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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.

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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.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

It was 8 pm on Sunday night and the kids were in bed. I was in the middle of urgent work emails for my mental health clinic to ensure we were prioritizing the health and care of our clients in light of the novel coronavirus spread. My work demanded my attention.

My partner walked into the room. I looked up and paused and saw the uncertainty in his eyes. I could see that he needed me.

This was one of those moments. This was a bid for attention.

Bids for attention are our attempts to connect with our partners—to be seen, to be appreciated, to be acknowledged, to be given affection. They can be small bids (like making eye contact and smiling) or bigger bids (like asking for help). Often it is not about what someone says or does, but rather the meaning behind the action.

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When your partner asks, "How was work today?" (or even just, "What's up?") what they are really asking is, "Will you talk to me?"

If they glance over and smile at you, what they really want to know is, "Will you notice and connect with me?"

For some, reaching for connection with our partner takes the form of actual verbal requests for help, as in "I need help" or even "I feel like you don't love me."

For others, nonverbal expressions are how we attempt to connect—for affection, care and engagement.

On that Sunday night, my partner didn't say anything. It was all in the look on his face.

I could have said "I have to do this!" and dismissed him from the room. I could have made a list of the things that were necessary to get done. I could have ignored him altogether.

But how we respond to these bids for attention in our relationships is key.

We can either turn towards our partner and see these bids for attention, or we turn away and shut them down. Dr. John Gottman, the relationships researcher, clinical psychologist and founder of the Gottman Institute, found that couples who were still married six years after their initial research meeting turned towards each other 86% of the time, while couples who ended up divorced turned towards each other 33% of the time.

So how do we respond to bids for attention?

One way of responding is by turning towards your partner. This is you seeing your partner's attempt to connect. This is you deciding that whatever is going on for you can wait because you can see that your partner needs you. This is you, at times, putting aside your own feelings, and seeing your partner's.

What does turning towards look like?

  • Smiling back and holding eye contact.
  • Sharing the feeling that comes up at that moment.
  • Responding to touch and letting your partner know you feel them there and appreciate their efforts to connect.
  • Asking what your partner needs in the moment.
  • Seeing your partner's emotion and reflecting it back to them.
  • Asking how you can help them in this moment.
  • Asking a following up question.

The challenge, of course, is that during times of stress and overwhelm, or when we feel disconnected and distressed, we get stuck in turning away from our partners.

Turning away takes a number of forms, too. Sometimes it looks like walking away and not acknowledging your partner, or passing each other in the hall and not meeting your partner's gaze. It may also look like staying away from your partner instead of going to them, or changing the topic when difficult things are brought up. It may also be minimizing the other person's experience ("it's not a big deal") or coming back with a defensive response. Maybe you don't even respond to your partner at all.

Missing these bids for attention sends our partner the message that we don't see them and that they are not important. This slowly erodes the health of your relationship.

We all miss bids for attention at times—particularly during times of stress and struggle. We must learn to tune into our partner and see them when they are asking—silently or out loud—for connection. What are the ways your partner tries for your attention? Have you shared with your partner how you try to get their attention?

On that Sunday night, in the middle of a pandemic, I chose connection. I paused my work and connected with him. I asked him what was going on for him, and I held him close.

You can choose to respond to your partner during this difficult time. You can choose to see your partner in front of you and create closeness and responsiveness. Because this is a time when we all need to create connections.

Love + Village

Chances are, social distancing boredom is starting to set in. You've cleaned your home, watched your favorite Netflix movies (several times), cooked several meals from your stockpile and you've managed to do this all while homeschooling your little one. Good job, mama!

While we can manage our own boredom, trying to keep our kids entertained has been a real challenge. These days our saving grace has been a host of indoor activities, and now, neighborhoods are creating "bear hunts" to help kids minimize boredom even more.

The idea was inspired by the children's book We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury and is exactly how it sounds. You walk around your neighborhood in search of stuffed bears in windows. Put simply, it's the perfect way to get fresh air while practicing social distancing. Even more, it's the perfect distraction that unites neighborhoods and families.

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To get in on the action, visit the "Going on a Bear Hunt" website to find out where the bears are near you or how to start the hunt in your town. Once you've decided your path, sing "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" song to add some fun to your experience.

Shanna Bonner Groom, who spearheaded the recent bear hunting initiative in the Stewart Springs neighborhood of Murfreesboro, Tennessee told TIME that she got the word out by posting the idea in her neighborhood's private Facebook group after seeing it floating around on social media.

"Within hours, everybody was responding and wanting to join in," she said. "Everybody's trying to enjoy this time at home with each other but do social distancing at the same time. So we're trying to come up with some fun activities."

The bear hunt isn't stopping in the United States, in fact many have spotted bears in cities as far as London and New Zealand.

"To the parent (it's gotta be a parent) who came up with this idea, THANK YOU. Explaining to a 4-yr-old why playdates aren't allowed anymore is heartbreaking, so "Going on a Bear Hunt" during our walks is the distraction we needed," says London-based mama, Daniele Hamamdjian.

Indeed, the world needs as many furry friends as possible right now.

News

Breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging in and of itself. Learning how to get the baby to latch properly. Figuring out any lip or tongue tie issues. Wondering if they are actually eating anything and gaining enough weight. Questioning how you'll ever leave the house. If you will ever be brave enough to figure out breastfeeding in public when they demand milk. Constantly wondering about your milk supplydo I have enough? Not enough? Should I pump too? The questions can take up a lot of mental space.

Not to mention the physical aspect of it all. Slumped over on the couch for hours during and in between feeds. Craning your neck in strange positions to try to read or watch something while you nurse them. Tweaking something in your back to reach for something while they're attached to you.

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And breastfeeding while sick, as I've found out, is a whole other level of physical exertion.

It's a hidden reserve of energy you didn't know you had until you need it.

It's having to rest your body after your child's needs are met.

It's realizing you're totally drained, but it doesn't matter—there's a tiny beautiful person counting on you for nourishment.

It's feeding through a fever, worrying your milk isn't going to let down. Having to utilize deep breathing exercises in order to trick your mind into relaxation mode hoping it'll help.

It's considering pumping between feeds just to maintain your supply that you're so scared will diminish as your body fights off infection.

It's watching your milk quickly disappear for a few days during mastitis then magically and miraculously return again.

It's sitting awake for hours at night even though you should be sleeping because your little one wants to cluster feed.

It's trying to rest during the day as much as you can because you're physically exhausted and mentally drained.

It's having to know you can't offer help to all your family members who need it and rely on it because you have to get better—and you have to be available to keep feeding your baby.

It's not wanting to leave the house in case you catch something else—because you can't be sick for much longer.

It's having to go to the doctor so they can listen to your chest, X-ray you and medicate you.

It's realizing the medication you are taking to get better is now upsetting your baby's tummy with gas and changes to their bowel movements.

It's being in pain and wishing your baby could understand that knowing full well they have no idea that anything is bothering you. Knowing you will soldier on.

It's being told constantly "You need to rest," "You need to focus on you," "You need to get better," but mentally not being anywhere near able to do that.

Breastfeeding while sick seems impossible.

But yet—doesn't loads of aspects of motherhood seem impossible at times? Being super pregnant seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Birth seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Figuring out a newborn baby's cries seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Transforming into a mother seemed impossible to me once—but I did it.

When I am breastfeeding my 7-month-old, feeding her sometimes three or four times in one night, constantly feeding her on demand throughout the day—even while sick—sometimes seems impossible at that moment. The moment I'm in it. Because, honestly, the mentality it takes to drag myself out of bed when my head is swimming and it feels hard to breathe is intense.

Because it's hard. It's really hard.

But just like every other aspect of impossible motherhood, we rise up to the challenge. We figure it out. We have the confidence to know what to do, what's best for us and our baby, underneath any insecurity or fear.

Because we are strong. We are resilient. We are mothers.

Life

Connection to a parent is as vital to your child as food and water. When children feel disconnected from their parents, their behavior goes off-track, resulting in challenges such as whining or aggression.

Ironically, right now our ability to connect with our children is being challenged like never before. With schools and workplaces closed and families living their entire lives at home, parents are juggling a lot right now—just as our children's need for connection is more acute than ever. It's no coincidence that your toddler insists on a snuggle or a game just as you need to hop on a video call for work. Or that your child resists homeschooling activities without constant input and "help" from you. Or that bedtime suddenly takes ages when all you want to do is collapse on the couch and decompress.

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It can feel hard to nourish our children with all the connection time they need, especially in stressful times. Children need long stretches of quality time with us, but on some days it's inevitable that things get hectic, and it's all about juggling priorities.

Here 8 bite-size ways to give our children the deep sense of connection they need to thrive.

1. Set a timer for "Special Time"

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Tell your child it's 'special time' and they can do exactly what they want with you. if you can squeeze a short special time into a busy morning, you'll be amazed how much happier it makes everyone, and how much children are more willing to cooperate when they feel connected to you.

2. Try "Giggle Parenting"

When you need your child to get dressed or brush their teeth it can be easy to drop into serious parenting mode, lecturing, complaining and getting stressed.

Giggle Parenting is a simple solution. Whenever you need to get your child to do something, make your approach extra playful. For example, use a puppet or stuffed toy to make the request in a silly voice. Or ask your child to get dressed and pretend to 'accidentally' put the clothes on your own body instead. Giggle Parenting gives children the connection they need to cooperate, and helps make daily tasks fun.

3. Provide full attention moments

If there's a moment when your child is asking you something while you are cooking dinner, or talking about their day while you are trying to finish something for work, just stop for a short moment. Sit down on a chair and make eye contact. Give your child your full attention. It can be easy to get caught up in multitasking and carrying on a conversation while doing other things, but from time to time remember to stop when your child is talking to you and simply listen. Even if it's just a few moments here and there, it can make a difference.

4. Exchange whines for snuggles

When your child is whining, being irritable or showing signs of upset feelings, it can be easy to soak up their energy and feel a little irritable too. Shift the mood by adding in some connection so you both feel better.

Perhaps your child whines because you've set a limit about screen time or eating chocolate. Instead of becoming more serious in tone about the limit setting, turn it into a chance to connect.

Move in close and set the limit gently. Perhaps you say playfully, while making eye contact, "No, no, no I can't let you have any more chocolate.'' Or you playfully snuggle a child who's been annoying their sibling and say, "I can't let you do that, I'm going to shower you with 100 kisses!''

These little moments of connection go a bit deeper than the surface desire for screen time and chocolate and give your child what they really need—you.

5. Make a mistake

Comedian Victor Borge once said that "laughter is the shortest distance between two people." One thing children always find hilarious is when we adults make mistakes. It's the perfect way to release tension about times when they have felt small and powerless.

So perhaps you get something out of the cupboard and 'accidentally' drop it on the floor and exclaim out loud about your mistake, or you spell a word wrong while writing a text message, and say in a bumbling incompetent way, "Hm, I don't seem to know how to spell 'there.'" (Or some other word that you know your child knows how to spell.)

This can turn busy tasks into a chance for tiny moments of laughter, eye contact and fun.

6. Read together

Reading a short book or chapter can be a nice way to reconnect and relax as a substitute for screen time. Reading is my go to for those moments when I'm too exhausted to play, but want to spend time with my daughter.

7. Do household tasks together

When you are tired and stressed at the end of the day, the temptation can be to flip the TV on while you prepare dinner or get on with other household tasks. However, getting the kids involved in the evening routine can be a way to reconnect. Even the youngest ones can help with setting the table or putting plates in the dishwasher. If children complain, set a playful limit. For example, "If you don't help me, I will chase you around the house.'' This can lead to a lot of giggles and, in the end, they are more than likely to want to help and be with you.

8. Release tension through physical play

Especially at the end of the day, children love to release excess stress and tension through laughter and physical play. Set a timer for 10 minutes for some gentle roughhousing. Grab a pillow and have a pillow fight. Put up some resistance but let your child knock you over. This reverse power play helps your child to grow in confidence, let off steam, and is the perfect antidote to all those busy moments in the day when you've been telling them what to do.

Learn + Play
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