What Your Preschooler Needs to Thrive:

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 02/18/18

1. Structure.

Regular routines help kids feel safe, and are vital for preschoolers, who grapple with big fears on a daily basis. The world is chaotic and scary to them; their household should be predictable. A calm, orderly and fun atmosphere, with regular meal and bedtime routines, will produce happier children who have the internal resources to meet daily developmental challenges. No, that doesn't mean you need to be rigid. But your child does need to know what to expect.

2. Enough sleep.

Preschoolers may resist bedtime, but without sufficient sleep, three to five year olds simply do not have the resourcefulness to cope with the demands of their day. Develop a regular routine that helps her wind down and start relaxing well before bedtime. When he gives up his nap, be sure he still gets some downtime to rest every day.

3. Control over her own food intake.

You decide what food is accessible in your house, but your child needs the responsibility to decide how much she eats. Remember that children need frequent small meals, and if you don’t provide that, they’ll end up snacking all day. If you always provide a variety of healthy food, you can feel comfortable letting them choose which foods they eat and how much.

Worried about a picky eater? Serve a variety of healthy foods and avoid power struggles; your child will eventually enlarge her choices as her taste buds mature. As long as sweets aren't available (except as rare -- not daily -- treats), preschoolers will naturally choose healthy foods that meet their physical needs, over a period of time. Never set up a clean plate as the goal; instead, when they say they're done, ask them how their body feels. (Obesity starts in preschool!) If you're bothered by throwing the food away, ask yourself why not wasting food is more important than your child's future physical health and body image?

4. Help with Emotions.

While your child may no longer have frequent tantrums, he still has big feelings, and he still needs you to "listen" to those feelings on a regular basis. All kids need daily laughter to vent the anxieties that inevitably build up in a small person grappling to manage herself in a big, often overwhelming world, so be sure to build daily roughhousing into your schedule.

And you can expect your preschooler to sometimes express his needs as an attack, meaning that a child who is hurting may well yell "I hate you; I want a new Mom!" Don't take it personally. Instead, empathize even while you set limits. "You must be so upset to speak to me that way...I guess you're very disappointed...You really wanted to, and I said No....I'm sorry this is so hard, Sweetie."

5. Empathic limits.

If you want well-behaved kids, resist any impulse to punish. Kids this age need guidance and limits, because they are actively learning the rules and how the world works, and naturally they will test to see just where those limits are. Remember, though, that their brains are still developing. They get flooded with emotion very easily. When you set limits, they get upset, partly because they want what they want, but partly because they worry about your disapproval. It helps them to calm themselves if you empathize with their disappointment or anger. Doing this now will help them learn to control their own emotions over time, and to maintain their equilibrium in the face of upsets as they get older. Research shows that when young children are punished, their behavior actually worsens. (For more on why, see Why Positive Parenting ».) Instead, set limits and empathize with feelings to help your child WANT to behave. This helps him develop self-discipline, rather than relying on you to regulate him.

6. Interaction time with parents.

Your preschooler's brain is experiencing rapid growth and consolidation, both in learning facts and in learning emotional self-regulation. Lots of intimate time with physically and emotionally affectionate parents is critical for your preschooler's emotional -- and even brain -- development. This means what psychologists call "Floor Time," which is getting down on his level to work together building that train track or tower. The point isn't the intellectual work of the building, but the emotional connection you make over it -- and the nurturing support you offer when the project inevitably runs into snags. Daily, unstructured "Special Time" with your child during which you let your child take the lead will build your relationship. If you can't bear one more game of superhero or dollhouse, offer your child "Cozy Time" instead. Just snuggle up on the couch with a pile of books for a lazy half hour, and make sure you take plenty of time out to talk about what you're reading, or about her day. Here's a whole page of Games to build closeness & emotional intelligence! »

7. To be Heard.

Preschoolers are famous for asking questions, from the incessant "WHY?" to badgering parents to change their minds about a limit. This can drive a parent crazy, unless you look under the surface at the reason for the question. Your child wants more than information; he wants to feel heard, to be acknowledged, to tell you what he thinks, to weave together his world view with your help, and to have you respond to the turbulent emotions that often threaten to overwhelm his emerging intellectual control. When your child pesters you with WHY? questions and doesn't seem satisfied with your answers so she keeps on asking, turn it around and ask her the question.

8. Help in learning to express herself without whining.

Whining can drive even the most patient parent crazy. But whining is a signal that your child needs help, either in processing emotions that are weighing on her, or in meeting other needs. She's not just trying to get her way; she's expressing the need all preschoolers have to begin to master their environment by asserting some control. Luckily, there are some secrets to stop your child from Whining.

9. Social Time.

Preschoolers are biologically designed to look up to older kids. In the tribal cultures natural to humans, young children who are old enough to leave the parent tag along with the big kids and learn social skills. Since our children are usually in groups of same-age peers, they often need adult help and modeling to learn to "take turns" or refrain from bossiness. Four year olds are experimenting with appropriate use of power, so they're famous for bossiness and even bullying. Don't feel bad about stepping in at the playground to model appropriate social behavior. How else are they supposed to learn? 
For help with social skills » 
For help with bossiness » 
For help when your child is starting to bully » 
To empower your child against bullying »

10. Downtime.

Everything is stimulating to your preschooler, from seeing the dump truck on the street to the candy in the grocery store. While playdates and field trips stimulate his emotional and intellectual development, he needs substantial unstructured time at home to simply play and regroup in the safety of his cozy home base, where he can let his hair down and take a deep breath in a quiet place.

Parents of preschoolers in our culture face a big challenge. Most three, four and five year olds don't have lots of siblings or cousins readily accessible to play with, and they can't read yet. Parents have other things to do. How to keep kids constructively occupied?

Many parents solve this by letting their kids spend many of their awake hours watching TV or playing with an Ipad. Because preschoolers' brains are still in a critical developmental phase, engaging with screens changes the way their brains develop, literally shortening their attention spans for life. Screens are also so easy to use that kids who come to depend on them for fun are less likely to become motivated readers. What's more, creating this habit early in life deprives children of the essential skill of structuring their own time. But there are alternatives to screen time for your kids, and the good news is that once kids get used to structuring their own time, they'll be much less interested in screens.

11. School

Children three and older usually thrive at school, and for most of them, it is preferable to a full day at home with a parent or caregiver. But we need to remember that kids under the age of five have to work very hard to hold it together in a group setting. Their cortisol levels -- that's the stress hormone -- become elevated when they stay at school in the afternoon, compared to children who go home after lunch, indicating that they're under stress. In high quality settings, where the caretakers are stable and the child feels connected, this is much less pronounced. But if a child is experiencing elevated cortisol levels on a regular basis, that's associated with less effective immune response, sleep issues, crankiness, and other risk factors. That's why many three and even four year olds do better with a nap and the afternoon at home after school. And no child under the age of seven is ready to be in an institution until 6pm daily. If your child isn't thriving with full-day school, the cost of a babysitter to be with your child at home half days after school will more than pay off in a calmer, happier, more cooperative child. 

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

How To Help Your Child With Anger

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 02/11/18

"The truth about rage is that it only dissolves when it is really heard and understood, without reservation." - Carl Rogers

Many parents send an angry child to her room to "calm down." After all, what else can we do? We certainly can't reason with her when she's furious. It's no time to teach lessons or ask for an apology. She needs to calm down.

If we send our angry child to his room, he will indeed calm down, eventually. He'll also have gotten some clear messages:

  • No one is listening to what's upsetting you. 
  • No one is going to help you solve the problem you're experiencing. 
  • Anger is bad. 
  • You're being bad because you feel angry at us. 
  • Your anger scares us. You're on your own when it comes to managing those big scary feelings in a responsible way--we don't know how to help you. 
  • When you're angry, the best thing to do is to stuff those feelings. (Of course, that means they're no longer under your conscious control, and will burst out again soon in unmanageable ways.)

No wonder so many of us develop anger-management issues that last into adulthood, whether that means we yell at our kids, throw tantrums with our partner, or overeat to avoid acknowledging our anger. 

What can we do instead? We can help our children learn to manage their anger responsibly. Most of us have a hard time picturing what that looks like. Quite simply, responsible anger management begins with accepting our anger -- but refraining from acting on it by lashing out at others. There's always a way to express what we need without attacking the other person.

In fact, when we're willing to stop and notice the deeper feelings under our anger, we find hurt and fear and sadness. If we allow ourselves to feel those emotions, the anger melts away. It was only a reactive defense.  

This is one of the most critical tasks of childhood -- learning to tolerate the wounds of everyday life without moving into reactive anger. People who can do this are able to work things out with others and manage themselves to achieve their goals. We call them emotionally intelligent.

Children develop emotional intelligence when we teach them that all their feelings are okay, but they always have a choice about how they act. Here's how to do that.

When your child gets angry:

1. Keep yourself from moving into "fight or flight" by taking a few deep breaths and reminding yourself that there's no emergency. This models emotional regulation and helps your child feel safer, so she begins to shift out of "fight or flight."

2. Listen. Acknowledge why your child is upset. Often, when people don't feel heard, they escalate. By contrast, when your child feels understood, he'll begin to feel calmer -- even when he doesn't get his way.

3. Try to see it from his point of view. The more compassionate you can be, the more likely your child will find his way to the tears and fears under the anger: "Oh, Sweetie, I'm sorry this is so hard...You're saying I never understand you...that must feel so terrible and lonely." You don't have to agree, and you don't have to disagree. Just acknowledge his truth in the moment. Once he feels heard, his truth will shift.

4. Don't get hooked by rudeness and personal attacks. Parents are often hurt when children yell at them. But your child doesn't actually hate you, or want a new mom or dad, or whatever she's yelling. She feels hurt and scared and powerless, so she's pulling out the most upsetting thing she can think of, so you'll know how upset she is. Just say "Ouch! You must be so upset to say that to me. Tell me why you're upset. I'm listening."

Your child is not "behaving badly" or "winning." She's showing you in the best way she can at the moment just how upset she is. As she realizes that she doesn't have to raise her voice or go on the attack to be heard, and that it's safe to show you her vulnerable emotions, she'll develop the capacity to express her feelings more appropriately.

5. Set whatever limits are necessary to keep everyone safe, while acknowledging the anger and staying compassionate. "You're so mad! You can be as mad as you want, and hitting is still not ok, no matter how upset you are. You can stomp to show me how mad you are. No hitting."

6. If your child is already in a full meltdown, don't talk except to empathize and reassure her that she's safe. Don't try to teach, reason or explain. When she's awash in adrenaline and other fight or flight reactions is not the time to explain why she can't have what she wants, or get her to admit that she actually loves her little sister. Your only job now is to calm the storm. Just acknowledge how upset she is: "You are so upset about this...I'm sorry it's so hard."

7. Remind yourself that tantrums are nature's way of helping immature brains let off steam. Children don't yet have the frontal cortex neural pathways to control themselves as we do. (And please note that we don't always regulate our anger very well, even as adults!)  The best way to help children develop those neural pathways is to offer empathy, while they're angry and at other times. It's ok -- good, actually -- for your child to express those tangled, angry, hurt feelings. After we support kids through a tantrum, they feel closer to us and more trusting. They feel less wound-up inside, so they can be more emotionally generous. They aren't as rigid and demanding.

8. Remember that anger is a defense against threat. It comes from our "fight, flight or freeze" response. Sometimes the threat is outside us, but usually it isn't. We often see threats outside us because we're carrying around old stuffed emotions like hurt, fear or sadness. (In other words, your angry child really is not a threat to your safety or well-being.) Whatever's happening in the moment triggers those old feelings, and we go into fight mode to try to stuff them down again.

So while your child may be upset about something in the moment, it may also be that he's lugging around a full emotional backpack, and just needs to express those old tears and fears. A new disappointment can feel like the end of the world to a child, because all those old feelings come up. Kids will do anything to fend off these intolerable feelings, so they rage and lash out.

9. Make it safe for your child to move past anger. If they feel safe expressing their anger, and we meet that anger with compassion, the anger will begin to melt. So while we accept our child's anger, it isn't the anger that is healing. It's the expression of the tears and fears beneath the anger that washes out the hurt and sadness and makes the anger vanish, because once your child shows you those more vulnerable feelings, the anger is no longer necessary as a defense.

10. Stay as close as you can. Your child needs an accepting witness who loves him even when he's angry. If you need to move away to stay safe, tell him "I won't let you hurt me, so I'm moving back a bit, but I am right here. Whenever you're ready for a hug, I'm right here."

If he yells at you to "Go away!" say "You're telling me to go away, so I am moving back, ok? I won't leave you alone with these scary feelings, but I 'm moving back."

11. Keep yourself safe. Kids often benefit from pushing against us when they're upset, so if you can tolerate it and stay compassionate, that's fine to allow. But if your child is hitting you, move away. If she pursues you, hold her wrist and say "I don't think I want that angry fist so close to me. I see how angry you are. You can hit the pillow I'm holding, or push against my hands, but no hurting." Kids don't really want to hurt us -- it scares them and makes them feel guilty. Most of the time, when we move into compassion and they feel heard, kids stop hitting us and start crying.

12. Don't try to evaluate whether he's over-reacting. Of course he's over-reacting! But remember that children experience daily hurts and fears that they can't verbalize and that we don't even notice. They store them up and then look for an opportunity to "discharge" them.  So if your kid has a meltdown over the blue cup and you really can't go right now to get the blue cup out of the car, it's ok to just lovingly welcome his meltdown. Most of the time, it wasn't about the cup, or whatever he's demanding. When children get whiny and impossible to please, they usually just need to cry.  

13. Acknowledging her anger will help her calm down a bit. Then help her get under the anger by softening yourself. If you can really feel compassion for this struggling young person, she'll feel it and respond. Don't analyze, just empathize. "You really wanted that; I'm so sorry, Sweetie." Once you recognize the feelings under the anger, she will probably pause and stop lashing out. You'll see some vulnerability or even tears. You can help her surface those feelings by focusing on the original trigger:"I'm so sorry you can't have the _____ you want, Sweetie. I'm sorry this is so hard." When our loving compassion meets her wound, that's when she collapses into our arms for a good cry. And all those upset feelings evaporate.

14. AFTER he's calmed down, you can talk.  Resist the urge to lecture. Tell a story to help him put this big wave of emotion in context. "Those were some big feelings...everyone needs to cry sometimes...You wanted....I said no...You were very disappointed...You got so angry....You were sad and disappointed....Thank you for showing me how you felt...."  If he just wants to change the subject, let him. You can circle back to bring closure later in the day or at bedtime, while you're snuggling. But most young children WANT to hear the story of how they got mad and cried, as long as it's a story, not a lecture. It helps them understand themselves, and makes them feel heard.  

15. What about teaching? You don't have to do as much as you think. Your child knows what she did was wrong. It was those big feelings that made her feel like it was an emergency, and necessary to break the rule about being kind. By helping her with the emotions, you're making a repeat infraction less likely.

Wait until after the emotional closure, and then keep it simple. Recognize that part of her wants to make a better choice next time, and align with that part. Be sure to give her a chance to practice a better solution to her problem. "When we get really angry, like you were angry at your sister, we forget how much we love the other person. They look like they're our enemy. Right? You were so very mad at her. We all get mad like that and when we are very mad, we feel like hitting. But if we do, later we're sorry that we hurt someone. We wish we could have used our words. I wonder what else you could you have said or done, instead of hitting?"

Accepting emotions like this is the beginning of resilience. Gradually, your child will internalize the ability to weather disappointment, and learn that while he can't always get what he wants, he can always get something better -- someone who loves and accepts all of him, including the yucky parts like disappointment and anger. He'll have learned that emotions aren't dangerous -- they can be tolerated without acting on them, and they pass. Gradually, he'll learn to to verbalize his feelings and needs without attacking the other person -- even when he's furious. 

You'll have taught him how to manage his emotions. And you'll have strengthened, rather than eroded, your bond with him. All by taking a deep breath and staying compassionate in the face of rage. Sounds saintly, I know, and you won't always be able to pull it off.  But every time you do, you'll be helping your child grow the rural pathways for a more emotionally intelligent brain. And you'll be gifting yourself a lot less drama -- and a lot more love.

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

The Cure for Whining

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 02/03/18

Should children get what they want by whining? Absolutely not.

Should they learn that they can get their way by marshaling good arguments and making them in a reasonable, humorous, charming way that meets your needs as well as theirs? Absolutely, if you want them to get anywhere in life.

But how to help them make that transition?

Whining is common with toddlers and preschoolers. Parents are usually advised to tell their kids to ask in a "nice" voice, because they can't hear the whiny voice. But whining is a symptom of a deeper issue. So if you want to eliminate whining, you have to address what's underneath.

If your child's whining is driving you crazy, here are six parent-proven secrets to stop the whining. Which secret you use depends on why he's whining.

1. Whining because he doesn't have the internal resources to cope with what's being asked of him:

When humans feel overwhelmed, they get whiny. (As a toddler, he would have thrown himself howling to the ground, but by three or four he can often whine instead.) Meet his basic needs for food, rest, down time, run-around time, and connection with you, or you can count on whining. He may not tantrum as much as he used to, but he will certainly whine if you force him to endure that shopping trip while he’s hungry and tired. Why create a negative situation that stresses both of you and contributes to the habit of whining?

2. Whining because she needs more connection:

Be pre-emptive. Make sure that your child gets enough of your positive attention, unprovoked. Pre-empt whining by giving attention BEFORE she gets demanding. Anyone who's had to ask a romantic partner "Do you love me?" knows that attention given after you ask can never really fill the need. The secret is to take the initiative and give attention the child hasn’t asked for, often, so she feels your support and connection.

And of course it's particularly important to connect when she shows the first sign of needing your emotional support, before that quick downhill slide. (No, you're not rewarding "bad" behavior by giving her attention when she's whining. If she were whining from hunger, would you think you were rewarding that by feeding her? It's our job to meet kids' needs so they have the internal resources to cope. Connection is a basic human need, and children can't function well without it.)

3. Whining because she doesn't like what's happening but feels powerless to get her way:

Lawrence Cohen, the wonderful author of Playful Parenting, says:

"When children whine they are feeling powerless. If we scold them for whining or refuse to listen to them we increase their feelings of powerlessness. If we give in so they will stop whining, we reward that powerlessness. But if we relaxedly, playfully, invite them to use a strong voice, we increase their sense of confidence and competence. And we find a bridge back to close connection."

Remember, you're not out to manipulate her, but to connect. Start by letting her know that you hear what she wants, and you see her point of view: "You really want to go to the playground, and you keep telling me that, and here I keep stopping at all these stores that you aren't expecting, and you're disappointed, right?"Sometimes just feeling heard is enough to stop whining in its tracks.

Then, if she keeps whining, you can say playfully "You don't sound like yourself. I wonder where your usual strong voice went?"

Express confidence that your child can use her "strong" voice and offer your assistance to help her find it, by making it into a game:


"Hey, where did your strong voice go? It was here a minute ago. I LOVE your strong voice! I'll help you find it. Help me look. Is it under the chair? No...behind the door? No.... HEY! You found it!! That was your strong voice!! Yay! I love your strong voice! Now, tell me again what you need, in your strong voice."

Finally, give her alternate tools by teaching her how to ask appropriately for something and negotiate with you. Since whining is so often a function of powerlessness, helping your child to feel that she can get what she wants through reasonable measures will carry over into the rest of her life.

In other words, you don’t want her to learn that she gets her way in life by whining or tantrumming, but you do want her to learn that she can get what she wants through managing her emotions, seeing things from the other person’s point of view and setting up win/win situations. (And of course, that's what you always try to model.)

So if you simply don't have time to go to the playground today, then don't. Be empathic about his desire, and nurture him through the meltdown, as described in #4 below. But if your objection is to his whining, rather than his request, and he manages to pull himself together and ask in a reasonable way for what he wants, then you'll be able to engage in the kind of conflict resolution that finds a win/win solution.


“Ok, you want to go to the playground, and I need to stop at the hardware store. Let’s do this: If we're really quick at the hardware store, we’ll have time to stop at the playground on the way home. Think you can help me be quick? And if you are really fast about getting in and out of your car seat, we can stay a bit longer at the playground.”

Are you "rewarding" whining? No, you're empowering him by demonstrating that finding solutions that work for both of you is the way to get what he wants in life.

I often hear from parents that this "empowering with the strong voice game" strategy works like a charm the first time or two, but that after that the child refuses to play. If that's the case, it's because he actually needs something else -- to cry. Which brings us to:

4. Whining because he needs to cry:

He has a lot of pent-up emotions about things that are stressing him -- the new babysitter you left him with on Friday night, that kid who grabbed the truck away in the sandbox, potty training, the new baby -- there's no end of stressful developmental challenges! Toddlers let off stress by simply having a meltdown, but as they get older they gain more self-control, and begin to whine instead. Be kind in response to his whining until you get home and have a few minutes to spend with him. Then draw him onto your lap, look him in the eye and say


"I notice you were feeling so whiny and sad, Sweetie. Do you just need to cuddle and maybe cry a bit? Everybody needs to cry sometimes. I'm right here to hold you."

5. Whining because it works:

Don’t reward whining, meaning don’t give in and buy the candy. But there is never a reason to be less than kind about it. Responding to his desire with empathy ("You are so disappointed that I said no; you really wish you could have that candy...") helps him feel less alone with his disappointment. And there's nothing wrong with finding something else that will make him happy, like a shiny red apple or a trip to the playground. That teaches him to look for win/win solutions. If, by contrast, he feels like he only gets what he wants by whining, he’ll become an expert whiner.

6. Whining because you'll do anything to stop it:

Why do parents hate whining so much? Because whining is your little one's more mature form of crying. She's letting you know she needs your attention. And human grownups are programmed to react to whining much as we do to crying, so the needs of tiny humans get met. So the minute you hear that whine, you react with anxiety. You'll do anything to stop it.

But if you can take a deep breath and remind yourself that there's no crisis, you'll feel a lot better, and you'll parent better. Don't let your automatic crisis mode of fight or flight kick in. Don't feel like you have to solve the problem, or do anything at all except love your child. Just smile at your child and give her a big hug. Most of the time, the whining will stop.

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

Toddlerhood can be tough. Here's your gameplan.

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 01/25/18

How to manage your toddler and stay a positive parent?

Most children become harder to manage at around fourteen months. That's because they make a huge developmental leap at this point. They're not so easily distracted. They realize they have some influence in the world, but not a lot of power, and they start experimenting to see how they can get their needs met and their desires fulfilled. 

This can be a maddening time for parents, or it can be a wonderful time, watching your child blossom. How difficult the phase from 15 to 36 months is depends at least partly on the parent's attitude. Your child's rebellion will be inversely proportional to the freedom she’s given to do her developmental work, and how capable she feels to get what she wants in the world. 

How much is he allowed to explore? To set his own pace? To feel in control of his world? To discover that he is a competent person?

Much of this depends on the parent. Are you sensitive to your child's readiness for independence, supporting but not pushing? Can you appreciate your child's bids for independence without taking them as personal insults? Can you give up some control so your child can develop some sense of mastery over her world? Can you set whatever limits are necessary for her safety and your sanity, while empathizing with her disappointment when she doesn't get what she wants?

Your Toddler's Developmental Tasks:

  • Rapid physical and brain development.
  • Rapid acquisition of vocabulary and verbal rules.
  • Learning how to stay connected to you while he asserts his own needs and wants.
  • Development of Agency -- a Sense of oneself as a powerful, competent person able to act successfully to get one's needs met.
  • Learning that other children are people too, and that he relate to them safely, so he doesn't have to be aggressive with them.Your Parenting Challenge:

Keeping your sanity while your baby grows up, increasingly expressing herself and engaging with the world.

Your Parenting Priorities:

  1. Keeping your child safe as she explores.
  2. Giving up some control so he can develop some mastery over his world.
  3. Enjoying her emerging independence and curiosity.
  4. Staying positive!What toddlers need from their parents:

1. The validation of her own agency.

She needs to learn that there are things she is in charge of, such as her own body, and she needs to experience herself as competent and powerful, able to get her needs and desires met.

2. Structure, Limits, Routines and Security.

Toddlers are beginning to grasp that it's a big world out there. Even their own feelings seem overwhelming to them at times. They need the reassurance that the parent is in charge and can keep them safe -- from the world, as well as from their own big feelings and lack of self control.

3. Help understanding and structuring time. he feels less out of control and pummeled by circumstance ("After lunch it's nap time, and then we'll drive to Grandma's.") Toddlers need to know what to expect and do better with a definite routine.

4. Your empathy.

Toddlers need to stay connected with their parents, especially at those difficult moments when they assert themselves, and you can't give them what they want. Look at it from his point of view, and you'll see it makes sense. Even if you can't do what he wants, it will help him to cooperate if you can understand and sympathize with his unhappiness.

Gameplan for a Fun Toddlerhood:

1. Let your child be in charge of potty training.

They all get out of diapers sooner or later. Fights with your child about his or her body are fights you will never win. Toilet training can actually be empowering for your child, an important step in independence, but it depends how you handle it. If your child shows zero interest in toilet training, find opportunities for him to be around other kids who are using the toilet, and he'll quickly want to emulate them. For more on easy potty learning, click here.

2. Sidestep power struggles.

You don't have to prove you're right. Your child is trying to assert that he is a real person, with some real power in the world. That's totally appropriate. Let him say no whenever you can do so without compromise to safety, health, or other peoples' rights. You'll be glad to know that since tantrums are an expression of powerlessness, toddlers who feel some control over their lives have many fewer tantrums.

3. Pre-empt tantrums.

First, know that tantrums are normal for kids this age. Second, since most tantrums happen when kids are hungry or tired, think ahead. Preemptive feeding and napping, firm bedtimes, re-connection with you, cozy times, peaceful quiet time without media stimulation -- whatever it takes to calm down and rest -- prevent most tantrums, and reground kids who are getting whiny. Learn to just say no -- to yourself! Don't squeeze in that last errand. Don't drag a hungry or tired kid to the store. Make do and do it tomorrow. For more on taming toddler tantrums, click here.

4. Use play to "manage" your toddler.

Toddlers don't like to be ordered around any more than you do. What they do love is to play. Want cooperation? Fly your toddler up to her bath. Get him to finish his milk by pretending to be a puppy who loves milk. Get her into her carseat by pretending to be the flight attendant preparing for takeoff. Race him to the car.

5. Don’t take it personally.

Your toddler will at times reject you or be hurtful in some way. Don’t take it personally. She’s learning from you how to modulate her anger. This is your opportunity to grow, and teach her at the same time.

6. Allow time in your schedule for your toddler's need to explore the world.

That's his job, after all -- exploring, experimenting, learning. That's how his brain develops. Rushing toddlers is one of the common triggers of avoidable tantrums.

7. Cultivate empathy for your child.

Social skills start with your empathy. Kids begin to develop empathy for others (and therefore, the ability to share, not hit, etc.) as they themselves feel understood. Click here for more on what empathy is and how to use it to raise great kids.

8. Don't force her to share.

That actually delays the development of sharing skills! Kids need to feel secure in their ownership before they can share. Instead, introduce the concept of taking turns. (“It’s Asia’s turn to use the bucket. Then it will be your turn.") Help him wait for his turn with empathy. Help him put his favorite toys away before another child visits. When he does share, out of the goodness of his own heart, empower him to make that choice again by observing, aloud, the effect of his choice: "Look how happy Kevin is that he gets a turn with your truck."

9. Use age-appropriate "discipline."

For toddlers, that means empathic limits, information, redirection, and help with emotions. Researchers compared two groups of toddlers who were rated as behaving about the same. Some parents began spanking their kids at around age two. Others used positive discipline. The children who were spanked behaved worse a year later than the kids who weren't. Even yelling at toddlers has a negative effect, causing them to harden their hearts to you and become defiant. Toddlerhood is where violence starts: Are you unwittingly teaching your kids that might makes right? (See Positive Discipline for help in managing your toddler.)

10. Be the person you want your child to be.

Children learn to interact with others by experiencing relationships, and then they recreate what they're experienced. Remember that your toddler is learning both sides of any relationship she’s in. If you don’t want her to tantrum, don’t lose your temper at her. If you yell at her, you're teaching her by example that tantrums are ok.

11. Eliminate visual electronic media.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two not watch TV or videos at all because they have other important developmental work to do and because it impacts brain development. The AAP recommends that older children watch AT MOST an hour or two per day of nonviolent, educational TV. I recommend TV and movies only for special occasions. I know we’re told that Sesame Street is good for our children, but research shows that it influences brain development and shortens the attention span. It starts an addiction in kids who are prone to it. When they’re a little older, they'll want to watch other TV. And before they’re much older, you'll wonder why they flip on the TV instead of reading a book. Not to mention that you will have stopped being able to monitor what they watch by the time they’re eight. For more on TV, see Why Your Toddler Shouldn't Watch TV -- and What to Do Instead.

12. Feeding is the toddler’s job.

You provide the healthy food. She feeds it to herself. Put a mat under the high chair. Don’t obsess about how much she eats. Kids don't starve themselves. Many toddlers are too busy during the day to eat enough and therefore ask for food at bedtime. This can drive a parent around the bend, unless you build a bedtime snack into the schedule – which also often helps kids settle down and sleep better. If you make sure the snack is healthy, you take the pressure off dinner so you can enjoy your child more at dinner without prodding them to eat. You can combine it with the bedtime story if you’re short on time. Click here for more on feeding your toddler.

13. Forget about stimulating your child's brain by teaching her the alphabet.

The intellectual work of toddlers is about exploring, observing the world, talking and being listened to, being accepted, validated and acknowledged. Emotional self-management lays the foundation for intellectual development. It's never too early to develop a love of books, but that doesn’t happen by learning the alphabet. If you want your child to love reading, then read to her and tell her stories.

14. Pre-empt whining.

Whining is an expression of the child's feeling of powerlessness. It can become a habit. To nip whining in the bud, avoid letting your child have opportunities to learn that whining gets her what she wants. In other words, try to avoid making whining necessary, and if it does happen, try to avoid rewarding it. Instead, help your child with those helpless feelings. Click here for more on how to stop your toddler's whining.

15. Use routines.

Kids develop self discipline partly by living in a safe, predictable structured routine where they know what to expect. When you disrupt routines with travel, Grandma’s visit, or simply exceptions for your own convenience, you can expect tantrums, difficulty falling asleep, and other challenges. Grandma, of course, is worth it, but choosing disruptions wisely is part of protective parenting. Click here for more on schedules and routines that toddlers can understand.

16. Give her the opportunity to experience competence.

Toddlers tantrum less and cooperate more when they feel more powerful. How can you help your toddler feel more powerful? Three key ways: Listen to her, Let her make decisions whenever possible, and Give her the opportunity to experience competence.

Toddlers need daily experience with work to gain confidence in their own capabilities and begin to think of themselves as competent people. As adults, we tend to think of work as burdensome. But toddlers LOVE to understand how the household functions, and to participate. They LOVE to feel valuable by contributing to the household. They LOVE to learn by doing. This was one of Maria Montessori's huge insights.

Invite your toddler to be involved with whatever you're doing. Ok, so the help will make your job harder, but he's learning and gaining skills for the future, and you're bonding. And in a few years, you'll wish you had been patient and gotten him started working with you!

What kinds of household tasks? They can stand on a stool or bench in the kitchen to help. They can help you as you run errands. They can help in the yard. Specifically:

  • Make themselves a snack, such as peeling fruit or an egg, or slicing soft cheese and making sandwiches with crackers.
  • Help wash pots and pans or other unbreakable dishes.
  • Wash vegetables in the sink
  • Wipe the counter off
  • Help you clean the refrigerator
  • Help set the table
  • Help clear the table
  • Help you by turning lights on and off.
  • Dust
  • Scrub the tub (from inside, barefoot!)
  • Pair the socks as you fold clothes.
  • Sort clothes (which clean clothes belong to which family member?)
  • Help you transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer, pull clothes out of the dryer, or hang them on a line.
  • Pick out fruit at the grocery store.
  • Wash the table or floor.

These activities are ultimately more educational and satisfying than TV, and most young children love them. After completing such a task, the toddler says "I did it!" and feels like a more capable, powerful person. (Compare that to how they feel after they watch a TV show.) Sure, it's more work for the parent than just doing it yourself. That's not the point. Toddlers and preschoolers who feel competent and powerful don't need to assert their power by being contrary. They're more confident. And they're more helpful! That's what I call win-win. Click here for more on helping your child develop Competence.

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

Building a Great Relationship with Your Child

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 01/14/18

Want to be a great parent? Want to raise a happy, healthy, well-behaved kid? Want to live in a home where discipline becomes unnecessary? The secret is to create a closer connection with your child.

It isn’t enough that we tell our children we love them. We need to put our love into action every day for them to feel it.

"But what does that mean, putting our love into action?"

Mostly, it means making that connection with our child our highest priority. Love in action means paying thoughtful attention to what goes on between us, seeing things from the our child's point of view, and always remembering that this child who sometimes may drive us crazy is still that precious baby we welcomed into our arms with such hope.

"Doesn't that take a lot of energy?"

It takes a lot of effort to fully attend to another human being, but when we are really present with our child, we often find that it energizes us and makes us feel more alive, as being fully present with anyone does. Being close to another human takes work. But 90% of people on their deathbed say that their biggest regret is that they didn't get closer to the people in their lives. And almost all parents whose children are grown say they wish they had spent more time with their kids.

"Being fully present? How can I do that when I'm just trying to get dinner on the table and keep from tripping over the toys?"

Being present just means paying attention. Like a marriage or a friendship, your relationship with your child needs positive attention to thrive. Attention = Love. Like your garden, your car, or your work, what you attend to flourishes. And, of course, that kind of attentiveness takes time. You can multi-task at it while you're making dinner, but the secret of a great relationship is some focused time every day attending only to that child.

"This is all too vague for me. What am I supposed to actually DO?"

1. Start right for a firm foundation.

The closeness of the parent-child connection throughout life results from how much parents connect with their babies, right from the beginning. For instance, research has shown that fathers who take a week or more off work when their babies are born have a closer relationship with their child at every stage, including as teens and college students. Is this cause and effect? The bonding theorists say that if a man bonds with his newborn, he will stay closer to her throughout life. But you don't have to believe that bonding with a newborn is crucial to note that the kind of man who treasures his newborn and nurtures his new family is likely to continue doing so in ways that bring them closer throughout her childhood.

2. Remember that all relationships take work.

Good parent-child connections don’t spring out of nowhere, any more than good marriages do. Biology gives us a headstart -- if we weren’t biologically programmed to love our infants the human race would have died out long ago -- but as kids get older we need to build on that natural bond, or the challenges of modern life can erode it. Luckily, children automatically love their parents. As long as we don't blow that, we can keep the connection strong.

3. Prioritize time with your child.

Assume that you'll need to put in a significant amount of time creating a good relationship with your child. Quality time is a myth, because there’s no switch to turn on closeness. Imagine that you work all the time, and have set aside an evening with your husband, whom you’ve barely seen in the past six months. Does he immediately start baring his soul? Not likely.

In relationships, without quantity, there’s no quality. You can’t expect a good relationship with your daughter if you spend all your time at work and she spends all her time with her friends. So as hard as it is with the pressures of job and daily life, if we want a better relationship with our kids, we have to free up the time to make that happen.

4. Start with trust, the foundation of every good relationship.

Trust begins in infancy, when your baby learns whether she can depend on you to pick her up when she needs you. By the time babies are a year old, researchers can assess whether babies are “securely attached” to their parents, which basically means the baby trusts that his parents can be depended on to meet his emotional and physical needs.

Over time, we earn our children’s trust in other ways: following through on the promise we make to play a game with them later, not breaking a confidence, picking them up on time.

At the same time, we extend our trust to them by expecting the best from them and believing in their fundamental goodness and potential. We trust in the power of human development to help our child grow, learn, and mature. We trust that although our child may act like a child today, he or she is always developing into a more mature person (just as, hopefully, we are.) We trust that no matter what he or she does, there is always the potential for positive change.

Trust does not mean blindly believing what your teenager tells you. Trust means not giving up on your child, no matter what he or she does. Trust means never walking away from the relationship in frustration, because you trust that she needs you and that you will find a way to work things out.

5. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage.

Think of your child as a plant who is programmed by nature to grow and blossom. If you see the plant has brown leaves, you consider if maybe it needs more light, more water, more fertilizer. You don't criticize it and yell at it to straighten up and grow right.

Kids form their view of themselves and the world every day. They need your encouragement to see themselves as good people who are capable of good things. And they need to know you're on their side. If most of what comes out of your mouth is correction or criticism, they won't feel good about themselves, and they won't feel like you're their ally. You lose your only leverage with them, and they lose something every kid needs: to know they have an adult who thinks the world of them.

6. Remember that respect must be mutual.

Pretty obvious, right? But we forget this with our kids, because we know we’re supposed to be the boss. You can still set limits (and you must), but if you do it respectfully and with empathy, your child will learn both to treat others with respect and to expect to be treated respectfully himself.

Once when I became impatient with my then 3 year old, he turned to me and said “I don’t like it when you talk to me that way.” A friend who was with us said, “If he’s starting this early, you’re going to have big problems when he’s a teenager!” In fact, rather than challenging my authority, my toddler was simply asking to be treated with the dignity he had come to expect. Now a teenager, he continues to treat himself, me, and others, respectfully. And he chooses peers who treat him respectfully. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?

7. Think of relationships as the slow accretion of daily interactions.

You don’t have to do anything special to build a relationship with your child. The good -- and bad -- news is that every interaction creates the relationship. Grocery shopping, carpooling and bathtime matter as much as that big talk you have when there’s a problem. He doesn’t want to share his toy, or go to bed, or do his homework? How you handle it is one brick in the foundation of your permanent relationship, as well as his ideas about all relationships.

That’s one reason it’s worth thinking through any recurring interactions that get on your nerves to see how you might handle them differently. Interactions that happen more than once tend to initiate a pattern. Nagging and criticizing are no basis for a relationship with someone you love. And besides, your life is too short for you to spend it in a state of annoyance.

8. Communication habits start early.

Do you listen when she prattles on interminably about her friends at preschool, even when you have more important things to think about? Then she’s more likely to tell you about her interactions with boys when she’s fourteen.

It’s hard to pay attention when you’re rushing to pick up food for dinner and get home, but if you aren’t really listening, two things happen. You miss an opportunity to learn about and teach your child, and she learns that you don’t really listen so there’s not much point in talking.

9. Don't take it personally.

Your teenager slams the door to her bedroom. Your ten year old huffs "Mom, you never understand!" Your four year old screams "I hate you, Daddy!" What's the most important thing to remember? DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY! This isn't primarily about you, it's about them: their tangled up feelings, their difficulty controlling themselves, their immature ability to understand and express their emotions. Taking it personally wounds you, which means you do what we all do when hurt: either close off, or lash out, or both. Which just worsens a tough situation for all concerned.

Remembering not to take it personally means you:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Let the hurt go
  • Remind yourself that your child does in fact love you but can't get in touch with it at the moment
  • Consciously lower your voice
  • Try hard to remember what it feels like to be a kid who is upset and over-reacting.
  • Think through how to respond calmly and constructively.

You can still set limits, but you do it from as calm a place as you can muster. Your child will be deeply grateful, even if she can't acknowledge it at the moment.

I'm not for a minute suggesting that you let your child treat you disrespectfully. I'm suggesting you act out of love, rather than anger, as you set limits. And if you're too angry to get in touch with your love at the moment, then wait.

10. Resist the impulse to be punitive.

How would you feel about someone who hurt, threatened, or humiliated you, "for your own good"? Kids do need our guidance, but punishing your child always erodes your relationship, which makes your child misbehave more. See Positive Discipline for more info on handling your anger and setting effective limits.

11. Don’t let little rifts build up.

If something’s wrong between you, find a way to bring it up and work it through positively. Choosing to withdraw (except temporarily, strategically) when your child seems intent on driving you away is ALWAYS a mistake. Every difficulty is an opportunity to get closer or create distance.

12. Re-connect after every separation.

Parents naturally provide an anchor, or compass, for kids to attach to and stay oriented around. When they're apart from us they need a substitute, so they orient themselves around teachers, coaches, electronics, or peers. When we rejoin each other physically we need to also rejoin emotionally.

13. Stay available.

Most kids don’t keep an agenda and bring things up at a scheduled meeting. And nothing makes them clam up faster than pressing them to talk. Kids talk when something is up for them, particularly if you've proven yourself to be a good listener, but not overly attached to their opening up to you.

Being on hand when they come home is a sure-fire way to hear the highlights of the day with younger kids, and even, often, with older ones. With older kids, simply being in the same room doing something can create the opportunity for interaction. If you’re cooking dinner and she’s doing homework, for instance, or the two of you are in the car alone, there's often an opening. Of course, if one of you is hunched over the computer, the interaction is likely to be more limited. Find ways to be in proximity where you’re both potentially available, without it seeming like a demand.

This may seem obvious, but stating your availability is helpful, even with teens. 

"I'll be in the kitchen making dinner if you want me" or
"I have to run to the grocery store, but don't hesitate to call my cell phone if you need me."

But the most important part of staying available is a state of mind. Your child will sense your emotional availability. Parents who have close relationships with their teens often say that as their child has gotten older, they've made it a practice to drop everything else if their teen signals a desire to talk. This can be difficult if you're also handling a demanding job and other responsibilities, of course. But kids who feel that other things are more important to their parents often look elsewhere when they're emotionally needy. And that's our loss, as much as theirs.

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

Teaching Your 18-24-Month-Old

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 01/04/18

Many people are curious about what they should be teaching their toddler at each age interval. Toddlers in the 18- to 24-months range are a lot of fun and easy to teach! What they should be learning most can be found in all the teachable moments found throughout the day in just normal life with you.

Toddlers love to be with their parents. They love learning to help and be involved in the household, your life, and the world around them. The best thing you can do to help teach your child things at this age is to enjoy being with them, and just keep sharing and exploring the world with them.

Talking to them throughout the day is especially important. They may not be able to converse back with you yet, but they understand so much more than they can say. Explain and name all the things you’re doing as you go through your daily routine. If you’re putting laundry in the laundry machine, tell your child, “I’m putting laundry in the laundry machine,” etc. They will pick up on what these things mean and start to be able to mimic what you’re doing if you give them verbal instructions.

By 18 months old, you’ve probably found that they’re able to follow simple and even increasingly complex directions or games that you give them. If you just naturally involve them in your activities, they can learn even more, and even start to help out a bit!

Additionally, toddlers often enjoy certain things in batches. If you find that your child is taking an interest in music, indulge that new interest and explore it with him from lots of different angles. You can sing songs to him and play songs on the radio one day. The next day you could make a makeshift instrument out of pots and pans or things that can make a shaker, or play him a real instrument if you have one, show him how to play something simple like the xylophone or a recorder, etc. Another day you could go to a concert in the park, or something of the like. You can read books and stories about music. Or watch a tv show or movie specifically about music, or play a game. Get creative and find all the different angles you can share more about whatever is interesting them.

You can also incorporate life changes in a similar way – if you want to get a small pet for the family, like a fish, you can similarly read books about fish, do fish art, visit the aquarium, do a fish puzzle, cut out fish and fish-related shapes for a storyboard, make fish faces at each other at dinnertime, watch a fish movie (Finding Nemo is always a favorite, of course!), etc., and then follow it all up with the big climax: buying your fish at the pet store and bringing him home!

Teachable moments exist everywhere in everything for an 18-24-month-old. Get as engaged with them as you can, and have fun with it!

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

Tips for Giving Your Toddler a Haircut at Home

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 12/23/17

It’s a necessary part of life, but also a great way to drive your toddler crazy: the haircut. From about a little over a year old to sometimes up to 5 or 6 years old, some kids find haircuts to be one of the worst, most torturous things ever. It may be the sharp scissors coming at them, it may be having to sit still in the chair for 15-20 minutes, or if you take them to a barber shop, it may be all the strange new sights, sounds, smells, people, etc. Whatever the case, a haircut, while it may be necessary for your toddler, may be one of the most excruciating experiences for both you and them.

But still, unless you’re trying to grow your own personal Rapunzel, your child will probably have to get their hair cut at some point. If you are the one to give them their haircut, it can save a lot of money, and can possibly make the whole experience easier for them to tolerate as well. If you do the haircut together at home, he may be more comfortable than he would be at a barbershop, in a completely new and different environment, with an unknown person.

Here are a few tips to help giving your toddler a haircut at home be a smoother experience for the both of you.

1. Gather the appropriate supplies

At the very least, giving your child a haircut will require a chair, comb, and pair of barber shears. You can certainly try with your regular pair of household scissors, but barber shears will be much sharper and cut more precisely. You can use any chair, but a higher chair will be kinder to your back.

2. Let them get in on the fun of wetting their hair

If your child doesn’t want to get his or her hair wet, you can use a spray bottle to dampen it while you cut. It may help to let him have a turn at spraying your hair first and maybe his own, so he sees how it works, and give him warning before you do it to him so it doesn’t startle him.

3. Do the front first

They’ll probably be more apt to sit still in the very beginning so do the part that people will actually see then. Start with the bangs, and go from the outside of one eyebrow across to the other to keep it even. Use one head to gently secure his head to remind him not to wiggle around and so you don’t accidentally poke his son or eyes.

4. Work swiftly, but take just small snips

Of course when working with a wiggly little one, you’ll want to do it quicker than slower, but if you take small pieces, you can fix any mistakes more readily than if you cut in large chunks.

5. Tell your child how great their new haircut looks

Some big (and genuine) oohs and aahs go a long way for positive reinforcement for both his cooperation and how great he looks in his new ‘do!

Happy haircutting!

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

Ways to Relax as a Busy Parent

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 12/15/17

Being a parent is a stressful, tiring job with no breaks! You’re always on duty, and even when you’re not with your little one, they’re on your mind and a part of you is always vigilantly looking out for them. Being able to relax and decompress from that stress every once in a while is vital to being able to maintain that sort of energy and dedication.

Nonetheless, a lot of parents have trouble disconnecting even a little bit for that much needed mental health break. That’s understandable, but it really is important to realize and remember that doing so doesn’t make you a bad parent – rather, it’s quite the opposite. Knowing how to disengage and unwind a little so you can be fresh and energetic for your child makes you the best parent you can possibly be!

Here are a few ways parents can relax and unwind, and experience less stress, along the way as they do their parenting duties:

1. Find the humor in everything

We understand. When you come home from a long work day and the next thing you know, your toddler has scribbled all over the wall with permanent marker, the last thing you’re probably going to do is laugh. But maybe it should be the first thing you do! You can always repaint the wall, and really, every kid is bound to do something maddening at some point – it’s just the nature of exploration and figuring out the rules as they learn and grow. So just laugh now and skip the stress – and remember, worst case scenario, this will make a great story later!

2. Keep the kids busy

If you find yourself needing more “you” time, don’t be afraid to “outsource” your kiddo’s amusement and occupation. Day care, after school programs, summer camps, etc. are great ways to help your kids socialize and learn new skills with their peers and other spheres of positive influence while also freeing up some of your day. Even if your little one is very young, a day or two of daycare can go a long way toward socializing them and getting them used to different environments – and helping you get stuff done or having some time to relax and re-engage with them once they’re home!

3. Take time to exercise and move

Really, even though you have a million and one “things to do” that can’t possibly be put aside, it’s important. You need to build in time for yourself to move and exercise on your terms, and not just as part of a task or your To-Do list. Even a ten minute walk around the block, alone with your music, the sound of nature, or even with the kiddo if they’re in the mood to walk and chat with you, can be amazingly restorative. Building in the time and appointment with and for yourself to make sure you’re getting some kind of exercise on your own terms goes a long way to keeping a good mental and emotional balance to everything else you do in a day.

To your peace and relaxation!

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

Teaching Safety to Your Kids Without Instilling Fear

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 12/04/17

As any parent knows, there are seemingly innumerable dangers and risks your child will encounter every day from the moment he’s born. Natural disasters, accidents, and, unfortunately, some of those dangers will even come from other people.

But the world isn’t all gloom and doom or impending disaster. You know that, and you want your kid to know that too. But you also want to ensure they have the skills and tools to maintain awareness and safety, and exercise caution and good judgment in face of possible danger.

This balancing act is one of parenting’s greatest duties, and can be one of the most daunting!

Here are some tips to help teach kids about being safe, without instilling fear:

1) Examine and plan for various dangerous situations ahead of time

Make a list of possible dangers together with your child, talk about why they’re dangerous, and establish clear guidelines and rules for what they should and should not do in any given situation and why. Then they’ll have a clear understanding of the rules in advance, and won’t be confused or uncertain about how to react or proceed if they find themselves in that situation.

2) Teach them who to look to for help, and to always have a plan to get it

If your child finds himself in a compromising situation and you aren’t there, you don’t want him to look only for you and panic or shut down if you’re not there. Talk about how to select other adults he can look for to help – for example, a nearby worker in a uniform, a police officer, a mom with kids, etc. Teach your children to always have a plan to be able to get help in any situation, wherever they are.

3) Teach them that there are different rules for different circumstances

Teach your child that if they are playing on their own alone or with a friend, it is different than if they are playing with an adult who is taking care of them. If someone at the park starts making conversation with a child and their caregiver, it’s probably ok to respond. But if they’re playing on their own or with just a friend and a stranger tries to approach, talk to, or try to give them anything, they must immediately go find and check with the adult in charge first.

4) Act it out

Role playing is a great way to ensure comprehension and practice their ability to act “under pressure”. Simulating various potentially dangerous situations and scenarios is a good way to put them through the paces and make sure they react correctly, in a safe and controlled setting with you, before they’re in a situation when they have to do it and they’re on their own.

5) Last but certainly not least – teach them that most people are Good!

Teach your children that most people are good, so chances are that most strangers are as well and they don’t need to be scared of them – but that there are still rules we must ALWAYS follow in certain situations, or with people we don’t know well, no matter what, or who they say they are, or how nice they may be.

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

Teaching Your Child Empathy

by Smiling Stars Daycare on 11/25/17

One of the most important character traits a parent must teach their child is empathy for fellow human beings.

There are various ways this invaluable life skill can be imparted, and a good thing to keep in mind when teaching children how to be empathetic towards other people is that empathy isn’t just an inborn thing that a person either is or isn’t born with. Empathy is a life skill that exists on a continuum – i.e., a person or child can be more or less empathetic on that continuum, not just “yes they are” empathetic or “no they are not”. As such, it can be taught, honed, and deepened throughout life and a child’s continuing development, on into adulthood.

Here are some tips for teaching your child empathy:

1. Teach your child how to have a sense of self-awareness and to distinguish their own feelings from those of others

When relating to other people, first and foremost, it’s important for a child to be able to recognize, identify and understand where he or she stands with his or her own emotions. Teach your child a wide vocabulary for the varied emotions and feelings they may have, and help them learn how to identify and communicate those feelings. Teach them that everyone has that wide spectrum of emotions and feelings and that sometimes others may be feeling something different from what your child feels.

2. Talk about and practice recognizing emotional cues and signs in others

After helping your child understand that other people may encounter different feelings and perspectives from what your child may be experiencing, even in the same moment, coach your child how to recognize when that difference of feelings may be happening, or how to be aware of situations when such may occur, and how to identify what those feelings may be. Have them show you what a sad face looks like for them, for example, when they think of a sad thing that has happened to them, or what they might have looked like when they have been scared or nervous. Explain to them that if they see a face that is similar to that, that may be an indication someone else is feeling sad, or scared or nervous.

3. Give them ways to address and help different emotions in others

Talk with your child about things they can do or say for other people or children who are feeling the emotions they recognize. What might they say to someone who is feeling scared or uncomfortable? Talk to them about what others have said or done for your child that has comforted them when they were feeling a certain way.

4. Do different role-playing activities

Help your kids understand what it’s like to walk in other peoples’ shoes. Blindfold them and let them see what it might be like to have to move around a house or a busy street without being able to see (with your help and supervision of course). Put heavy gloves on them to simulate what it might be like to have poor motor skills. Show them situations in movies or books, or role-play what it might be like to be made fun of by their peer group. And again, get them thinking about different ways they may be able to see, recognize, acknowledge and help other people in these various situations.

For information about our child daycare services in North Vancouver, Smiling Stars Daycare, please call (604) 986-3380 or email us by visiting

Smiling Stars Daycare