How to pick a preschool: 9 qualities to help your child thrive

4. More of the day should be devoted to hands-on activities and playing than doing structured activities.

How to pick a preschool: 9 qualities to help your child thrive

Picking a preschool for your young child is a big decision.

I suggest you begin by asking friends for recommendations. A happy family is a good endorsement.

You can also look online or contact a resource and referral agency, which many urban areas have. However you gather your list, it is essential that you visit to see in person what goes on at each school, to get a feel for the environment and interactions and to see if it feels like a good fit for your child and family. After all, you want your child to be in a nurturing place where she enjoys herself. The school you choose should be licensed by the city or state, and teachers need to meet educational credentials, which vary by state.

School is a child’s first step in separating from you and learning to be in a group. Socialization is the main part of preschool programs. Supporting your child’s social and emotional development sets the foundation for their ongoing learning even beyond preschool.

Unsure how to find that program? I can get you started with the 9 areas below:

1) Observe teachers interactions with children.

Teachers should be kind, responsive, engaged with the children and show genuine interest. The adults should enjoy being with the children. Just as importantly, look for children’s signs that they feel comfortable and trusting of the adults. This could be asking for help, showing them a tower they built, or turning to a teacher for comfort. Adults provide the security your child needs when they are away from you.

2) Check discipline policies.

A nurturing program will recognize that young children act out in a variety of ways and understand that aggressive behaviors or not following rules is part of this age. A child should never be scolded or shamed for their negative behaviors. Instead, teachers should talk to children respectfully, set clear limits and provide other ways for them to express their feelings.

3) Observe the children.

Are they engaged and enjoying themselves? Look for children joyfully involved in play and activities individually and in pairs or small groups. Some may be quietly playing while others are more active and loud. These contrasting styles demonstrate a program’s respect for children’s varying ways of engaging.

4) Look for inviting classrooms with a variety of clearly demarcated play areas.

Toys and materials that are accessible to the children provide opportunities for children to choose what they play with and how. Making decisions helps children build a sense of self and confidence. More of the day should be devoted to hands-on activities and playing than doing structured activities, although both will likely happen in a day.

5) Note the art and work displayed on the walls.

It should not all look the same. Instead, art should reflect the range of unique ways that children express their creativity.

6) Remember routines are key.

Children thrive on predictability. It helps them know what is going on and guides their growing independence. Routines may be posted on the wall with pictures and words. Ask how often children move from one activity to a new one, such as music time or another teacher led activity. Fewer transitions are better, especially for two’s and three’s.

7) Separation is a big emotional step for young children.

Ask if there is a gradual separation period so your child can get to know the people and build trust. This is especially true for infants and toddlers.

8) It may sound obvious, but the environment should be clean and free of safety hazards.

Ask about number of teachers. No matter how good a teacher is, he or she can’t care well for children if she has too many. Part of licensing is meeting required teacher to child ratios.

9) Finally, trust your gut feeling.

How you feel about the program and its environment will be conveyed to your child. Ask yourself if you will feel comfortable sending your child to this program and becoming part of the community. That is a personal and individual decision for each family.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.


I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.


Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.


Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.


The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.


The Snoo bassinet


Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!


Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.


Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!


Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.


Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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