allows the child to focus on the feelings of sadness when his/her friends choose to play elsewhere as a result of his/her pushing. These feelings are the true motivation to choose a different way and learn a new skill.


So what happens when a child already has a skill but does not employ it? This is the area where we delve into imposed/logical consequences. This often occurs when a child persists in engaging in behaviors which are hurtful. Suppose your child continues the pushing after they have mastered assertively talking to their friends. We must first reflect on whether our child feels that they are safe in order for logical consequences to be effective. A child who does not feel part of the group will likely not feel safe, so they will not be able to learn from logical consequences. Their pre-frontal lobes (the area for problem-solving and decision making) are not accessible to them.

Logical consequences should be discussed before invoking them. It is helpful to say to the child who feels safe and already possesses the skill what will happen if they continue to engage in hurtful behavior. “You may choose to take turns building with the blocks, and finish your tower, or you can continue to grab blocks from your brother, and you will work alone so that we can keep you both safe. Tell me what will happen if you choose to grab again.”

The checklist for ensuring that logical consequences allow our children to take ownership of their actions and decisions is as follows:

  • Related: The consequence is relatable to the child’s decisions/actions, meaning that it should be a result of the child’s actions. (If a child is continuing to push or grab, and has the skills, then the child is showing that they need help to be safe. Working on their own would be a safe, relatable consequence).
  • Respectful: The consequence is delivered in a way that does not demean the child, but is done so in an assertive manner. (“You are showing me that you are choosing to work over here. Get your blocks and move to this side of the room.”)
  • Reasonable: The consequence should be in line with the action, and enacted if the child continues to engage in the unhelpful behavior. (If the child continues to grab and throw blocks, then using the blocks may not be a choice for that day.)

It is important to help children as logical consequences are imposed. Children may feel angry and lash out in frustration. At this point, we invoke the skill of empathy while acknowledging their upset. (i.e., “I know you were hoping to keep using the blocks this afternoon. We can get the blocks out tomorrow. Let’s breathe together; I know you can handle this.”) Again, although playing with blocks may seem like a relatively minor event to us adults, the child considers it a loss. Helping the child with a safe loss of not playing with his/her intended materials is a relatively safe, but meaningful consequence.

Natural and logical consequences provide the gift of reflection to our children. These outcomes allow children to reflect on their actions, desired outcomes, and the impact of those actions. Conversely, imposed consequences and lecturing remove the true consequences of children’s decisions away from them. Instead of focusing on the outcome of their decisions, children then begin to view themselves as victims. To become a young adult who truly takes ownership of their actions, we must support our children as they experience consequences, and veer away from rescuing or punishing. The manner in which we teach our children to handle consequences and subsequent upset really does provide a frame work for how they will handle consequences for the rest of their lives!


Resources: Bailey, B. (2014). Building Resilient Classrooms. Oviedo, Florida: Loving Guidance, Inc.

Positive Intent: Seeing the Best in Others for Optimal Problem Solving

The classic phrase, “he just sees the best in everyone” is sometimes used to describe people in our lives.  Seeing the best is not just an admirable personality trait; the act of seeing the best in others frees us up to offer assistance to our children and other adults in our lives. When we let go of trying to figure out whether a child’s actions are the result of negative ulterior motives, we can then use that energy to teach a new skill. This practice is also beneficial because we can learn to override negative emotional self-talk when we make mistakes! This does not mean that our children are free from the consequences of their actions, but it does allow us to focus on the child’s goal, and teach them how to get their needs met safely and effectively.

In order to practice positive intent, it is helpful to be aware of what triggers our own negative emotions. The negative self-talk that often takes place during these difficult moments can be overridden so that we can pivot and move toward a place of problem solving. If we want to move toward a place of problem solving, we must let go of pinning negative judgements to our children’s motives. Young children’s actions are a form of communication; they are either using skills in loving and helpful ways, or they are calling out for help. Our impact on our children becomes more healthy when we send the message that they are worthy of our love and guidance even when their actions are hurtful or fall short of meeting their intended goal. Let’s take a look at positive intent in the scenario below:

*Four year-old David has just dumped a glass of water on the kitchen floor after spilling his lunch.

Without positive intent:

Mom: “You just spilled your lunch on the floor and then dumped your water! I just swept and mopped the floor yesterday! You are being very disrespectful! Don’t you know better than to dump your food and drink on the floor?”

With positive intent:

Mom takes a deep breath before addressing David so she can gain access to her pre-frontal lobes and offer David empathy and guidance.

Mom: “David, you were hoping to clean up the crumbs on the floor, so you dumped your water on them.”

David: “Yeah, you put water in the bucket when you mop the floor.”

Mom: “You didn’t know how to clean the floor, so you dumped your cup of water. When you need help cleaning up a mess, we will get the broom and dustpan. Dumping water on the floor isn’t safe.”

Mom can follow up by asking David where they should keep the broom and dustpan so that David can access it when needed.


Which example do you think will motivate David and help him to learn a new skill? The second example is more likely to help David as he has the chance to explain his rationale without feeling like he needs to go into fight or flight mode. More importantly, Mom #2 is teaching David that when people make mistakes, they are inherently good in nature; however, they might need some help! Think about how this skill would easily translate into a situation where someone cuts you off in traffic, or forgets to use their turn signal. We could choose to spend a few minutes feeling very aggravated at that person, or we could wish them well and be on our way. The latter choice again frees up our mind so that we can focus on something that needs our attention rather than feeling angry at someone we aren’t likely to meet ever again!

If we don’t know our child’s intentions, we can always guess. This approach requires us to notice what we see. Let’s take a look in the example below:

*Three year-old Marnie has just kicked over a block tower that her older brother had been building. The block set is part of a specialty house-building set that Marnie got for her birthday.

Mom: “You scrunched your face up like this and kicked Brandon’s blocks over.” Imitate the child’s actions so they look at you; they will because they want to make sure that you’ve gotten it right!

Once the child makes eye contact you can offer empathy and download calm before moving on to problem solving.

Mom: “Your face is telling me that you might be feeling angry now?”

Marnie: “Brandon took my blocks and it’s my turn!”

Mom: “Let me see if I got this, you wanted to tell Brandon that it was your turn with the blocks,  but you didn’t know the words to use. When you are using something, say, ‘It’s my turn now.’ Let’s practice.”

At this moment, Marnie’s mom can coach the child as she tells her older brother that it is her turn with the house blocks. Afterwards, it is equally as important to notice Marnie’s assertiveness by following up. A simple “You did it!” will suffice. A high five can also sweeten the success!

When time is of the essence, it is helpful to avoid talking too much. If safety is an issue, the more we talk, the more frustrating it can be for the child. Additionally, when our children are in fight or flight mode, they will not likely hear us! The formula for quick action coaching, or ACT, is as follows:

A (Acknowledge): Acknowledge what the child wanted

“You wanted                                                                                 .”

C (Clarify): Clarify what skills to use.

“When you want                                             then say (or do)                                                             .”

T (Take time to practice):

“Say (or do) it now so we can practice.”

Practicing positive intent is beneficial for our children as well as ourselves. When we let go of the notion that when people make mistakes there is a malicious ulterior motive, we free ourselves and our children up to teach and learn new skills. Furthermore, we teach children loving and assertive ways to handle situations when life doesn’t go their way! The benefits of positive intent can have a huge impact on our communities as our children feel safe in the knowledge that they are inherently enough, and that they have a safe environment to practice the skills needed to navigate life.

Empathy: The Formula for Handling Fusses and Fits

The word empathy is one that is often used at the Weekday School. Empathy is so much more than those sweet moments when we witness a young child engaging in an act of kindness. While those acts of kindness are so important to our communities, brain research suggests that offering empathy has a long-term impact on brain development and problem solving. When we offer empathy to our children, we open the door to being aware of strong emotions so that children can learn to regulate their  emotions, ultimately learning that they alone are responsible for how they choose to respond in moments of upset.

Empathy requires what is known as the Power of Acceptance: accepting the moment as it is. This is in contrast to denying the moment and focusing on what should be. (He knows better…. we don’t throw toys in the house…) When we notice the moment as it is, without judging it, we then have the opportunity to reframe the situation in order to see it as a child (or even another adult) would! This does not mean that we necessarily agree that it is ok for our children to throw toys or write on the walls; it simply means that we pause and accept the situation for what it is before moving on to offer guidance. While pausing, it is helpful to remember that the actions of a child are forms of communication. Young children need the opportunity to practice identifying emotions and ways to regulate those emotions so that they can move on to problem solving.

When we are faced with a situation where someone has done or said something that invokes strong emotions, it is vital that we acknowledge those feelings. Again, acknowledging our feelings falls under the power of acceptance. It is then that we can pivot to offer empathy, and turn a difficult moment into a teachable one. The formula for offering empathy is as follows:

  1. Describe: Mirror the child’s physical actions. “Your feet are going like this, and your face is going like this.” The child will most likely stop to look at you so they can be sure that you got it “right.”
  2. Name: We must act quickly here to help the child move into problem solving mode, and so they do not become their emotions.

“You seem                                                                                                     (add a feeling word)?”

  1. Acknowledge: Again, we want to act quickly after we name the emotion for the child. “You wanted  (state what you think the child wanted).” If we hang out too long in the naming portion of the formula, we can get stuck there!

When addressing the child’s feelings, it is helpful to use a tentative, almost questioning tone of voice. If we have labeled the emotion incorrectly, the child will most likely tell you! “No, I’m not feeling sad. I’m feeling angry!” Allowing the child to acknowledge or correct serves two purposes: the first is that it sends the message that the child’s feelings are valid, and secondly, it gives the child the opportunity to move toward the pre-frontal cortex, or CEO of the brain. The goal here is not to distract the child from his or her emotions, but to understand in order to teach the child another way of getting his or her needs met.

If the child is, kicking, and yelling, and does not respond to you, it is best to offer comfort in the way of deep breathing, or even picking the child up to keep them safe. At that moment, the child is in a survival state, and will not be able to hear your message. If the child is in a state of upset (crying, name calling, or they have their arms crossed), then you can offer the formula above. Some children can exhibit signs of mild upset through whining, looking slightly anxious, or showing confusion if they have experienced a change in schedule. This is the best time to offer empathy in the form of information.

  • Mom: “Max, you seem worried?” (Again, remembering to use a tentative voice so he can correct you if you haven’t gotten it right!)
  • Max: “Yeah”
  • Mom: “You were hoping to keep playing with your blocks. I get it. Today feels different because Grandma is coming over to take you to the library. You have a choice! You can choose to put your blocks away first, or put your shoes on first. What will you choose?”

Our brains are wired with more pathways travelling from the Limbic system to the pre-frontal cortex. This simply means that strong emotions, if left unregulated, can dictate how we respond in difficult situations. The good news with composure and empathy is that we can pause to acknowledge those feelings, and pivot to offer guidance so we can teach our children a different way of getting their needs met when the going gets tough!



Bailey, B. (2015). Building Resilient Classrooms. Oviedo, Florida: Loving Guidance, Inc.

Parlakian, R., & Lerner, C. (2009). Tips on helping your child develop empathy. Retrieved from



You Have a Choice!

You may be wondering why offering choices to children is important. The act of making choices is a life skill that is best practiced when the consequences of those choices are relatively minor (i.e., when children are still at home and school with adults who help keep them safe). Making decisions can be overwhelming, and by offering simple choices to our children, we help them build on that skill as the choices they do, and will make, become more complex. If we do not offer the opportunity for children to make choices throughout their early childhood, middle school, high school, college years, and early adulthood can become very challenging times. Young adults who have not practiced making decisions and have not experienced consequences of those decisions can be ill equipped to navigate the quick decisions that adults must make at times. Another benefit of offering choices is that children who regularly practice making decisions develop an internal locus of control; they begin to understand that they are responsible for the consequences that come as a result of the choices they make.

There are times in which adults cannot offer choices to children. Because children do not possess the inner speech that adults do, they are not able to process consequences of their choices. A child may be able to tell you that a stove is hot, but they will not be thinking through to the consequence when they reach for a hot cookie that has just come out of the oven. Situations like these pose no choice; it’s simply not safe to touch a hot stove! Another situation such as going to the grocery store is also not a choice. In this instance, it is not helpful to say, “We’re going to the grocery store, okay?” The child, hearing the “okay” might think, “No, it’s not okay. I think I’ll stay home and play with my blocks.”

It is also not beneficial to offer choices to a child when he/she is in a state of upset.  If a child is in a “fight or flight” mode, he can’t hear an adult.  He will need to breathe, feel calmer, and be in a place to listen.  At that time, the adult can provide the child with two positive choices. These choices should be centered on what we as adults want the child TO do.  For example, it is bedtime and pajamas must be on and teeth must be brushed before getting into bed.  An adult might say, “It is time for bed.  You may brush your teeth first or put on your pajamas first.  What works for you?”  The goal is to get to bed, so the choices center around what must happen prior to that.  Notice that both choices are positive and acceptable to the adult.  “Put your pajamas on or lose reading time” would be an example of a coercive, punitive choice.  To be helpful to the child, the adult’s intent must be on how best to help the child be successful in the current situation based on his/her immediate needs.

And, what if the child does not comply?  If the “No’s” continue, the adult can calmly (that’s the trick!) repeat the choices.  If the child chooses, the adult will verbally respond by stating, “Look at you! You made a choice.”  If the child does not make a choice, the adult may say, “I see you are having a hard time making a choice.  I will help you.”  At this point, the adult may choose for the child.

Other adults who overhear you offering choices might comment that it sounds as though parents are pandering or bargaining with their children. In these cases, it can be helpful to state that you are teaching your child how to make choices. In reality, children are far more likely to achieve success when they are in control of how they follow through on a task or activity.

Learning how to make decisions is a lifelong skill! As with any other skill such as reading, math, or music, the more we practice, the more comfortable we become with this skill. Offering choices, and supporting our children in their decision making and subsequent consequences is a valuable investment in their sense of self.

Wishing you days filled with opportunities to offer positive choices to your children.


Encouragement: Going Beyond “Good Job!”

As adults, we have the unique opportunity to shape the way in which children view themselves by offering encouragement. The manner in which encouragement is delivered will have a profound impact on how a child views his or her accomplishments and place within society. If we give encouragement in the form of judgements (“Good job!”, “You are so good!”), we are creating a divide between those who are “good” and those who sense that they are “less than.” Another aspect of general, evaluative praise is that children soon learn that when they do well in school or perform helpful acts, they please others. This robs them of the intrinsic benefits that come with being a contributing member of society.

Think about the ways that you may have received encouragement as a child, or even in the present day. Did you receive praise when you scored a goal in soccer or after receiving an A on a book report? What did that sound like? Many adults can tell you that they may have heard, “good job,” and they may have received a sticker or prize for their efforts. Now recall a time when you made an unsafe choice, and how the adults in your life responded to you. Typically, the feedback we would have received would have highlighted how our poor choice affected others (“You have done nothing but whine all day. You have ruined your brother’s birthday for everyone.”) Many of us were raised with an evaluative, two-second response when we were successful, but received a stern lecture that could last for several minutes when we made poor choices or needed help from an adult! If we spend more time noticing a child’s successes and efforts, not only are we more likely to see more of those behaviors, we are instilling why that child’s successes and efforts contribute to their families, friends, and communities.

Authentic encouragement requires that we be present in the moment and notice the child’s efforts with specific language which describes what the child did. A very basic formula to use is as follows:

  • You  (describe exactly what you see.)
  • Example: “You got your jacket off of the hook and put it on!”

To foster and nurture helpful acts:

  • You  so                                                          . That was helpful/kind.
  • Example: “You helped your sister pick up her crayons so we could keep the floor safe. That was helpful!”

For the children who need encouragement when they are “stuck” or have made a poor decision:

  • “You almost have all of the Legos back in the bin. Two more and you are done!”
  • “Oops! Your books go on the bookshelf. Which one will you pick up first?”
  • “Remember, you can get your sister’s attention by saying her name, and touching her arm gently.”

Consider starting your journey with specific encouragement by eliminating, “good job” and replacing it with the basic formula for noticing children’s actions. Doing so will help children rely upon their own innate gifts rather than seeking the approval of others. Concurrently eliminating extrinsic rewards during this process also shifts the focus to children’s natural need to be contributing members of our communities. Last but certainly not least, remember to encourage when children perhaps need it the most! Children who are in need of an adult or peer who voices their belief in them are more apt to be successful, and will offer encouragement to someone else in need. May your Christmas be filled with the gift of encouraging words.






Assertiveness: Saying No and Being Heard

The skill of assertiveness teaches respect. It is vital that we speak assertively so that our children feel safe. When an adult speaks using a tone of confidence and no doubt, he or she creates the sense that “all is well. Mommy and/or Daddy is going to keep me safe.” Conversely, if we speak from a passive tone, our children may not know what to do and they probably will not feel safe because it does not carry the message of “I’ve got this; you are safe with me” from the adult(s) in their life.

It is imperative that we describe exactly what we want the child to do versus stating what we do not want.  For example, if a child is running in the house an assertive statement would sound like, “Ava, walk through the house like this.” as we model what safe walking looks like. If we approach the situation by stating, “Ava, please don’t run in the house, okay?” we have focused on what we do not want while speaking in a passive tone. Please and okay are words that convey that there is a choice in the situation. When we use these words when no choice exists, we create confusion for children. Use words such as please and thank you when a child has a choice of whether to follow through on an action or task. If it’s not an expectation for a child to follow through on a task, you could state, “James, are you willing to bring that paper to me?” If the child agrees and follows through, then we would add, “Thanks! That was helpful!”

Aggressive statements are equally as confusing for children, and are more so confusing when we combine them with a tone of passivity. Statements such as, “I guess you don’t care about getting hurt,” or, “Do you want to get lost in this store?” both carry aggressive and confusing messages that do not give our children any information they can use to solve a problem.

The way to teach assertiveness is by being assertive:

  • Tell children what to do. Ex.  “Maddie, put the puzzles on the shelf.” Gesturing to the puzzles and pointing to the shelf while you are speaking provides a helpful visual for young children.
  • Use a ‘just do it’ tone in your voice, speak with confidence.
  • Be clear, direct, specific.

For the child who is having a hard time getting started on a task, we can offer the following assertive statements:

  • “I’m going to show you what to do.”
  • “I’m going to show you how to get started.”
  • “How can I help you get started?”

When we notice the child following through it is equally as important to notice and describe the child’s actions. Something as simple as, “You’re doing it!” goes a long way in reinforcing the assertive messages we send to our children.

Children learn concepts, skills and behaviors through repetition. These concepts and skills often include rituals such as leaving the house, getting dressed, or washing our hands. We as adults sometimes take these rituals for granted as they have become second nature to us.  Keeping in mind that repetition is key, we must be willing to provide time for repeated practice and modeling.

Wishing you well as you give the gift of assertiveness to your children.


Composure: When Your Kids are Making You Nuts

We have all had those moments when it seems as though others are out to derail our day. It seems as though our friends, spouses, and children are intent on destroying any plans or any inner harmony and peace we are experiencing. We mention the word seems because while those feelings and perceptions are strong, we are ultimately in charge of ourselves! Our own perceptions regarding of past events plays a big role in how we process the behaviors of others. Think of these perceptions as a CD-ROM, or a tape cassette. This CD-ROM or tape cassette can carry a multitude of negative messages, and those messages can derail us in a short amount of time.  The result is that we may often lose our composure and veer further away from problem solving. The good news with the skill of composure is that we can pause, allow the CD-ROM to play, and ready ourselves to communicate what we want our children to do.

Our CD-ROMs begin to play when something sets off, or triggers, the CD-ROM’s switch. Think about some triggers you might have: children and adults who whine, traffic, people who run late, etc… The playing CD-ROM then cues the negative internal chatter which can cause us to feel frightened or out of control. These emotions trigger feelings of actual physical discomfort before the feeling of anger steps in and we lose our cool. When that occurs, we have allowed our trigger and the child to be in charge of our internal state! In these moments, we typically focus on the behavior(s) we do not want to continue! Again, the good news is that our brains are malleable, and we can add new “tracks” to our CD-ROMS so that we are better able to solve problems. Perhaps the best aspect of rewriting our CD-ROMS is that we are able to teach our children how to address anger and upset so that we can move into problem solving mode rather than getting stuck.

When events that trigger your CD-ROM occur, allow the CD-ROM to play while thinking, “I’m safe, I can handle this, keep breathing.” Allow yourself the opportunity to take three deep breaths so that you can access the prefrontal lobes of your brain. This also allows a pause so that you can deliver your message from a composed state versus a state of upset. Incorporating statements such as, “I feel frustrated when you interrupt me.” allows us to convey our message while being in a composed state. I feel statements are powerful tools to use, and our children will notice and will begin to use this language, too! Re-wiring our CD-ROM is truly a gift to ourselves and our children!


Bailey. B. (2015). Building Resilient Classrooms. Oviedo, FL: Loving Guidance, Inc.



You Will Not Hear it From Us!

Many of us grew up hearing the phrase, “You’re okay!” from the people in our lives.  As adults, we sometimes take for granted the meaning behind the words we use. Some of the words used to define the term are, “fairly good; acceptable; not ill, hurt, or unhappy.”  (Retrieved September 28, 2015 from  When a child is crying because they are hurt or because they are having a hard time saying goodbye, they are definitely not feeling satisfactory! Although our well-intentioned comments may seem to thwart the upset in the short term, it can convey something completely different to the child in the long-term.

Saying “You’re okay” can cause semantic confusion for children as they are learning new words to use in the speaking vocabulary! Instead, practice noticing and describing what you see. For example, use the following: “Your hands are going like this (clinging on to Mom). Your eyes are going like this (I see tears coming from your eyes.)” When the child feels understood, they may begin to cry harder. Empathy is a wonderful tool for helping children understand very powerful feelings. At this point, we can now acknowledge what has caused the state of upset, “It’s hard to say goodbye in the morning. I will be back.” Another example might be, “You were hoping to be the first one to the car, but your sister got there first. You can handle this!”

Young children’s language and vocabulary growth is heavily reliant upon their environment. If we teach a crying child who is hurt that they are “okay,” they come to understand that someone can be okay when they are clearly hurting! A second reason you will not hear, “You’re okay” at the Weekday School is that, again, although the phrase is given with well wishes, it actually skips over what the child is feeling at that moment. One of the goals of any social-emotional curriculum/philosophy is to help children learn about emotional states. We can do this by talking about emotions through the use of pictures, but, more importantly, we can discuss them as children are feeling them. Through this, we are actively modeling empathy, and helping our children develop and hone information regarding emotions!

For more information about language development, please click on the following link:

For more information about acknowledging children’s emotions, please click on the following link:


Merriam-Webster. (2015). Dictionary. Retrieved September 28 2015 from


The Importance of Rituals and Routines

We’ve often heard people say, “I just need to get back into routine” after an extended absence or a deviation from the norm. Routines have a way of defining our day, and for many of us, they create order and stability. For our children stability equates to safety. Imagine living life not knowing what task or meeting was coming next? It would make prioritizing and planning quite difficult, wouldn’t it? Our children need to prioritize and plan, too.

Our curriculum supports teaching routines within the first few days and weeks of school, and to re-teach as often as necessary. There are routines for every situation you can imagine: entering the classroom, washing hands, lining up to visit the playground, etc. Routines provide a safe context in which our students and children navigate their days. (Bailey, B., 2015). (Wong, H., & Wong, R., 2009).  You may notice that we post routines in our rooms in pictures with accompanying text. These posted routines provide the “how to” or reminder for our children as they are learning and practicing routines. Once we know the routines, we are all free to think about the ideas and concepts that have caught our attention!

Rituals are the glue that binds our school family together. We have rituals for Morning Meeting, absent children, greetings, and goodbyes, and the list goes on! Again rituals promote safety for both adults and children alike. There is comfort in knowing that you can count on your teachers and peers to take time to greet you in the way that is comfortable to you, or that you know there will always be a very special ritual when leaving the playground. Rituals bind us as a community, and create connectivity in our classrooms. A connected classroom is a productive and peaceful classroom.

We wish you well as you learn new routines and rituals within your child’s school family. If you don’t already have hello and goodbye rituals in place in your home, perhaps this is the year that you introduce them. A special high five or handshake is creates a powerful moment for families as they go in different directions during their busy days!


Bailey, B., (2015). Building Resilient Classrooms. Oviedo, Florida: Loving Guidance, Inc.

Wong, H. & Wong, R. (2009). The First Days of School. Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.

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