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Tips for helping your toddlers

Liane Shaw of Shaws Preschool passes on some useful tips about equipping preschoolers for school, helping them to be more independent, and promoting good eating habits.

How can parents help preschoolers become more independent and do things for themselves?

• Provide opportunities, within safe and reasonable limits. Simply put, the more they get to try doing things for themselves, the better they become at it.

Shaws Preschool

• Celebrate successes, but also allow for mistakes. Children need to hear that it is OK not to get it right the first time (or the 27th!). Constant encouragement teaches them the importance of “dusting their hands off” and trying again.

• Offer choices. The classroom is prepared in a way that allows children to choose what they want to work on or play with. At home, let them choose which books to read, what toys to play with, or what to wear, for example. This will go a long way towards helping them make decisions and sticking with them, whatever the consequences may be.

• Provide structure but allow for occasional creative deviations. Preschoolers need consistency – when they know what to expect, they feel safe. But giving children room for flexibility will encourage them to think out of the box and make independent decisions.

For example, you could have a bedtime routine but once in a while pose the question, “What if we didn’t read before bed? What else could we do?”

• Above all, giving them time and allowing for mistakes will support them in developing the confidence to do things for themselves.

How can picky eaters be encouraged to be more adventurous in trying different foods?

In our experience, the language we use and the attitudes we take towards food refusal are really important. “Picky” eating is actually part of normal development, and most of us will have something we don’t like to eat. Instead of calling attention to the picky eating, make meals an enjoyable experience. At Shaws, we involve the children in the routine, and we steer conversations towards what goes into their meals and how the various foods are good for them.

Also, we encourage, but we don’t dwell. So, instead of insisting on individual children finishing their food, we encourage them to decide how much they want to eat by saying things like, “Let’s make sure you have enough in your tummies, because the next meal won’t be until tea time!” You can also get your child excited about trying something new by saying, “This is really good, it tastes a lot like (insert another food item), which you really like.”

Shaws Preschool
Preschoolers need consistency – when they know what to expect, they feel safe.

Be a role model. Children watch what grown ups eat, and if you visibly enjoy it, they might be more likely to try it.

One of many benefits of the approach to learning about food at Shaws – focusing on carrots, for example – is how our children develop a love for fruit and vegetables after spending 10 weeks learning about them and growing them in our garden.

Perhaps another way to get around the issue of picky eating is to get children closer to the foods they refuse, and involve them in the planning and preparation of meals. This could mean shopping for ingredients together, cooking together, or even setting the dinner table.

How do you at Shaws go about preparing kids for “big school”?

Our project-based approach gives children the opportunity to explore real-world topics; they practise investigative skills like asking good questions, solving problems, testing things out and communicating their findings. Play-based and hands-on activities allow for experimentation, creative thinking and innovation. Language and literacy experiences in English and Mandarin prepare our children to communicate confidently, effectively and creatively. They love reading, and they read for enjoyment as well as to get information. The preschool curriculum ensures that they develop self-help skills like dressing and undressing, and social skills like taking turns and working in groups. It also encourages them to clear up after themselves. Involving them in the setup of their classroom – such as clearing up after play – and simple chores like serving meals to their classmates, helps children develop responsibility for their belongings and ownership of their classroom.

Shaws Preschool

Our children learn about money through the “Kids & Cash” programme. They have opportunities, both through our curriculum and at school events, to set up stalls where they buy and sell things themselves; this equips them with money-handling skills before they go to big school.

Their last term here is dedicated to being immersed in primary school-related activities. They spend time in a primary school, experience routines like assembly and recess time, and become familiar with the physical and social environment. Our teachers extend this further by having discussions about big school.

Do preschoolers take a nap at Shaws, and if so, when does this stop?

The need for naps is quite individual, but many of our children start dropping the afternoon nap around three to four years of age. We plan a variety of activities for children who don’t nap, ranging from quiet activities to art or cookery.

By the end of preschool, children are generally ready to independently:

• Dress and undress

• Shower and use the toilet

• Pack and carry their own school bag

• Brush their teeth

• Clear up after meals

Shaws has five locations island-wide. For more information, visit shaws.school.


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This article first appeared in the August 2017 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!