Ten sentence starters….besides “good job”

Parents and teachers often say “good job” as an automatic response to a child’s action.
“You ate all of your peas. Good job!” “You did a good job putting away the toys.”
A “good job” now and then is fine, but it doesn’t help children understand why what they did was good. Preschoolers need to know what they did, why it worked, or why it shows they are capable. Try the following suggestions to give preschoolers specific, detailed information that recognizes their achievements and encourages their learning.

Use sentence starters. Say “I see you,” “I hear you,” or “I notice,” followed by a description. “I noticed you sorted the leaves into two piles. These ones are from an oak tree and those ones are from a maple tree.” Or try openers like “Tell me more about” or “You worked really hard to.”

Notice and give feedback about efforts. “Jocelyn, you spent a long time figuring out where to put the last two pieces of the puzzle. You kept working until you were done!”

Invite children to talk. Children’s learning is enhanced when they talk about their explorations and creations. “That looks really interesting. How did you do that?” “You wrote a lot of words on your paper. Would you tell me what they say?”

Pay attention to details. When talking about a painting, tell the artist what shapes, lines, colors, textures, and forms you see in the work. “Look at all of the green polka dots in the sky! You mixed many shades of green and blue to paint this picture.”

Say “thank you.” When children are helpful, thank them. “Thank you for opening the door for me. While you held the door, I could use both hands to carry our bag of balls into the classroom.”

Identify a goal before responding. Ask yourself: Do I want to acknowledge a positive behavior, an act of kindness, or use of problem-solving skills? To encourage self-regulation you might say, “How kind you are. You helped Jorge zip his coat, even though you wanted to run and play.”

Give nonverbal feedback. A gentle pat on the back, a smile, a wink, or a fist bump tells a child, “I see you are learning.” This is especially appropriate for children who are dual language learners.

Use mirroring. When a child goes up and down the slide on her own for the first time, notice her smile, then smile back with a specific comment. “Look at what you did! Just yesterday you asked me to help and now you can do it on your own.”

Highlight children’s work. Invite children to help find a place to hang a painting. Plan a time when children can share their work with classmates. Include photos that demonstrate children’s efforts and accomplishments in a blog or a family newsletter. “Petra and Janine, please help me choose some photos for our weekly update. I’d like all the families to see how you worked together to make a book about our trip to the nature center.”

Encourage next steps. After a child has one positive experience, suggest something that he or she can do that leads to another accomplishment. “The boat you drew has two masts and lots of portholes. What materials could you use to build it?” (Note the introduction of a new vocabulary word—portholes!) TYC

Summer Fun Activities

Summer has always been the joy of childhood as many children are out of school, attending camps and enjoying the world around them. It is also the time of year when we as parents let our guard down when it comes to our children’s education. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some fun learning activities to do with your child during the summer to keep them sharp and ready for the upcoming school year.

Many of us travel during the glorious summer months. These longer car rides can be a challenge for your child as they sit and wait for the fun to begin. Try some of the car games below to make the car ride go faster for your child and to boost their educational skills.

Alphabet Search

Preschool/School Age: Start a race with your child to see who can find the letters of the alphabet, in order, first using the signs, license plates and other environmental print outside of your car. This is also a great time to work with your preschooler on those letters that may be difficult for them. Relating the letter M to McDonald’s helps them to remember the letter.

Shape/Color Search

Toddlers: Start a race with your child to see who can find the most colors or shapes while riding in the car. Using signs, license plates and other environmental print is also a precursor to reading.

Check back next week for more fun activities to do with your child.

Space is the Place

Our second summer camp session blasts off June 30th and returns to earth on July 13th.  This exciting  space camp will have your child exploring the stars and walking on the moon.

Field trips on this exciting adventure include:

June 30th – Cranbrook Planetarium

July 8th – Sloan Museum

July 10th – Pump it Up

Call today to register your child for this great space adventure!

Tips for Toilet Training

Toilet training can be one of the most frustrating events in a child’s/parent’s lives.  There are several things you can do to make this a more relaxed process and help your child become successful.  If you have any other tips that might help other parents, or you want to share your toilet training stories please feel free to do so:

  1. Stay on a routine
  2. Remain with the child (take them to the bathroom, even if it is just to try)
  3. Wait until the child is physically and emotionally ready.
  4. Don’t be upset if your child regresses during the process, this is normal.
  5. Teach your child the words to use
  6. Be there to help.  Listen.  Put them on the potty.  Help with clothing and wiping.
  7. Have your child wear character underwear – they don’t want to dirty their favorite character.
  8. Create a consistent routine which can be followed at home and at school.
  9. Take your child to the bathroom before nap and bedtime or before any long periods where the bathroom will not be available.
  10. Talk to your child about how proud you are that they tried to use the potty, whether they were successful or not.
  11. Have a “no more diaper party” after they are trained.  Use extra diapers as hats and celebrate that special day for the child.
  12. Let the child tell you when he or she is ready.  Generally they will begin asking to use the toilet.
  13. Do not dress your child in restricted clothing such as overalls, bodysuits, etc.
  14. Make sure you are ready when your child is ready.  This is a big step and you need to be ready to let go when they are ready to try.
  15. Do not shame or get angry with your child when an accident occurs.  Reassure them that it is alright and then clean it up.
  16. Use Cheerios/Fruit Loops in the toilet for your child to aim at (boys)
  17. Use a blue liquid in the toilet so that your child can turn it green.


Most importantly, make sure that you are being supportive of your child and their efforts.  Your support will go a long way in making this a positive experience for your child.

Fun Activities for Learning Letters

There are many ways in which children can have fun learning their letters.  Below are some of the ways in which I have found that children enjoy this process.  If you have any other ideas that have worked for you please share them here.

  1. Use magnetic or felt letters or alphabet cards to sequence and match letters.
  2. Put plastic letters in a feel bag or box and let children guess shat letter they are feeling.
  3. Paint letters on an easel
  4. Finger paint letters
  5. Glue beans, noodles, cloth, cotton balls, miniature marshmallows, rice, or paper to make mosaics in the shape of letters.
  6. Build letters with Play dough, pretzel or bread dough
  7. Use letter stamps to sequence the alphabet or words
  8. Air write letters.  Use a dowel with colorful streamers attached
  9. Water paint letters on the blackboard
  10. Make letters with pipe cleaners
  11. Play alphabet bingo
  12. Play mystery writing:  take the child’s hand and write a letter with his/her hand while their eyes are closed.  Have them guess what letter it is.
  13. Cut out letters with scissors (great for building the muscles needed for writing)
  14. Provide wooden, cardboard, or paper shapes to build alphabet letters
  15. Use scrabble tiles to match letters
  16. Sort letters
  17. Play “go fish” with alphabet cards
  18. Fish for letters using a homemade fishing pole with a magnet hanging on a string.  Letter cards can have paperclips placed on them
  19. Make alphabet cards and cut them in half; have child match them.
  20. Have child match upper and lowercase letters.
  21. Find letters in magazines, books, on cereal boxes and other household items.
  22. Sponge paint letters
  23. Play “I Spy” with letters.  For example, “I see the letter x hiding on this page.” Then have the child find the letter

Write letters with your finger in the following items:

  • Cornmeal
  • Sand
  • Pudding (dry or prepared)
  • Foam soap
  • Shaving cream
  • Bird seed
  • Colored sand

Use masking tape or rope to make letters on the floor and have your child:

  • Trace letters with their feet
  • Walk or crawl on them following the path of the letter
  • Drive toy cars on them
  • Follow the shape of the letter by “painting” with a paint roller (free of paint of course!)
  • Roll them out with rolling pins
  • Hop or jump along the letter lines

Make alphabet cards for matching (visually or by touch) and tracing with:

  • Colored glue
  • Yarn & glue
  • Dry Jello & glue
  • Puff paint
  • Glue with sand, cornmeal, etc.

Write letters on:

  • Magna-doodles
  • Dry-erase boards
  • Paper with sandpaper under it


Helping Your Children Become Readers

Becoming a reader is not something that is going to happen overnight.  It takes several years for a child to amass the knowledge that is needed to become a reader.  Through these preliminary years there are several learning experiences that families can provide for their children to guide them toward becoming readers.  These learning experiences should be fun and entertaining so that the children will build a love of learning and reading.

It doesn’t seem appropriate to talk about building readers during the infant stage, but that is exactly where children begin their journey toward reading.  It is during this time that they are first exposed to books and language and they begin to build their knowledge about the world around them.  Families can provide experiences like those suggested by Reading is Fundamental (2007) below, which will enhance their understanding about language and literacy:

  • Read aloud to your baby for only a few minutes at a time.
  • Point to things in picture books and name them
  • Set aside at least one regularly schedule time each day for reading
  • Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs.  Rhymes help develop a young child’s ear for language

Toddlers show an increasing awareness and delight in reading books.  It is not uncommon for them to walk over to a book, pick it up and pretend to read it.  These actions should be acknowledged and the child should feel as though they are capable of reading to themselves.  This confidence will help guide them once they reach the kindergarten level of reading.  Families can provide experiences like those suggested by Reading is Fundamental (2007) below, which will enhance toddler’s understanding about language and literacy:

  • Read aloud to your toddler for as long as they are willing to listen
  • As your child learns to talk, ask them to point out the pictures in the book and say what they are
  • Make reading a part of your toddler’s everyday routine, putting aside time with them every day to read.
  • Take your toddler to the library or bookstore for story hour.
  • Continue to recite nursery rhymes and sing songs with your toddler

Once your child becomes a preschooler it is important to remember that they are still not quite at the age where reading begins.  They are still in the process of learning their letters (alphabetic knowledge) and the sounds that they make (phonetic knowledge) and how these combine to create words (phonemic knowledge).  This is quite a bit of knowledge for them to acquire during these years.  Here are suggestions from Reading is Fundamental (2007) which families can do to help guide their children towards this knowledge:

  • Encourage your child to join in while you read.  Pause and let them fill in rhyming words or repeating lines.
  • Ask open-ended questions while reading, i.e., “What do you think will happen next?”   “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
  • Move your finger under the words as you read.  This will help them connect the written words to the spoken words and will also develop their ability to read from left to right.
  • Begin teaching the letters of the alphabet, starting with those in your child’s name.  (See the article on ways to learn letters for fun interactive ways to work with your child on this skill)
  • Introduce concept books such as counting and ABC books
  • Introduce pattern books (those with rhyme and repetition, for example:  Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert

In all of these activities it is important to remember that in order for a child to remember what they are learning they need to be able to attach it to a positive emotion.  By making it fun for your child you are providing that emotion and increasing their ability to retain the information.

Sandra Weyer, M.Ed.



Helping your child become readers. (2007). Retrieved from Reading is Fundamental: www.rif.org



Kindergarten Readiness

Kindergarten Readiness – Social Skills


There are many different theories on what a child needs to be successful in kindergarten.  At the preschool level we strive to make sure that each child is ready for the adjustment to a new school, new teacher and new friends.  Our goal is to make sure that each child walks away from our program with the skills needed to not just be successful in kindergarten, but for years to come.

In my eighteen years in the field of early childhood education one skill has remained consistent among kindergarten readiness and that is a child’s social skills.  Social skills involve not only a child’s ability to get along with others, but their ability to be independent.

How Giggle Gang fosters social skills:

  • Eating family style – By giving the children the opportunity to serve themselves and make decisions about what they are eating we are fostering their independence.
  • Encouraging conversations – There are times throughout the day where the teacher will start a conversation with a group of children and then sit back to see where it goes.  By doing this they are fostering the skill of communication.  The children learn to both share, but also listen to what others have to say.  During these conversations the children have the opportunity to express their opinions, feelings and favorite things.
  • Classroom rules – At the beginning of every school year the children sit down with the teacher and create a list of classroom rules and the consequences for disregarding a rule.  These rules are revisited throughout the year as new children enter the classroom, or the need for an adjustment to the rules is deemed necessary.  This gives the children a sense of ownership over the classroom and teaches them the reasons behind rules, and the importance of following them.
  • Conflict resolution – Each classroom has a system for handling conflict between the children.  This system shows the children how to be respectful of each other while voicing their concerns and feelings.  As the year progresses the teacher slowly pulls away from mediating the conflict as the children become more proficient at coming to resolutions on their own.
  • Centers – During the day the children have a period of time called choice time.  During this time they have access to several of the centers within the classroom.  They are given the choice of where they would like to “work” during this time.  Each center is equipped to hold up to four children at a time.  When there are too many children at the center the children have the opportunity to sign up to be next.  This teaches the children patience and the importance of waiting their turn.  Sometimes this can be difficult in the beginning, but as the year progresses the children become used to waiting their turn and are observant to where there is room to participate while they are waiting.
  • Interactions – Our teachers spend the majority of their time interacting with the children in their classroom.  The teachers participate with the children while letting them lead their play.  During these times the teacher becomes a model for the children as she shares, converses and follows the directions of others.


Over the next few weeks I will be delving into the other skills that have been proven to be conducive to kindergarten success and how we incorporate these skills into the children’s everyday learning so that they are ready to be a success in kindergarten and beyond.

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