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Encouraging Independence – 9 Tips for Parents of Preschoolers

Preschool shoes

“I’ll do it myself!” If you’re a parent of a preschooler, you’ve likely heard this a thousand times.

Of course, it’s usually when you are running late that 4-year-old Cathy decides to put on her own socks and shoes. So you help her – but this time only!

Preschool experts say that children should be encouraged whenever they wish to exert their independence. Even though they may need plenty of parental help, preschoolers are typically able to do more than we expect from them.

So how can we as parents encourage their independence?

According to Diane Kinder, PhD and a professor at the University of Washington, “It takes more time in the beginning to teach independence, but in the long run, it benefits both parent and child.”

Here are some tips to encourage independence in young children:

  1. Expect more. At Montessori Kids Universe, children are expected to clean up after themselves, hang up their jackets, and pour their own water at snack time. However, when they leave the classroom…they change! The thumb goes in the mouth and the lunch bag is handed over to the parents. Maybe it’s a good idea to raise the expectation bar a bit more and allow children to stretch and meet it.
  2. Resist doing it for them. It might be quicker and easier for you to help them put on their shoes, but in the long run it won’t help children become more self-sufficient. Instead, ask them if they can do it themselves or if they need help. The words will work like magic and most children will take pride in doing it on their own.
  3. Assign chores. Assigning children age-appropriate chores not only builds their confidence but also helps them feel more capable as contributing members of the family.
  4. Don’t redo. Resist the urge to help children between tasks or “fix” their work. Praise them for what they have done well. If you redo their work, you might discourage them from trying in the future. If you find your child getting frustrated with a task or having difficulty, don’t just take over. Instead, say, “Wow, you did a great job and we’ll do it again tomorrow.” Don’t let them give up. You want them to learn perseverance and dedication to a task.
  5. No ifs. Most of us have a habit of saying, “If you clean up your books, we will go to the park.” How about saying, “When you are done cleaning up, we’ll go to the park.” Give it a try and see how a minor change in the sentence transforms children’s attitude.
  6. Let them work it out. Kids often get into mini squabbles about petty issues, and you won’t always be there to referee. Stand back and let kids work out their own problems (unless the mini tiff has turned into a beating competition).
  7. Involve them. If your daughter has colored on the walls, have her help wash it off. If she knocks over her friend’s block tower, tell her to reconstruct it. Include her in righting her wrongdoings.
  8. Lighten up. We parents also get frustrated easily. It’s okay if your children are not perfectly setting the table or buttoning their shirts. They are young and still learning. Let them learn at their own pace and make mistakes along the way.

As parents, we struggle when our children struggle. But have patience, take a step back, and watch from the sidelines so your children can learn new skills – regardless of the time it takes.

May 3rd, 2017

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How to stop kids from hitting and biting

kids fighting

You are enjoying a sunny afternoon at the playground when suddenly you hear a loud wail. Imagining it is your toddler, you rush to the area where children are playing and are horrified to find your child’s playmate sporting a teeth-imprinted arm while the mother of the victim gives you (and your kid) cold stares.

As much as you want to sink into the ground with embarrassment, you remain (somewhat) calm, apologize, and remove your child from the scene.

Surprisingly, biting and hitting are normal parts of childhood development. By the time children are in preschool, most of them have bitten or hit at least once and have also been on the receiving end of an unfriendly blow.

Why Children Bite And Hit?

Children become aggressive for a number of reasons.

  • Expressing emotions: Since young children can’t talk, they use biting and hitting to express anger, fear, frustration, or even love.
  • To seek attention: When children feel ignored, they use biting, hitting, or other aggressive measures to get noticed – even if the attention they receive is negative instead of positive.
  • Coping with change: Has another sibling entered the family? Are you moving or have you started a new job? Children become frustrated when they are coping with change and ultimately resort to hitting and biting as a way to express their fear over the changes happening around them.
  • For defense: Young children hit and bite for defense. If another child is hitting or biting them continuously, you can’t expect your toddler to stay quiet, right?
  • Teething: If your baby is teething, then it’s likely that he or she is biting to get that irritable itch out from their gums.

How To Stop Biting and Hitting?

In all instances, don’t throw a tantrum or spank children when they behave negatively. Using the retaliation protocol can teach children that violence causes violence. But of course, don’t leave the issue as it is – children should know that their behavior is wrong and should not be repeated.

  • Remain calm: We know it may be difficult but don’t lose your temper. Take a deep breath, make sure the other child is okay, and take your children away from the scene. No blaming or punishing during the first phase!
  • Talk it out: When you feel that your child has simmered down, ask about the cause behind the biting. Explain that it hurts their friend and we don’t hit/bite when upset.
  • Teach them problem-solving methods: Use imaginary play to teach children how they can resolve issues. You may pretend to be a friend with your child’s favorite toy. Teach them to express their emotions with words like, “This is my toy” and “Please give it back.”
  • Give attention: If you feel that your children are acting out due to lack of time with you, give them plenty of love and attention throughout the day. If you are a working parent, set aside an hour or two each evening for uninterrupted one-on-one with them.
  • Talk to the teachers: Make sure that the behavior is not being repeated at your child’s preschool. Talk with the teacher and find out about the preschool’s environment and whether or not some other children are biting, hitting, or teasing your toddler.

Even with the best prevention methods, incidents will happen until children grow out of the phase, which most children do after a certain age.  So stay firm and keep teaching children empathy. Give your kids the tools to deal with conflict constructively.





April 17th, 2017

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How to cope with separation anxiety


For many children, saying goodbye to a parent or guardian brings tantrums, screams, wails, and tears. Young children are in a close relationship with their parents and are often hesitant about leaving them or seeing them go somewhere – even if they are just leaving the room for a minute.

However, it is perfectly normal for young children to feel anxious and worried when separating from their parents or important caregivers. And although it might be difficult for you to leave your clinging child, it is a normal part of growing up and fortunately for you, it can be relieved with patience and understanding of your child’s unique situation.

But before we look at ways to cope with separation anxiety, let’s learn more about what causes it.

When does Separation Anxiety occur?

Separation anxiety develops after children gain an understanding about your presence – usually around 8 months. Once they realize you are gone (even if you have just gone to the bathroom), they become unsettled and cry their hearts out until the parent or caregiver is back in the room.

The feelings of anxiety become stronger after the children’s first birthday. Children at this age become more independent and thus are more uncertain about their parent’s whereabouts.

Most cases of separation anxiety ease after the children turn 2. However, certain life-changing stresses can again trigger the feelings. These situations include starting school, having a new sibling, relocating, or dealing with an illness in the family.

How to survive separation anxiety?

There are several steps you as a parent can take to ease your children through this challenging phase.

  • Make goodbyes short and sweet – As much as you want to, don’t linger around the crying child. Say your goodbye, share a kiss and leave, allowing the caregiver you have selected to do her job.
  • Set a routine –Keep the same goodbye ritual each time you drop or leave your children. A predictable routine builds the children’s trust and confidence and makes them more capable of dealing with their anxiety.
  • Give them extra attention – When you and your child are together, make sure that you give him or her special attention. Experts believe that the additional one-on-one time boosts children’s confidence about their parent’s love and makes them less threatened at the time of parting.
  • Keep your promise – When leaving children, make sure you tell them what time you will be back. And of course, keep your promise and be back at the time you mentioned.
  • Practice staying away – Send children off to Grandma’s or arrange play dates over the weekends. Introduce them to new people and new places. Practice being away and leaving your child with caregivers for short periods so that they can get used to the situation and be prepared when the time comes for you to leave them with a babysitter, preschool, or a family member.

As hard as it might be for you, do your best not to cave in. have confidence that the caregiver or the school that you have chosen for your children will handle any situation. And it’s likely that by the time you are back in your car, your child will be happily engrossed in other activities.

Remember, in most cases the phase passes during the preschool years. However, if you feel that your child’s separation anxiety persists even after the preschool years, consult your doctor or a child specialist. 

November 28th, 2016

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How to Ditch the Diapers


Potty training is a major milestone in the life of both parents and children. The secret to being successful? A lot of patience and good timing!

Is it the right time?

Not all kids are ready to be toilet trained at the same, so as parents, it is important to look out for signs of readiness from your children. Otherwise, starting too early or rushing the process might be frustrating for both of you and make the process longer.

Generally, most children exhibit signs of readiness around by the time they are 2 years old, although some may be ready earlier or later. Instead of using age as an indicator, parents should look out for the following signs that will tell them whether their children are ready to “ditch” the diaper or not.

  • Ability to follow simple instructions
  • Interest in watching others use the toilet
  • Verbal or thorough physical expression indicating a need to go to the bathroom
  • Ability to stay dry for more than 2 hours
  • Motor skills to pull down pants and/or Pull-ups
  • Complaints about wet or dirty diapers

If most of these attributes are present in your child, then he or she might be ready for toilet training. If not, you should wait a few more weeks before starting the toilet training process. It is also a good idea to wait a while if children have recently faced or will be facing a major change in life such as the arrival of a new sibling, moving to a new house, or recovering from an illness.

Invest in the right equipment.

Now that you have decided to take the big step, it is time to buy the right equipment. Parents have two basic potty options which include:

  1. A toddler sized potty chair with a bowl that can be emptied into the toilet
  2. A toddler sized seat that can be attached to the top of your toilet seat so the children sit secured without worrying about falling in

Set a schedule and have a plan.

  • Have the children sit on the potty chair or toilet without a diaper for a few minutes several times a day, especially in the morning, at bath time and whenever your child is likely to have a bowel movement. You can also take children to the bathroom at intervals of every 1-2 hours to see if they urinate. Stick to the schedule and make sure you are taking them at the same time every day.
  • Pick out a few picture books and DVDs to inspire children and erase fear. Everyone Poops and Once Upon a Potty are some of our personal favorites.
  • Demonstrate to the children how and why you sit on the toilet seat.
  • Look for cues that your child needs to go to the bathroom. Some signs include change in posture, red face, and/or grunting.
  • Offer children rewards every time they are successful in going to the bathroom at the right time.
  • Make sure all your children’s caregivers, grandparents, baby sitters and teachers follow the same established routine for toileting.
  • Teach children to wash their hands thoroughly after using the restroom.
  • You may have to wipe their bottom until your children can take care of it on their own. Remember to wipe from front to back, especially for little girls.
  • Make sure your children’s wardrobe is adaptable to potty training. In other words, make sure they are wearing clothing that is easy to pull up and down.
  • If your child misses the toilet and has an accident, don’t yell, show frustration, or even comment on it. Clean up the mess without a fuss and offer lots of encouragement.

Toilet training might take weeks, even months. It is not a competition so don’t be pressured by other parents. Just relax and let your children get the hang of it at their own pace.

October 31st, 2016

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Raising a 2-year-old


Your toddler is all set to enter the second year of his life. Most children by this age have started walking and even babbling a few words/sentences. Children of this age also exhibit independent behavior and enjoy the company of other kids. Here’s what to expect by the time they celebrate their third birthday.

Developmental Milestones:

  • Runs well
  • Climbs on and off objects with ease
  • Kicks a ball in the intended direction
  • Walks up and down the stairs independently
  • Is able to spoon-feed themselves
  • Pedals a ride-on toy
  • Stands on tippy-toes
  • Undresses themselves
  • Washes hands independently
  • Can imitate others
  • Shows a wide range of emotions

Language Milestones:

By the age of two years, most children have a large set of vocabulary and are able to put words to their emotions and requirements. Although sometimes the words may be jumbled, they will be keen in talking to you and their friends to make themselves understood.

A child between the age of 2 and 3 is likely to:

  • Follow multiple instructions
  • Name familiar objects
  • Say first name, age, sex, and even friend’s name
  • Talk well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Carry on a conversation using 2-3 sentences

What can you do to help build language development?

  • Read aloud every day and talk about what is happening in the pictures
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Repeat what they say so they can hear the correct pronunciation of the words
  • Sing with your children
  • Give them as much one-on-one time as possible
  • Avoid asking children to repeat themselves even if you don’t understand what they are saying
  • Teach them simple rhymes such as Itsy Bitsy Spider and Ba-Ba-Black Sheep

Cognitive Development to expect:

The cognitive development refers to the children’s thinking and learning ability such as remembering, problem-solving, and decision making. Some milestones to look out for include:

  • Fine motor skills to work with toys that have buttons and moving parts
  • Ability to assemble puzzles that consist of more than 3 parts
  • Understanding of what “2” means
  • Ability to build a tower of more than 6 blocks
  • Enough agility to draw a circle using a pencil or crayon
  • Ability to sort out shapes and colors
  • Interest in make-believe games with dolls, animals, and people

Getting Ready for Preschool:

One of the biggest transitions your child will experience during these years is starting preschool. Since most preschools start accepting children by the age of 2 ½ years, this is a good time to visit Montessori Kids Sugar Land to see if it fits your child’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs.




September 25th, 2016

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