Cooking with Your Preschooler

by Maxine
Posted August 8 2011 02:11pm
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Cooking is an activity that preschoolers can enjoy. The following Comfort, Play & Teach tips provide ways to share with children the comforting power of foods, the fun of creating a meal and the science of cooking and eating healthy.


  • Turn a weekend morning into something special by making breakfast with your child. Use everyone's favourite breakfast foods and let him feel good about contributing to the happiness of others.
  • Prepare hot chocolate in the evening and savour it together while talking or reading a book so that you can both unwind and spend a pleasant moment together.
  • Ask your child to help you with simple tasks in the kitchen and show him that his help is valued. This will help him build confidence and self-esteem.


  • Let your child express and develop her creativity, e.g., invent a new recipe together and serve it to the whole family.
  • Place small amounts of different ingredients such as flour, sugar, vanilla extract, or jam in containers, and make each other guess their contents by exploring their smell, taste, or texture.
  • Together, make meals more attractive and fun by arranging food in playful shapes and configurations that you can then enjoy eating together.


  • Demonstrate basic science concepts, e.g., when dough is cooked, it goes from a soft state to a hard state; when solid chocolate is heated, it melts into a liquid.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits by cooking wholesome foods with your child and explaining what foods are rich in the things that are good for our bodies such as vitamins, proteins, and minerals.
  • Teach your child about counting and quantities, e.g., when making pancakes, we use two eggs and we measure 2 cups of flour.


Spending time in the kitchen with your preschooler is a great way to incorporate Comfort, Play & Teach into every day. Visit our Activity Centre for a list of activities that you can do with your child.

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Nightmares and Night Terrors

by Maxine
Posted September 5 2011 03:21pm
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Getting your child to sleep when they are young can be challenging enough, but when your child is awakened by nightmares or night terrors it can be a really scary and stressful situation for both parent and child.

"One of the major challenges for parents whose child is having nightmares or night terrors is figuring out which is which and then what to do about them," says Karon Foster, a Registered Nurse and Parenting Expert. "A nightmare is a scary dream that happens when the child is in a period of light sleep. They usually happen during the second half of the night and children often tell their parents that they felt they were about to be in danger. A night terror is an intense dream that happens as the child moves from deep to lighter sleep and usually happens about 1-2 hours after the child falls asleep."

Between 5-15 per cent of children will have nightmares or night terrors and they generally happen between 18 months and 15 years, but they can occur in infants too. They are most common from ages 2 to 6. Night terrors tend to run in families, so if you or your partner had night terrors your child is more likely to experience them.

What your child fears in his sleep may vary based on his age. For example, a lot of 2-year-olds seem to be afraid that Mom or Dad will leave them and a lot of 3-year-olds develop fears of monsters or animals. Real-life things can cause nightmares, too, like seeing parents argue, starting daycare or seeing a scary television show or movie. Anything a child finds upsetting could cause a nightmare. Some experts speculate that nightmares are caused by the child trying to work through the scary situation while he sleeps.

When a nightmare strikes your child will be fearful and distressed – those are the times when they call out or cry for you in the night. Your child will be aware of you and can be comforted. With a night terror your child might experience fear or anger, thrashing or screaming – he may appear to be awake, but is not. He may even become more agitated if you intervene. Both can be scary for parents and even more so for your child.

"With a nightmare, your child will likely remember some of the scary dream that he had and, if he’s old enough, he might want to talk about it," says Foster. "With a night terror the child usually doesn’t remember the dream or anything he did during it. He will likely go back to sleep quickly, whereas a child who has had a nightmare may have trouble getting back to sleep and will want your comfort and reassurance."

If nightmares occur frequently, your child may start to fear going to bed and have difficulty falling asleep. Your child also may want to sleep in your bed. He may not even want to go on a sleepover, for fear of having a nightmare in front of friends. And if your child is getting less sleep than needed, he may be irritable and moody. You, too, will probably suffer from lack of sleep, because you are being woken by your child.

If your child is losing a lot of sleep, or beginning to avoid sleeping or any other activities she used to enjoy, consult your child's physician about any possible medical reason for the nightmares. You should always consult your health care provider if your child is having night terrors.

Learn how to cope with and prevent about Nightmares and Night Terrors.

Has your child ever had a nightmare or night terror? How did you cope? Share your experience with other parents in the comments section below!

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Turn Fright Night into Fun Night: Comfort, Play & Teach Tipsheet

by Maxine
Posted October 24 2011 12:11pm
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mom and child on halloween

Halloween can be as much an evening of fun, dress-up, and too much candy, as it can be a night of scary goblins, strange noises and haunted houses. Our experts have come up with some ways in which parents can use Comfort, Play and Teach to enjoy both the tricks and the treats of this spooky and exciting night.



Download this Halloween Comfort, Play & Teach Tip Sheet.

Check out our other Halloween Tipsheet!



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Giving vs. Getting: Toddlers and finding balance during the holidays

by Maxine
Posted January 4 2012 01:03pm
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The centre of many holiday celebrations is giving and receiving gifts, especially for children. Children fantasize about it, and most hope to receive lots of big, expensive gifts. Parents, for their part, worry that the mid-winter holidays will spoil their children or make them greedy. Most parents will probably have to provide a healthy reality check, providing some guidance for what are more reasonable dreams.

But what about your child's natural desire to receive lots of gifts? Does this promote greed? As long as your family also highlights the true meaning of the holidays, such as giving to others and celebrating cherished rituals together, you do not need to worry too much about your child's materialistic desires.

Here are some ways you can use Comfort, Play & Teach: A Positive Approach to Parenting to set the tone for raising kind and caring children, regardless of how many gifts they ask for or receive.


Heart Comfort

Nurturing close relationships within families and among friends is the core of healthy social and emotional development for young children. Parents can set the tone for the holidays by emphasizing their true meaning – that of giving to others. The very young child, who has been at the receiving end of love, comfort, and attention to his needs from the earliest days, will replicate giving to others naturally and spontaneously. An infant as young as nine months will lovingly offer a parent his pre-chewed food in the spirit of sharing. A toddler as young as eighteen months will either hug or offer up a cherished stuffed toy to comfort another person who is crying. A child's capacity for empathy and concern is developed through the consistent and sensitive responsiveness shown them throughout the early years. When you focus on the "giving" part of the holidays, this teaches children to care for others and to reach out to people who are less fortunate.

  • Take a little time to help your children make their own "gifts". It doesn't have to be fancy. They can make drawings or colour pictures and put them in envelopes to give Grandma, Daddy and other people they care about.
  • Many fire halls and charities collect toys for children whose parents can't afford to buy them. Encourage your preschooler to choose a toy for purchase and let her give it to the charity.
  • When grocery shopping for your family, take time with your child to fill a special bag for the Food Bank, and drop it off together. Toddlers are great at stuffing bags.


Star Play

It is through the power of play that a child explores and makes discoveries about things and people in his world. Consider how your family's own traditions can be emphasized during the holidays. When children are little, it is a prime time to start family traditions that will last a lifetime. This helps children feel grounded and connected to the people who care for them.

Here are some ways that family values can be celebrated through play:

  • Preschoolers are very capable assistants in the kitchen during the preparation of the special foods that are part of the holidays. Young children enjoy the baking experience and are learning many important science concepts and motor skills in the process.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy the activity of decorating a tree. This is an opportunity for them to help make decisions about what ornament goes where and for you to engage them in a conversation about the ornaments. But remember, toddlers enjoy taking things off as much as they like putting them on.
  • If your family participates in special ceremonies such as lighting candles on the Menorah, let your preschooler count out the candles each night and help put them in place.
  • Sing seasonal songs, read seasonal stories and play traditional games as a family.
  • Turn on the outdoor holiday lights with your little one each night.

Nothing is too insignificant to delight a young child. And many times it is the little things that they will remember the most.


Triangle Teach

Young children need to learn how to communicate, interact with others, solve problems and express thoughts and feelings. The holiday season presents a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about themselves in the context of family and the community around them. Take this time to model for children how to think about others and to reach out to people who are less fortunate:

  • Be sure to talk about everything you are doing. Infants and toddlers may not understand every word, but your tone will communicate volumes. Preschoolers' capacity for language is growing exponentially and they love to listen to stories about people and traditions.
  • Talk about the importance of sharing and how it makes people feel when they receive a gift.
  • Take photos of family rituals and make a special holiday album. Use it as a vehicle to discuss with your child what was happening in the photos and what emotions were experienced. Discuss the importance of celebrating cherished rituals together.
  • Take picture books out of the library that explore themes of poverty. Engage your preschooler in a discussion about what things would make it better for that child or family. Follow through with any reasonable suggestions to demonstrate to your child, that even at a young age, actions can help to make a difference in someone's life.

Spending time with your children in these ways will help to outweigh the material aspects of the holidays, and your actions will build fond memories and positive values that will stay with them for a lifetime.

If you found this article helpful, please download the tip sheet (PDF). 

How do you help your toddler understand the true meaning of the holidays? Do you find it difficult to dissuade them from being greedy? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

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