Sleepy Time: How to Help Your Child Cope with Nightmares

We’ve all experienced the occasional nightmare at some point in our lives, leaving us with that all too familiar feeling of being shaky, startled, and even sweating. While many adults can calm down rather quickly and go back to sleep, young children are often too frightened to fall back asleep. Sometimes it’s so extreme that they might not want to go to bed the next night, fearing that the nightmare will return.

If your child is having nightmares, there are many ways you can help them cope. Here are just a few:

Offer Reassurance

When your child comes to you in the middle of the night after a nightmare, the first thing you should do is comfort them. Hold your child and assure them that everything is alright. Explain to them that it was just a bad dream, and it’s over now.

Facing the Fear

Listen to your child as they tell you about their nightmare. Oftentimes, stressful or frightening events during the day are reflected in the details of the nightmare during the night.

For example, if your child was scared by a scene in a movie watched earlier in the day, they might have a nightmare related to this scene. Once your child realizes that their nightmare was because of a frightening scene, remind them that the scary scene in the movie they saw had a happy ending. Then help them to re-write a different, happier ending. For example, if their nightmare involves someone chasing them, help them rewrite it to envision the person chasing them is their best friend. Now they are just playing a game of tag!

If the nightmare involves a monster hiding under their bed or in their closet, turn on the lights. Show your child that there are no monsters anywhere in their room. Let your child search with you until they feel safe and confident that there is nothing hiding in their room.

Help Your Child Feel Safe the Following Night

The idea of going to bed the night after having a nightmare can be terrifying for a child. Here are a few simple tips you can follow to help your child feel more comfortable the following night:

  • Eliminate anything frightening in your child’s room: If there is something that is scaring your child, try to move the object or take it out of the room completely. For example, if a trophy or doll on the dresser is causing a large shadow to appear on the wall, remove it from the room.
  • Keep a light or nightlight on: A small nightlight can make a huge difference! If your child is scared of the dark, consider purchasing a small nightlight for their room. Many stores carry cute, child-friendly nightlights that are shaped like flowers or animals.
  • Give your child a security object: Stuffed animals or a special blanket can be great comfort tools for your child. Having a stuffed animal that your child can keep in bed with him will help him to feel more relaxed throughout the night.

At Prep Academy Schools, we know the importance of creating a safe and secure environment for children in the classroom as well. We are dedicated to the emotional growth and well-being of each one of our young students. If we notice that one of our students is having nightmares during naptime, we will notify parents quickly and work together to help them cope properly. Working together both at home and in the classroom, we can help children conquer their fears and sleep more restfully.

More in the Sleepy Time Series: Getting a Full Night’s Sleep and The Importance of Napping

Sleepy Time: Why Napping is Key for Toddlers and Preschoolers

We don’t often think about how sleep affects us, but we should. Sleep is just as important for our health as nutrition and exercise. It is even more important for toddlers and preschoolers, whose bodies and minds are developing so fast. Many people know that sleep is an essential part of this growth process, however, one key component of sleep is often overlooked – napping. Here are some reasons why napping is so important for toddlers and preschoolers:

Helps Children Learn and Remember

Just like sleeping at night, napping plays a huge role in cognitive development for toddlers and preschoolers. A recent research study has found that toddlers who took long naps right after receiving new information demonstrated higher levels of learning and memory 24 hours after being taught. Another study showed that preschoolers who took an hour long nap remembered 10 percent more of what they had learned than their peers who were kept awake.

Assists in Physical Growth

Toddlers and preschoolers are constantly going through growth spurts! Because much of this growth occurs while they’re sleeping, it’s important that they get the extra sleep that naptimes allow. Depriving them of naptime could impact their physical growth just as much as their mental growth.

Reduces Cranky Behavior

Toddlers and preschoolers who skip naps are more likely to experience fatigue-induced crankiness. Studies have found that children who didn’t get any daytime rest showed more signs of anxiety and heightened negative emotions, while their positive emotions were dulled.

Creates a Better Nighttime Sleeper

This might seem counterintuitive since napping during the day for adults can mean a hard time getting to sleep at night. However, the opposite is true for children. A lack of daytime rest for toddlers and preschoolers could cause them to be overtired and irritable, making them more difficult to put down at night.

At Prep Academy Schools, we recognize the importance of napping and integrate naptime into each of our programs. Infants run on their own schedule and can nap for as long as they want.  From the age of one until beginning preschool, toddlers are given a two-hour napping period.  Preschoolers receive an hour and a half long nap, while 4 and 5-year-olds receive a one-hour napping period. Together with parents, we can reinforce healthy sleep habits that develop happier, healthier kids!

More in the Sleepy Time Series: Getting a Full Night’s Sleep and Dealing with Nightmares

Sleepy Time: Why Your Child Should Be Getting a Full Night of Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for everyone, especially children. Numerous studies have discovered the benefits of getting a full night of sleep every evening, as well as the consequences of being sleep-deprived. In our fast-paced world, making sure your child gets enough sleep is more important than ever. Here’s why:

Health Benefits of Sleep

  • Prevents Illnesses: While we sleep, our bodies flush out disease-causing toxins and repair cells. If we are not getting enough sleep, our body is not able to fully complete this process, putting our immune system at risk. For this reason, people are more likely to get sick when they haven’t been sleeping well. Since a child’s immune system is still developing, getting a full night of sleep is crucial to staying healthy.
  • Fosters Physical Growth: Sleep is also essential to childhood growth. Growth hormone is typically secreted the most during a deep slumber. This is one of the reasons why children need to get more sleep than adults. Studies have shown that children who sleep less than the average child tested for lower levels of growth hormone.

Learning Benefits

Adequate amounts of sleep for children enhances cognitive performance and improves the following:

  • Brain function
  • Concentration
  • Memory
  • Academic performance
  • Overall mood

Children who receive adequate amounts of sleep also experience:

  • Less irritability and crankiness
  • Fewer temper tantrums

Getting enough sleep has been shown to improve a child’s memory. Consolidation, or the process in which a memory becomes stable in the brain, occurs during sleep. It is during sleep that the neural connections that form our memories are strengthened, and special brainwaves are activated to assist with the memory formation.

Tips to Improve Sleep

  1. Set a Routine – One of the best ways to make sure that your child is getting a full night of sleep is by creating a consistent bedtime routine. It’s important to make sure that your child is going to bed at around the same time every night. Your child’s body will learn to anticipate this bedtime and sleep will come more naturally as a result.
  2. Unplug – Studies have also shown that by turning off electronics two hours before bed, children have a much easier time falling asleep. This is because the light generated by computer and TV screens reduces melatonin (sleep hormone) production.
  3. Create a Relaxing Environment – If your child is still having difficulties falling asleep, there are several different techniques you can try.
  • Read them a bedtime story
  • Have them take a warm bath
  • Play white noise or calming music on a sound machine or phone application

At Prep Academy Schools, we recognize the importance of making sure that your child is healthy and getting enough sleep. For each student to excel both inside and outside of the classroom, we understand that getting a full night of sleep is essential.  We understand that healthy habits at home and school are essential in raising healthy kids and developing strong learning and concentration skills. Working together with families, we can ensure each child reaches his or her full potential.

More in the Sleepy Time Series: The Importance of Napping and Dealing with Nightmares

How to Improve the ‘Stranger Danger’ Discussion

Usually when kids hear the word “stranger,” they automatically think of someone creepy or scary. However, this is usually not the case. Strangers can look like normal people and it’s important that we get this message across to our kids. You can better protect your children from dangerous situations simply by teaching them about who strangers really are, and how to react to people who act suspiciously.

Here are some questions to consider before you start the ‘stranger danger’ conversation:

Who is a stranger?                                 

To put it simply, tell your child that a stranger is anyone that your family doesn’t know well. Make sure your child knows that even people who seem nice or look pretty are still strangers. Remind them that even if they don’t look mean or ugly, strangers can still be dangerous.

What is a dangerous situation?

Help your child recognize the warning signs of suspicious behavior or “stranger danger.” For instance, a grown-up asking a child for help or asking them to keep a secret are both tell-tale signs of stranger danger. More obvious signs include an adult that they don’t know asking them to disobey their parents or do something without their parents’ permission.

How should your child react to a dangerous situation?

Experts recommend showing your children how to say “No,” yell “Help” as loud as they can, and run away as fast as they can if a stranger does something that makes them feel uncomfortable. Teach them to go to a trusted adult right away and tell them what happened.

Who are safe strangers?

Safe strangers are trusted adults who are often easily recognizable, like a police officer or a firefighter. Other safe strangers include teachers, principals, and librarians. Emphasize that they should go to these people for help if they ever find themselves in a “stranger danger” situation.

Things you can do to help:

Know where your child is at all times, and make it a rule that they ask for your permission before they go anywhere. Identify safe places in your community where your children can go if they run into trouble. Teach your child to be assertive and reassure them that it’s okay to say no to an adult and run away in dangerous situations.

You also want to ensure that your child is safe while at school.  At Prep Academy Schools, the safety of our students is a top priority. We have partnered with Secure Education Consultants (SEC), a team of highly trained former US Secret Service agents, to examine our facilities and design and train our staff on an emergency and critical incident response plan.  In addition, our campus features secure monitored entry with biometric technology and PIN for each parent and member of staff to ensure your child’s safety. We also perform instant checks on each visitor, via driver’s license and provide a name badge good only for the duration of their visit at Prep Academy Schools.

By educating our children about dangerous situations and strangers, parents and schools can work together to ensure their safety from stranger danger.

7 Tips to Raising Happier Children

We all want to give our children the best: love, happiness, and success. However, according to child development experts, happiness isn’t something that you can “give” young children. In most cases, happy children have learned to be happy. Here are some great tips that you can use to teach your child to be happy:

Be Happy Yourself                                             

Children are like sponges and they absorb everything from us; so naturally, our moods matter. Happy parents are likely to have happy children. To nurture your own happiness, make time for yourself. Since, your child’s emotional well-being is dependent on yours, it’s important to make sure that you are well-rested and relaxed.

Learn to Read Their Emotions

Identifying the signals that young children use to communicate their feelings can also be useful when trying to minimize unhappiness. For instance, negative signals such as distress, anger, and fear add up to an unhappy child. These feelings can result in children being more withdrawn, quiet, not playing, and not eating very much. Having insight into your child’s temperament can lead you to know when you should really start focusing on unlocking key aspects of their happiness.

Help Them Build Relationships

Forming relationships with others – family members, friends, caregivers, and even pets – is the surest way to promote a child’s emotional wellbeing. Deep-rooted connections, which produce feelings of being loved, understood, wanted, and acknowledged are the biggest protector against emotional distress. Encourage your children to perform small acts of kindness to strengthen empathy.

Praise the Right Things

Research consistently shows that parents should praise effort, not natural ability. Praising the effort rather than the result fosters a growth mindset, or the belief that they can accomplish something through persistence and practice, as opposed to something they are born with. This causes the child to worry less about failing and also raises their self-esteem when they achieve something through hard work and are praised for it.

Teach Optimism

Optimism is linked hand in hand with happiness, and children who are taught to be optimistic at an early age, are less likely to deal with depression and anxiety as they get older. To encourage optimism, tell your child to focus on the bright side and then point out all the good things in their life.

Form Habits of Gratitude

Research has shown that feelings of gratitude are linked to emotional well-being. To instill gratitude in your children, make it a point for each member of the family to name aloud something they are grateful for during dinner each day. This type of routine habit fosters all kinds of positive emotions and can create long-lasting happiness.

Have fun!

Playtime is necessary for a child’s growth and development and is especially effective if you’re having fun with them. If you enjoy yourself, your children will enjoy themselves. Additionally, allowing your children to have unstructured play is important so that they can discover what they love to do. Cultivating your child’s interests can lead to a lifetime of inner happiness.

 

At Prep Academy, we strive to create a culture of happiness for our students, parents, and faculty! We believe that happy children are more likely to reach their full potential, and work hard to create a nurturing, positive learning environment! Our fully certified and professional teachers and staff present a well-rounded program that brings out the happiness in each student.  With positive role models at school and home, children have a head start to a happier future!

How to Throw the Best Birthday Party Ever!

Do your children’s birthdays always tend to sneak up on you? You are not alone! You probably never have enough time to prepare mentally or emotionally for that one day that makes your child another year older. Not only is your baby growing up way too fast, but you have so little time to create fun birthday memories while they’re still kids. Here are some ways to make sure your kids will say they had the ‘best party ever!’:

Plan Ahead

  • Choose a location. The party doesn’t have to be held at some extravagant venue (unless you want it to be). Your child and his friends can have just as much fun goofing around at your house or a park as they will anywhere else… and your wallet will thank you!
  • Search for inspiration on the web. Pinterest will probably be your best friend when it comes to party planning. There are so many cool ideas for themes, party favors, and food on this website that you may not need to look anywhere else!
  • Send invitations early. You’ll want to know a head count at least a week before the party to prepare for how much food you’ll have to buy/make/order. A good way to do this is to send out the invitations at least four weeks in advance and have each family or invitee RSVP at least 10 days prior to the party. If you want to save some time and money, you can send them electronically through websites like Evite and Paperless Post instead of handwriting them all one by one.

The Size Matters

  • Know your child. Some children simply aren’t as social and prefer smaller gatherings to huge parties. If this is the case, you can choose to keep it within the family, or you can invite just a few friends and do something more intimate, like a sleepover or tea party. If your child is a social butterfly, and you can handle a lot of people, you can invite your child’s whole class, soccer team, neighborhood friends and more to the party!
  • Know who’s coming. If you plan on inviting children who are not in the family, be prepared for their parents to come as well. Sometimes it’s a good idea to have a separate area for the grown-up crowd inside where it’s quieter, so parents can mingle over adult food while the kids play outside.

The Specifics

  • Cater to your child. If your child is obsessed with trains, throw him a train-themed party! You want your child to enjoy their special day as much as possible.  As silly as their ideas may sound, there are simple ways to make any theme look great with a little creativity and fun activities for everyone.
  • Set up games. Kids usually know how to have fun on their own, but having a few games out and ready to go is a great way to keep children highly entertained. Pinterest is one of the most popular resources for game ideas that you can make yourself!

At Prep Academy, we know that each child is unique.  We strive to make each child feel special, not only on their birthday but every day! Birthday parties are a great way to bring out the best in each student both artistically and creatively, and to interact with other children of their age. A social gathering or party is also a great way for children to develop socially and emotionally outside of the classroom. Creating memories while celebrating a birthday is just one way to show a child that he or she is special!

 

 

Exercising with Your Child

Does going to the gym often rank somewhere on the bottom on your long list of daily tasks? Squeezing in time for an exercise routine can often be difficult when your life is swamped with work and daily activities, especially if you have a child (or two) to take care of. Working out doesn’t have to be hard, though!

Here are some ways that you can exercise right within the comfort of your own home and with the company of your entire family.

Tips to Sneak in a Workout with your Kids

  • Teaching opportunities. While your child is eating his snack, take advantage of the free time by doing some reverse lunges or push-ups. If your child has never seen you do this before, take the opportunity to explain what you’re doing and why it’s important to stay fit and healthy.
  • Make a game. Create a game where you and your child can be active together. One way to do this is to put a twist on the popular game Twister. Designate a workout to each color on the spinner. For example, yellow could be labeled as squats and green could be labeled as jumping jacks. Whoever lands on yellow has to do squats on the yellow colored circles, and whoever lands on green has to do jumping jacks on the green colored circles.
  • Bathtub basics. While your little one is taking a bath, you can do some triceps dips on the edge of the tub. Entertain your child by making funny faces each time you dip down.

Fun Fitness for the whole family

  • Go on walks. Incorporating walks into your daily schedule is a great way to get the family to go outside and get a breath of fresh air. A good time for this is before or after dinner when there is still daylight but it’s not too hot outside. If you plan on going on a longer walk, make sure to take the stroller in case your little one gets tired.
  • Have a dance party. Dancing is a great way to burn calories and just enjoy good music with your family. Most kids never want to stop dancing once they start, so this is a great way to improve your stamina too.
  • Have a sports night. Once a week, you can make it part of your schedule to head to the park with your family and play a sport together. Maybe one night you decide on basketball and the next week you decide on tennis. By introducing your child to different sports, you will help them figure out which sport they might want to play on a team in the future.

These are just a few ideas that you can use to improve your family’s physical well-being. At Prep Academy, we believe in staying healthy together as a family. By starting these healthy habits now when your child is young, you can instill the practice of leading an active lifestyle which can last a lifetime!