A Parent's Guide to Preparing Your Child for Preschool

by Guest Author Sam Casteris

The first day at preschool is a big milestone for kids—and for parents. This can be a stressful and challenging time for everyone involved, but luckily, there are several ways parents can ease the transition and prepare children for their first days at school. 

Here are some ideas and activities to help your child feel prepared to learn in a group setting, follow directions, socialize with other kids, and feel comfortable at school:  

Teacher Mireille recommends these books that can help ease transitions young children face: Preschool Time by Mij Kelly and Mary McQuillan and The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. If your child has a difficult time separating from a parent, another good book to read with your child is Ilama Ilama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney. All of these books are available to be checked out from the Little Wonders library.

Use books. Hands down, one of the most important ways you can prepare a child for school is by reading to them, every single day. Make sure you have books in the home (ideally in every room!) and in your car and make an effort to read as much as possible. Visit the library regularly and encourage your child to pick out some books that catch their eye. Children who don’t have early experiences with reading often have difficulty learning to read later, so reading is one of the most important, powerful ways a child can prepare for the first day of preschool—and for life.

Help your child socialize. All preschool kiddos have to get along with other children. If your child hasn’t spent much time around other kids, it can be supremely helpful to organize more social activities and playdates before they head off to school. Social activities help kids learn how to take turns, play together, share, and negotiate their boundaries, which are all crucial life lessons.  It may also be helpful to plan on walking into the first day of school with other children that your child has played with before. 

Teacher Suzanne recommends starting the preschool morning routine three weeks before school begins. For example if you must be out of the house by 8:30 M, W, F then wake, dress, eat and leave by 8:30 on those days for 3 weeks prior to the start of school. That makes the transition from the summer schedule to the fall schedule less traumatic.

Establish a routine. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to establish and follow a set routine with your child—having a daily schedule is one of the best ways to ease them into the structure of a preschool setting. Start to adjust your child’s eating and sleeping schedule accordingly in the weeks leading up to school; this is one of the best ways to get them ready.

Allow them some independence. Children who can take care of themselves and their personal needs tend to do fare better during the first days of preschool than those who can’t. Support your child to take care of their bathroom needs, to select and put on their own clothing, and to help out around the home—whether that’s picking up their toys, doing kitchen chores, or other self-sufficient tasks.  Practicing these tasks through play is a great way to get started. 

Create art. Whether it’s finger painting, molding clay, or coloring, creating art can help a budding preschooler cultivate their visual and fine motor skills. They’ll be doing a lot of this in school, so it’s helpful to start early and help children develop their artistic side.

Teacher Suzanne suggests to take pictures of the different areas of the preschool and the teacher so you can talk with your soon-to-be preschooler about where they want to play, what they want to do in that area, what do they want to say to the teacher, etc. This helps children start thinking about school so the transition is easier.

Go for a visit. If you can, visiting the school ahead of time can be a wonderful way to introduce preschool to your kid. Find out if your preschool has an orientation or a visiting day for new families and make it a point to meet with the teacher, ask questions, and help make your child feel comfortable before the first day. In addition, you’ll also want to leave plenty of time on the first day to arrive at school and likely spend some time in the classroom.

Of course, it’s important to remember not to over prepare. If you begin building up preschool too far ahead of time, this can be overwhelming for a child. Rather, it’s about making small changes over time, so that your little one doesn’t feel like it’s a huge, looming event. Make the above changes in a casual way—by introducing books, a routine, and more socialization and independence—and prepare to watch your child flourish at school.

Sam Casteris is a freelance writer interested in travel, lifestyle, and resource-writing. She helps people find the information they need online. You can find more of her work at Content by Casteris

Teacher Mireille reminds us to be observant and listen to our children to understand what they may be feeling and not sharing. It is very normal for children to have anxieties and parents should not minimize their emotions but rather try to acknowledge, understand and offer support. It can be very helpful for a parent to share a time when s/he felt anxious and how s/he faced it.

Problem Solving with Young Kids

Written by Fiona

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The book “How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen” by Joanna Faber and Julie King is a great resource for parents and caregivers of younger kids. The one aspect of the book that intrigued me the most was to start problem-solving with young kids. Problem-solving is also discussed in the book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk”. My first reaction was: Is it possible with my boys? Can they fully understand what it means? Do I give them too much power and freedom by asking their advice for solutions to their problems? But after I tried a few times with both my 4-year old and my 2-year old, I am so glad it worked just as described in the book and this is why I highly recommend parents give it a try!

The benefits of involving kids into the problem-solving process include:

  1. Kids feel more cooperative.

  2. This is also a teaching moment: when we have a conflict, what do we do?

  3. We can train them a lifelong skill about problem solving when problem gets more difficult when they are older.

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There are practical steps you can use.

  • First, show empathy about kids’ feeling. This is highly emphasized in multiple parenting bestsellers such as “The Whole-Brain Child” and “No-Drama Discipline”. It is important to show your connection to their feelings during the conflict. You may say: I see your brother took the lego figure from your hand and I know it is very upsetting…

  • Second, describe the problem. It is important to talk through the problem.

  • Third: involve kids into the idea generation process. Some ideas could be unrealistic, and it was ok at this brainstorming stage. Make this brainstorming a fun experience with the kid. Decide on what works for both you and your kid.

  • Last: implement the solution next time you have the same problem.

Alan has his strong opinion on things. I used to apply the practical parenting tactics such as offering choices when he refused to do certain things. This technique works for his older brother almost every time. However, Alan doesn’t buy it most of the time. Surprisingly this problem-solving process works much better on him. A few months ago, Alan ran straight to the street after we finished an art class and I dragged him back. I explained how dangerous it was and he should walk with me. Then he did it again and did not want me to hold his hands. I offered the choices: would like to hold my hands or would you like me to hold your hands? I tried: would you like to jump like a bunny to our car or would you like to walk like a lion to the car? He did not choose any of these, and he just laughed and ran to the street again.

It was then when I read this book by Faber and King. When I tried the problem-solving with Alan, I had all kinds of doubts. However it just happened one night when I tucked him to bed. As the book describes, it does not have to be during the time when the conflicts happen. I started with: “This morning, I see you ran to the street. I understand you were excited when you saw the cars on the street after the class. You felt funny that Mom chased after you.” He looked back at me (I was not sure by then whether he truly understood it). I continued: “The problem was that I got very worried when you ran to the street. The cars are running fast on the street and I do not want you get hurt.” Then I asked “What should Mom do?” (rather than typical saying I normally did: therefore please don’t run or please hold hands). Here was when the surprise came through: he said: Mom hand. Then I said: “That is a very good idea and I also have an idea, you can hold onto my bag too.” He said: bag…The next day: I asked him during the day (when we were not outside) why I did not want him to run to the street, he said: “Mom worried…” I was so impressed that he did remember. And I have not seen him run to the street after the class since then.

This technique also works on my 4-year old Julian as well and in an even more effective way. We would write down (I wrote but he contributed) all the ideas and crossed-out the ideas together. We left the final 3 options which worked for both of us and posted it on the refrigerator. Topics include such as: fighting about toys with Alan, very long breakfast time...when the problem happened, I asked him to go to the refrigerator and found one of the solutions from “his list”. He was much more willing to accept because he believed it was his idea as well.

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I started sharing this with other parents. But I also want to remind you: this is not a magic wand and it will not work all the time. There may be another day when Alan wanted to explore the street again. However, why not give it a try when we really want to and learn everyday to raise a “growth minded”, “self-driving” and responsible kid!


Fiona has two energetic and sweet boys: Julian, four years; and Alan, two years. In her spare time--usually after the kids are asleep--she enjoys reading and watching movies of the mystery genre. She also loves yoga and Barre exercise.


Little Wonders Parent: Nick

Nick Rossi is enrolled in the Monday AM class with his son, and it's their first year at Little Wonders. He took some time to share his experience with Little Wonders with us:

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What were you hoping to get out of Little Wonders when you enrolled?   Our babe showed early signs of being very social, but he was spending most of his time at home. We thought he would thrive on regular interaction with a group of other children and adults. And he has!

How has the experience influenced you and your child?  Fathers don't have as many resources as mothers to draw on for parenting support. The moms' groups on the Internet are closed to us. So hearing the other parents at LW talk about their experiences, and seeing how their children play, put me at ease about the joys and challenges of our own child.

What's something that surprised you about your LW experience?  It was unnerving at first to let the little one out of sight during group or station time. I had never done that before! But at the end of class, another parent would tell me about what he was doing, and I would share what I had seen theirs up to. Those little interactions made it feel like a community.

Do you have a favorite LW tradition or memory?  In one class our little one crawled up behind another mom, leaned around to look her in the eye and flashed a big smile. And then he did it two more times to two other moms! I have no idea where he learned to do that. But he was clearly very comfortable with everyone.


Busy Isn’t Always Better When It Comes to Play (And other thoughts as we head into summer)

Written by Elisa

It is May - and that means summer is around the corner. You know, summer. That season when there’s no school, no schedule, and the days are longer. Summer has alway been about relishing this time whether it was by Sam Keen’s quote that said, “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability” or Jenny Han’s quote, “Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August”. But the reality is that we are pressured to fill our children’s summer with activities to keep them busy. And well, being busy isn’t always better - especially for your children and family during the summer. Remember that play time (especially unstructured play time) is important for our children and their development.

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In fact, it’s so important that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states in Article 31: States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. While it is a natural inclination to want to structure their summer with camps, remember that a good vacation, with time to play, might be just as fun too. Here are some tips for creating space for play time - no camps, no drop-offs, or pick-ups.

Be a tourist in your backyard:

Do you have a tent? Or, in the warmer days of summer, you only might need a sleeping bag. If so, you’ve got enough to camp out for the evening and enjoy the stars (with the convenience of your kitchen and bathroom nearby). This allows your child to see your yard and house from a different viewpoint and to bond with the parent they do this with.

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Fun in the warm weather:

Want your kids to look back on summer and remember something you always did? You could simply buy water balloons and let them toss them around. Or invest in some very fun water toys (see Pottery Barn Kid’s here) to encourage them to play together and enjoy the warm weather.

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Growing summer fruits and vegetables:

What says summer more than fresh vegetables and fruit? Whether you have a small or large space, you could make it a tradition to get ready for summer by planting vegetables in the spring and seeing them grow in the summer. Gardening can become an annual tradition - and is something the family can do together.

Remember, to create a sense of fun and lasting memories, it isn’t always about being busy all the time or taking a big trip. Share other fun tips with us for close-to-home summer activities that encourage unstructured play and creativity for your children!


Elisa and her first child, Andy, are new to Little Wonders. When not at work, Elisa can be found with her husband and son - possibly hiking, walking around the neighborhood, or at a park with their dog. If she has any free time on top of that, you might find her swimming, baking, or reading.

Kid-Friendly Recipes that Make Parenting a Little Easier!

Written by Elisa

I don’t know about you, but as my baby has grown up, so have his taste buds! I have to get creative. Sound familiar? No doubt that each kid has a different palate and preferences. So you have to find what works for you, your kid, and your schedule. Here are some of my favorite sources and tips for kid-friendly recipes that make life a little easier.

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How to make sure your baby drinks enough milk: When we gave our baby milk in a bottle, it was a piece of cake! He loved the bottle, he loved the snuggles, and he seemed to love the milk. Switch to the sippy cup now and we get a crazy look from our little one that says “How do you expect me to drink THAT?” And that is where we started with the simplest of shakes. We use the same milk and just blend it with a little banana and strawberry and - low and behold - he drinks the whole thing. We do not even bother with honey or sweeteners because the bananas (or whatever other fruit you want to use) sweeten the milk enough. My fussy eater website or Yummy Toddler Food has even more tips and recipes for kid-friendly shakes that you can use to introduce your child to new fruits, vegetables, and flavors. (And you can make these shakes ahead and use as needed).

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How to give your kids sweets that are actually healthy: Let us be honest, it is not just the kids; we all want sweets! But how do we give our kids treats that are actually good for them? You know, the ones that still are loaded with fruits and use sweeteners that are made of wholesome, healthy ingredients. A personal favorite of mine, which you should follow on Instagram is Super Healthy Kids. Run by two moms (a dietician and a health educator), the site offers recipes such as Sugar Free Cookies, a 3 minute, 3-ingredient rice krispie treat (that does not include marshmallows) and other creative recipes. You will feel good offering your child treats with recipes like these!

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How to get creative with vegetables: Gone are the days I could cook peas or broccoli and have my child gobble it down. Most things that are green are now frowned upon and treated as a foreign object. Thankfully, there are so many recipes out there that have good tips and suggestions for how to use vegetables creatively. Real Simple Magazine offers a great collection of recipes around getting vegetables to your children - in disguise. From cauliflower popcorn to hiding spinach in meatballs, these are good recipes that even the pickiest child might like.

Each kid is different so we would love to hear your other favorite tips on how to cook for your children!


Elisa and her first child, Andy, are new to Little Wonders. When not at work, Elisa can be found with her husband and son - possibly hiking, walking around the neighborhood, or at a park with their dog. If she has any free time on top of that, you might find her swimming, baking, or reading.


Little Wonders Parent: Daphne

This is the first in what we hope will be a series of posts about parents that attend Little Wonders.

Daphne currently has a 26 month-old daughter in Little Wonders, and joined the program in January 2018 after learning about it from a friend.

How has the Little Wonders experience influenced you and your child?

It's definitely given us a great community with which we can rely on for advice and support. Also for socialization, my child has more friends and I've got more friends with kids in a similar age group. I've also benefited much from the information on childhood development we've been given, LW has served me as great resource for questions and concerns in my child's development and I've learnt a ton!

What's something that surprised you about your LW experience?

I shouldn't be, but I'm always surprised how other families go through the same issues we face as a family. It's really nice to know you're not alone when your toddler refuses to sleep or throws major tantrums. It often feels like you're alone in your parenting journey but LW has proven to me that that is always never the case, all you need to do is ask another parent and there will surely be someone who will say, "YES that's us too and I GET IT"

Do you have a favorite LW tradition or memory?

I love the HUGE emphasis on handwashing at LW (before class, after play, etc). It's such a great habit and we've incorporated it in our house as well. My daughter readily washes her hands when we ask her now and we love it!

Two Year Sleep Regression

Written by Fiona

Alan (my 22 month-old boy) finally fell asleep and I closed the door of his bedroom. It was 8:45 P.M. This was the third day in a row that he fell asleep within 30 minutes. I really wanted to celebrate with a glass of wine! You may wonder: why? What to be happy about? Shouldn’t a kid of his age fall asleep quickly? Weren’t the kids of his age already done with the sleep training? I would have asked the exact same questions three weeks ago and would not have understood the struggle some parents deal with in a “two-year sleep regression”.

Alan was not as well sleep-trained as Julian, his brother who is now four years old. But after he turned one, he could sleep the whole night. And his sleep was even better when his brother joined him in his room when Alan was 18 months old. I was so relieved when seeing two boys sleep tight after reading to them. I told myself: finally, I no longer need to deal with sleep issues. Is this too good to be true?

Then three weeks ago, Alan started falling asleep after his brother did. The time between lights off and when he finally began to doze stretched longer and longer. At the beginning, it was not too bad. He sang to himself and fell asleep 30 minutes after the light was off. Then he began engaging in long conversations in his toddler language and he resisted lying down. I started being impatient and constantly put him down. Then, this battle lasted over one hour. Eventually, it became the nightmare: Alan crawled off the crib, Mom lost control and yelled! What happened? Was I too impatient with his sleep? Or was he ready for cutting off his nap as his Dad suggested?

I vaguely remembered the term: “sleep regression”, which we referred to a lot when Alan (even Julian) was still infant. So I checked online and found the explanation. It is not uncommon for a toddler to go through a 2 year-old sleep regression. Symptoms include:

  1. Resistance to bedtime

  2. Interruption of naptime to talk/laugh/sing or even scream

  3. Waking up more often during nights, or waking in the middle of the night to play

  4. Waking early and showing signs of shorter sleep time

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When you experience these above symptoms, resist the urge to be hard on your kid (you are not raising a monster!!!) or even yourself (it was not because of your sleep training). There are explanations for this sleep pattern. First, your toddler now explores more during the day and he or she needs time to absorb the experience. The development of their experiences may create more concrete dreams and nightmares at this age. Second, 2-years old is an exciting age, one marked by the development of new emotions. We often associate this age with the start of tantrums and the desire for independence. So why are we astonished about their willingness to control the bed routine? Separation anxiety also often plays a role in sleep regression. Third, they now learn new skills. Alan loves singing. So he often stands up and calls, “Mama!” and starts singing. Last but not least, sleep regression can be attributed to environmental changes such as a new bed, a new sibling, or even new curtains.

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So the most important thing is: what do we do about a 2-year old’s sleep regression? I asked experienced parents and read different sources. I also learned from my last 3 weeks of experience: 1) Cutting off naptime is not a solution. Usually at this age, toddlers still need one nap in a day. Acknowledge and understand that it is just a two to six week sleep regression and it shall pass. 2) Start the sleep routine (e.g. bath, massage, reading) earlier. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it really works. We began with moving Alan’s nap earlier, and sleeping accordingly. It still took about the same amount of time before he dozed off. 3) Keep limits and boundaries firm and give explanations to your toddler. It is important to acknowledge their feelings first. We tell them about our understanding of their excitement, anxiety, or frustration. But they need to lie on their back, close their eyes and sleep in their bed. It is amazing to see how well they react to logic.


Good luck to you in the battle with the two year sleep regression!


Fiona has two energetic and sweet boys: Julian, four years; and Alan, two years. In her spare time--usually after the kids are asleep--she enjoys reading and watching movies of the mystery genre. She also loves yoga and Barre exercise.

Interview with the Director of Little Wonders

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Director Mireille joined Little Wonders in 1995 as a preschool teacher, and transitioned into the Director role in 2000.  She sat down to share some thoughts about her time at Little Wonders, and her personal experience with parenting.

Q: Is there anything that has surprised you after all these years of being Director of Little Wonders? 

A: What keeps it exciting for me year after year is the fact that I'm passionate about parent education. I'd been a teacher for many years and always loved working with the children, but went home thinking, 'Gosh, you know, I wish I could work with the parents.' And then this opportunity came up and that became part of my life, that was exciting. Every day is different. Yes, we do the same thing, but every day is different in that there's a different experience a child might have, or a parent might have, and I love it. I've always felt that having reasonable expectations and understanding a little bit of childhood development is super helpful to have. And I was lucky to have that because that's my background. However, it doesn't make parenting easy, and it doesn't guarantee you're going to do the right thing. I haven't been the perfect parent. I always say I think humility is very important in parenting. Humility, patience, and flexibility. 

I thought I was going to a great parent, and hey, it's not easy. Even if you're a teacher, it's not easy being a parent. It's easy to do something with someone else's child, but to do that with your own? It's the emotionality that comes up. This is why kids are always better with someone other than you. You send your child to preschool or somewhere else, and then are told, oh [your child is] so polite, they're so good, and you're wondering if they're talking about your kid. With you, they feel more comfortable, they know they're loved unconditionally. I've asked my adult kids, 'What was it about the way you were raised that makes you grateful to be part of this family?' Growing up, we did a gratitude jar, and talked with them about what we were grateful for every night at the dinner table. Our kids always talked about how we loved them unconditionally and supported whatever they wanted to do. 

Q: Do you have any favorite moments that stand out in your mind? 

A: Through the years, [my favorite thing has been] watching the kids grow and change and gain independence, and watching parents feel supported and just feel comfortable with what they're doing. As a new parent, it is challenging. And one thing that I've seen change over the years [at Little Wonders] is many of the families here currently either aren't from here, or don't have family here any longer. Parenting is a very lonely thing, and unless you can build some community, it's very, very difficult. And I've found that this is a place where parents can build community. And that makes me happy. When I see a parent can take another child who's crying and [be] able to console them, or when I see another parent sitting with that child in a song time in the class. That's a sign of a good cohesive group, and we've done our job.

Happy New Year!

(And four tips for starting the new year off right)

Written by Elisa

Happy 2019! You just survived the holiday season. That means you survived shopping, gift wrapping, cooking (or ordering in), family gatherings, and possibly a family vacation. That is A LOT. The holidays certainly can be exhausting and now that we’re in a new year, maybe there is a little time to reflect. So, what are some good, simple, inexpensive tips to remind you to keep breathing and recharge for this new  year? Here are some of our favorites!

  1. Meditation: There are numerous studies that show that meditation helps people relax, and that relaxation leads to better health. But, if you’ve never meditated before, you might be perplexed about how to start. Gaiam (makers of great yoga wear and accessories) have some great tips to get you started. The easiest way to start is by doing breathing exercises. Just breathe -- in and out. This can relax you and have numerous health benefits including lower blood pressure and lower anxiety. Also, if you need some assistance, there are apps out there, including: The Mindfulness App, Headspace and Calm - just to name a few. Now is a great time to try something new like meditation.

    2. Minimizing screen time: You know what screen time can do to your kids and, well, it has a similar impact on adults too. The New York Times has a great article with some tips on how to minimize screen time. My favorite one is to “Make little changes. Refrain from using your device while eating or spending time with friends, and add one thing a day that’s done without the phone.” This allows us to be more present.

3. Exercise: We know, it’s hard to find the time. But the beginning of the year is a great time to try to carve that time for yourself. It can be as simple as choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, ask your partner to watch the kid(s) so you can take a thirty  minute walk in the neighborhood (better yet, throw your little one in the stroller and take them with you). Or, take this time to try a new class. Numerous studios are open in the area, from Rock Salt Pilates to Barry’s Bootcamp (opening soon in Burlingame). These don’t require membership commitment and have many classes to fit your schedule.

4. Resolutions: For some reason, January rolls around and we feel the need to place a bunch of pressure on ourselves and set resolutions for the year. Instead, take it easy this year. If you feel the need to set some resolutions, use these tips to do so realistically and in a way where you will be able to be successful in accomplishing them. Here’s to 2019 being off to a great start!


Elisa and her first child, Andy, are new to Little Wonders. When not at work, Elisa can be found with her husband and son - possibly hiking, walking around the neighborhood, or at a park with their dog. If she has any free time on top of that, you might find her swimming, baking, or reading.

Tips for Traveling with Young Children

Written by Fiona

Holiday season is here! I remember vividly at one of the classes with Mireille last year, she asked everybody’s plan about the holiday week. I enjoyed listening to other parents’ wonderful trip plans, but I couldn’t resist showing my anxiety for  the upcoming family trip. It was supposed to be a relaxing trip on the beach at Los Cabos, but my biggest fear was how to entertain my two boys on the plane (Julian was three and Alan was nine months old). I believe many parents share the same concern. The following tips are particularly great for toddlers and preschoolers who constantly want to jump off the seat and play!

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Prepare some tape for the kids! I got this idea from Mireille. Toddlers love to play with tape! Washi type tape is cute and can be easily peeled off, so you don’t need to worry about the stickiness left on the flight table. Tape is also good for developing fine motor skills. Another good choice is Melissa and Doug’s “Scissor Skills” and “Tape” activity books. This packaged set includes plastic scissors (so it is safe and passes through security check), some tape, and an activity book.

Stickers are another fun activity for young kids. I usually bring a small pack of crayons and some paper, so my son and I can draw together. Afterwards, I ask him to add stickers to finish the work. Usborne offers several “First Sticker Books”. They are thin, so good for travel. They also have a set of sticker books specifically designed for travel.

Pack enough snacks and water! I believe this saves a lot of parents on a long trip. It keeps the kids from starving between meals. Moreover, it can be entertaining. But keep in mind: a) prepare healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, raisins or dried cranberries, goldfish crackers, yogurt, or sandwiches cut into different shapes; b) pay more attention to things that may pose a choking hazard; c) give them a break between snacks!

Prepare treats for others! We apologize for any disturbances that my children may cause. We prepare a few bags of holiday chocolates for those who sit next to us and for the flight crew. Last year, I asked Julian to put them into small bags, for which he was so excited. In that way, he was involved in this gesture that showed gratitude. Luckily, the flight was not fully occupied and we got some empty seats around us. But still, he was so happy when he handed them over to the flight crew.

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Ask for support! We have parents who are so experienced in planning and packing for family trips. This year, I received more great advice from the parents at Little Wonders. For example, one mom told me about wrapping a small new toy for the kids. I love this idea! This small gift not only triggers kids’ excitement about the holiday, but can also entertain them for a while. I will try this one out this year.

Check your bag for sanitizer, wipes, and pull-ups or diapers (even if your child is six years old). Bring plastic bags for trash!

Last but not least, manage your own stress! As difficult as it sounds, try to finish the packing the day before departure. This will give you a moment to take a deep breath before the trip. Get yourself and your child excited about the adventure and enjoy it!
What are your favorite travel tips?


Fiona has two energetic and sweet boys: Julian, nearly four years; and Alan, almost eighteen months. In her spare time--usually after the kids are asleep--she enjoys reading and watching movies of the mystery genre. She also loves yoga and Barre exercise.

The Journey to Baby Number Two: Being Pregnant with a Toddler and Introducing a New Sibling

Written by Daphne

Thinking about having another baby? Worried about being pregnant with an active toddler? Expecting and terrified of the thought of going through the newborn phase all over again? About to have two kids under the age of two? Well, you’re in luck: I am living it right now (I have a two month old son and a 22 month old daughter). I won’t lie. It’s craziness, it’s chaotic, but it’s also pretty amazing and totally doable. And I’m here to tell you how my family made it work.

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Pregnancy & Toddlerhood

Being pregnant is tough enough as it is, but throw in a toddler and it’s really exhausting -- especially during the first trimester (hello nausea and fatigue!) and the third trimester (hello more fatigue and general immobility due to your huge belly!). Key tips? Nap when your toddler naps (hopefully it’s still at least once a day). Get as much rest as you can. Don’t underestimate the power of being outdoors, for you and your toddler. Getting some fresh air can be energizing and it allows for your toddler to run around and burn off some energy as opposed to being cooped up at home. Do not hesitate to ask for help or get help; there is no shame in this. This is a skill that will even carry you through postpartum.

Preparing our First Born

Our family spent a lot of time talking to our daughter about the arrival of a new sibling. We constantly talked about the growing baby in my belly, read books about being a big sister (my favorites are My New Baby by Rachel Fuller and I am a Big Sister by Caroline Jayne Church), and had Daniel Tiger’s “The Baby is Here” episode on replay. We let her play with and touch my growing bump, and eventually she understood that there was a baby in there; that something exciting was about to happen to our family. We also got her familiar with all the new and old baby gear that was showing up around the house.

Introducing the New Sibling

Teacher Mireille gave me some great practical advice when it came to introducing our daughter to our newborn son. On the big day, we made sure he was in the bassinet when she arrived (as opposed to holding the baby when she came into the room). We had a photo of her in his bassinet and a gift ready for her (which we said was from the baby). She was cautious but curious and the introduction went smoothly. After settling home, we let our daughter be the big helper when it came to diaper changes, keeping her as involved with him as possible. They are 20 months apart so the gap isn’t big and so there’s less she can do versus older kids, but we definitely tried to make her feel like she was involved in the whole process. What really helped throughout this big time of change was to ensure that very little of her routine was disrupted. She still had one on one time with each parent and still went to all her activities. It was extremely important to us that she had a strong sense of consistency in her life during this time. Change is inevitable but we definitely felt that having her grounded in her routine has helped weather this transition.

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Your New Family Unit

There will be an adjustment period; accept and embrace that. Things will be chaotic and getting out of the house will take longer than before, but you will find your new normal as I am doing now. Get help if you need it, whether it’s in the form of a nanny or daycare, or friends and family. Remember that none of it lasts forever: they don’t stay little for long as you probably realize. Enjoy the newborn snuggles, load up on coffee, let the laundry sit till tomorrow or next week, and watch your first born grow into their role of older sibling. And when your toddler gives their little brother or sister a kiss for the first time, tell me it wasn’t worth it.


Daphne has two kids: Penelope Lee, twenty months; and Spencer, a newborn. They are a returning family to Little Wonders and Daphne is grateful for the advice and support she has received with her daughter and looks forward to experiencing this with her son as well.

Five Rainy Day Activities at Home - With Things You Already Have!

Written by Elisa

Fall is flying by and with winter around the corner, it is as good a time as any to be thinking about what you can have ready in the house for when the weather does turn. Here are five fun, creative activities that will keep you and your little one busy on a rainy day. And better yet, we are sharing these activities because, most likely, you have everything you need to do these!

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Indoor bowling at home: If you have pins, great! If not, think of what could be substituted for bowling pins. You could stand up paper towel rolls or use empty bottles (plastic ones, of course) or milk cartons. Whatever you use, you can set them up in the hallway and use any ball you have to roll the ball down the hallway and bowl!  

Cardboard boxes and imagination: Yes, all it takes is a good cardboard box to occupy children and their imaginations. A box (or boxes) can become anything. With big boxes, you can draw and decorate them to be a car or different compartments of a train. Smaller boxes can turn into airplanes or birds or animals. Some of them could turn into houses. Use your imagination. Having a few of all different sizes helps to create different things.

Indoor mazes: Using nothing but tape (we like the blue paint tape that easily removes from any surface with no damage), you can create different patterns on the floor for your child to walk through. Think of it as a maze that helps promote coordination as they learn to walk in between the lines or jump from one thing to the next. They can walk forward and backward too.

Edible jewelry making: Have some string on hand or, even better, some pipe cleaners. Using what you already have, you can teach your toddler how to put Cheerios (or other round snacks you might have) on the string or pipe cleaner. They can tie it into a bracelet and enjoy.

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Puddle jumping: We are saving the messiest for last. You probably have a raincoat on hand, some boots (or shoes you don’t mind getting wet), and an imagination. Take your little one out during a break in the rain. You can explore the puddles - which ones are big and small. You can jump in them and see how big the splash is. You can hop from one to the next, or you can bring some bath toys and see how they float in a puddle.

These are some ideas for activities using what you might already have in the house. Of course there are more activities you can do - some of them requiring a bit more planning (and shopping), whether it be cookie baking and decorating or making homemade play dough. And, of course, there are the out-of-home activities too! On a rainy day, you can take advantage of drop-in classes at children’s gyms or free activities like story time at the library. We would love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite activities to do with your little one on a rainy day?


Elisa and her first child, Andy, are new to Little Wonders. When not at work, Elisa can be found with her husband and son - possibly hiking, walking around the neighborhood, or at a park with their dog. If she has any free time on top of that, you might find her swimming, baking, or reading.

When older sibling goes back to school

Written by Fiona

We love September when we can enjoy the last bit of the summer sunshine and welcome the fall breeze. It is also the time when our family needs to adjust from a relaxing summer schedule to a busy fall schedule. Our older son, Julian, goes back to school and starts both after school and weekend activities. In some ways, it’s a relief! Don’t get me wrong, I love having both my boys around and had a fantastic summer when my older one had a break from school. But with Julian back in school, I now have more bonding time with my younger son, Alan. However, it also means that there is an adjustment to Alan’s daily schedule. Moreover, with Julian back to school and Alan left at home, it has led to some deeper upset in the house. Siblings took up a large portion of each other’s time/place during summer time, so this was a big change and needed an adjustment period. Here are some ways to make this change easier:

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Read a few books about school with both kids before school starts

The series, Miss Bindergarten by Joseph Slate & Ashley Wolff, is a good option for kids getting ready for school. For example: Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten has bright illustrations, fun rhymes, and introduces young children to kindergarten. They are also nice books to read to younger ones with nice animal characters. Reading time is a good moment to prepare the siblings for the changes that arise with the first day of school.


Plan more one-on-one activities with the younger sibling

With an older sibling around, Alan does not get all my attention. Now finally, here is the time I can spend with Alan before picking Julian up from school in the afternoon. After waving bye-bye to his brother, Alan and I enjoy going to the park or to a kid class together. There are many good options for us to have precious bonding time in the morning. This also gives Alan the opportunity to get used to having time with other kids his age. Here are several options:

Little Wonders certainly fulfills my goal to learn and develop with my child. More importantly, I get to commit that two hours each week with Alan.

MyGym is a place Alan enjoys every week. We like how they change the activities and settings each week, but there are still regular routines such as warm-up/separation time which kids are used to.

Peninsula Music Together has different locations and schedules. Alan loves the class because he gets to listen to music and move with it.

My First Art Class is usually offered in recreation centers. It creates art experiences for kids. I myself even learn a few projects that I can use at home with my boys.  

San Mateo County Libraries always offer great experiences. They include not only storytime, but a variety of different projects or activities for younger kids like crafts, Lego Club, and board games.

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Try to plan activities for both kids to enjoy

Now that the school year has started, there are a lot of after school activities for the older siblings. When the regular sports season starts, soccer is a good activity to bring both kids to the field. Usually when the big brother plays, the younger one can observe. It is also a good time to practice a toddler's gross motor skills.

Make pickup time fun

One of Alan’s favorite things is to pick up his brother from preschool. Everyday he is very excited to go to Julian’s school (it is probably the easiest time to buckle his seatbelt). Alan loves watching other kids play while waiting for his brother. It is a great moment to have them share with each other about their day, especially the school-aged child can show what they did in the school. When they are both in the car, I usually put on a CD from Alan’s music class. The older sibling won’t feel they missed out on the class and Alan loves to show his brother what songs he listened to during the day.

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Talk about their feelings

It is important for toddlers to recognize their feelings at this age. Talk to them about what is going on and what upsets them. It is important to show them that we understand and accept their feelings, and we are here to support them and also shift their focus to more pleasant things.

Have some independent time for each of them

Although we still have our younger one watch his brother during soccer practice during weekends, we try to give them some independent time as well. We take one for some errands while the other one stays at home. This reinforces the idea: it is ok without your brother around and your brother will be back soon!

What tips and tricks have you used to prepare your younger child when the older one is going back to school?


Fiona has two energetic and sweet boys: Julian, nearly four years; and Alan, almost eighteen months. In her spare time--usually after the kids are asleep--she enjoys reading and watching movies of the mystery genre. She also loves yoga and Barre exercise.

Introducing the 2018-2019 Blog Team!

The new school year has started and the Little Wonders blog team is busy researching topics and writing new posts. Here is a little about each of the writers you’ll be hearing from over the next 8 months.

Daisy

Daisy is a work-from-home mom, trying to juggle all things. She is blessed with two kids: Sean, aged three; and Daphne, aged one. Sean is a cheerful, content guy who makes anything into a toy. He plays with the same thing in a million different ways. Daphne is an active, ambitious girl who can not quite walk yet, but definitely climbs. Though she can not talk, she is capable of expressing herself until she gets what she wants!

On weekends, the family enjoys a myriad of activities including soccer, Little Gym, playing at the park, going to museums, community events, visiting friends, church, cooking, and eating out. Her family is new to Little Wonders and is looking forward to Daphne coming out of her shell and feeling comfortable meeting new friends. Daisy herself looks forward to spending time with old and new friends alike. She could not have made it through the parenting journey without friends, and hopes to be such an encouragement to others.

Daphne

Daphne and her husband Jordan recently welcomed their son Spencer to their family at the end of August. They have been settling into life with a newborn and parenting two kids under the age of two. Their first-born, Penelope Lee, is twenty months old.

They are a returning family to Little Wonders, having started at the beginning of this year in Teacher Mireille's Spring class, and continuing in her Summer Class. Now they are back for a full year starting this Fall. The changes to the family have been a little crazy, but Daphne is grateful for the Little Wonders family and the advice and support she has received from the community. She has seen her daughter grow and blossom and she looks forward to seeing this with her son too!

Fiona

Fiona has two energetic and sweet boys: Julian will soon be four years old, while Alan is almost eighteen months. She enjoys learning about parenting and reading related topics. Thus she likes to share what she learns from others and her experiences with her two boys. In her spare time--usually after the kids are asleep--she enjoys reading and watching movies of the mystery genre. She also loves yoga and Barre exercise.

Elisa

Elisa joins Little Wonders with her first child, Andy. She and her husband are excited to meet other parents and children in the area and are especially excited to join the Little Wonders family. When not at work, Elisa can be found with her husband and son - possibly hiking, walking around the neighborhood, at a park with their dog, or at an activity with one of her seven nieces or nephews - all who live within blocks of each other. If she has any free time on top of that, then you might find Elisa swimming, baking, or reading. She is looking forward to connecting with other parents and having the time with Andy at Little Wonders.

If there is a topic you’d like to see on the blog, send an email to publicity@littlewonders.org.



Welcome to Little Wonders!

The beginning of each school year brings much excitement. First-time families wonder how everything works and how their children will respond to this environment. Returning families may worry about juggling schedules with other siblings. On top of all this are the general challenges of the parenting journey!

Our staff and board members have worked hard over the summer getting ready for this coming year. I’d like to welcome back our tiny but mighty staff, Teachers Suzanne and Maggie, whom I feel so blessed to collaborate and teach with. Welcome to our new group of board members, as well. These dedicated and enthusiastic parents face the challenge of continually enhancing the Little Wonders experience, and their efforts are very much appreciated.

Out of a strong desire for inclusiveness and community, our Board and Staff have chosen the theme of “Creating a Culture of Kindness” for this school year. Aristotle taught this concept centuries ago, “We become good by doing good.” It seems this is a real struggle in today's culture. As a parent, I have struggled with how to encourage good character traits in my own children and now here at Little Wonders we have parents of very young children questioning how to help their little ones develop kindness and other moral traits. We hope to explore how to become good “character coaches,” starting with our classroom communities, emanating into our families and the greater community. We are our children’s first and potentially most powerful character educators, and we look forward to infusing our already rich curriculum with even more great strategies for your toolbox that will help you support your children’s overall development and create a culture of kindness and respect that will make our world a better place.

Mireille McKee

Program Director

Parents’ Favorite Tips

In July we shared some favorite articles of our Little Wonders parents.  For our final post in this series we’re sharing favorite tips and tricks our parents mentioned during our last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year.  

Here is the list!

  • Make masking tape your best friend, it can be used anywhere and anytime. Some examples: ripping, sticking, and tearing while on a plane or somewhere where children need to be confined. Makes great race tracks or roads for little cars and trucks. Great to help teach boundaries.

  • Warnings and choices can truly help with transitions.  “We are going to leave in a bit, so pick one more thing you want to do before leaving” or “we are going to leave the park now, do you want to carry the lunch bags or my keys?”.

  • Notice and encourage curiosity.  One of my favorite ways is through cooking. The learning tower is useful tool!

  • When early in potty training, use sticky notes over sensors on public toilets so kids don’t get scared at the flushing sound when they get up from toilet.

  • Remember to wait a bit when asking children to do things. It takes 15 seconds or longer for a child to process and action a request. Be patient!

  • Let people help you -- it is not a sign of weakness and allows others to feel good by helping.

  • Take a few minutes of time for yourself when your child is pushing your limits. Learning to stay calm and not get upset at your child will go a long way.

  • Get on your child’s level. This removes the power over issue and helps you connect with your child when you need to correct him/her. Connect then redirect.

  • Understanding that each child is unique.

  • Find your community - the people who support you and lift you up.

We hope you’ve found a new favorite article, tip, book, etc from the last few posts.  We are so happy that you have started your parenting journey with Little Wonders and that we are a part of your community.

Parents’ Favorite Articles

Last month we shared some favorite blogs and websites of our Little Wonders parents.  Today we’re sharing some favorite articles that parents mentioned during our last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year.  Here is the list!

Emotion Coaching: One of the Most Important Parenting Practices in the History of the Universe

No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)

10 Reasons Your Toddler's Tantrum Is Actually a Good Thing

What I Learned About Working Parenthood After My Kids Grew Up

Lucie's List Behavior Series: What’s Normal for a One-Year-Old

Phases and Moments

50 Easy Ways to Be a Fantastic Parent

Do you have a favorite article to share with us?  Leave a link in the comments so we can check it out!  And come back to read our next post where we’ll share some great tips that our Little Wonders parents love!

Parents’ Favorite Blogs & Websites

The last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year the Little Wonders Teachers asked parents to come to the table with their favorite parenting resource and boy did they ever!  Today we’re sharing some of the blogs and websites that our parents are finding to be valuable as they continue on their parenting journey.

Scary Mommy started out as a way to document Jill Smokler’s stay-at-home days with her kids, it has transformed into a huge community of millions of parents “brought together by a common theme: Parenting doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Aha! Parenting  is Dr. Laura Markham’s website where she “creates Aha! Moments for parents of babies through teens.  She has a blog and has written a few books.

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Lucie’s List is useful from setting up a registry to postpartum tips to gear guides, Meg tries to “make the kind of site I would have found useful as a clueless new mom”.

National At-Home Dad Network provides support, education and advocacy for fathers who are the primary caregivers of their children.

Kelly Mom provides evidence-based information on breastfeeding and parenting.

Cat and Nat’s mission has always been to bring laughter and a sense of community to women and moms.  They also have a website.

Respectful Sleep Training is a Facebook group that is a “safe haven from shaming and fear-mongering surrounding sleep training”.

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SF Dads Group is a Facebook group that connects fathers in the SF Bay Area through meetups, blogs, workshops, and more.  Check out their website for more information.

Screen-Free Parenting Community is a facebook group where members can get support and ideas for handling technology in the family setting.  They promote screen-free or screen-limited for the first few years of life and regular family conversations, monitoring and age appropriate limits for pre-school age and older.

Please share a blog or website that you find yourself going back to again and again.

Stay tuned for our next post where we will share some articles that our parents have found to be valuable while they raise their little wonders.  

Goodbye from the 2017-2018 blog team!

Thank you so much to the 2017-2018 blog team!  We've had a lot of fun this year and each writer has shared about their time at Little Wonders below.


Unexpected Relationships

I decided to join Little Wonders last year because I wanted my daughter to have a chance to be around other kids, and I looked forward to the chance to socialize with and share ideas with other parents. We definitely have enjoyed those aspects of class! What I didn’t fully anticipate was how wonderful it would be for my daughter to develop relationships with the other adults, and for me to be able to share time with the other kids. My daughter now has not only a wonderful group of toddler playmates, but also a cohort of other adults whom she recognizes and trusts. I not only had the chance to meet and learn with the amazing other parents in our class, but also the privilege of spending time with the other kids - seeing them learn and grow and demonstrate their emerging personalities. It's incredible to be part of a community in which all of the children are cared for and adored. I’m so grateful to Teacher Maggie for facilitating such a welcoming environment and to the other parents and kids in our class for the friendship and support they have offered to my daughter and me. Little Wonders is such a special place!

-Emily Melahn

A Graduating Family

We are finishing up our 3rd and final year for our family at Little Wonders. (1 year with my older daughter, and 2 years with my younger one). I am going to miss it so much.  As Teacher Suzanne says, it is the cheapest therapy you will find! This could not be more true. The support and knowledge I received while here is unparalleled. Everything I know about parenting a toddler is from Little Wonders. I am so glad that I came back and did the afternoon class with my younger daughter. Its amazing how far the kids have come. When we were starting the program, I never would have believed my daughter would be able to watch and participate in teacher-led science experiments by the end! Little Wonders is the perfect first school experience for both parent and child. Little Wonders has the best teachers, the best toys, and the best Halloween party around! I am so grateful for our experience.

-Sandi Arata

A Supportive Community

We are so glad we found Little Wonders. We were recommended by a friend and I am so glad we joined this awesome community. This was our 1st semester and we're already looking forward to Summer classes & Fall. I've enjoyed seeing my daughter blossom in class - Teacher Mireille has been a joy! I love the parent discussions and hearing how in many instances I am not alone in my challenges as a parent. Teacher Mireille has always been so helpful and insightful with her advice and I've always felt reassured when I bring forward my concerns about parenting my 16 month old. We've also loved the events that Little Wonders organizes, which allows us to connect with other families and spend quality family time together with fun activities for our littles. So thankful for this little school! Can't wait to come back.

-Daphne Howe

A Working Parent's Perspective

What a year this had been! Although it was our first and only year at Little Wonders (since my twins age out of the program this summer), it has been such a joy to be part of such a wonderful program even for a short time.  I had always heard amazing things about Little Wonders, and when I found out that there was an option for working parents such as myself, I was thrilled to be able to join the Wednesday evening class. Over the year my twin boys have learned so much through Teacher Mireille’s carefully planned science experiments (look at all the different seed sizes!), art projects (mixing red and yellow paint makes orange!), and from playing and socializing with other kids their age. As a parent, I have loved the discussions, especially the ones about being a “good enough” parent in this world of ever-increasing parental pressures, and about all the ways we can encourage our kids to take healthy risks. It has also been wonderful to connect with our fellow Wednesday evening families socially, from Moms’ and Dads’ Nights Out to whole family meet-ups at Off The Grid. The connections we have made with Teacher Mireille and with our classmates will stay with us for years to come, and we will always treasure the memories of this amazing Little Wonders year.   

-Katie Jay


If you want to check out Little Wonders for you and your little one, please email preview@littlewonders.org or click here to schedule a visit.  The summer session starts the week of June 11th and the fall session runs from September to May. The class schedule can be found here.

Family Game Night!

I loved playing games with my family and friends when I was growing up.  I had high hopes when I became a parent for family game nights. Like many of my expectations, I had to adjust them when reality hit. Rather than taking turns and having fun, we had meltdowns and quitting over not winning. Sigh

However, my disappointment was replaced with excitement when another parent mentioned cooperative board games in class one day at Little Wonders. I had no idea this concept even existed before that discussion. I only knew of games where there was a winner and a loser and my kids are not currently able to enjoy that. With cooperative games my mind was opened to a whole new world and it has been wonderful for our family! Basically all the players work together for a single purpose so, rather than being pitted against each other, we are all on the same team.  This Wikipedia link explains cooperative games in more detail, for those that want to learn more.

The game we have tried is from a company called Peaceable Kingdom. They have several different games appropriate for 2 and 3 year olds, as well as older children. We have played Count Your Chickens and had a blast with our 3 and 6 year old. In this game everyone works together to bring baby chicks back to the coop. We have a much better time when we cheer each other on, rather than have a single winner. 

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There are games to suit many different interests. There’s a game called Chugga Choo for train lovers and Feed the Woozle for monster aficionados. I am seriously considering trying Bunny Bedtime. The description says it focuses on getting a bunny ready for bed. Some help with the bedtime routine? I would never say no to that!  I also think that Stack Up sounds like a fun time. This game allows kids of different ages to play at their own level during a single game.

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There are lots of other options for slightly older kiddos also. Mermaid Island sounds like it would be fun for the 5 and older set. Players work together to get all the mermaids returned to Mermaid Island before the witch arrives. Or Race to the Treasure where players strategize to build a path to and collect keys to unlock the treasure before the Ogre gets it.  Sounds like we can have fun with cooperative games for several years to come.

We are so excited to bring back family game night with this new cooperative twist!

-Sandi Arata