Contributing to your child’s school readiness

by Maxine
Posted August 8 2011 01:46pm
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In September, many children will attend school for the first time. They will be expected to be able to communicate, to demonstrate basic knowledge, to socialize with others and to show independence. As a parent, you may wonder if your child is adequately prepared for these expectations in kindergarten. Do play experiences in the early years provide a solid foundation for your child’s school readiness? How can you, as a parent, and other care providers develop children’s academic skills through play? Here are some activities you can enjoy with your child which are examples of how play nurtures the skills that contribute to school readiness.

Communication: Play with Spoken and Written Words

  • Talk to your child often and show her the many ways she can use language. Engage your child in storytelling experiences. As she listens to the words and participates in telling stories, she will learn important conversational skills. Sing songs, recite rhymes and do fingerplays together to help your child to hear the intonation and rhythm patterns of language. Introduce your child to new and interesting words, to help her build her vocabulary. These are ways to teach your child to love language and to enjoy the wonder of words!
  • Show your child how writing can help him to express his ideas. When your child draws pictures, ask him to tell you a story about them and write down his words. This allows him to see the relationship between spoken words and text. Include paper and writing tools among his toys and dramatic play props so he can explore the different ways he sees writing used through his imaginative play (e.g. making lists or creating a birthday card). As he practices printing he will discover that the magical markings he is making have meaning!

Basic Knowledge: Play to Encourage Literacy and Basic Math Skills

  • Read to your child every day. As you enjoy your child’s favourite books together, help her to identify alphabet letters and to recognize and make their sounds. Explore words in the story. What do they mean? Can she find examples of different words around the house? Talk about the story and ask open-ended questions about the characters. Can she guess what might happen next? Invite your child to tell you a story about the pictures and then see how closely her words match the text. Story time can give your child reading skills that last a life time!
  • Build your child’s understanding of math concepts like counting, sorting, patterning, recognizing shapes and measuring through his every day play. Recite rhymes like One, Two, Buckle My Shoe to familiarize your child with number words. When your child plays with toys, count them so he can match the words to actual objects. At tidy up time he can sort the cars, people and blocks into separate baskets. Make necklaces from beads of different shapes, sizes and colours to create patterns. Provide building materials for your child or recyclable items for creating three-dimensional artwork. Make a growth chart so your child can discover how tall he is. Exploring math in ways that are fun will add to his math skills one by one!

Socializing: Play to Support your Child’s Interactions

  • Play and interact with your child every day. Parents are a child's first playmate, so it is important to make time together for games and make-believe. When you play with your child, you will see things from her point of view and have the chance to follow her lead. She will also learn from your example and have your support as she learns about rules, other people’s feelings and solving problems. Entering the world of your child’s play helps your child to enter the world of school confidently!
  • Encourage your child to engage in dramatic play experiences with his peers. As children interact in an imaginary situation (e.g. doctor’s office), they talk, assign roles, create and follow rules and use symbolic thinking as they decide upon using one object to represent another (e.g. a block is a telephone). These are important social and thinking skills that they will use as they learn to co-operate, take turns and get along with others. Pretend play prepares your child for kindergarten in very real ways!

Being Independent: Play to Build Confidence and Self-Control

  • Help your child to develop strategies for controlling his emotions, behaviours and thoughts. Talk about the way people in storybooks and pictures are feeling, and talk about what might cause those feelings. This will teach your child the words for different emotions and help your child to describe his own feelings and those of other people. When playing games together, be a positive influence if your child gets upset. Help him to be calm, to try to remain positive and to know that he might not win or be first all the time. Being able to calm himself on his own will help your child be more excited about being and playing with friends!
  • Provide opportunities for your child to practice self-help skills. Including clothing in your child’s dramatic play props enables her to dress independently and to become more able to manipulate buttons, zippers, buckles, laces and Velcro. She will feel pride in her ability to do things for herself and develop the confidence to try when faced with new challenges in kindergarten. The success she experiences when learning skills through play will encourage her to achieve success in other learning areas!

There are many things that happen at home every day that help to build a strong foundation for your child’s academic success. Remember, the time you spend playing with your child now is an investment in her future! Learn about the Comfort, Play & Teach approach. In the Activity Centre parents will find many ideas on how to support children's school readiness through play!

Video Alert!
You can also watch our video “How to ease your child's transition to school” to find out more.

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Nightmares and Night Terrors: Overview

by Maxine
Posted September 5 2011 03:16pm
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Here are some points to help parents tell the difference between a nightmare and a night terror.


  • Nightmares usually, but not always, occur in the last half of the night.
  • Your child will be awake, or nearly so, and glad that you have come to him.
  • With nightmares, comfort your child right away. The sooner you respond, the sooner your child will settle down, so all of you can get back to sleep.
  • Physical reassurance is important. Hug your child or rub her back until she calms down.
  • Reassure your child that it was only a scary dream, even if it seemed real.
  • Double-check that your child's favourite toy or blanket is tucked in with her, make sure the night-light is on, and remind her you will be close by.
  • Remember that most children experience nightmares at least occasionally even babies after they are 6 months of age.
  • In some children, the terror of a nightmare may linger for hours, and may even make them afraid to sleep.
  • If your child is not easily comforted by you, or nightmares are frequent or their effects are long-lasting, discuss this with your child’s doctor.

Learn how to cope with and prevent nightmares

Night Terrors

  • Night terrors usually, but not always, occur in the first half of the night usually about 1-2 hours after the child has fallen asleep.
  • If your child bolts upright with eyes wide open, looking scared and panicked, screaming in distress, sweating, breathing fast and with a rapid heart rate, your child is likely experiencing a night terror.
  • Although it will seem like your child is awake during a night terror, your child will not recognize you and will not be comforted by you. After a few minutes, or sometimes longer, your child will simply calm down and return to a peaceful sleep.
  • Although children tend to remember having a nightmare, children usually don't recall having a night terror.
  • If you are able to wake your child up, she is likely to become scared and agitated, mostly because of your reaction to the night terror, especially if you shake her or yell at her to wake up.
  • It is usually best to just make sure your child is safe. Only intervene if you think she will injure herself or if you need to guide her back to bed.
  • Night terrors are unbelievably hard on a parent, because the screaming is frightful and relentless. A night terror typically lasts from 5 to 25 minutes. Once it is over, your child may return to peaceful sleep on her own, or she may wake up. If she wakes, you can help her get back to sleep.
  • If your child gets night terrors, discuss this with your child’s doctor.

Learn how to cope with and prevent night terrors

Make sure that babysitters and other caregivers are aware that your child has night terrors and know what they should do if one occurs.

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Halloween Comfort, Play & Teach Tipsheet

by Maxine
Posted October 23 2011 05:18pm
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Halloween is a wonderful fall celebration full of traditions around giving out treats, carving pumpkins and roaming through the neighbourhood in costume. Parents play an important role in helping their child to understand this holiday and to feel secure. Here are some Comfort, Play & Teach© ideas that will support parents in making Halloween enjoyable for their child.

 Download the Halloween Tipsheet

Check out our other Halloween Tipsheet!


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Ensuring your toddler appreciates his holiday gifts

by Maxine
Posted January 4 2012 12:48pm
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Family members can be generous to a fault when it comes to giving gifts to young children. Consider what it feels like as an adult to have a mountain of presents to open, examine, and respond to. Toddlers too, can be easily overwhelmed and do not know how to manage their feelings in such situations. Parents can ease the stress for their toddlers by limiting the amount of presents that are available for a child to play with.

As miniature scientists, toddlers mainly play by trying things out and observing the response. The key to productive play is to help your child to focus and limit the distractions. Toddlers do not know how many presents they received because they do not understand quantity, nor will they be able to remember who gave them what present.

To decrease the stress around gifts:

  • Slow down the pace so that your child opens a present and has time to explore it. Let him watch as other family members open their gifts before offering him another one to open.
  • Watch your child to observe which toy really catches his interest. Follow his lead and support his play with that particular toy. 
  • Do not be upset if your child seems to prefer the wrapping paper and boxes.
  • Select three toys that have piqued your child's curiosity. Put the other gifts away in a closet out of sight for another time. Knowing your child's temperament will also help guide your decisions about which gifts to keep out, i.e., books or puzzles versus action toys.


If family members have sent several gifts, select one to put under the tree or in the stocking and save the others for another time.

Has your toddler ever been overwhelmed by an abundance of gifts at the holidays or at a birthday? Share your stories below!

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