Keep the Play Alive by Jethro Rice

Diverse children enjoying playing with toys

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

I remember when I first came across this quote from the patron saint of positive child development messages, Mr. Rogers, at a workshop. The show defined everything I believe about the value of play, and how fundamental it is for children to experience this method of learning. It reminded us to value the important ways that play builds skills development. If simply having fun was the only outcome of children’s play, that would be more than enough, but there is so much more to it.

As parents and caregivers, our primary role is to support play. We are understandably anxious about the pressures for children to have kindergarten readiness skills in place well before they start elementary school. The reality of standardized kindergarten curricula that is aligned to state standards and Common Core standards leads many parents to focus on academic skills, such as learning the ABCs and counting to 20. The pressure to teach our young children these skills can lead us to overlook play. We might even feel that introducing worksheets, drills, flash cards, or the many learning apps that mimic these modes are the key to bringing our kids up to the standards of kindergarten.

Research has shown that young children learn differently from school-aged kids. Play helps early learners build the skills necessary for critical thinking, autonomy, self-awareness, focus and leadership. Children build confidence through problem-solving. Academic skills like number sense, letter recognition, and phonological awareness (letter sounds) are developed through active play and the use of language. For example, when children experiment by sorting objects and building structures, they are learning observation, spatial reasoning, and logic skills by comparing sizes, shapes, and amounts. This forms the fundamental building blocks for understanding math and science.

Through playing together or with a caregiver, children learn how to cooperate with others, share materials, listen and build self-control and self-awareness. These are the necessary social skills that serve as foundations for academic success. Ask a kindergarten teacher what their students need and they will likely talk about self-control, focus, and sharing over every student entering their classroom knowing their upper and lower case letters. Nurturing a love of learning through open or guided play with others builds the social-emotional skills that make our children ready to learn.

Parents and caregivers help children learn by supporting creative play. We can support them by providing a variety of creative materials like blocks, crayons, dolls, toy cars, and animals or household items like pots and pans, thread, laundry caps, scarves, and utensils. We know that children get the most out of play when they interact with caregivers but it is important to let kids lead.

Ask questions about their play without giving too much of your own interpretation. When they are roaring like a lion, instead of just saying, “Oh no! It’s a scary lion”, try asking questions that lead to more dramatic play. “I hear you roaring, who are you going to eat today?” “Where do you live, Madame lion?” When they are drawing, instead of saying what it looks like to you: “Is that a ladybug? That’s so pretty”, try a more open-ended approach. “I see that you used a lot of strong red and black colors. The pattern of dots is striking and really stands out! What is it? What goes next to it?” Let the child tell you whether or not it’s a ladybug.

When we support play without taking control of the learning process, children learn to express their own ideas and develop critical thinking and independence. Ask guiding questions or step back and allow the child to speak freely. Knowing how to support rather than guide play recognizes and values the skills our children are developing.

At BANANAS, we believe in the power of play for learning! We host Play and Learn playgroups throughout Oakland and Berkeley and will be opening up playgroups in the Havenscourt Community of East Oakland four days/week starting in September 12 at the Cubhouse – A Family Play Zone. Come join us and get some serious learning in! Click here to RSVP.

BANANAS Honors New Board Member Nancy Harvey for Women’s History Month!

March is Women’s History Month, which serves as a helpful reminder to highlight the contributions of the women in our lives. This month, we are honoring a woman who is a child care provider, child care advocate, a proud member of SEIU Local 521, and a new Board Member at BANANAS — Nancy Harvey.

Nurture, care, and educate is the philosophy behind Nancy’s mission whether she is serving children in her family day care, Lil Nancy’s Primary Schoolhouse in West Oakland, supporting parents in raising their children, or advocating for other child care providers. As a former grammar school teacher, Harvey witnessed first-hand how crucial early care and education is for our littlest learners.

A hallmark of Harvey’s care is the low staff-to-child ratio that ensures children in her care have the necessary adult-child interactions that promote quality learning opportunities and prevent education gaps from developing. She has leveraged educational resources in the community to better serve the children she cares for, from the local public library to Oakland Parks and Recreation opportunities.

Children are never too young to learn. I love my work and have never doubted that my calling is to educate children in their earliest years”, says Harvey.

Harvey comes from a family of activists. Her passion is to advocate for child care providers, fight for better wages and overall respect for the profession, and push policymakers to fix California’s inequitable child care system. In November 2017, Harvey boldly spoke before the Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education about how collective bargaining is also about professionalizing the industry, creating career ladders for providers to move-up to better-paying positions, reducing high turnover, and ensuring that tax dollars are spent on the families and children who need early care and education the most.

In 2018, Harvey was heavily involved in Ballot Measure A, Alameda County’s Child Care and Early Education Initiative, and also supported Measure AA, the City of Oakland’s initiative. While, Measure A proposed raising the sales tax in Alameda County to support early childhood education, Measure AA, the Oakland Children’s Initiative, proposed expanding access to quality, affordable preschool for every child from a low-income background in Oakland. The measures did not pass, but Nancy and her team of advocates feel hopeful for the future. Most recently, Harvey has been working with state lawmakers to get the new bill AB 378 through the legislature. She is confident that the bill if passed, will push for higher quality early child care access and the opportunity for child care providers to form unions.

We owe it to the next generation to make a change, or else we won’t have a quality child care industry that affects every family, workplace, and the local and state economies”, says Harvey.

Harvey feels that by being on the Board for BANANAS, she can better represent child care providers and make their voices heard. She loves BANANAS’ wide array of programs and is extremely fond of parent and provider workshops. Her favorite is the SEIU On-The-Job Training Project classes. In her free time, Harvey goes out for nature walks, indulges in interior design showcases, and spends time with her three children.

Please join us in welcoming Nancy Harvey as our new Board Member!

Celebrate Women’s History Month with Children

Educate our youngest learners about the many accomplishments of women and involve them in celebrating Women’s History Month. Here’s how:

  • Read books to your children about great women who made big contributions to the world
  • Plan a trip to a local museum and learn about various events about Women’s History Month
  • Take your children to a local women’s organization to learn about what they do for the community and possibly volunteer
  • Every family has their own amazing women worth celebrating! Plan a breakfast with your child and the special woman in your family (mother, grandma, aunts, cousins) and have your children listen to her stories

BANANAS Celebrates Black History Month

This February, we observe Black History Month, an opportunity to teach young children the importance of peace, diversity, and acceptance. For parents and child care providers, this month provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss race, civil rights, and the importance of love and tolerance with children. Educate your children about the many achievements of African Americans and involve them in celebrating Black History Month.

BANANAS has been long-serving African American families and child care providers. We offer support, education, and professional development opportunities to help child care providers better care for children.

This Black History Month, we are highlighting one of our very passionate and hard working child care providers – Linda Faye Johnson.

Linda understands that education is at the heart of professional achievement and she credits BANANAS’ staff and our free workshops as the foundation for her successful family child care business – Umoja House. In April 2018, with support from BANANAS staff member Soyla Madrigal, Linda was enrolled in the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) On-The-Job Training Project for Family Child Care Providers. This program allows her to earn a CA Child Development Associate Teacher’s Permit through the four college courses provided by Berkeley City College. In addition, Linda receives monthly on-site coaching through BANANAS and a stipend of $2,200. “I feel blessed to be a part of this program because it strengthens my skills and increases my knowledge and understanding in providing early care and education to children in my program,” says Linda.

The Training Project helps child care providers like Linda with professional development opportunities. It also provides tips and techniques on how to improve interactions with children, supplemental training materials, and one-on-one guidance.

Linda continues to attend BANANAS child care provider workshops in order to increase her knowledge of child development and improve her skills as a caregiver. She says that she is thankful to the BANANAS staff for recognizing her professional needs and supporting her step-by-step while encouraging her to be the best provider she could be. “I love BANANAS,” she says. “Teaching is my passion and the more I know, the more I can do to help children build their future.”

BANANAS has been extremely grateful to serve African American families for many years. Our community of children, families, and child care providers visits our office for numerous reasons. These include looking for a child care provider, assistance paying for care, educational resources, workshops, support groups, playgroups, and items in the free children’s boutique.

We consider it a privilege to offer support to all of our communities, especially when we know it is going to change lives. Learn more about our programs and how we help our children, families, and child care providers in Alameda County!

Putting Our Words in Action

Inti with his Children

We’re highlighting just a few of the thousands of families whose lives have been impacted by BANANAS. This year, we put Our Words in Action to support the most vulnerable families and young children.

Meet our client Sharon:

Sharon, a single mother, recently transitioned to traditional housing in Oakland. She came to BANANAS because she needed to go to school and find work to support her two children, Ziya and Ken, who are two and five years old.

“I didn’t even realize we qualified for subsidized child care. BANANAS has made a monumental difference in our lives. Having my children in a trusted environment, I know they are happy and their needs are being met. This has really allowed me to focus on my school.”

Sharon found a job at a retail store in Oakland. “Here I am loving myself again, and I’ve got a new life to care for. I feel like I’ve got a second chance.”

Meet our client Kiera:

Before coming to BANANAS in August 2017, Kiera was taking care of her 3-year-old granddaughter Denae on her own. Born from a mother who has an addiction, Denae went through many health problems at birth. It was then when Kiera stepped in and started taking care of her granddaughter.

Soon after Kiera received the guardianship custody of her granddaughter, she decided to get back into the workforce. When she didn’t think she could afford the care that would prepare Denae for kindergarten, she turned to BANANAS for help.

With the help of BANANAS, her granddaughter began to receive full-time child care services in a family child care while Kiera could focus on her new job. “My life changed for good because of BANANAS.” Kiera feels optimistic about her granddaughter’s future.

Inti with his Children

Meet our client Inti:

Inti Fernandez aspires to be a good father, a superhero to his two children. In addition to raising his kids alone, Inti is pursuing his dream job of becoming a visual designer. For a long time he struggled to find an affordable child care program for his children. He needed child care in order to go to work, support his family, and attend court hearings to secure custody of his kids. Being a single father was tough and he had to take more than one job to make ends meet. “I made some money, but not enough to pay for my family’s basic needs. I worked very hard to keep a smile on my children’s faces,” says Inti.

Thankfully, Inti’s friend introduced him to BANANAS services. Michelle, our counselor, helped Inti by enrolling his children in one of our Alternative Payment Programs through which they received full-time child care services. While his kids continue to thrive in a safe and loving environment, Inti now focuses on growing professionally at his job.

Meet our client Eva:

Eva, a single mother who has an addiction to drugs came to BANANAS in 2016 looking for child care for her two kids, ages two and three years old. Eva desperately needed care for her two children so she could focus on her recovery at a drug rehab program in Oakland.

She enrolled in a subsidy program here at BANANAS, and both of her children received full-time child care services. She took parenting classes at BANANAS and visited the Boutique for her immediate needs, such as diapers, formula, and clothing. “I am fortunate that despite my background, my children can grow in a warm and loving environment in a family child care center in Oakland.”

We need your help!

Each year at BANANAS, we help thousands of families like these by connecting them to quality, affordable child care. Through the Our Words in Action campaign, we are combatting the effects of poverty for young children where they live, learn, and play.

During this season of generosity, your gift to BANANAS is extremely important because it will offer immediate services to children and their caregivers. Invest in us and we will continue to put Our Words in Action.

Donate Today 

Holiday Events & Activities in the East Bay

Young woman with children in the playground.

Ho-ho-ho! Holiday time is here! Make the most of it and enjoy family-friendly events and activities in Alameda County. Whether you enjoy a holiday concert or a Christmas carol performance, a festive parade or a light show, East Bay offers something for everyone. Here are some of our favorite holiday and Christmas events for you and your family.

Fairy Winterland at Children’s Fairyland in Oakland
Children’s Fairyland celebrates the winter holidays for 11 exciting days. Enjoy crafts, lights, costume parade, shows, and a visit from Santa. Your children will love it!

Oakland ZooLights
Celebrate the holidays at Oakland Zoo amidst a million glowing lights! As part of the ZooLights festivities, riding the train at night is certainly a real highlight. Hop on the illuminated train and warm up with hot cocoa and dinner at the Landing Café with a scenic view for miles!

Little Ice Rink in Alameda
Chill out at the East Bay’s annual seasonal ice rink at Alameda’s South Shore Center shopping plaza because there’s so much to do. The Little Ice Rink is open every day until 10 pm through mid-January. Skate and sip cocoa, meet Santa, and have pictures taken at the Santa House. 

WinterFest at Tilden Park Steam Trains in Berkeley
Take your family to the winterfest at the Tilden Park Steam Train. The trains and tracks are lit up for the holidays. During special holiday hours, the area around the Merry-Go-Round will be decorated in twinkle lights. Above all, your children will have a chance to get their pictures taken with Santa Claus for free.

Niles Canyon Train of Lights in Fremont
The Train of Lights has been an annual tradition for Bay Area families for more than a decade. Make it yours too! This will be a rare opportunity for your family to experience a train ride through Niles Canyon at night. The Train of Lights begins at Niles Canyon Fremont or at Sunol, and provides an hour-long round trip ride filled with music and lights. Be sure to bundle up because the train cars are vintage and open-air.

Breakfast with Santa in Dublin
Santa Claus is coming to Dublin! Enjoy a delicious hot pancake breakfast with Santa. Children will also get a chance to get holiday photos clicked with Santa. Each year, the city of Dublin organizes the Warm Wishes Gift Drive that helps to bring a little joy to those less fortunate in our community. You can be a part of the drive and make holidays special for your neighbors. Pick up a gift tag at City Hall or choose a wish online and return your wrapped gift to City Hall, Shannon Community Center, or the Senior Center by December 10 at 5 pm.

Livermore Shakespeare Festival Holiday Celebration
Celebrate the season with friends and family at Livermore Shakespeare Festival while listening to classic holiday stories. Don’t forget to enjoy delicious wine and tapas from Swirl on the Square.

Elf Workshop With Crafts in Danville
Children will love this holiday craft workshop. Enjoy holiday treats, create hands-on holiday crafts, and get a chance to visit Santa and take a photo with him, all in one stop!

We hope you have an amazing holiday season with your family. Don’t forget to make a little time to kick back and relax. You deserve it!

Happy Holidays, from the Bunch!


Support Our ‘Words in Action Campaign’ on Giving Tuesday

As we prepare for Thanksgiving this week, the BANANAS Bunch is reflecting on this year and counting the many exciting opportunities we are grateful for. We have come to realize that our words have power. During the last year, we asked you to Invest in Kids. And, with your support, we could positively impact so many families by helping prepare their children to be Ready for School, Ready for Life!

For the past 12 months, BANANAS has worked hard to best serve and engage family, friends, and neighbors (FFN) caregivers, connecting caregivers to resources, such as workshops, playgroups, FFN Caregiver Toolkit, and so much more. Additionally, this year we are supporting homeless and foster families in finding child care.

While we are partnering with families, we are also working tirelessly to support our children. We advocated for Measure AA – Oakland Children’s Initiative that will help alleviate poverty by providing Oakland children with affordable and quality preschool and college. Unfortunately, Measure AA did not pass, but we’re not done yet! We will continue to work hard for our children, families, and community, but, not without YOUR SUPPORT!

This Giving Tuesday on November 27, we want you to support Our Words in Action campaign so that every child has access to high quality and affordable early care and education, and every parent and caregiver understands the importance of early learning, child development, and kindergarten readiness. We do this because we believe in raising happy, confident children.

Here are 5 ways you can support us:
1. Give to BANANAS through our Facebook Fundraiser
2. Make a donation to us on our website. We appreciate any amount
3. Shop online at our Boutique. Buy custom swag like cute babywear, warm winter hoodies, shopping bags, classic trucker hats, personalized mugs, and more
4. Purchase all your holiday gifts through by choosing BANANAS for all your purchases. We receive a percentage of the profits from every item sold
5. Share this blog with your family and friends

Help us raise $5,000 to help our community grow, explore, and learn!

On #GivingTuesday, look out for emails from us and keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages for up-to-the-minute information, including matching gift opportunities that will double the impact of your support!

Your donation makes a difference!

Best Pumpkin Patches & Farms in Alameda County

pumpkin patch guide

Looking to pick out the perfect pumpkin? You’re in the right place. If you’re looking for a patch where you can pick up a pumpkin to whip up some tasty desserts, this guide tells you all about the best pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and fall fun in Alameda County. Take your family to a farm featuring family games, tractor rides, petting zoos, and so much more.

Alameda Point Pumpkin Patch
The Alameda Point Pumpkin Patch (formerly in Emeryville) has a rock climbing wall, extreme air jumpers, a 40-foot ship slide, and a 200-foot zip line for thrill seekers. Above all, a petting zoo and bouncy houses for children. And yes, they have a ton of local, valley-grown pumpkins too!

Location: 2153 Ferry Pt, Alameda, CA
Hours: Mon – Sun | 10 am – 10 pm

Perry Family Farms
This spot offers the family a chance to see the whole process of growing veggies and pumpkins. Located on the grounds of Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, Perry’s is a real working organic farm. Kids can learn about the pumpkin growing process and burn off some steam at the kid’s maze. There are also character cut out photo ops, a hay pyramid, and hayrides for everyone to enjoy even more.

Location: 34600 Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, CA
Hours: Mon – Fri | 12 pm – 7 pm
Sat – Sun | 9 am – 7 pm

G&M Farms
Getting lost is half the fun of visiting this Livermore farm. They boast a 6-acre corn maze full of twists and turns. Once you find your way out, check out some of the other attractions like the pony rides and a cow train. And don’t forget the pumpkins! You can certainly pick your own in the field, or pick one up at the farm stand.

Location: 487 East Airway Blvd, Livermore, CA
Hours: Mon – Fri | 2 pm – 6 pm
Sat – Sun | 10 am – 6 pm

Piedmont Avenue Pumpkin Patch
This patch carries over 15 varieties of pumpkins, from tiny Muskins up to Atlantic Giants, with vibrant colors such as orange, red, white, green, and multi-colored. Above all, they have two haunted houses experiences—a scary one (for big kids and adults) and a not-so-scary version (for the little ones).

Location: 4414 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA
Hours: Mon – Sun | 9 am – 8 pm

Moore’s Pumpkin Patch  
Getting your Halloween pumpkin is more fun at Moore Farm because they have large pumpkin patches with hundreds of beautiful pumpkins for you to choose from. Children use red wagons, commonly called as “Pumpkin Patch Travelers” to transport pumpkins. At Moore’s Pumpkin Patch, your visit includes more than just pumpkins for the reason that this is a family fun park complete with rides and attractions. Let your children enjoy the popular “super slide”, the pony rides, the bounce house, and so much more.

Location: 9711 Dublin Canyon Rd, Castro Valley, CA
Hours: Mon – Sun | 10 am – 8 pm

ABC Tree Farms 
This new pumpkin patch offers tons of “jumper” inflatable fun houses to jump around for children ages 2-12. You will find different varieties of pumpkins and don’t forget to take pictures with your family at the wonderfully decorated “memory zone” that has corn and pumpkin barrel boards and cut outs. Your children will certainly love to look through these cut outs.

Location: 2200 Hilltop Mall Rd, Richmond, CA
Hours: Mon – Sun | 10 am – 9 pm

Whether your children want big pumpkins that will take hours to carve, or a teeny-tiny one, these pumpkin patches have them all. Get ready to get carving!

“The Raising of America” Film Screening & Discussion

Join Oakland Literacy Coalition and BANANAS for Building Stronger Futures: “The Raising of America” Film Screening and Discussion.

We are thrilled to invite our community to this free event where we will show part one of the film “The Raising of America” and host a panel discussion about the state of child care and the early education crisis in Alameda County.

The panel discussion will feature parent advocates and child care providers who will brainstorm on “How quality child care can build a stronger future for our children and families.”

Event Details:
Thu, Oct 11 | 6 pm – 8 pm
Location: The Octopus Literary Salon, 2101 Webster St #170, Oakland, 94612

Getting There:

The Octopus Literary Salon is accessible by the 19th street BART station. Street parking is free after 6 pm.

Please Note:
Food and beverage, including beer and wine, will be available for purchase. The film screening will begin promptly at 6 pm. Please arrive early to get a seat.

About Oakland Literacy Coalition:
Oakland Literacy Coalition is committed to seeing Oakland become a city of readers and learners. The Coalition brings together a dynamic network of organizations, agencies, educators, and stakeholders to learn, collaborate, and champion literacy. Learn more here.

Please help us share this event by clicking the social media sharing buttons below.

For a preview of the show, watch the trailer here. We hope to see you there!


Labor Day Family Fun

Labor Day marks the end of summer, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of fun! While many children are already back in school, this three-day weekend gives us one last chance to celebrate before school really kicks into gear. We have some fun family ideas that you can do with your child that will make this long weekend a memorable one.

Thank a worker– Labor Day celebrates the economic and social legacy of hard-working people, so why not take this opportunity to thank a few people who make your life a little easier? Bust out the glitter glue and make thank you cards for the mailman, a firefighter, or a librarian. Try out some cute and easy thank you card ideas. Foster a child’s creativity and fine motor skills with an activity that you will enjoy together.

Scoop it up– Spend quality time with your child by learning how to make your favorite ice cream at home. Check out these mouthwatering recipes! Did you know that you can help little learners practice some basic math concepts when you cook together? Help your child hone basic math skills, such as counting, sorting, and measuring. While pouring milk or cream into a measuring cup, point out fractions and say, “Let’s fill half of the cup with cream and half of the cup with milk.” Ask your child to cut the ice cream into halves and count bites with them.

Play pretend– Let children, and their friends, dress up as a nurse, a bus driver, or as someone they want to be when they grow up. Similarly, put on a backyard show and get children in the Labor Day spirit. It is no secret that pretend play is an essential part of a child’s development. Encouraging children to role play supports their social-emotional development and enhances creativity. Let their imaginations run wild with this fun activity.

Talk and read– Talk to them about all the different jobs that people do. Help them understand how everyone in the community has an important job. Check out the list of community helper books for your preschooler. Ask your child questions like, “What do you think a construction worker does” or “What is the job of a lifeguard?” By reading to children and talking about what you’ve read, you’re introducing new words that increase vocabulary and promote literacy. Furthermore, you are helping children get academically ready for school by talking and reading to them every day.

Play, learn, and grow together– As a parent, and a caregiver, you are the biggest supporter of your child’s learning. Make time for play to promote their physical, social-emotional, language, and thinking skills. Explore lots of fun arts and crafts ideas on our Pinterest board, such as handprint strawberry craft, condensed milk painting, bathtub crayons, and more that support the philosophy that children learn best through play.

These family fun activities allow you to talk, read, and play with children. And, it is never too early to start providing experiences that will help your child enter school ready to succeed. We hope you have an amazing weekend. Don’t forget to make a little time to kick back and relax. You deserve it!




The ABC’s of School Readiness

At the start of a new school year, it’s natural for parents to feel anxious about sending their child off to kindergarten. You want to make sure that your preschooler is completely ready for their first-ever experience in a classroom. But what does school readiness really mean for a child? School readiness is much more than just learning a set of facts and skills. Getting children ready for school is a process that starts as soon as the child is born. It requires you to spend time reading, talking, and playing with your child.

Here are some tips to help you prepare your child for kindergarten.

Read aloud to your child– Take visits to the library. Check out books, attend a storytime, and be sure to read to them every day. Point to pictures in a book and say the words together. Make reading fun and perhaps create different character voices to make it interesting for your child.

Engage your child in language and literacy activities– Encourage your preschooler to write their name. Let a toddler scribble, draw, and write. Sing nursery rhymes and do fingerplay to stimulate their understanding and use of language. Appreciate their attempts and watch their skills develop with practice. Praise them for trying new things.

Develop and follow routines– Daily routines such as cleaning up after play, taking baths, packing their own bag for an outing offer rich opportunities to support your child’s learning and development. Have regular routines for mealtime and bedtime. Furthermore, getting up around the same time every day will get them used to a school schedule and prevent lack of sleep that can lead to behavioral issues.

Teach them independence– Children feel a great sense of pride when they are able to complete self-care tasks such as dressing themselves, tying their shoes, and using the bathroom without assistance. Let your child do simple chores like setting the table at mealtimes.

Nurture social and emotional learning– The ability to get along with other children, follow directions, and say “goodbye” to parents are skills that are essential for success in school and overall child development. Young children learn these skills through interactions with parents, teachers, and friends. Don’t forget to hug and kiss your child several times a day.

Enhance their thinking skills– In their every day experiences, children use and develop an understanding of math concepts, such as counting, sorting, and problem-solving skills that they will need for school. Give your child puzzles, blocks, and board games. Even better, get on the floor and play with them. Take your child to the zoo, grocery store, and post office. Talk to them about all the animals they saw at the zoo and what sounds they make. Make a list of all the items you want to buy at the grocery store—counting them as you place them in your basket. You can also point out the numbers and wording on the aisle signage by pointing up and saying “Let’s look for aisle 4, we need to find juice”. On the ride home, talk about the colors of the trees, the sky, and cars.

Play, play, and more play- Play is the centerpiece of learning. High-quality play experiences help improve children’s memory, language abilities, and social-emotional skills. Children learn by playing with every day objects and by pretending. The most effective ways for kids to learn about the physical and social world are by testing out new materials, playing with sand, water, and mixing bowls while engaging themselves in pretend play. Encourage your child to use their imagination.

Because kindergarten has more structure, it’s important to prepare your little one for the new environment. The best way to prepare is to talk about it. Before school starts, talk to them about what things will be like at school, how they’ll meet new people, learn new things, and make new friends. Visit the school and walk your new kinder down the halls and to their classroom. Encouraging your child to talk about how they feel is important, and how they should feel comfortable expressing their feelings to their new friend, their teacher. This is definitely a milestone to celebrate, even though your baby is growing up.