Premier Academy knows nothing is as important as keeping children safe. And while in a perfect world, no parent would have to worry about keeping their child safe in child care, the reality is, some child care centers are safer than others.

Thankfully, finding the highest-quality and safest child care center for your son or daughter is possible. The key is to do your research. Just as you would not choose a doctor for your child without doing some homework and asking for referrals, the same goes for any child care center you are considering.

Eight Questions to Ask When Choosing a Child Care ProgramUnfortunately, many parents aren’t exactly sure what to look for in a child care center. If you are enrolling your first or only child, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the choices and standards of care. What follows is a list of questions you should ask when to determine if a child care center will keep your child safe, healthy and happy.

  1. Is it licensed? Any child care program you are considering needs to be licensed by the state and those licenses should be displayed where all can see. Your next step is to call the licensing agency to see if the center is indeed licensed, has had any violations and when it will be re-inspected.
  2. How well is it child-proofed? Some of the most important items to look at are window blinds; cribs located away from windows and blinds; outlet covers; gates for any stairs; straps on changing tables and high chairs; clean and well-maintained toys; and medications and cleaning supplies that are well out of reach of children.
  3. Are staff trained in CPR and first aid? Staff members should be trained in pediatric CPR and first aid. Ask to see training certificates (which should be renewed every two years). Health considerations are a hallmark of quality child care centers. For example, are babies put to sleep on their backs at naptime?
  4. What is the caregiver-to-child ratio? Every state has its own requirements, but experts recommend that there should one caregiver for every four infants. There also should be one caregiver for every four toddlers from 18 months to 2 years; for every six toddlers from 2 to 3 years; and for every nine children older than 3.
  5. Is there a great deal of staff turnover? The higher the turnover, the less likely it will be that your child will be able to develop solid, trusting relationships. It also means caregivers may not be happy and happy caregivers mean happy children.
  6. How are children disciplined? Positive discipline techniques are critical. Yelling, belittling or physical punishments should never be tolerated. Discipline should always focus on positive redirection.
  7. Are child care center policies written down? Procedures for the dispensing of medications, discipline and when a child is too sick to attend child care should be provided to each family so everyone is on the same page.
  8. How clean is the center? It is easy to tell when you walk into a clean and well-organized child care center. Children in child care centers can be at a higher risk of infections so frequent handwashing and consistent and thorough cleaning practices are essential.

Finally, if a child care center you are considering does not have an open-door policy, you need to turn around and leave. You should always feel at welcome to visit your child and observe what is going one. You also should feel free to ask questions.

Children spend a great deal of time at a day care center. It is your job to make sure that the one you choose meets the needs of your child and your family. Do your due diligence so that when you leave your child at that child care center you know that he or she is happy, healthy and well-cared for.

If you would like to see how a quality daycare operates, please schedule a tour at one of our Child Enrichment Centers.

We here at Premier Academy know that choosing the right type of preschool for your child can be an overwhelming decision. Many parents wonder whether a preschool that uses the Montessori method is the right choice for their child of if a play-based approach is best.

Many parents are unaware of the philosophies behind these types of preschools. What follows is a brief overview of Montessori and play-based preschools.

The Montessori Method: Montessori programs are child-directed, emphasizing active, self-paced, individualized learning. Children choose activities and concentrate on those activities for specific blocks of time. Teachers track a child’s progress through observation and assist children in their use of materials. Proponents of the Montessori method believe that this method allows children to become more confident, independent and self-disciplined.

Play-Based Preschool: The foundation of play-based preschools are that kids do best when they learn through play. Play-based preschool is teacher-directed; however, playtime is open-ended and unstructured. Students in play-based preschool learn cooperation, problem solving and social skills while participating in a variety of play-based activities. Teachers, in turn, provide educational lessons based on these play experiences.

There are benefits to both types of preschools and no two preschools are exactly alike. In other words, you can have excellent programs and weaker ones, regardless of the philosophy. Therefore, a decision on where to enroll your child based solely on preschool philosophy is not always the best course of action.

So what is the best course of action? When choosing a preschool for your child, keep in mind that childhood learning is built, first and foremost, on trusting relationships. And while positive relationships between children and educators can be tough to define, you will know it when you see it.

Even if you have your heart set on sending your child to a preschool based on a particular philosophy, it is important to visit that preschool before deciding if it is right for your child. During your visit, here are the things experts, parents and preschool teachers will tell you to be on the lookout for:

  1. Children who are nurtured and encouraged. The best preschool teachers know their students well. They call them by their names, they listen and do their best to understand what each student is trying to communicate. Children in the classroom are comfortable and relaxed because they know they can trust their teacher.
  2. Teachers who help, not punish, students. Preschoolers are developing social and emotional skills and are learning how to share and “use their words” to express how they are feeling. Good teachers are ones who reinforce these skills through consistent routines and other methods that focus on positive reinforcement.
  3. A fun and active environment. Children can be active and having fun without the classroom becoming chaotic. Teachers should provide activities that encourage children to think for themselves. One thing you do not want to see is a lot of worksheets and flashcards. While preschoolers need to learn, at this age, much of learning has to do with social and emotional skills.
  4. Staff members who love what they do. Working with kids all day every day isn’t for everyone. It is easy to spot someone who is working with children because it is their passion.

No matter what type of preschool philosophy you prefer, remember that what matters most is that your child is being taught by educators who promote intellectual curiosity and impart social skills. Children who are truly ready for kindergarten are not the ones who can read and write flawlessly but rather who enjoy learning, are comfortable in a classroom setting and know how to engage with children and adults.

Premier Academy offers affordable childcare in the Omaha/Elkhorn area. 

If you’re ready to see what we have to offer sign up for a tour of one of our facilities.

If you are the parent of a shy or introverted child you may worry that your child may never make friends or relax in social situations. While you can’t make a child not be shy, you can help that child feel more comfortable interacting with other people, including their peers.

Will Your Shy Child Make FriendsAn article from PBS Parents, Helping Your Child Make New Friends, offers some advice on how to help a shy child who struggles with making friends come out of his or her shell. Here are some of the tips contained in the article:

    1. Talk about or brainstorm qualities that make a good friend
    1. Help your child understand how to start and maintain conversations
  1. Organize activities with other children

According to the article, it is also important not to put too much pressure on your child, realizing that some children are simply more outgoing than others. Friendship skills evolve even into adulthood so patience is key.

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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Tips for a Smooth Morning Routine for DaycareWhy do mornings seem so difficult? For parents, especially working parents that use child care in Omaha Nebraska, there is typically so much to do in a short period of time. We here at Premier Academy agree. “Morning is the time in which temperamental differences may be most evident – the child who is slow to get going clashes with the mother or father who is fast paced. Or the child who is crabby clashes with the parent who is also crabby,” say authors Ellen Galinsky and Judy David in their book The Preschool Years: Family Strategies That Work – from Experts and Parents. Mornings also provide the perfect opportunity for children to assert their individuality. With the clock ticking for work and meetings, this is prime time for power struggles.

Whether your children are going back to school or struggling with a new morning routine, getting ready for school or daycare doesn’t have to be a struggle. The Canadian Child Care Federation offers these tips for discovering how to get ready for school in a way that works for your family.

Tips for a Smooth Morning Routine for School or Daycare

Leave room for unhurried moments. Make sure everybody has enough sleep and rises early enough to avoid rushing. Give yourselves time for some unhurried moments together before you have to leave the house.

Complete chores the night before. To make the morning routine less stressful, do things the night before. After dinner, for example, prepare lunch boxes and leave them in the fridge overnight. And after you clear away the dinner things, set the breakfast table for the next morning. Ask family members to bath/shower/wash hair the night before, if possible. Gather permission forms, lunch money, or notebooks. Encourage your children to help with chores that are suitable for them.

Offer encouragement. If a small child is prone to dawdling, you may have to offer frequent gentle reminders. When you are busy in the kitchen and the child’s room is on another level, have her dress nearby where you can supervise while you work.

Give yourself more time. Add 10 or 15 extra minutes to your usual schedule. If the child is ready on time, spend it reading, talking, or doing some other activity together, making sure you give him your undivided attention during this period.

Set reasonable expectations. Expect your children to do what they are capable of, for example washing and dressing themselves if they are old enough. This may be an unreasonable expectation for a younger child. Set one task at a time to make expectations seem more attainable.

Have a family meeting. When children are old enough to join in a family discussion, sit down together, perhaps the night before, to go over your morning routine and discuss the best morning routine for the entire family.

Get out the door. If a child has not been cooperative, use the extra 10-15 minutes to get him ready with as little fuss as possible. Do not scold or chat; just do what is necessary to leave on time.

Spend time together. Promise and follow through to spend time together after you pick your child up from child care if the morning routine goes smoothly. Don’t forget to recognize your children’s good effort using encouragement on days when everything works well and your family starts the day on time!

Dealing with Resistance to a Daycare or School Morning Routine

Children may resist morning routines by arguing about breakfast food, debating about what clothes to wear, or playing when they should be getting ready to leave. Children often seek our attention in the morning, especially when we are rushing.

Our children soon learn that when they resist, argue, or stall, they get our attention. These morning difficulties may arise even when we give our children plenty of attention at other times. What can you do to spur on the uncooperative child and give him a sense of power and control?

Encourage and remind, but try not to nag. Let them experience the consequences of procrastinating. This may mean missing breakfast or forgetting their homework.

Establish an agreement that the TV doesn’t go on in the morning until the chores are done, if at all.

Create a morning routine chart with your child, and involve your child by asking, “What’s next on the routine chart?” They can help cut out pictures and design the chart. Have stickers for your child to place on the steps she completes.

Use an alarm clock in children’s rooms. This will ensure that you wake them up at the same time each morning and you haven’t gotten lost looking over your emails. This will help prepare toddlers for elementary school as well.

Ask children whether they would like your help getting ready for school.

Avoid lectures. Instead, asking “what” and “how” questions – such as “what happens when you don’t get dressed in the morning?” and “How do you feel about missing the school bus?” – will entice conversation with our children. These questions help children think for themselves, whereas our lectures may make them stop listening.

Talk about times when you have procrastinated, what happened as a result, and how you felt about it. These conversations can be used as teachable moments for your kids.

Plan ahead, and give your child enough time to succeed on his own. Remember to give reminders and establish clear expectations regarding his morning routine.

Let your child know that you need her help and say, “I would appreciate you getting dressed so we can get to school before circle time.” This invites cooperation instead of defiance.

Many of us charge off with our to-do lists in hand, thinking that when everything is done (which it never is) we can enjoy life. But what we do every day is life. Our ability to step in time with our children amid the everyday stuff, such as getting out of the house in the morning, takes some organization and a lot of patience. Using these tips for establishing a morning routine can help you get it done.

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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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