Family Resources

Family Vacation Tips – Tutor Time International Nursery and Kindergarten

While vacations are a great time to experience new things and bond as a family, they can also present a new variety of family challenges. Here are five tips to help you, and your family.

Start Early: Begin the day’s activities after a quick breakfast. Crowds will be light and your children’s energy will go toward the activity, not battling crowds at a buffet restaurant.
Schedule Light: One or two shows, museum visits or special sites are probably all your children can handle in one day. More than that and you risk serious activity overload.
Give Them Options: Although children may not pick the most glamorous restaurant or the trendiest art gallery, letting them play a part in vacation planning increases attention spans and agreeability.
Food is Important: Planning ahead and packing favorite snacks is useful when your hungry child gets picky at the fancy French bistro where you decide to grab lunch. Food is essential for energy, and energy is a vital piece of successful family excursions.
Stick to Routines: This applies especially for younger travelers. Consistent meal times and nap times, combined with keeping up familiar habits, like reading a book before bed, keeps the stressors of unfamiliarity to a minimum.

Teaching Children to Follow Directions

by Dr. Susan Canizares | August 9, 2016 | Child Development


There are few things in a parent’s life more exasperating than when children ignore our instructions. Learning to follow directions is an important life skill and is vital for school success. And around 18 months, a toddler’s thinking skills begin to change dramatically.

She understands a wider variety of words and can hold onto a mental image of a thing even when it’s out of sight. As a result of this mental growth spurt, she can soon follow simple directions.

By 24 months, most toddlers can follow two- and three-step directions. Unfortunately, many methods parents typically use to get children to listen are often ineffective and can actually encourage defiance. These are some common mistakes to steer clear of:

Don’t say don’t! A positive instruction is more likely to be followed than a negative direction. Young children can easily misunderstand negative instructions.
Reasoning has no impact. Children under the age of 6 are not likely to grasp explanations of why things should be done. For example, “If you leave your toys lying around, you might step on them and hurt yourself.” Young children are not able to relate to future consequences, so they’ll probably not be motivated to complete the task.
Repetition does not help. When a child does not respond the first time, parents can lose their temper and start shouting. The message the parent sends to the child is they can ignore you until you’re yelling and they don’t actually need to listen until you’re yelling.
Avoid empty threats. Making impulsive threats, such as, “If you don’t clean up, you’re going to be grounded!” is another common mistake. Young children think literally and need to know exactly what will happen if they do not follow directions.

For children to consistently follow directions, parents need to consistently enforce the rules. Once a child knows they can wait until they’ve been asked to do something 15 times, they’ll do just that! By making minor changes, you can teach your child to regularly follow directions.

These suggestions can create an atmosphere that inspires children to be more willing to listen:

Give simple directions, with few words. After you’ve given them time to process the directions, have them repeat back to be sure they understand what they should be doing.
Be specific. Tell your child exactly what you expect them to do. Young children are literal and can become overwhelmed when given vague instructions such as “Clean up your room.” Instead, try “Please put all your toys in the toy box.”
Get their attention. Get down to their level and make eye contact. They are not thinking about listening when they are playing.
Pick your battles. Have realistic expectations. Does your house really need to be spotless all day? Continuously nagging children makes them less likely to follow directions.
Give choices. Asking your child, “Do you want to pick up your toys first or take a bath?” gives them a sense of accomplishment because they feel like they have a say. But just be careful not to use words that make it sound like they don’t have to do the task, such as, “Can you take care of your toys?”
Play games. Teach the stoplight. Most young children know how a stoplight works. Red=stop and listen, yellow=think about what the directions were, green=do what was asked. If you need your child to get ready in a hurry, challenge them to a race.
Acknowledge positive behavior. Let your child know that you noticed their effort.

It’s also important to remember your child is following directions all day at school. A major part of getting children to follow directions is learning how to talk so that they will listen. The way that you talk to your child teaches him how to talk to others.

To read more about these strategies, and how you can use them at home to teach your child how to follow directions, visit the following links.

4 Helpful Ways to Teach Toddlers to Share

Why is it so difficult for toddlers to share? To put it simply, their brains do not yet have the ability to comprehend the patience, compassion and planning that sharing requires. “Children under two often have difficulty sharing because they have not yet developed a sense of empathy,” says Bonnie Bonifield, education expert at Tutor Time. “They tend to be most comfortable with parallel play — playing alongside other children, but not with them.”

It is still possible to teach little ones how to share by using every day experiences as learning opportunities! “Families and teachers can encourage children to share by modeling generosity and pointing it out in others,” explains Bonifield.  Here are some examples of how to do so:

Donate food to a food bank: “One of the most effective ways to encourage children to share is by creating situations in which a child sees the benefits of sharing,” says Explain to your children that sharing what you have can make a family in need very happy.
Playdates: Kids learn to share from other kids, so bring little ones together for playdates and always be available to teach a lesson in sharing with the opportunity presents itself. It helps to also create opportunities for your kiddo to share. Bake yummy treats for when your child’s friends come over, and encourage your little one to share the treats with everyone when they arrive!
Set out a timer: Little ones haven’t developed a sense of time, so they won’t know what it truly means to “wait a few minutes.” Letting them watch three or five minutes pass on a timer, however, shows them how quickly time passes and often helps it pass quicker!
Respect their limits: “In general, children of this age don’t naturally understand or consider the feelings of others,” says Bonifield. “Even three- and four-year-olds can only truly be expected to share selectively — they will often guard the toys and possessions that are most important to them.” Allow your child to set aside a few toys that they do not have to share when friends are visiting. It’s best to keep these cherished items tucked away in an off-limits area so they are out of reach for all playdate attendees. Your child will be glad to keep their special items safely protected and may be more open to share their other toys!

Helping Children to Communicate Effectively

By Dr. Susan Canizares | May 4, 2016 | Child Development


Communication is the sharing of information between two or more people. It takes both verbal and non-verbal forms. As one of the major developmental tasks in early childhood, learning to communicate is vital for children in order to interact with the people in their life and to have their social, emotional, and physical needs met. During early childhood years, both families and teachers are critical for stimulating children’s communication skills.

Communicating positively with young children helps them to develop confidence and to build constructive relationships with others. Children learn to communicate by watching their parents, and other people around them. Here are a few ways to communicate positively with children:

Communicate at your child’s level. It’s important that you come down to your child’s level, both in language and height.
Ask the right questions. Try to ask open-ended questions that begin with the words “what,” “where,” “who,” or “how.”
Express your own feelings and ideas. When communicating with children, parents can teach many things by sharing their own feelings, such as morals and values.

Fostering communication skills in young children is incredibly important, even from birth. Infants are communicating using non-verbal means with facial expressions and eye contact, as well as sounds, such as laughing, babbling, and crying. To encourage infant communication, provide meaning to their efforts. For example, “You are laughing. You like it when I tickle your toes!” It’s also beneficial to use real words, not baby talk!

As children grow, they begin to learn to use language to communicate. Toddlers communicate with gestures and grunts, one- or two-word sentences, emotional expressions, and body movements. Here are some ways to encourage toddler communication:

Expand on their one- and two-word communications. Build sentences around their words. For example, “Hot, that’s right! The soup is hot.”
Label their emotions. For example, “When you fall and hurt your knee, you feel sad.”
While playing, describe what they are doing. For example, “You are throwing the ball into the hoop! Now it’s rolling away. Can you bounce the ball into the living room?”

Later on, preschoolers begin to talk in full, grammatically correct sentences. To encourage communication in preschoolers, try the following ideas:

Pair new and old vocabulary. Offer new words to broaden their horizon. For example, “I was really mad. I was furious.”
Ask about past events, probe for details, and provide new words to enhance descriptions. For example, “Who did you play with at school today? What did you do together?”

These sites offer further information on helping children develop effective communication skills:



Dr. Susan Canizares is the Chief Academic Officer at Learning Care Group, responsible for leading all aspects of the educational mission. Dr. Canizares earned her Ph.D. in language and literacy development from Fordham University and a master’s degree in special education, specializing in Early Childhood, from New York University. She has authored more than 100 nonfiction photographic titles for beginning readers. Some of her published credits include Side by Side Series: Little Raccoon Catches a Cold and A Writer’s Garden.


New Dietary Advice for 2016: What Parents Need to Know

By Katie Serbinski, MS, RD

There’s more to food than just taste. Or so that’s what I’ve learned in my six years of studying nutrition science. Food provides our bodies with the nutrients it needs to function, just like fuel to a car. But what foods constitute as healthy? How can you maintain a healthy diet without compromising taste and without having to follow the latest fad diet (or skipping dessert)? That’s where the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans come in. The guidelines have clear implications for federal nutrition policy, influencing everything from the national school lunch program to the advice you get at the doctor’s office.

Much of the dietary advice in the new guidelines remains unchanged such as eating more fruits and vegetables, keeping your splurges sensible, and embracing balance, variety, and moderation. But every five years, a new set of guidelines sheds more light on nutrition science details and updates what we know about eating right. The 2015 Guidelines encourage individuals and families to eat more of these foods:

A variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, and legumes (beans and peas)
Fruits, especially whole fruits
Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
A variety of protein foods, including lean meats and poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils are also in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados

They also advise us moderate caffeine and alcohol intake, limit sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and limit foods high in sodium. While many of these dietary recommendations remain the same, here are the three major changes:

Instead of reducing sugar intake, the new guidelines give us a sugar LIMIT. It recommends reducing added sugar (the kind put in foods during processing, not the natural kind found in fruit and dairy) to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Most Americans get twice that.
There’s now no recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol (they used to recommend limiting it to 300mg per day) because new research suggests that the cholesterol we get from food doesn’t contribute to high blood cholesterol levels.
There is a focus on choosing plant-based proteins by replacing meat, poultry or eggs with seafood twice a week, and replacing some meat or poultry in mixed dishes with legumes, nuts, and seeds.

When looking at my own family’s eating habits, I find that there’s greater value in making small changes in our diet and lifestyle. For instance, I love making spaghetti sauce and adding in chopped mushrooms and carrots. We generally keep it to one sweet item per day and don’t have sugar sweetened beverages, except for special occasions. I also try to serve more unsaturated fats, especially those found in vegetable oils, fish and nuts. That being said, I certainly won’t be keeping a score sheet on whether or not my family eats perfectly. I want my family to enjoy meals together (and an occasional floret of broccoli, too)!


Katie Serbinski, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Mom of two boys under two. She’s the founder of Mom to Mom Nutrition, a healthy food and lifestyle blog where she shares her “me time” with other health-minded parents. On her blog, you’ll find simple, family-friendly recipes, tips for new parents, and realistic nutrition advice. Connect with Katie through email or Twitter @MomNutrition.