Help your child identify their own emotions

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

When it comes to expressing and responding to emotions, parents are often a child’s first model of what is acceptable and in what contexts. This puts you in the perfect position to help your child develop emotional understanding!

sad_boyOne critical step in understanding the emotions of others is understanding one’s own emotions. To model this for your child, begin by discussing your own emotions with them and explaining why you felt the way you did in a particular situation. If the feeling is negative, narrate your thoughts on how to make the situation better.

Then, when your child is experiencing an intense emotion, ask them to identify how they feel. Or say, “I can see by the look on your face that you are very mad right now. Can you tell me what made you so mad?”

You may already have a good idea what caused the emotion, but this is an opportunity to encourage and support your child’s practice of recognizing and naming emotions as the first step towards eventually managing them. Once naming the emotion is easy, then the two of you can brainstorm about why your child is feeling that way and what they can do about those big emotions.

Next week, we’ll share a quick tip on how to enrich everyday interactions with your child to help them further develop emotional understanding in themselves and others!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

An easy way to enhance counting activities

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

Like a puzzle, part-whole thinking requires the ability to process a whole object, the discrete parts within it, and the relations among the parts and the whole. Research has shown that part-whole thinking relates to many areas of mathematical reasoning, including counting, early arithmetic, and geometry.

LittleBoywithBlocksResearch also suggests that one simple tweak of language can vastly improve children’s part-whole thinking.

The next time you and your learner count a group of items, refer to the group as a collection. For example, a quantity of blocks can be a “pile,” a cluster of animal toys can be a “family,” and a group of children can be a “team.” Instead of asking, “How many blocks are there?” ask, “How many blocks are in the pile?

This simple change in language encourages children to consider the individual parts (the blocks) and the whole that the parts create (the pile) at the same time. In fact, one study showed that this strategy doubled children’s use of the cardinal principle—the idea that the number you arrive at after counting individual items represents the whole quantity.

When children look at objects or groups of objects, they tend to see either the whole picture or the parts within it. Help them take things a step further and understand how distinct objects can relate to each other to form a group!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.


Once upon a time: Improving story structure familiarity

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

What makes a good story? There’s a lot that can go into a narrative, but most stories have a setting and characters, an initiating event or problem, attempts to solve the problem, and a resolution that wraps it all up. These elements form the structure of the story. It turns out that children’s ability to understand the underlying structure of stories relates strongly to reading comprehension and other language skills like vocabulary development.

GirlReading-shutterstock_159346493Children implicitly tend to ”get” that stories need characters, and they often include conflicts in their own narratives. But you can help your learner explicitly recognize story structure by including it in your regular storybook reading!

Whenever you pick up a story, especially a new one, begin with the mantra, “Somebody, somewhere, is trying to solve a problem.” While reading the story, have your learner identify the problem by raising their hand when they recognize it or by pointing at the page where it occurs.

This simple interaction highlights how all stories revolve around some conflict and gives you and your child a jumping-off point to talk about other things, too: How did the main character feel about the problem? How did they try to solve it? How well did their solution work?

These brief conversations encourage a greater familiarity with story structure that can help your learner better comprehend everything from literature, to history, to math word problems!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

Bedtime stories to grab your child’s attention

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

Research has shown that executive function is an even better predictor of school success than academic skill.  One important aspect of executive function is attention control, which allows a child to stay focused on a task at hand and to persevere in a challenging situation.

GirlReadingwithMom-shutterstock_69512812A few weeks ago, we shared how to help your child focus on a task that’s necessary but not always fun: completing chores.  This week, we’ll explore an old favorite with a new spin: reading with your child.  Only this time, you’ll take turns reading and being read to!

To accommodate pre-readers, select a book your child knows well, or a story without words.  Set a timer.  Tell your child that you’re going to read to them until the timer goes off and then it will be their turn to read to you.  When it’s their turn, encourage them to use the pictures to tell the story.  Re-set the timer for your child’s turn as the reader, and continue switching until the book is done or until your child loses interest.

This activity is easily made more complex as your child’s attention span develops.  You can read longer books (kids’ comics or graphic novels can be great for this!) or incorporate additional “readers” and “listeners,” like siblings or friends.  Repeat the activity as often as you and your child would like.  You can even use it to add variety to your bedtime routine!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

Practice first-name recognition for better literacy

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

What’s in a name? A great opportunity for your child to test their developing theories about literacy skills!

FirstNameRecongitionA child’s first name is often the first word they reliably recognize in print. Children become especially focused on the first letter of their name. In fact, you may notice that for a while your child thinks that any word that begins with the same letter as their first name is their first name, or even that their name is equivalent with the first letter alone. This is normal!

To help your child understand and recognize the rest of the letters in their name, write their name on a piece of paper and say the letters aloud while pointing them out one at a time. Then have your child compare their name to other words that begin with the same letter by writing those words above or below your child’s name. Help your child to identify the letters in the other words while referencing the spelling of their own name. Ask questions like, “Are these two letters the same?” Or, “Elephant has two e’s in it. How many does “Ethan” have?” Over time, your child will begin to remember more letters in their name: the first few, then most, and eventually all of them.

This activity is not only fun and easy to do while waiting at the dentist’s office or sitting at the hairdresser; it also provides a chance for your child to build a stronger foundation for spelling and writing later on!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.


Notecard numbers: Help your child identify and write numbers

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits: 

Did you know that children can understand many basic number concepts even in infancy? Number symbols, however, are a cultural invention (similar to written letters) whose meaning must be learned.

BoxYou can help your child draw on their existing math skills and develop the ability to identify and write numbers with the following activity. Not only will it demonstrate how well your child understands symbolic representation (the concept that an image can stand for an idea), but it will also help them take the next steps in applying it. Try it out in your daily routine, perhaps after your child gets home from preschool or before they get ready for bed!


  • 2-3 small objects (toys, crayons, rocks, etc.)
  • a small box, such as a shoebox or empty cereal box
  • a notecard
  • a pencil

1. Put the objects in the box and count them with your child.
Work with your learner to put the items in the box and count them; help only as much as necessary.

2. Have your child record the number of items in the box.
Give your child the notecard and ask them to write something that will help them remember how many items are in the box. Children generally graduate from drawing pictures to making hash marks or dots to finally writing numerals. Whatever they write or draw, encourage them to reflect on their symbols and their own thinking by asking questions. You can start more broadly with, “Tell me about your drawing.” Then ask, “What does your drawing show you about the things in the box?” or “What part tells you about the number?”

3. Put the notecard and box away for 5-10 minutes.
Put the notecard and the box in a safe place and go on with your routine, whether it’s eating a snack or brushing teeth. You’ll want to wait long enough so that your learner doesn’t simply remember the number of items, but no so long that they lose interest, before bringing out the box again.

4. Give your child the notecard and ask how many items are in the box.
Have your child use their notations on the card to figure out how many objects are in the box. If they get it right, give them a high five and review what the card told them. Ask, “Why did it work?” If they get it wrong, celebrate how close they got and what the card told them. Ask, “Why didn’t it work?”

This activity can (and should) be done again and again! It allows your child to play with number symbols at whatever level they can, but it also gives you an opportunity to challenge your learner by introducing different numerals and higher quantities of objects or by turning the activity into a basic addition or subtraction game. Feel free to make it your own, and then watch as your child’s abilities improve!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

5 steps to improve problem-solving skills

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

Problem solving is a process that involves the coordination of many other cognitive skills, such as working memory, attention control, and knowledge about the problem topic. The ability to solve problems is essential for success both in and out of school. Fortunately, parental support and modeling can go a long way in helping kids develop problem-solving skills.

Photo by Andrew Dawes, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:, photo: the next time your learner runs into a problem, whether it’s a ball that has rolled behind a shelf or a block tower that won’t stay up, try these steps:

1. Help your child to identify the problem.
Say, “I notice there is a problem,” and have your child help you to name what the problem is.

2. Help your child to brainstorm solutions.
Ask, “How might we fix this?” and allow your learner to practice coming up with a variety of solutions to the problem. If your child struggles to come up with ideas, ask, “What can I do to help?”

3. Suggest that your child try one of the solutions.
Part of problem solving is trial and error, so if the first solution doesn’t work, try another! Help your child to narrow down the solutions until they find one that works.

4. Remind your child of the steps they took to solve the problem.
Recalling the problem-solving process, from identifying the problem to finding a solution that works, will help your learner to internalize the steps so they can work towards more independent problem solving later on.

5. Congratulate your child on solving the problem.
Say, “I knew you could figure it out!” Your encouragement helps reinforce the positive feelings your child gets from solving a problem and makes them more likely to tackle future problems!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.



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