Try These Healthy, Kid-Friendly Snacks at Home

Every parent can relate to the frustration of their child frequently asking for a snack. Sometimes, it seems like kids want snacks every few minutes! 

While it’s easy enough to provide packaged snacks or easy fruits like apples and bananas, this can get expensive quickly! 

Plus, the ingredients and additives in many packaged snacks can make your child’s food cravings worse. 

Dyes like Red #40, Blue #1, and Yellow #5 are found in many packaged snacks, especially those marketed to children because their vibrance is attractive. But these dyes are detrimental to human health: they are carcinogenic and are linked to behavior problems, ADD/ADHD, and so much more. 

Other ingredients like sugar, seed oils, preservatives, artificial flavorings, and more, can have negative effects on childhood development, increase the risk of obesity, and more.

What Do You Need in a Good Snack?

There’s a lot of health and diet advice out there! But basic science concepts can be applied to choosing a healthy snack.

We all know that sweet things–sugar and sweeteners, but also substances our bodies process as sugar like wheat and dairy–spike our blood sugar. We get that burst of energy and feel alert and in a good mood, but it’s only a matter of time before we feel sluggish and cranky again.

This blood sugar roller coaster happens when there isn’t a healthy fat to slow the absorption of sweeteners. Not all fat is bad, and when healthy fats are eaten in moderation, are actually very beneficial. They keep you full for longer, so you actually eat less–which is good for your budget and waistline!

Not to mention, children need healthy fats to grow strong minds and bodies!

A good snack for children will combine something yummy and fun with healthy fat or protein to slow the absorption and keep your child full for longer.

Here are some fun, yummy, and healthy snacks that your kids will love!

Chocolate Hummus

While beans in a sweet dip may some like a bad mashup, don’t pass this recipe over before giving it a try! 

This healthy dip can be served with a variety of sweet and salty dippers like fruit slices, pretzels, or crackers. The protein in the garbanzo beans or chickpeas slows down the sugar in the honey (or fruit dippers) so your child stays full for longer. Just blend these ingredients well:

  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans or chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Yogurt Fruit Cups

Sweetened yogurt and fruit is a classic snack combination and irresistible for children and adults alike. The protein and healthy fat in the yogurt keep tummies full for longer than fruit alone. Plus, this snack is simple to prep and store a week’s worth of yogurt cups in your fridge for a super easy and delicious snack! 

  • 4 cups cut-up fresh fruit or berries 
  • 3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup granola (optional)

Evenly distribute the fruit amongst five single-serving cups. Spoon the yogurt evenly over the fruit. If using, portion granola into snack baggies to keep fresh until consumption. Keep refrigerated. 

Peanut Butter Date Energy Balls

These energy balls are the perfect size for little hands that taste like a cookie without giving your child the sugar crash of a sugar-sweetened snack. 

  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup oats, quick-cooking or rolled
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, dairy-free if needed

Soak the dates in warm water for about 10 minutes. Drain the dates and blend them in a food processor. Once smooth, add the peanut butter, oats, vanilla, and chia seeds. Blend until the consistency is firm but pliable enough to roll into a ball. Add more oats if the batter is too sticky, or add more peanut butter if it is too dry. 

Add the chocolate chips and mix with a spoon. Portion batter into 1 tbsp balls and store in a container in the refrigerator. 

Frozen Yogurt Bark 

If your kid is always wanting ice cream or popsicles, try swapping out this frozen yogurt bark instead. It gives your child the same enjoyment of a sweet frozen treat without the sugar and artificial flavors. 

  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup granola

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the yogurt evenly on a baking sheet. Then sprinkle the berries and granola evenly onto the yogurt. Freeze for at least 3 hours, or until firm. Break into pieces and keep frozen until serving. 

Growing children need to snack throughout the day to meet their dietary and energy needs. It’s your job as a parent to choose snacks that keep them healthy.

Crestwood Preschool Academy is proud to offer an outstanding educational and fun curriculum that prepares your child for kindergarten per state academic standards.

Contact Crestwood Preschool Academy today if you’re looking to give your child a head start in school!

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These Are the Developmental Toys Your Kid Needs

These Are the Developmental Toys Your Kid Needs

Children learn primarily through play. Playtime is their “job” that develops the skills they need later for their actual schooling and occupations. When you see playtime as education, then you’ll want to provide your child with toys that grow their brains, bodies, and language skills. 

What Toys Do Children Need?

While it’s tempting to give your child toys that are technology-based or rely on trendy characters for their appeal, the majority of toys that children need are educational ones 

Toys shape your child’s understanding and interpretation of their world. If every toy has lights, noises, music, or some technology component, they won’t be satisfied with anything that isn’t interactive in later years. 

Children who play with open-ended toys (that is, toys that can be used in more than one way, like blocks) are more likely to be curious, have excellent problem-solving skills, and content. 

If toys are like food, then open-ended toys are like the nutritious parts of a meal and tech toys are like dessert. They can be permissible, even more than once a day, but shouldn’t be your primary nutrition source.

The Three Developmental Categories

You must remember that your child develops in three primary areas: cognitive (which includes emotions), physical, and speech/language skills. 

Cognitive development includes areas like problem-solving, decision-making, abstract thinking, and emotional regulation.

Physical development would be both gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills are big movements, like walking, running, jumping, climbing, etc. Fine motor skills involve picking up or manipulating small objects purposefully. 

Speech and language skills include growing a vocabulary, developing sentence structure, and comprehending what others are saying. 

A developmental toy will encourage growth in one or more of these areas.

Best Developmental Toys for Babies 

The best developmental toys for babies are those with high-contrast colors. This is because their vision is still developing, so toys with bright or high-contrasting colors (like black and white) and bold patterns will grab and keep their attention. Playmats with mobiles are great for newborns, while blocks, stacking rings, and rattles are good choices for older babies. 

Toys with various textures are another excellent option, as babies want to touch everything–and put it in their mouth! Many wonderful sensory books provide different textures and crinkly or squeaky sounds. However, ensure that toys and books don’t have any small pieces that a baby can choke on. 

Once your child begins to be mobile, push and pull toys will help develop their gross motor skills. For speech and language development, simple books are the way to go. Baby books don’t even need a story; books that show pictures of everyday objects help them learn new words. Pointing to the objects and giving your own commentary is sufficient. 

Best Developmental Toys for Toddlers

Children at this age crave toys that develop their cognition. Puzzles with large pieces, blocks, and matching games combine cognitive development with gross and fine motor development.

Toddlers also begin to love creating their own artwork. Simple art supplies are an excellent way to develop sequencing skills (first dip the paintbrush into the paint, then paint the picture), fine motor development, and creativity. Age-appropriate supplies include crayons, paint sticks, paint brushes, or markers. Just ensure that any art supplies are non-toxic, as children often try to taste them.

To develop your toddler’s speech skills, puppets, dolls and action figures, and kitchen sets let your child utilize their growing vocabulary. Age-appropriate books introduce new words, help build sentence structure, and reinforce their understanding of words they already know. 

Best Developmental Toys for Young Children

Pre-K children have more developed cognitive, motor, and language skills and can do highly coordinated activities. They can do many of the same activities as toddlers but on a higher level. For instance, puzzles with interlocking pieces, magnetic tile pieces for building structures, and Duplo or LEGO blocks.

Children at this age benefit from tripod scooters, balance bikes or tricycles, or bicycles with training wheels to improve their gross motor skills. For fine motor, you can choose more challenging art projects, such as paint-by-numbers, scissor activities, stickers, or tracing. 

Keep reading age-appropriate books to develop your child’s language skills. They may also benefit from an interactive toy that teaches letters, letter sounds, numbers, a second language, and more. 

Choosing the right toys for your child is just as important as choosing the right foods. While everything is alright in moderation, you still want your child to eat their fruits, veggies, grains, and proteins. Don’t give your child just tech-based toys–instead, choose a variety of toys that develop their cognition, motor skills, and language skills.

Crestwood Preschool Academy is proud to offer an outstanding educational and fun curriculum that prepares your child for kindergarten per state academic standards.

Contact Crestwood Preschool Academy today if you’re looking to give your child a head start in school!

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The Importance of Stories at Bedtime

The Importance of Stories at Bedtime

Parents and teachers intuitively know that children benefit from being read to, but is regular storytime really that important?

Studies have proven that reading to children benefits them immediately and in the future! Children who are read to have:

  • Better language skills – Quality literature improves language understanding, grammar, and sentence structure
  • Increased vocabulary – Quality literature exposes children to a wide vocabulary and better understanding of words
  • Improved literacy – Research shows a strong connection between reading aloud to children and advanced literacy skills. 
  • Emotional bonding with parents – positive connections are made between a parent and the child during read-aloud

Here’s how to find time throughout the day to include reading with your child. Be sure to read to the end to learn the best time of day to read to your child!

Reading in the Early Morning

Every child is different. Some children are sleepy and want to cuddle first thing in the morning. If your child is an early-morning cuddler, then this is an excellent time to read with your child! Cozy up with a blanket, some books, and something to drink or eat. This will quickly become one of your favorite parts of the day and cherished memories.

Even if your child is jumping off the couch in the early morning, you can still have early morning reading. It can even be an excellent way to teach your child self-regulation. Children want to engage with you and may be willing to snuggle up with you and a good book. 

Reading in the Mid-Morning 

By mid-morning, babies are ready for their first nap of the day. Taking just a few minutes to read to them before naptime is a signal to them that it’s time to sleep. 

Young children may have burned through their breakfast energy and are poking around for something to do or eat. Children need to engage with their parents frequently and often turn to their parents to help them regulate their emotions. If children begin to whine or get mischievous,  it can be easy to turn to technology or snacks to get through the morning.

However, remember that children want to engage with you, not technology. Reading will give them the emotional regulation their bodies are craving and may become less needy for technology or snacks. Often after reading, children are regulated and ready to choose their next activity with cheerfulness and independence. 

Reading Before Nap Time

Babies, toddlers, and young children will often take a nap in the early afternoon. This is another perfect time to sneak in some reading!

As your child starts to slow down, choose quieter activities, or zone out, initiate some reading time. Take the child to a cozy spot such as their bed or a rocking chair, and read one to three books. This further relaxes your child, gives them a visual timeline of when it’s time to nap (“This is our last book!”), and helps them fall asleep faster. 

Reading After Nap Time

Some kids struggle to wake up from a nap. They can be grouchy, sleepy, or whiney. But cuddling and reading a book while eating a snack is sure to chase away the nap-time blues! 

Similar to early morning reading, cuddling with your child and reading a book helps ease them into wakefulness again. A healthy snack or drink also helps gently raise blood sugar and mood so they are cheerful after reading together. 

Reading Before Bed 

If you’re looking for the best time to read to your time, science has concluded that reading before bed is the best time to read with your child. In one study, reading at bedtime significantly lengthened total nighttime sleep duration. If there’s one thing parents want, it’s for their kids to sleep deeper and longer!

With sleepiness to keep them relaxed and fighting sleepiness to keep them alert and engaged, reading at bedtime gives you the best bang for your buck. Reading with your child before bed helps establish a stable routine, promotes bonding, and gets them into a sleepy state of mind to fall asleep–and stay asleep!

Crestwood Preschool Academy is proud to offer an outstanding educational and fun curriculum that prepares your child for kindergarten per state academic standards.

Contact Crestwood Preschool Academy today if you’re looking to give your child a head start in school!

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Quality Literature for Kids: What It Is, and How to Find It

Quality Literature for Kids: What It Is, and How to Find It

If you want to tap into the benefits of reading to your child, then you may already know that not all books are created equally. Some books are worth reading over and over, and these are the books you want to collect for your bookshelves.

Quality literature has countless benefits, like exposing them to new cultures and ideas and inspiring their imagination. It prepares them for school by teaching grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Interesting illustrations teach art appreciation, and the stories can develop social and emotional awareness. Good books can also give your child a leg-up on school subjects like history, science, geography, math, social studies, and so much more!

What Is Quality Literature?

What exactly is quality literature? While this term might make you think of Shakespeare or famous poets, there are many forms of quality literature.

Literature is like eating a meal. While dessert isn’t off limits, most of the meal should be something nutritious, like protein, fruits, veggies, dairy, and grains. Quality literature is like the nutritious part of the meal: you want your child to be reading (consuming) the best literature to grow their minds, imaginations, and educational skills.

A book would be considered quality literature if it includes all (or most) of the following:

  • Well-written, interesting stories: Some stories are too simple, don’t make much sense, or don’t provide a positive message. 
  • Age-appropriate words: Most of the words should be understandable to a child, but quality literature will stretch a child’s vocabulary just a little bit.
  • An overall positive message or conflict is resolved: Quality literature often have role models, teaches life lessons or positive character quality, or has inspiring themes. Conflict resolution is also important.
  • Illustrations are detailed: Interesting illustrations draw children back to the book because they want to look at the pictures. Detailed illustrations allow you to discuss the pictures, which further expose your child to language understanding. 
  • Has won an award: Outstanding books are awarded every year. Some popular awards are the Randolph Caldecott Medal, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and Pura Belpré Award.

In summary, if you (or your child!) want to read the book more than once, it’s likely quality literature. 

What’s not quality literature? Here are a few things to avoid when choosing books:

  • Trending animated characters: Whether it’s talking trains, classic princesses, or the next trending movie or TV show, these are not quality literature. Children may want to read these books more than once, but it’s not because the literature is quality. 
  • Graphic novels: While not all graphic novels are bad, these can be a crutch that cripples children from making the transition from picture books to chapter books. The plot lines are often shallow and feel too much like a cartoon to be taken seriously. 

These types of books would be the “desserts” of literature: they are fine in moderation but shouldn’t be a child’s only exposure to reading. 

How to Find Quality Literature

Quality literature is surprisingly easy to find through your local library.

Type in “quality literature + age of your child” into a search bar for thousands of options for quality books. You can request dozens of these books at a time from the library.

You can also ask your librarian for suggestions. They will know of classic books as well as new award winners and recent releases. 

Here are some age-appropriate quality literature books for young children.

Infant

  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox.
  • Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
  • I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom
  • Mommies Say Shhh! by Patricia Polacco.
  • Peekaboo Bedtime, by Rachel Isadora. 
  • Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • My Farm Friends, by Wendell Minor. 
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
  • Moo, Baa, La la la, by Sandra Boynton
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr
  • Goodnight, Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
  • The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats

Toddler 

  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Corduroy, by Don Freeman
  • The Little Red Caboose, by Little Golden Books
  • Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney
  • Little Blue Truck, by Alice Shertle

Pre-K

  • Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
  • Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss
  • Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman
  • Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
  • Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

Take It to the Next Level

As you read a book with your child, ask questions or add your own comments before turning the page. 

For instance, tell your baby or toddler what sound animals in the pictures make. Or, if your child is older, ask them what sound it makes. Tell young children about colors, shapes, and numbers, as well as spatial concepts like up and down, in and out, and over and under. 

Older children can also make social and emotional connections through stories. If a picture shows a character who is sad, happy, or surprised, ask them why they might feel that way. Or if there is conflict in the story, ask your child what should happen to make things right. 

Technology Can’t Replace the Parent

If you want your child to experience the benefits of reading but don’t have the time to sit down with your child, you might turn to audiobooks or children’s podcasts. Your library may also have children’s books that read the book aloud to your child. 

While these are better than iPads or television shows, podcasts and audiobooks aren’t the same as reading with your child. This is because the emotional bonding over books is lacking; a stranger is reading to your child.

This doesn’t mean that you can never let your child listen to a podcast or audiobook, but if you want your child to fall in love with reading, it’s vital to take the time to read with your child. 

Crestwood Preschool Academy is proud to offer an outstanding educational and fun curriculum that prepares your child for kindergarten per state academic standards.

Contact Crestwood Preschool Academy today if you’re looking to give your child a head start in school!

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What Is the Best Age to Send a Child to Daycare?

What Is the Best Age to Send a Child to Daycare?

Whether you’re a parent or pediatrician, there are many opinions on what age is best for a child to begin attending daycare. Some believe the earlier, the better, so there’s less separation anxiety. Others believe that sending the child to daycare when he is older allows for proper parental bonding.

There are a dozen other factors to consider, as well, such as the child’s immune system, social tendencies, and the parent’s work schedule. Some parents must go back to work six weeks after delivering a baby, while others can wait a few years and easily resume their occupation. 

While there’s no right or wrong answer, most pediatricians recommend children attend daycare beginning around one year old. 

The Best Age to Start Daycare

Many pediatricians recommend children start daycare around age one. There are several reasons for this:

Immunity

Babies younger than one year have a developing immune system. Letting your infant’s immune system mature before enrolling them in daycare would help them stay well.

Parental Attachment

12 months could be the sweet spot for enrolling your child in daycare because it allows parental-child bonding but the child isn’t old enough to experience severe separation anxiety during drop off. 

Better Behavior

One study noted that children enrolled in daycare at 12 months behaved better than their peers who stayed home. This is because children at this age are budding socially and have ample opportunity to learn important social skills, such as sharing toys, playing with friends, and communicating with baby sign language. Babies who don’t have regular peer interaction miss out on opportunities to grow and integrate these social skills.

The Earliest Age to Start Daycare

Studies show there are benefits to enrolling a child younger than 12 months. Children enrolled at six months have better cognitive and social skills than peers who stay at home.

Crestwood Preschool Academy enrolls infants as young as six weeks. We ensure quality care for these precious little ones and give them the care and attention they need to grow and thrive. 

The Worst Age to Enroll in Daycare

Knowing the best age to start daycare begs the question: is there a bad age to enroll in daycare?

Generally speaking, children aged three and four have the hardest time transitioning to daycare, especially if they’ve exclusively stayed home with a parent and not had other forms of childcare (like a relative or friend watching them part-time, or an early preschool program).  

This age is the hardest because children are used to spending all their time with their parents. Such a drastic change in routine can cause a lot of anxiety, hyperactivity, and behavioral issues in children. 

But this doesn’t mean enrolling your three-or-four-year-old will be disastrous! At Crestwood Preschool Academy, we have compassionate teachers who will help your child quickly acclimate to a daycare setting. We have an excellent early preschool curriculum that lets your child get a head start on kindergarten skills.

Age Doesn’t Matter–As Long As Care is Quality

While there is much debate about the best time to enroll a child in daycare, the bottom line is that daycare can benefit children of every age–as long as the daycare provides quality care. There’s a huge difference between a daycare that lets children play all day and a daycare that provides predictable routines, age-appropriate education, nutritional meals, and creative playtime. 

Crestwood Preschool Academy provides outstanding care to children enrolled in our program. It doesn’t matter what age your child begins daycare, at Crestwood Preschool Academy, they will be cared for by kind and compassionate teachers who want to see them reach their highest potential. 

Children in our program receive age-appropriate education that grows their fine and gross motor skills, social skills, and early educational knowledge. We also provide ample opportunity for creative play, both outdoors and indoors, and emphasize physical activity.

Crestwood Preschool Academy is proud to offer an outstanding educational and fun curriculum that prepares your child for kindergarten per state academic standards.

Contact Crestwood Preschool Academy today if you’re looking to give your child a head start in school!

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How Long Does It Take a Child to Like Daycare?

How Long Does It Take a Child to Like Daycare?

When it comes to daycare dropoff, the parents are often more anxious than the children. But once children know that daycare means separation from their parents, there may be meltdowns that tug at your heartstrings. 

If your child has a hard time at dropoff, you might be wondering how long it will take your toddler or child to like daycare. 

The good news is children quickly adapt to changes in their routine and learn to love daycare, even if they don’t like it at first.

How Long Does It Take an Infant to Adjust to Daycare?

Children under 12 months take a very short time to adapt to daycare because they are still learning about the people and places around them. Since nothing is set in stone, they are malleable to caretakers. 

It’s often harder for parents than babies at this age to be separated! But, once you see your baby enjoying daycare, it gets easier to leave your baby with their caregiver.

How Long Does It Take a Toddler to Adjust to Daycare?

Children between one and three years of age are more aware of their environment and daily routine. Dropoff at this age can be confusing for children and sobering for parents. 

There is a great deal of variability in how long it takes a toddler to like daycare and not have meltdowns at dropoff. 

  • 1 year old: It can take up to two weeks of daily dropoffs for a child to not cry when leaving a parent. If your child is on a part-time schedule, it may take longer.
  • 2 years old: A child this age will take two to three weeks to adjust to drop off.
  • 3 years old: Children switching daycares may only take a day or two to adjust, but a child who has never been in daycare before may take up to a month to feel comfortable at drop-off.

How Long Does It Take a Pre-K Child to Adjust to Daycare?

Perhaps surprisingly, four-year-olds may take the longest to fully adjust to a daycare environment. This is true whether they are switching daycares or starting daycare for the first time. 

Four-year-olds may have the hardest time with a new daycare routine because they’re old enough to have big feelings about their change of environment. This is understandable even for adults–it is normal to feel anxious for a few weeks or months when starting a new job or class.

Similarly, four-year-olds can take three to six months to feel at home in their new daycare setting. It takes time to learn new routines, make new friends, and discover their favorite things in their classroom. 

How to Help a Child Adjust to Daycare

Coping skills will vary depending on the age of the child. Here are some tips for helping children overcome anxiety at dropoff:

  • Leave a favorite lovey or blanket with your child. For babies, it’s helpful if the blanket has the parent’s scent or if they otherwise associate the blanket with the parent (e.g. rocking with the blanket before bedtime). Older children can keep a lovey or toy from home in their cubby to use at naptime.
  • Parents should be compassionate at dropoff but not waffle when it is time to leave. Give reassuring affection or come up with a fun dropoff handshake, but then leave promptly. This helps your child know they can’t pull you back by throwing a tantrum.
  • Consider rewarding older children if they don’t throw a tantrum at dropoff 

Dropoff at Crestwood Preschool Academy

At Crestwood Preschool Academy, we know that dropoff can be hard. We have compassionate and supportive staff to help children and parents alike transition to their daycare routine. Our teachers know how to quickly engage children in their classroom activities, find new friends, and become acclimated to their new routine as quickly as possible.

Crestwood Preschool Academy is proud to offer an outstanding educational and fun curriculum that prepares your child for kindergarten per state academic standards.

Contact Crestwood Preschool Academy today if you’re looking to give your child a head start in school!

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Can You Guess the Hardest Age to Parent?