Toys laying abandoned.

Are your kids bored of their toys? Are they disengaged and uninterested? Try rotating their toys.

Toy rotation is highly beneficial in preschools, daycares, day homes and even in everyday family life.

Benefits of toy rotation

  • After a toy is packed away for a length of time, children become excited to play with it again because they haven’t seen it for so long.Child surrounded by toys
  • Putting away some toys for rotation may leave your child with less toys to play with. Believe it or not, this can lead to deeper engagement with the few toys that are available. With too many toys a child may bounce from one toy to another, rather than fully playing with any one toy. Sometimes less is truly more.
  • Having fewer toys available also shrinks the amount of mess a child can make with their toys at any given time.

How long should toys be available?

The answer depends greatly on your child, your child’s age, and the toy itself. Because the recommended length of time is so situationally dependent, watch how engaged your child is. When they show signs of being less engaged, it’s time to rotate. Be aware, leaving toys out, until your child is bored, may significantly decrease their excitement at seeing those toys again later. Therefore, try to do the rotating on a high note so they will associate good memories with the toys for next time.

Older children, such as elementary aged children, may be able to regulate the rotating themselves. Store all their toys on a shelf. Allow them to get out and play with only one or two types of toys at a time – perhaps the cars and the blocks. When the elementary aged children realize they are getting tired of the toy, they will ask to get out a different type of toy. Have them first clean up and put away the toy they are tired of, then they may get out the next toy. In this way, they can take some responsibility for rotating their own toys.

What about at preschools and daycares, etc?Child playing with wooden blocks

I have been a part of preschools and daycares who rotated their toys once a week, every other week, once a month, or never. Where the toys were never rotated, the children were extremely bored. They engaged in very little meaningful play and often misbehaved.

I personally would recommend rotating the toys every week or two. Some toys, such as large wooden blocks, may not need rotating as often, while other toys, such as puzzles, may only engage each child for one sitting and therefore benefit from frequent rotation.

Toy rotation in preschool and daycare settings comes with the benefit of providing a good toy washing routine. Every time new toys are set out, the old ones can be washed and left to dry before being packed away.

Does toy rotation make a difference?

My years of experience have given me reason to enthusiastically say “yes!” Have you seen the difference toy rotation makes?

Muffin packed in preschool snack box

5 tips from a preschool teacher

Do you have a preschooler? Do you pack snacks for them? Then you’re in the right place. Keep reading to discover five useful tips I’ve learned from observing the preschool snack packing techniques of countless parents.

Please keep in mind that each individual is unique. Use discretion when deciding which tips will be useful for you.

1. Involve Your Child

    • Children enjoy and benefit from having opportunities to choose. Try involving them in picking what to have for snack, but keep the options limited. For example, you could ask them if they want an apple or a banana. Or you could ask if they want white cheese or orange cheese. Be sure that the choices you give them are all ones you are happy with them making.

2. Limit the Options

    • Deciding how many food options to pack in your child’s snack can be tricky. Not enough food leaves them hungry. At the same time, did you know that sending too many options can cause a child to eat less? Of course, this depends on the child’s personality. Some children become overwhelmed or indecisive when presented with too many options. Sending two or three decent sized food choices is often better than six.

3. Offer Healthy vs. Unhealthy Options

    • Many parents complain to me that their children only eat sugary processed food. If given the option, the majority of children will eat the sugary and/or processed treat in their snack first. This may leave them with little appetite or no time to eat the healthy options you packed for them. If this is a concern for you, try packing only healthy options such as fruit or vegetables and perhaps some crackers. Most children will be happy to eat healthy snacks, if those are the only options you provide.
    • Note that if the child has learned to expect a sugary snack, it may take a few days for them to decide to eat the healthier options.

4. Send Two+ Food Groups

    • While we’re on the topic of the options to pack for snack, one preschool I worked at insisted that parents include at least two food groups in the snack. Food groups include: fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meat/alternatives. Including options from at least two of these food groups is a great rule of thumb in providing a wholesome snack.

5. Change Things Up

    • Rather than sending the exact same snack every day, try changing it up from time to time. This suggestion, again, depends on your child. Some children prefer the exact same snack every day, while others quickly get bored of repetition. Eating a wide variety of food is a healthy thing to do.
    • To keep from getting stuck in a snack-time rut, keep a list readily available, like my 11 Quick and Easy Wholesome Preschool Snack Ideas.

Have you tried any of these tips, or do you have others to add? Leave a comment.

11 Quick and Wholesome Snacks for Preschool - Inexpensive and Healthy Ideas by teacher S. J. Little

I get it. You’re busy, and you’re on a budget, but you still want to pack a wholesome snack for your child. What follows are some ideas for quick, easy, healthy preschool snacks that won’t break the bank.
As a preschool teacher, I’ve seen countless snacks sent with the children in my class. Some are fantastic while others are, well… not so beneficial.
Before I continue, I’d encourage you to be familiar with your preschool’s snack policy. Most likely it includes being peanut or nut-free. It may also include other things.
Disclaimer: The following suggestions are to be used at viewer discretion as every child and preschool is unique.

Fruit and Vegetable Snacks

    1. Fresh Fruit/Veggies
      • A classic for excellent reason! Sending fresh fruit or veggies for your child is super healthy.
      • I recommend cutting the fruit for your child rather than sending the fruit whole, unless you expect them to eat the whole thing. I have had many a time when a child eats one or two bites of an apple or banana, then throws the rest in the garbage.
      • When cutting fruit, and with small round foods such as grapes and cherry tomatoes, be aware of their potential as choking hazards.
      • Possible fruit or vegetables: banana, apple, orange, peach, Berries - 11 Quick and Wholesome Snacks for Preschool - S. J. Littlepineapple, grapes, berries, melons, carrots, celery, cucumber, tomato, snow peas, bell peppers, and so on.
    2. Frozen Veggies/Berries
      • Recently I discovered a forgotten bag of green beans in my freezer. This quickly became one of my quick and easy go-to preschool snacks.
      • Put a small handful in the microwave for a minute or two. Let them cool briefly, then stick them in a container.
      • I like to add a touch of salt and oregano to spice it up, but that’s optional.
      • Possible frozen items: green beans, broccoli/cauliflower/carrot mixture, peas and corn, berries, Brussels sprouts, or anything really.
    3. Cooked Veggies
      • This is another of my favorites. It’s healthy while still being quick and easy. My favourite is broccoli. I take enough to fill my small snack container, cut into easy finger-food size, then stick the pieces in the microwave with a touch of water for a minute. The microwave softens the broccoli so it’s easy to eat without dipping.Broccoli - 11 Quick and Wholesome Snacks for Preschool - S. J. Little I often add a touch of salt and spices such as oregano or coriander.
      • Possible veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage (in small portions), among others.
    4. Dried Fruit
      • I enjoy dried fruit. However, use your own discretion as to how healthy or not these are. Store-bought dried fruit may have additives or could be a concern if your child’s teeth are not being brushed well. However, they are certainly healthier than many other options.
      • Possible dried fruit: raisins, banana chips, cranberries, dates (pitted), mangoes, apricots (pitted), etc.
    5. Applesauce
      • Individual applesauce cups can be a healthy option, especially if you get the unsweetened kinds. However, be sure your child is comfortable using a spoon by themselves before sending this snack with them.

Other Ideas for Preschool Snack

    1. Leftovers
      • Have leftovers from a meal your child enjoys? Why not send them along as a snack. Just be sure your child is able to eat the leftovers independently, whether that means using a spoon or whatever is needed.
      • Options: pasta dishes, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, pizza, pancakes, perogies, or rice with lentils or other sauce, to name a few.
    2. ProteinProtein - 11 Quick and Wholesome Snacks for Preschool - S. J. Little
      • It’s often a good idea to include a source of protein in your child’s snack
      • Protein options: cheese, cream cheese, slices of meat, pepperoni sticks, scrambled eggs, a hard-boiled and shelled egg, and so on.
      • Beans, hummus, and yogurt can also be included for protein. I’ll give more ideas regarding those below.
    3. Hummus
      • Hummus can be sent as a dip for veggies, or spread on pita bread, a tortilla, or a slice of bread.
    4. Yogurt
      • Fruit yogurt is another good and common preschool snack item. I discourage sending yogurt tubes as those easily make a large mess when squeezed. Individual yogurt cups, or pouring a small amount of yogurt into a reusable container works well if your child is confident using a spoon. Yogurt drinks are also decent options.
    5. Beans
      • This one might sound weird, but don’t cross it off the list too fast. Next time you dump a can of chickpeas or black beans into something, eat a few plain. I knew a child who enjoyed snacking on chickpeas. I would only give beans in small amounts, and along with other snack items. They are a simple healthy addition to preschool snacks.
    6. Crackers/Cereal/Bread
      • While I don’t recommend sending a snack consisting entirely of these sorts of foods, having some along with fruit, veggies, or other foods can make a snack feel more complete and filling.
      • Crackers – there are many types of crackers available. Some are far healthier than others. Check the ingredients for things such as artificial colour or flavouring. For a bit of variety, try rice crackers, pretzels, or plain graham crackers.Dry cereal - 11 Quick and Wholesome Snacks for Preschool - S. J. Little
      • Cheerios or other low sugar cereal that can be eaten dry is another option to consider.
      • Pita bread, tortillas, naan, and chapatis are among the many types of breads you could send with your child. Perhaps spread a little cream cheese, jam, or hummus on it to add flavour. (Be wary of chocolate spreads as they often contain nuts.)
      • Raisin bread – buy or make your own. Cut a slice, butter it, and place it in a container for snack. With store-bought raisin bread, I prefer to toast it lightly before buttering.

I hope this list has given you more snack ideas that are practical, affordable, and easy to do, while being wholesome and healthy. Want more ideas for packing your preschooler’s snack? Take a look at this article: What Snack Options Should I Pack For My Preschooler

Smiling toddler peeking around corner

 

I am a preschool teacher.

Often when people hear this, they automatically think “daycare.” However, I do not work at a daycare, I work at a preschool. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked.

First, let me begin by mentioning that these terms and titles cover a wide range of childcare organizations. I will offer a basic understanding of the differences, but every centre/school/home will be run a little differently. On top of that, the local government directly affects programs by regulating many aspects including the max child per adult ratio, etc. I have only worked in childcare centers in Alberta, Canada, therefore, some of my statements may not be accurate in other areas.Girl running in daycare

 

Daycare/Day Home

Daycares and day homes are set up as a place for parents/guardians to drop off their child while they go to work. High quality daycares and day homes include some level of academic programming and are intentional to foster the overall development of the child.

A daycare typically consists of several separate rooms (classes) of children. Often these are divided by age, starting as young as early infancy. To accommodate staff breaks and work hours, the children are likely cared for by two or three different caregivers throughout the course of the day. Daycares typically take the children outside for a walk or to play every day.

Did you know that 24/7 daycares exist? Such daycares are relatively new and hard to find, but they do exist in Canada.

 

A day home is often run by a single caregiver who cares for a handful of children in the caregiver’s house. Some day homes may be connected to organizations that support and advise several day home owners. Many day homes will have children of a range of ages together in a family-like environment.

A house in autumn

Often day homes must follow very strict guidelines regarding the number and ages of children if they are licensed. A child in a day home typically has the same one caregiver for multiple years.

 

Preschool/Playschool

Preschools are most often half-day programs with an academic element designed for 3-4 year olds. There are endless varieties of preschools available.

Often children are enrolled in a class that meets on Monday/Wednesday/Friday morning or afternoon, or Tuesday/Thursday morning or afternoon. Typically classes are 2-3 hours in length. However, you may find five day a week classes, Saturday classes, evening classes, or full-day classes.

Other titles related to preschools include: Jr. Kindergarten, playschool, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia to name just a few. Montessori and Reggio Emilia preschools are based on very distinct child development theories. I do not have extended experience with either so I will not expand on them here. Jr. Kindergartens may focus more on academics while playschools may focus more on learning through play. However, both of these programs will likely have the same basic elements as most general preschools making the titles practically interchangeable.

General preschools (and high quality daycares) often have similar elements in their programs including:

    • Free-play time
      • A period when the children are permitted to play with any of the provided toys and move freely from one toy to the next
    • Circle time
      • A short, teacher-directed time when children are expected to sit in a designated area (often on a specific carpet)
      • A skilled teacher will keep children engaged and learning through age-appropriate songs, stories, and activities
    • Snack time
      • Children wash their hands then sit at the table to eat
      • Some schools require parents to send snacks while others provide them
    • Gym time
      • A time for large movements such as running
      • Might be organized games, free-play, or a combination
    • Art timeColourful aprons hanging on hooks
      • May be open-ended: the child is given supplies and encouraged to create whatever they want. Every piece will be unique.
      • Or teacher-directed: the child is expected to make their craft look the same as the teacher’s example. Each child’s work will appear nearly identical to the next.
      • Or a combination. (Heated debates exist about which type of art is better developmentally for the child. Personally, I believe doing some of each is ideal.)

 

Homeschool

Did you know that rather than sending their child to a preschool, daycare or day home, some parents choose to homeschool their preschooler? They may choose to do so regardless of whether they intend to homeschool their child during grade school. If you are interested in homeschooling your preschooler, the following articles may be helpful.

5 Things to Teach When Homeschooling Your Preschooler

Ready For Kindergarten (Academically)

 

Conclusion

Each program is unique, but then so is each family and each child. If you are considering enrolling your child in a program, I would encourage you to visit the centre/school/home to ask questions and observe. Look for the program that best compliments your child and your family.