If you have not heard of loose parts play for children, you are not alone. However, even if you have never heard of this term, chances are you are familiar with the concept.

Loose parts was a term coined in the 1970s by architect Simon Nicholson. Nicholson believed that open-ended materials in a child’s environment could be linked to creativity and critical thinking later on in life. The fact is, long before Nicholson coined the term, loose part play was going on anywhere children played. Today, childhood experts believe loose parts play is a critical concept in educating children.

Loose parts is literally any collection of materials that can be used by children for play. These materials can be natural, for example, rocks, or they can be man-made materials such as bottle caps or cardboard boxes.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to loose parts play. Loose parts invite creativity in ways that other toys simply cannot. For example, a child can pick up a stone and make it anything they want it to be.

Who hasn’t noticed how children can spend long hours playing with simple materials like empty boxes or seashells while more sophisticated and expensive toys go by the wayside? The fact is, children prefer play that gives them the ability to use their imagination and creativity. Loose parts included in play settings, such as child care programs, stimulate creativity and enhance natural curiosity.

Loose parts offer multiple outcomes. In other words, no one outcome is guaranteed. A metal mixing bowl can be a drum, a fishbowl or a hat. Think how bored children become of a toy that does only one thing. Once a child has “mastered” a toy, they are quick to move on. Loose parts, on the other hand, have infinite possibilities so they hold a child’s interest longer.

Loose parts play is a great way to promote open-ended learning in young children and also helps children acquire the skills necessary for kindergarten. What’s best, it doesn’t require repetitive worksheets!

Many people are surprised to discover the concrete skills that loose parts play teaches children. While it is easy to see how art and movement are aided through the use of loose parts, this type of play also helps children master other subjects, including:

  1. Children engage in conversation and storytelling as they describe their creations. They make connections between the stories they have heard and what they are building. This encourages memory as well as vocabulary and literacy.
  2. Sorting, classifying, combining and separating are all learned through loose parts play. Children often begin to count and arrange parts in specific patterns. Measuring, spatial awareness and logical classification are just some of the precursors to higher math that this method of play supports.
  3. Physical Science. Through loose parts play, children investigate and construct ideas. They also begin to understand how things work. And while they don’t know it yet, they are discovering the concepts of motion, gravity, force, weight and more.

No matter what children learn through it, perhaps the most important aspect of loose parts play is that children enjoy it. And when children are happily engaged while playing, that is always a good thing.

Premier Academy offers affordable childcare in the Omaha/Elkhorn area. To learn more, visit us at

How to Get Your Child to Eat the Most Important Meal of the DayWe have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We here at Premier Academy agree. This is especially true when it comes to children.

Studies show that children who eat a healthy breakfast do better in school and are more likely to take part in physical activities. They also tend to be healthier overall than children who leave for school on an empty stomach. In fact, children who skip breakfast are less able to retain information during class and are more likely to be overweight.

While most parents wouldn’t argue these facts, it still can be difficult to get their child to eat breakfast. If they are running late or their child is a picky eater, it can be especially challenging. If you are struggling with breakfast issues, you are not alone. In a study of 10,000 children, approximately 20 percent of those children regularly left the house without eating anything.

How to Get Your Child to Eat the Most Important Meal of the DayThe same study cited poor time management and lack of appetite as the main reasons that kids skip this important meal. It also found an element of parental influence. Specifically, whether or not their parent eats breakfast will directly impact how likely a child is to eat breakfast.

So how can you get your child to not just eat – but look forward – to breakfast?

If possible, get your child to bed a bit earlier so that they will be rested and more likely to get up on time in the morning. Sitting down as a whole family is ideal and illustrates to children that breakfast is a priority. Further, families that eat together usually eat healthier options because parents can model the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast.

Of course, this can be difficult. Especially when schedules conflict. The next best thing to a sit-down meal are simple options that can be eaten quickly or in the car, if necessary. Fresh or dried fruit, granola bars and yogurt are all good options. While experts encourage something from all the food groups, if this is not possible it is important to make sure that what your child does eat is nutritious and contains healthy carbohydrates for energy.

Finally, if you have the time, it is always worth it (especially for younger kids) to try to entice them to eat breakfast by serving some fun and cute options. These options don’t have to take a lot of time but will be a big hit with little ones.

Here are some things you might try:

  • Smoothies in a fun glass or with a crazy straw
  • Fruit kebabs
  • Bagels with colored cream cheese (a little food coloring goes a long way) or with fruit on top for bagel pizzas
  • Breakfast pizza
  • Yogurt popsicles
  • French toast sausage roll-ups (think pigs in a blanket)
  • Pancakes, toast or waffles in unique shapes or with faces made out of fruit
  • Bacon, egg and cheese quesadillas

Sometimes we put so much pressure on our kids to eat breakfast we take the fun out of it. Sit down breakfasts where we talk about our upcoming day or silly foods may be just what is needed to give kids (and parents) a reason to look forward to the most important meal of the day!

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TaspolesAppThe Tadpoles app is just one of the many ways we at Premier Academy open our doors wide to parents. Through the Tadpoles app, parents always feel connected with their child because we use it to send reports, photos, videos, notes and reminders to them throughout the day.

How many times have you been at the office or sitting in a meeting wondering what your child was up to? At Premier, we can help you stop wondering! How? Through the use of the Tadpoles app (get more information at! This app allows you to:

  1. Receive photos, videos and notes by email
  2. Download and share photos and videos of your children
  3. Receive emergency alerts by text message
  4. View your child’s portfolio using our mobile application
  5. Mark your child out sick or on vacation through our mobile application

The benefits of the Tadpoles app are numerous and online reviews confirm this. As one parent wrote, “Getting notifications throughout the day, seeing pictures, makes me feel like I’m still with them.”

Premier Academy offers the highest quality health care in the Omaha/Elkhorn area. To learn more about all we have to offer children and families

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Choosing the best preschool for your child can be difficult, we here at Premier Academy understand this. Is play-based preschool the best approach? Should you choose a Montessori school? How will you know? Taking the time to visit potential preschools and witnessing firsthand the interactions between educators and students will go a long way toward making an informed decision.

8 Questions to Ask When Looking at Preschools

Knowing how to choose the best preschool for your child involves asking a lot of questions. It also means asking the right type of questions.

Why Preschool is the ‘Most Important Year’ In a Child’s Development

There are some who believe that preschool isn’t a big deal, so choosing one shouldn’t be difficult. Not so fast according to many experts who say that preschool is actually the most important year in a child’s development.

What to Do When Your Child Hates Pre-School

Once you have selected what you believe is an outstanding preschool for your child, you may be surprised to find he or she doesn’t want to go. Now what?

Premier Academy offers affordable childcare in the Omaha/Elkhorn area. To learn more, visit us at

Importance of School ReadinessWe here at Premier Academy know the importance of school readiness. The first five years are critical to a child’s lifelong development. Early experiences influence brain development, establishing the neural connections that provide the foundation for language, reasoning, problem solving, social skills, behavior, and emotional intelligence – characteristics that often determine how well a child will do in school and in life.

Because early childhood is an important stage of any kid’s life, today’s parents share high expectations for early achievement, including school readiness. 90% of parents surveyed cited academic preparedness as the most important factor in their child’s preschool experience. They want to ensure that their children enter school ready to meet or exceed academic expectations and with a demonstrable ability to apply their newly developing skills in reading, writing and math.

Teacher Perspectives on School Readiness

In a recent study, elementary school teachers shared their views on what they believe to be the most important school readiness factors for any child to succeed in a public or private school setting.

Teachers were unified in their feeling that children should enter their first years of school with an ability to comprehend broader language and math concepts, as well as to be prepared for the social and emotional demands of school. In fact, 96% of teachers surveyed indicated they believe that social and emotional preparedness are the most important outcomes of a child’s preschool experience in order for them to be poised for academic success in the elementary years.

  • Teachers agree that key indicators of the children’s social and emotional readiness for kindergarten and first grade are readiness to accept new responsibilities and greater independence; a strong enthusiasm for learning; an ability to make new friends; and the ability to respect others. At Premier Academy, we focus on making sure your child has the emotional and social maturity required to succeed in Kindergarten and beyond.
  • 96% believe the child’s pre-K experience played a critical role in the child’s preparedness for school.

Common Myths about What School Readiness Means for Your Child

There’s no reason for most parents to be anxious about school readiness. Children who come from homes where adults read, spend engaged time with their children, value literacy, and/or have some social interactions with other children in child care, playdates or groups, or preschool are usually well prepared for kindergarten.
But there are some common myths of which to be aware.

  • Myth #1 – Learning the ABCs is crucial to school readiness.
    The Truth: While important, learning the ABCs is a memorization skill. It’s more important that children recognize letters and identify their sounds to prepare for school.
  • Myth #2 – Children need to count to 50 before going to grade school.
    The Truth: Again while it is important that children understand the order of numbers, when it comes to school readiness, it is far more important to understand the idea of 1-to-1 correspondence (each number counted corresponds to an object, person, etc.) and understanding quantity.
  • Myth #3 – The more teacher-directed the learning, the better.
    The Truth: Children internalize concepts more fully when they are actively engaged in exploration and learning versus being told by someone else. Teachers should be there to guide learning.
  • Myth #4 – The more a program looks like the school we remember as a child the more children will learn.
    The Truth: Young child learn best in an environment that allows them to make choices; to select their own materials for at least part of the day; and empowers them to try new things with a teacher who guides the learning.
  • Myth #5 – Children need quiet to learn.
    The Truth: Children need a language-rich environment where adults provide responsive language interactions and where vocabulary is regularly introduced.
  • Myth #6 – Learning to write is all about letter formation.
    The Truth: While letter formation is one part, even more important is understanding the idea of recording one’s ideas on paper. When a child makes some scribbles and says “This is my daddy,” write your child’s words on the picture and she will begin to make connections between spoken and written words.

Learning some “school skills” like lining up and raising hands before transitioning to school will certainly help make the transition to formal schooling easier; however, the best way to prepare your kids to enter school is giving them the chance to fully explore and experiment in an environment with caring adults who guide, support, and extend their learning. We can offer you all of that and more at Premier Academy.

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Teaching Your Children About FriendshipWe here at Premiere Academy are big believers in fostering social and emotional development in preschoolers. Social-emotional development affects every aspect of a child’s life, including personal relationships, academic growth, and self-esteem. When children feel good about themselves and have the skills to interact successfully with others, their capacity to achieve skyrockets.

Social-emotional development often occurs organically, as parents and teachers at preschool  model positive relationships. But social skills can also be taught, just like any other skill. During the preschool years, children can learn the basics of emotional literacy, social interactions, and problem-solving. In this article, we offer tips for you on fostering social-emotional development for your preschooler at home.

Foster Emotional Literacy in Children

According to Vanderbilt University’s Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, children who have a strong foundation of emotional literacy tend to have more positive relationships with others, feel happier, and even do better academically. One critical aspect of emotional literacy is being able to identify emotional responses.

Help your child identify and articulate how she’s feeling, first by labeling her feelings yourself. “You’re crying and your face is red. I can tell you feel really mad right now. Do you want to tell me about it?” Give your child permission to express negative emotions and offer reassurance. Intense feelings of anger and sadness can feel frightening to a child. Help your child understand that these negative emotions are a normal part of life and that you’ll help her handle them along the path to emotional maturity.

Build Your Preschooler’s Social Confidence

Children vary widely in their social readiness. Some children are naturally social, effortlessly interacting with others. Other children may seem shy, anxious, or even aggressive in social situations. Differences in temperament usually account for these variations, but a little education can go a long way in your child’s social development, building confidence and increasing the chances for social success. Teach your child how to say hello, look someone in the eye, or ask to play, just as you would teach your child how to wash his hands or put on his coat. Use playdates to help build your child’s social skills. Give your child the words to say and model how to initiate a social interaction, e.g., “Tap your friend on the shoulder and say, ’Can I play with you?’”

Manage a Preschooler’s Challenging Behavior

Your children’s cognitive, emotional, and verbal skills are still maturing. Developing the impulse control to consistently share, take turns, and express negative emotions appropriately takes a long time. Your patient response will help your preschooler in her path to social-emotional maturity. Wondering how to help? First, be proactive. Set clear limits about acceptable behavior. Use positive language and tell your child what to do, e.g., “You can’t hit your brother. You can say, ‘please stop,’ or you can come get me for help.” Pay attention to cues that your child needs extra support and step in before a blow-up occurs, especially when your child is hungry, tired, bored, or overstimulated.

Use meltdowns, hitting, or other challenging behaviors as learning opportunities. First, calmly and quietly help your child regain control. Later, you can talk with your child about what happened. Listen with empathy and then discuss possible solutions and approaches for next time. Allow your child to experience natural consequences. For example, if your child breaks another child’s toy, she should help fix it. A loving, but firm, response to inappropriate behavior teaches your child that you are in control even when she isn’t and that you will keep her safe until she can keep herself safe.

We believe that healthy social-emotional growth for preschool and pre-k is just as important as cognitive or academic growth. Our curriculum provides teachers with research-based tools for fostering strong emotional development while creating more peaceful, caring classrooms.

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7 Play Based Learning Activities to Do With Your ChildWe here at Premier Academy are big believers in play based learning. We understand that one of the wonderful things about being a parent is that you are your child’s first teacher.  You have the unique opportunity to open the door to the world; introducing your child to words, colors, animals and so much more.  Learning can be weaved into the day naturally as you read, talk, sing, and play together. Mr. Rogers said it best, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

One of the wonderful things about being a parent is that you are your child’s first teacher.  You have the unique opportunity to open the door to the world; introducing your child to words, colors, animals and so much more.  Learning can be weaved into the day naturally as you read, talk, sing, and play together.  Mr. Rogers said it best, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

7 Play Based Learning Activities to Do With Your Child

One of the wonderful things about being a parent is that you are your child’s first teacher.  You have the unique opportunity to open the door to the world; introducing your child to words, colors, animals and so much more.  Learning can be weaved into the day naturally as you read, talk, sing, and play together.  Mr. Rogers said it best, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

When you engage your child in play, you are helping him or her to grow and to ignite a lifelong love of learning.  Through hands-on activities, your child will begin to pair the knowledge gained during previous interactions with the new information. This builds understanding and skills. This is also a helpful guide to use when you are visiting a new childcare center or preschool for your child to see if the staff is using play to teach their students.

Each time you play, you are adding another building block of learning.  So have fun and enjoy the time with your little one.  To get you started here are seven play-based learning activities to do with your child.

  1. Play with a toy farm or house. The next time your child is playing with a toy farm or house, sit down on the floor with them and begin to engage.  Start off just meeting them where they are; imitating what they do.  As you continue, you can start to naturally introduce words and concepts like inside, outside, on top, going upstairs, downstairs whatever occurs to you as you and your child are playing at the moment.  Maybe the doll is sleeping and going upstairs to bed, or the brown cow is mooing at the farm.   As you play alongside your child, asking questions, adding comments, and being interested in this shared interaction is when learning will occur.  Your child will also see how to use the toy productively.  Most childcare centers will have many different types of toys stored in bins with similar toys (i.e. all of the farm animals go in one bin together). When clean-up time rolls around, this helps the children conquer the art of matching and sorting.
  2. 7 Play Based Learning Activities to Do With Your ChildMake something together in the kitchen. Figure out a kid-friendly snack that your child will enjoy eating and shop for the ingredients together. Choose something that matches your child’s skill level.  If your child loves fruit, cutting up a banana may be the place to start. It is important to keep it simple and fun for your toddler.  Try drawing out out the recipe in little pictures so your child can read the recipe too with you.  If you are making something like ants on a log, you can add some math by counting out the number of ants you are putting on the log.  They can even help you clean up.  If they are old enough, they can help at the sink, while younger children will enjoy a basin of sudsy water to clean up some toy dishes.  Many childcare centers have a designated “snack helper” where a child will be invited to assist a staff member in preparing the snack or meal for the day. Not only is this fun and makes that child feel special for the day, but it also teaches the child the responsibility and sharing with friends.
  3. Get rolling with play dough. That colorful dough you grew up with provides hours of fun and learning opportunities. You can make your own, as there are lots of recipes on Pinterest and in library books or bring home a few colorful cans of the store bought kind.  Kids love getting their hands in the play dough – rolling, squishing, stretching, molding, and sculpting.  Not only does this activity stretch the imagination as your child creates flowers, animals, bracelets and more, but all of that fine motor work is strengthening the muscles in his or her fingers in preparation for holding a pencil at school some day.  Gather some props from around the house to make things interesting.  Try cookie cutters, bottle caps, blocks, buttons, combs, birthday candles, straws, and leaves; whatever interesting things you have on hand that would be great fun to use making shapes and impressions.  While you are playing together or with siblings and friends, your child can learn social skills like taking turns and sharing.  In addition, playing with this childhood favorite builds language and literacy, science and math skills.  Who knew play dough was such a powerful learning tool?!
  4. 7 Play Based Learning Activities to Do With Your ChildPlay along. When your child is playing dress up, caring for her baby doll, pushing a train, or pretending to grocery shop or baking some cookies, play along.  Why?  You will be helping to build abstract thinking.  Support your child’s learning by joining in play.  Using an object to pretend to be on the phone is actually a type of symbol.  And letters and numbers are abstract, so pretend play is one of the ways to develop understanding.  There are simple and affordable ways you can encourage pretend play.  Keep a box of dress up clothes, old costumes, and baubles and beads accessible.  Empty and tape up some of your cracker, pudding, cereal boxes for grocery store play.  Provide your child with crayons and paper to write their shopping list.  The act of creating the symbols, scribble or not, will build pre-learning skills.   When observing a childcare or preschool look to see if they have “stations,” like a house or a store set-up to encourage this type of abstract play with other children.
  5. 7 Play Based Learning Activities to Do With Your ChildDiscover the outdoors. Get outside to discover nature.  Take a walk, whether it is around the neighborhood or your backyard.  Exploration and discovery help children more fully understand the world around them.  With safety in mind, you can encourage your child to touch, lift, and look under a log or a rock and then carefully replace it as to care for the critters that may be underneath.  You can ask questions too.  Such as, what did you find? A bug?   Also, think about asking questions in such a way that it gets your child thinking and drawing conclusions from their previous experiences with you in nature. Incorporate senses like what you see, feel, hear or smell.  Was something soft or hard?  Were the leaves a different or same color the last time you explored?  Playtime at daycare or preschool is not only what kids look forward to all day but it’s prime time for building those social skills. Weather it’s taking turns on the swings or helping a friend build a sand castle, children will learn real life skills for interacting with their classmates that will stick with them for years to come.
  6. Get sensory. Did you know that those bargain-priced cans of shaving cream you picked up with your coupons can be used for sensory play?   Sit at the kitchen table with your child and squirt some of the foam onto the table for each of you.  Move your fingers through the foam, drawing letters, shapes, numbers, silly faces, whatever inspires you.  Encourage your child to do the same.  What does it feel like? Do you need more? Gentle prompts and questions will make this experience fun.  Sensory tables are very popular at many schools. These tables could be filled with dry noodles, water, sand or any other type of material. The goal is to get kids talking about what they see and how it feels.
  7. Read together. Yes, get out the books and read, read, read.  Don’t have enough?  The public library is always happy to let you borrow as many as you want. And they have age appropriate books for your child, from board books on up.  When visiting different childcare centers or preschools you should always make sure there are an abundance of books! You can also ask the facility if they change the books out regularly so the children are exposed to new topics regularly. Reading out loud to your child can also encourage a bit of play.  You can be silly, use funny voices, dress up like your favorite characters or cook up some other ideas.  Many a fun book has spurred related crafts and even snacks and games that relate to the book characters.  Try reading something like Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, Mary Ann Hoberman’s “The Seven Silly Eaters” or any number of Robert Munsch’s books like “Mud Puddle” or “Moira’s Birthday.”  They are fun, and your child will see you model reading, begin learning language, and most importantly, have cherished time with you.

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