Facilitaded Play Dates

Facilitaded Play Dates

Social problem solving skill development is a process that begins very early in childhood.  We see the progression of these skills every day in the toddler groups in our office on Melrose where children and parents meet weekly for facilitated developmental play and parent discussion.

Scheduling play dates at least once a week is a great way to give your toddlers and preschoolers the opportunity to practice their developing social skills.  The following are strategies that will support emerging social relationships, facilitate friendships, and resolve conflicts.

5 Strategies to Help Young Children Resolve Conflicts on Play Dates

1. Calling for help

2. Trading

3. Taking Turns

4. Walking away

5.  Making a Plan


2 toddlers playing with cars on the trail, learning to take turns being supervised by adults at early childhood development class

1. Calling for help

On playdates we teach toddlers about the benefits of learning to use their words instead of hitting, pushing, biting, etc. when there is a conflict.  One of the best phrases we can teach our young children to use is “help me”.   The tendency to call for help emerges as children develop and adults respond. Quick responses to calls for help when children get too close to each other or have a conflict tell children that their communication is received. When we validate these calls for help, children learn that the world is responsive to their needs.

When 2 children want the same toy, both may grab it and then scream for help. Parents should be responsive to these situations, validate the call for help and begin to help the children involved to understand that although grabbing didn’t work, there are some other strategies that will work better.

adult teaching toddlers how to play together with cars trading and taking turns at early childhood development class

2. Trading

When children’s expressive language skills are not yet sophisticated enough for them to deal verbally with their peers, parents can teach them “trading”.  In a situation in which one child begins shrieking as another child grabs a favored toy, parents can hand the child who is grabbing the toy  another one of equal interest, to trade and say, “Ask him to trade with you!” or, “Give her the doll in exchange for the book.”    The concept of trading (exchanging something for something rather than something for nothing) facilitates social skills that can be expanded as children grow.

kids playing and learning to share using with sand timer at early childhood development class

3. Taking Turns

After trading is learned, the concept of “taking turns” can be introduced on play dates. This requires children to delay gratification for a little while and to participate as an onlooker until the other child is ready to take a turn.  Sensitive adults can help children learn this skill by explaining what is happening while providing the physical support and supervision necessary. Parents can say, “Who had the toy first?” and “Let’s give it back to Jasper because he had the toy first” followed by, “Say ’Turn please’ if you want a turn, Jacob,” and, “Let’s use the timer so we know when it is time for your turn.”  We recommend use of the large one minute sand timer from Lakeshore for this purpose.  Another way to facilitate taking turns is to say, “Let’s count to 10 and then it will be Jacob’s turn.”  Counting to 10 is a good way to go when playdates occur outdoors or in an environment in which there is no place for a timer.

4.  Walking away

“Walking away” is a technique used to help children begin to use words rather than aggressive actions to solve problems.  There are 2 forms of “walking away”.  I can tell you to walk away from me or I can walk away from you if you are bothering me.  Both techniques empower children to solve their own problems while using words as problem-solving tools. “Walking away” is an adult-supported activity during early childhood.  Parents need to be close and remind the child to talk to his friend who is standing too close. “Tell Henry you don’t like it when he stands too close. Tell him, ’move please!’”  Parents provide the words and the support.

toddlers playing inside a pretend boat at early childhood development class

5.  Making a Plan

When there is a conflict on a play date, facilitated “plan-making” helps both children to get a turn with a treasured toy. This also requires adult support.

Parents can say,”I have an idea about how to solve the problem so that both of you will get a turn” followed by,  “Ruby will use the toy for 3 minutes, and then I will help Ruby to give the toy to Grace for 3 minutes.”  Then the parent helps the second child to find an activity to do while she waits.  “And right now I will help Grace to find another activity to do while she waits. Let’s go blow some bubbles, Grace!”

“Plan-making” keeps parents from becoming referees on play dates.  No one loses. One child has to delay gratification, but she gets the adult’s help in doing so. “Plan- making” also keeps parents from saying “no” all the time.  Having a plan is very different from not being able to do something.

Facilitated play dates are an important part of young children’s early education and social development. Play dates help to prepare children for school and for later success in their community and work place.

written by Marilee Hartling

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The Early Childhood Development Associates is located at: 8344 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles | CA | 90069

6 – 8 Months Separation Anxiety

6 – 8 Months Separation Anxiety

Infant Separation Anxiety

Infant  Separation Anxiety begins  around 6-8 months when infants suddenly become fully aware that their parents exist apart from them.  They understand that their parents can leave,  but they don’t,  however,  fully understand that they are coming back.  This can last several weeks to several months.   Infants eventually realize  that their parents are not disappearing forever, but just going to the bathroom!  And they will come back.

In our ” Mommy and Me ” Program,  we “practice ” parents going away and coming back every time we play peek-a-boo and every time  we use our colored scarves while singing the  song,  “Someone is Hiding” .   This helps infants to understand and to manage their separation anxiety.  For toddler separation anxiety we also recommend  listening  to one of our favorite songs on Hap Palmer’s album entitled   “My Mommy Comes Back”.  This song is so reassuring to young children.  “My mommy comes back,  she always comes back,  she never will forget me.


 8 Tips for Handing Infant Separation Anxiety

1. Play “peek-a-boo”  several times a day. This activity is a way for babies to “practice” their understanding of going away and coming back.

2. Tell your baby you are going away into the other room and then say a big “I’m back” when you come back.

3. Introduce your baby to other regular caregivers such as grandparents or a trusted babysitter during infancy for short periods of time.  These experiences can minimize anxiety later on.

4. Keep your “good-byes” short.  Prolonging your departure can give your baby the idea there is something to fear.


5. Match your body language with your words.

6. Flash a smile and give a cheerful wave.  Your baby can sense your confidence as you walk out the door.

7. Avoid sneaking off.  This interferes with trust and increases anxiety.

8.  Instruct caregivers to redirect baby’s attention directly after you leave.  Make sure that your baby’s transitional object or “blankie” is available so that the caregiver can use it to provide extra comfort for your baby while you are gone.



Written by Marilee Hartling

Recipe – ECDA’s Home Made Play Doh

Recipe – ECDA’s Home Made Play Doh

We made red play doh for our toddler groups in honor of Valentine’s Day.  Our play doh is nontoxic and even “edible.”  It isn’t very “tastey” so most toddlers only taste it once, but it will not hurt if it is ingested.  We have received many requests for our recipe so here it is:

Early Childhood  Home Made Play Doh

2 small packages of unsweetened Kool Aid  (choose flavors with good smells and colors)

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cup salt

3 Tbs. Wesson oil

1 Tbs. Alum (like you use for pickling)

l.  Add 2 cups hot water to above ingredients and mix with spoon -smells soooo good!

2.  Kneed on floured table or bread board

3.  Place in covered container or Zip lock bag

  •   Good for 3 weeks

Tip:  in our groups we use play doh and play doh scissors to introduce  cutting  with  scissors  to  our  older  toddlers.  Cutting  play  doh  is much  easier  than  cutting  paper  and play doh  scissors  are  much  easier to hold than  regular ” kid scissors.”   Our  toddlers  love  it because they feel “grown up” and successful!

Marilee Hartling RN, MFT

Contact us to join our groups!

December Preschool Prep Curriculum

December Preschool Prep Curriculum

Themes for December for the Preschool Prep Program included Family Traditions, the Celebrations of Light, Winter, Christmas, Chanukah and making holiday gifts for parents. Concepts and vocabulary introduced included opposites such as “big and little”, “day and night”, “hot and cold”, and “hard and soft”.

A new word “absorption” was introduced as children worked on fine motor skills using eye droppers to drop water colors in various shades of blue and violet onto coffee filters which were later made into snow flakes.

Children also participated in making hand made snow. FUN!

Chanukah was celebrated as families shared their holiday traditions, menorah, candles and latkas in our classroom.

Christmas was celebrated with families bringing in their traditional holiday food for a pot luck. Children worked on fine motor skills as they decorated their wooden picture frame with glue and buttons. A picture of each child was placed into the frames and this became the perfect gift for parents!

The holiday celebrations included a discussion about “giving” and children exchanged wrapped board books during the holiday party.

Favorite stories were “Snowman at Night”, “Llama Llama Holiday Drama” and “The Snowy Day:”

Happy Holidays!

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Children and Self Esteem – Part III

Children and Self Esteem – Part III

Balance Praise and Criticism:

There is a danger in the pressure today to read, write  and perform tasks not appropriate for age  level and  developmental stage. There is a pressure to exceed and to be “the best.” This pressure often overwhelms a child’s sense of competence. Teaching too early, “precocious learning” pays a price. The child is learning to perform because of his desire to  please others rather than his inner curiosity, which  is the best motivator.

5 principles for building positive self-esteem in children

1. If a child learns to please others he may not get the sense of having achieved it on his own.

2. Too much praise can overwhelm and become pressure rather than encouragement.

3. Criticism induces passivity rather than energy to solve problems.

4. Learn ways to nurture your child’s initiative and boost his self esteem with any new task.  Encourage him but don’t shape or pressure him.

5. Let him try different ways to solve problems and have fun within boundaries of safety and respect to others.

Need Help Boosting your Child's Self Esteem?

November Preschool Prep Curriculum

November Preschool Prep Curriculum

Theme for November for the Preschool Prep Program included Fall leaves, Fall changes, Turkeys and Thanksgiving traditions.

Children brought leaves from their yards and we noticed the many colors and shapes. Leaves were used to make “leaf prints” and were placed on top of our parachute so that children could work together to make the leaves go up and down while singing a new song “All the leaves are falling down, it is Fall!”

Our classroom windows were decorated with “stained glass leaves” made with colorful tissue paper, glue and wax paper.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approached families shared their holiday traditions. Children made hand print pine cone turkeys to decorate their tables at home. Turkey hats were worn for our Thanksgiving Feast as each family brought food to share.

We had so much fun in November!

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Children and Self Esteem – Part II

Children and Self Esteem – Part II

Ways to boost your child’s self esteem through play, feeding, and encounters with others


12 months old:

  • Allow your child to feed himself finger-foods and his bottle

16 months old:

  • Allow your child to use a fork to spear food
  • Let him decide whether or not he wants to eat, don’t force


1 – 2 year olds:

  • Encourage parallel play with peers
  • Plan playdates and outings ahead
  • On play dates try not to leave until your child is ready
  • Encourage your child to stay in the play group
  • Don’t push him to share his toys but teach him about taking turns
  • Let other children teach him – you may need to intervene sometimes  but wait a bit to see if he can work it out


3 – 5 year olds:

  • Reward your child for success in learning to play with others
  • Encourage 1 or 2 regular buddies or play mates that he gets to know well to understand and rely on as friends
  • They will give him a feeling of being competent with other people. They will teach him to share and be considerate of other people’s feelings.


3 – 5 year olds:

  • Reward your child for success in learning to play with others
  • Encourage 1 or 2 regular buddies or play mates that he gets to know well to understand and rely on as friends
  • They will give him a feeling of being competent with other people. They will teach him to share and be considerate of other people’s feelings.


Need Help Boosting your Child's Self Esteem?

Children and Self Esteem

Children and Self Esteem

The excitement of mastering a task can be seen in young babies as they roll over, grasp a cracker and stack blocks. These experiences ultimately provide a base for a feeling of oneself, of self-esteem. When parents encourage a baby who has just learned a task by himself, they reinforce and encourage a good future self-image. As the child struggles and finally triumphs, the light in his eyes begins to glow.
mother trying to help toddler daughter to stand byherself

Parents expectations and past experiences will influence whether they can afford to let a child experiment, get frustrated, and then make it on his own. It is this combination of freedom and encouragement that is necessary for increasing self-esteem.

To encourage a positive self image:

  • Convey a balance of freedom and support
  • Transmit a way of thinking as well as of problem solving. (These are picked up as child identifies with parents and the child’s self image begins to form)
mother helping toddler son with magnets on the fridge


A toddler playing with a puzzle. The parent sits back and watches the toddler try the pieces. The toddler turns the piece around and around. Finally he turns it in just the right way and it fits! He looks to his parent triumphantly. The parent says, “You did it yourself!”

toddler stacking woden blocks

7 Points to remember regarding your children and self-esteem:

1. Reinforce him as he learns to recognize his own achievements.

2. Don’t step in too early to show him or even to encourage him to keep trying.

3. When he finally succeeds acknowledge that he did it!

mother and toddler girl playing with woden blocks on the floor

4. It can be difficult to sit back and allow a child his own frustration – time to fail before succeeding. But this is a critical part of the recognition of his success.

5. Frustration can be a positive force for child’s learning about himself.

6. There is a fine line between the challenge of frustration and overwhelming obstacles.

7. Watch your child and observe him. Does he show curiosity? Persistence? The ability to succeed at a problem or defeat?

Need Help Boosting Your Child's Self Esteem?

October Preschool Prep Curriculum

October Preschool Prep Curriculum

October was a busy month for our Preschool Prep Program. Themes included Autumn and Fall Fun, weather changes, routines and transitions through individual and group learning experiences. The highlight, of course was our celebration of Halloween during which children wore costumes and practiced their social skills while trick-or-treating in our building with their friends.

We focused on expressive and receptive language, introducing the words “smooth” and bumpy as children took turns holding and touching our smooth and bumpy pumpkins! There was a new interest in songs and fingerplays related to the season and children learned through all of their senses through visual recognition, tasting touching and listening.

Children worked on fine motor skills as they squeezed water color paint through droppers onto coffee filters which were later laminated once dry and made into sunflowers that hand from our ceiling. Fun!

With the help of their parents, toddlers participated in marble painting using white paint on black paper, These became spider webs! Red spiders were later added by toddlers using finger paint. More fun!

Toddlers participated in carving out their own small pumpkins, adding potting soil and some sunflower seeds. Each child created his own garden within his pumpkin to take home and plant. Many of the seed sprouted right away and we all were amazed!!!

Children decorated pumpkins made from paper plates painted orange and decorated rice cakes with orange tinted cream cheese and raisins for a special snack

Toddlers loved our sensory table this month which was filled with all kinds of seeds leaves, pine cones and seed-pods.

Trick-or-treat in costumes was the highlight at the end of the month. October is the best!!!

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Halloween with your toddler

Halloween with your toddler

For grownups Halloween is a festive and fun holiday. For a toddler, monsters, blood and skeletons can be really scary.  Around the age of 2 children understand that they can get hurt. That’s when they can start showing fears of monsters, of the dark or fear of being away from the parents. Halloween can be a challenge for the little ones, because there is a confusion between reality and fantasy.

Here are some tips to make Halloween less scary and more fun for toddlers:

  1. Pretend Play
  2. Demystify masks and decoration
  3. Picking the Costume
  4. Fear of Monsters
  5. Adjust Expectations
  6. Trick-or-Treat Time

1. Pretend Play

Role play things that your child might face in a new situation. You can dress up a few times before the real trick-or-treat day. Explain to your toddler that people find it fun to dress up like scary things for Halloween.

2 toddler girls playing with Halloween decoration

2. Demystify masks and decorations

While at a store, a clever idea is to let your toddler touch the scary decorations, so she understands how fake they feel. Decorate your house with toddler-friendly ornaments – such as cute pumpkins or funny ghosts. Leave the zombies for a couple of years from now.

mom and toddler girl pretend playing dessing up for Halloween - girl is wearing a hat

3. Picking the costume

Let your toddler pic what he/she wants to dress. It doesn’t have to be a scary one. Pick a comfortable costume. If she/he doesn’t want to dress up, don’t force her – maybe she would like to put some paint on her face, and that could be the costume.

little boy looking a bit scared of Halloween

4. Fear of Monsters

This can happen not only for Halloween, but on a regular basis, during bedtime. To help your child you can:

Assure safety:

Tell her that she is not alone, let her know that you will be right by her side.

Get a night light:

In case she is afraid of the dark bedroom at night. Play fun games in the dark with your toddler with a flashlight.

Stuffed animals can help:

Let your child pick a lovey to take to bed


Talk about your child’s fears and read stories to help her understand and overcome her fears.

2 toddler girls playing on pumpkin field wearing witch costumes

5. Adjust expectations

Your child may not want to wear the costume that she picked herself. Toddlers can be moody. Be prepared in case your little one’s mind changes and he/she doesn’t want to go out for trick-or-treat at all.

Have a backup plan in case you are trick-or-treating with your older children as well. Your toddler might be done with it by house 2, and your preschooler may want to stay longer.

2 little toddler girls knocking at a door trick-or-treating wearing costumes

6. Trick-or-treat time

Explain to your toddler how trick-or-treat goes ahead of time. Having an older child with you might help. The older one can ring the bell while your toddler watches her.

Skip the super spooky houses.

Be supportive. Always be there by your child’s side in case he/she needs you.

Time it right. Give your little one a healthy meal before leaving the house, so he/she won’t get irritated. Remember to pair a protein with any kind of sugary snack. Plan daylight trick-or-treating and make the route short.

Check the candies: get rid of any choking hazards and unwrapped candy. You can let your little one have a piece or two saying that “it’s your Halloween treat!”. Some parents will get rid of the candies after a day or two. Some parents will allow their children to pick one piece of the treat each day. It’s up to you as a parent to figure out a plan for disposing the candy your child brings home.

2 toddler girls wearing costumes looking happy after trick-or-treating

Fear is a normal part of development. It will take time for your child to understand what is real and what is fantasy. Maybe this year your toddler won’t want to participate in the Halloween activities, but next year will be a whole new stage of development!

Written by Marilee Hartling and Paula Boscardin

If you child continues to have lots of fears, contact us for assistance. A consultation may just do the trick!

September Preschool Prep Curriculum

September Preschool Prep Curriculum

September was an exciting month for our Preschool Prep Program as children learned about apples, seeds, and the colors red, yellow and green. The Fall Season was welcomed with enthusiasm.

toddler girl playing wtih playdoh at early childhood development associates class

Children had a chance to examine apples of all shapes, sizes and colors. Each friend was greeted in the morning with a red apple and the song “One little apple round and red, fell Ker plunk on Jack’s head” etc.

toddler girl playing wtih playdoh at early childhood development associates class

The children watched teachers cut the apples using an apple slicer and celebrated the Jewish Holiday Roshashanah, by dipping the apple slice in the honey before eating. Everyone was wished a “Sweet New Year!”

2 toddler looking at teacher's hands cutting apples with a apple cutter

Children watched  as teachers cut the apples different ways so that “stars” and seeds could be easily seen. They also had fun sponge painting apple shapes which were later hung from the tree branch in our classroom.

apple shaped paiting hung by the ceiling at early childhood development associates
toddler sponge painting at ecda's class

Paint was used to make “apple prints” and apples were even used to measure children’s height! Tissue paper apple shapes were made to decorate our windows.

2 toddlers luong on the floor with apples beside them in the form of a line to measure their height with the apples at ECDA
ecda's window with art projects made from the kids

Our Preschool Prep children loved playing with corn, beans and sunflower seed in our sensory table and used measuring cups to pour the seeds into different size containers. This was a great way to introduce concepts like volume, noticing when the cups were full and when they were empty.

toddlers playing at sensory table with seeds at ecda

So much fun! Can’t wait to see what October will bring!!!

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Our Morning Routine

Our Morning Routine

It’s officially October and it’s still difficult to get your preschooler out of the door in the morning! Your Routine has changed and getting ready to go to preschool might be a challenge. It is no news that children need routine.

Here are some tips to start off the day and a sample Morning Routine Chart to post where your child can refer to it.


1. Enough Sleep

2. Prepare

3. Get up early

4. Morning chart

5. Play some music

6. Try to remain calm

little girl lying in bed, doesn't want to leave

1. Enough sleep

Before even waking up it is important that the night routine is up and running. To avoid meltdowns in the morning, your child must be well rested.

little girl setting up red backpack to go to school

2. Prepare

The night before, get your child to pick her clothes and pack all her school essentials. A clever idea is to assign a place – maybe a shelf or a table by the door– to store the school related items: the backpack, lunch box, shoes and clothes all together; That way you won’t be running after everything in the morning.

The night before, after putting the kids to sleep, is your time to prepare. Make sure to prepare breakfast and lunch boxes. Keep it simple and quick. Save elaborated breakfasts for the weekend.

mom giving daughter cereal and mil before going to school in the morning

3. Get up early

Set the example. Wake up earlier than your children. Be ready to go, so you encourage them to be ready too.

little girl in front of the mirror brushing her hair before going to school in the morning

4. Morning chart

Create a morning chart for the family. And hang it somewhere where your child can see. Make it with images so your preschooler can understand it. A good idea is to have stickers that your child can earn if the tasks are done on time. Here is one Morning Chart example:

sample of a morning routine chart. Written: Go Potty, Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Brush teeth, Shoes and Jacket, Backpack and Lunch, OFF TO SCHOOL!

6. Play some music

Music is a great way to soothe children. And it can also be used as a timer. Your playlist can be related to getting ready to school.

mother hugging daugher (daugher is wearing her backpack and ready to bo to school in the morning)

6. Try to remain calm

Mornings can be stressful. But, try not to rush. Slow down, use a calm tone of voice. Explain to your child that getting ready is a task for everyone, that you need his/her help. Your child will mirror your attitudes, so be the role model. Try to focus on speaking in a lower voice level and not getting frustrated.

little girl looking happy wearing her backpack and ready to go to school in the morning

You will see that after some time your child will say “Mommy, now it’s time to eat breakfast”. When there is a routine in place you show your child how to organize time. She will know what to expect. Routines give a sense of security and help children to understand the ability to control their lives. Children love to be in charge; set the routine and have them do as much as they can without reminders! Sometimes simply pointing to the chart is enough to get them going!

Written by Marilee Hartling and Paula Boscardin

Need help setting up a routine?

Early Childhood Development Associates is located at: 8344 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles | CA | 90069
Play and Art Therapy

Play and Art Therapy

While various forms of therapy can be beneficial for a child, many young children find it scary or difficult to verbally express themselves. Play therapy which often includes art therapy is a quickly growing specialized area of psychotherapy that can help children (and adults) express emotions and process experiences beyond the scope of verbal language is capable of.

Long before we develop verbal language, we exist in a world of images and sensations. Throughout our first three years, before we fully develop our ability to be understood verbally, we associate feelings with these images and sensations: the image of our mother’s face or breast, the image of the pacifier or the person with the loud angry voice; the uncomfortable car seat, the smell of cookies baking in the kitchen, or our favorite toy. Our most primal emotions are stored in this world of images and sensation. Gaining access through play, art and creativity can allow us to express and understand ourselves more fully.

Play therapy can be used as part of, or in lieu of, most other type of therapy, and is incredibly efficacious for children and families as both short- and long-term therapy. At ECDA we often combine play therapy with art and cognitive behavioral therapy.

How Play Therapy Can Help Children

The simple process of playing or creating art can help children navigate and cope with difficult feelings, learn frustration tolerance, build self-awareness and self-confidence, and give your child a life-long tool for healthy emotion regulation and expression.

Children are naturally playful and creative and can use their play and creative process as a way of communicating and working through any number of challenges such as:

  • Death of friend or family member
  • Trauma
  • Learning challenges
  • Emotional issues such as phobias or insecure attachment
  • Increasing motor skills
  • Increasing social skills
  • Understanding and dealing with physical or emotional challenges
  • Behavioral challenges
  • Increasing language

What Does a Session Look Like?

It really depends on the age of the child and the preferences of the therapist. Various art supplies are used to achieve different goals, such as opening up a resistant child with loose media like finger paints, or teaching self-control to a hyperactive child with a more controlled media, such as colored pencils.

Often, the session will begin with a check-in, helping the child to be aware of, and to express, their current emotional state. The therapist may then use further art directives based upon the child’s check-in, or may continue to different directives based on other projects or goals for the child’s treatment.

After the child completes a directive, the therapist will ask questions, learning about that particular child’s image language and the feelings associated with the colors and images used. Many children will naturally create a “self symbol” or a metaphor that can be used to tell his or her story. By telling the story of the symbol, rather than using first person, the child is allowed distance and therefore more freedom to express challenging feelings.

As the child and therapist continue to develop a trusting relationship, the treatment will move forward to becoming more challenging according to the child’s emotional and behavioral goals.

How Play and Art Therapy Can Help Families 

Play therapy can be incredibly beneficial to families, allowing them to work on creative projects together, both as a way of bonding and by allowing the therapist to watch dynamics play out. During this process, the therapist can play in active part in recognizing and challenging disadvantageous dynamics, helping each family member to see their own contributions. This can be challenging, but also very effective in the creating needed change.

Play and art therapy can help families to:

  • Create new, positive ways of interacting
  • Learn parenting skills
  • Use metaphors and symbolism to understand hidden dynamics and feeling
  • Build a deeper understanding of individual family member’s needs
  • Increase thoughtful, effective communication
  • Provide firm, healthy boundaries
  • Practice effective reinforcement of behaviors

What Does a Family Session Look Like?

Again, this depends on the family, the ages of the children, and the therapist. Often, the therapist will take a less active part for the first couple of sessions, allowing the family to become comfortable and for hidden dynamics to become apparent.

The therapist will provide family directives and will watch for things such as: Who leads the projects? Who sits out? Do family members interact or quietly work alone? In the first couple of sessions, the family will also work together to create goals and intentions for therapy, giving family members and the therapist a direction for movement.

Upon completing a directive, the therapist will discuss the dynamics and the symbols apparent in the art, helping the parents to lead the conversation in a constructive way. As therapy progresses, the therapist will support the parent figures in taking more and more control of the activities, helping to solidify comfort in practicing more effective team parenting, as well as enforcing difficult boundaries and guidelines, as well as helping the children to more effectively communicate their own needs.

Upon completing a directive, the therapist will discuss the dynamics and the symbols apparent in the art, helping the parents to lead the conversation in a constructive way. As therapy progresses, the therapist will support the parent figures in taking more and more control of the activities, helping to solidify comfort in practicing more effective team parenting, as well as enforcing difficult boundaries and guidelines, as well as helping the children to more effectively communicate their own needs.


Play and art therapy is not about being an artist. It is important for clients to want to participate in the art, but defining yourself as skilled or creative is not a requirement. The important part is allowing the process to access deep emotions and hidden dynamics, a rewarding challenge regardless of skill level.

August Preschool Prep Curriculum

August Preschool Prep Curriculum

August was an exciting month for toddlers attending our Preschool Prep Program! Children had a great time climbing in and out of our tent as the theme was “A Camping we Will Go!”. There was a picnic with Teddy Bears and a special project with handprints and yellow and orange paint.

toddler playing in the tent at Early Childhood Development Associates Class
toddler making handprints with red paint at Early Childhood Development ASsociates' class

During “Dinosaur Week” toddlers learned to do the Dinosaur March together and compared the sizes of dinosaurs and their footprints. The concept of “Big and Little” was introduced as toddlers identified big and little dinosaurs as well as big and little cars, trucks, and baby dolls.

toddler measuring sizes of feet comparing to pig dinasour print on the floor at Early Childhood Development Associates's preschool prep class

The water table was a popular place to play during the third week of August when the theme was “Ahoy Matey”. Toddlers decorated their own paper boats and floated them in the water.  A little paint and a paper sail turned our big fire engine box into a beautiful orange sail boat which the children used for climbing and pretend ‘sailing”. Children also used plastic fishing poles with magnets to “fish” magnetic fish in the water table. The favorite book was “Rainbow Fish” where toddlers learned about the importance of sharing with friends. A highlight was the making of sand cups using colored sand, white glue and beautiful sea shells.

toddler smiling wiht a sticker of a fish and glue to decorate her boat at Early Childhood Development Associates' class

Toddlers, parents and teachers all wore red during the 4th week of August in honor of “Llama Llama Red Pajama” which is a much-loved story. Each child made a Llama, Llama puppet which wore red pajamas. Parents and toddlers were engaged to tell the story themselves using their puppets.

The theme for the last week of August was “Celebrating Me!”. Toddlers made hand prints and “self-portraits” with a little help from their teachers. Each toddler was assisted to picking out a paper face and adding eyes, a nose, a mouth and hair to represent themselves.

todder making faces out of paper at Early Childhood Development Associates' class

September marks the beginning of our Preschool Prep School Year Program. We are planning some fun Fall activities!

Contact us to join our groups!

Written by Marilee Hartling and Paula Boscardin

Language Development

Language Development

“What dat?” “Mamma, go?” It’s so exciting when children start to express themselves using words. To help your child with her vocabulary, you can help her do what she is already doing. Praise every attempt of new words. What adults do to respond to the child’s communication can accelerate or decelerate their language development.

How to help them develop language skills:

mom dad and toddler at the kitchen cooking together

1. Create opportunities

Pretend to be forgetful. For an example, sing a song and let your child complete the sentence “the wheels on the bus go…” and let her finish. Or, while having snack, you can say “would you like more…” and point to the crackers or cheese.

son and dad talking at the park

2. Imitate

Imitate your toddler’s words and babbling. Your child will feel that she is being heard and this will encourage her to imitate you

dad and toddler daughter playing cars and talking

3. Pointing can be an opportunity

If you toddler points to the book up on the shelf, you can say “The book! You want the book!”. A clever idea here is to take the things out of your toddler’s reach, so he needs to ask for it.

mother and 2 little girls playing doll house and talking

4. Expand the vocabulary

When your toddler says, “green dinosaur” you can say “Yes, big green dinosaur”. Change the tone on the word you want your child to learn. When your child is playing with the doll house, you can say “You are putting the baby to sleep in the crib. The baby is going to sleep”. Model vocabulary and grammar. Help your child to organize her thoughts using words.

mother and daugher drawing and talking

5. Show a response

Respond to all attempts to communicate. This will encourage your child to keep on trying.

6. Ask questions

Take a walk with your toddler and ask about the things around you. “What a cute dog, where do you think it’s going?”. The key here is to ask a question that doesn’t have a yes-or-no answer.

grandma and toddler boy talking

7. Help others understand what your toddlers says

If not understood, children may feel frustrated. You can help repeating after her as: “You want grandma to stop cooking and play with you!”

8.  Give choices

“Would you like an apple juice or an orange juice?”. This will encourage your toddler to say the words.

black and white picture: little boy giving his dad a kiss

9. Talk, talk, talk

Explain everything that you are doing using words. “Dad is going to the grocery store to buy more apple juice”.


Reinforcing good behavior and the use of words will help your child communicate and will motivate her to try new words. Let her feel proud. Create opportunities and you will see how fast and naturally your little one will learn!

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Tips: First Day of Preschool

Tips: First Day of Preschool

As a parent you may have two big feelings about your child starting preschool. You may feel excited about this new milestone, the fun your child will have and the friends he will make. At the same time you may feel sad that your little one will be venturing out into the world without you. These are normal emotions. Your child may also have two big feelings about starting preschool, too. He may feel excited to be a big kid, but worried about saying goodbye to mommy and daddy. These are also normal emotions. There are some preparations you can do to get ready for this big day. Be careful not to overdo the preparations, however. You don’t want your child to feel more worried than excited. Here are some tips.

1. Read stories about going to preschool and about separation.

Examples include: Maisy Goes to Preschool, What to Expect at Preschool, How do Dinosaurs Go to School?, Will You Come Back for Me?, Hello! Good-Bye!, Franklin Goes to School, Owl Babies, and The Kissing Hand.Point to the characters in the books and ask how the different characters might feel.

2. Schedule a visit to the school.

Seeing the classroom, meeting the teachers, playing with the toys can make the transition easier.

3. Schedule a playdate with one of the other children who will be attending the same preschool.

4. Play “preschool” at home with your child.

Take turns playing roles of teacher, child, mommy. Act out saying “Hello” to the teacher or “Good-Bye” to the mom. Act out other activities your child will be exposed to in preschool.

5. Develop a “good-bye drop off” ritual and a “pick-up” ritual.

Don’t sneak off. Keep the drop off short and sweet. Most preschools will offer a transition program to help with separation and involve parents as part of the process.

6. Answer your child’s questions honestly

Use developmentally appropriate language. Keep your explanation concrete, offering accurate descriptions of what the classroom will look like, what teachers do, and what happens in a typical school day.

Young children are very literal and their concerns about new experiences center on their basic needs: “Will I be taken care of?” “Who will pick me up?”.

7. Avoid projections that might promise more than preschool may realistically be able to deliver.

Things like: “Preschool will always be fun”. (Sometimes it won’t be). “All children will be your friend”. (Some will be, some will not). “You will always love school”. (There will be days you won’t).

8. Check with the preschool to see if your child can bring:

A transitional object such as a favorite blankie, stuffed animal, or photo book containing pictures of her family members.

9. Stay positive when you say “good-bye”

Your child is watching your reaction to figure out how he should feel. If you appear worried or upset, he may feel more fearful.

10. Build extra time into your morning routine

So you can spend a few minutes at school to help him get engaged as opposed to rushing off. Do a “practice run” in the morning every day the week before preschool starts so your child is already accustomed to waking up early and getting out the door at the appropriate time.

Making a picture chart can help if you hang it up where your child can easily refer to it. Find pictures that demonstrate: 1) getting out of bed; 2) getting dressed; 3) eating breakfast; 4) brushing teeth; 5) getting into the car seat.


With all the right preparations, there will still be adjustments once preschool begins. Give it time. Enlist teacher’s help if the separation becomes difficult. Good luck to you as you embark on this exciting journey with your child!

Is the transition to preschool being difficult?

July Preschool Prep Curriculum

July Preschool Prep Curriculum


Our Preschool Prep children had a wonderful time in class during the month of July. Weekly Themes included: “By the Sea”, “Crazy Hat Day” and “Put me in the Zoo”.

3 children playing with water at sensory table at Early Childhood Development Associates' class

With water in our sensory table the children measured and poured water to make our spinning wheel spin.

toddler playing in our big sail boat made from a cardboard box at Early Childhood Development ASsociates' class

They sailed boats, went fishing, and played in our big sail boat made from a cardboard box!

The favorite story was “Rainbow Fish” and children made their own rainbow fish from paper plates, paint and glitter. Favorite song was “Slippery Fish”.

toddler painting fish at Early Childhood Development Associates's class
fish hanging from ceiling at Early Childhood Development Associates's class

During the second week children made and decorated their own hats. Favorite story was “Hooray for Hats”.

child wearing paper hat at Early Childhood Development Associates class
fish hanging from ceiling at Early Childhood Development Associates's class

The third week found children playing with zoo animals in a zoo made with blocks. Animal hats were made and enjoyed. Children song “We’re all going to the zoo tomorrow” and they engaged in pretend play in the dramatic play area. So much fun!

child and mom wearing tiger hat at Early Childhood Development ASsociates' class
child and mom wearing tiger hat at Early Childhood Development ASsociates' class
child making zoo hat at Early Childhood Development ASsociates' class
children playing the drum at Early Childhood Development Associates's class

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Waiting is hard!

Waiting is hard!

“You need to be patient and wait!”. Does your child respond to that by actually waiting and being patient? Or does she respond with a tantrum or a huge meltdown? Waiting is hard. And is a tough lesson to be learned. Modeling patience is key to teaching delaying gratification and self-control to your child.

Waiting is boring. However, with some forethought, you can prevent negative behavior related to this feeling.

Here are some tips:

  1. Help your child manage his/hers expectations
  2. Plan fun activities
  3. No screen time
  4. Make it quality time
  5. Focus on developing skills
  6. Focus on the concept of time
  7. Validate good behavior while waiting
mother and son at grocery store pointing to shelves

1. Help your child manage his/hers expectations

Let your child know what to expect when you are going to the grocery store. Make a list with her before leaving. While at the store, let her help you organize the shopping cart and cross off the items on your list. In that way, she will know when you are almost at the end. Also, this will keep her distracted and entertained.

little girl playin on the floor with pencils and paper while waiting

2. Plan fun activities

Be creative. When your child has to be patient and wait, provide activities for her. For example: telling a favorite story, humming a favorite song, I-spy game . etc. A clever idea is to always keep paper and pencils on hand.

2 girls playing on an ipad while waiting (picture with an X on it)

3. No screen time

Experts don’t recommend the use of screens to entertain children under the age of 2. Screens (as iPads or cellphones) can work in the moment, but they can impact the child’s development. Waiting is a wonderful opportunity for learning, for social interaction and for communication. If you hand your child a screen every time she has to wait, she will be missing out on these opportunities.

father and son drwaing a picture together while waiting

4. Make it quality time

Take the advantage of the waiting time to make it fun. Routine experiences can provide the quality time that you want to spend with your child. While waiting at the doctor’s office you can sing, talk or draw picture together. While waiting in line, you can play another version of hide and seek. Hide a coin in the shopping cart and have your child guess where it is.

mom and daughter in the looking at a map qhile waiting to get to their destination

5. Focus on developing skills

Practice motor skills such as: pretending you are mirror images of each other, you can make faces that your child can copy, or body movements that she needs to imitate quickly. – This is also good to developing social and emotional skills while making “sad, happy or frustrated faces”.

Practice creativity: when you see a sign or a person while passing by car, you can create a story about “why is this person there?”

Practice mathematical skills: “how many red things are you seeing in our cart?”

Practice memory and vocabulary: “I went to the grocery store and I bought…”

little girl lying in bed looking up while waiting

6. Focus on the concept of time

It is important for you and your child to talk about how long you have to wait. Children do not truly understand time. So, it is important to show how it works. You can use a sand timer, so your child can watch the san flow through the timer for 1, 3, 5, 10 or 15 minutes.

mom and daughter drawing together, mom is kissing her

7. Validate good behavior while waiting

Validate that it is hard to wait. It is extremely important to acknowledge your child’s feelings and notice his accomplishment out loud as a way of reinforcing the skills.


Waiting can provide opportunities for your child to develop her imagination, as she thinks of things to do, stories to tell, games to play and objects to spy while waiting. Be consistent. Remind your child to control her impulses, to stop and to wait. Remain calm, keep in mind that you need to model patience to teach patience.

Need help with your impatient little one?

Imitation in Toddlers

Imitation in Toddlers

Does your little girl get her handbag, take her “cellphone” out and say “Hello, mommy!”, just like mom does? Or maybe your little boy tries to “shave” his face in the bathroom while looking at dad? Children usually imitate what they see happening around them. Imitation can be a powerful way of learning, and it provides a way to practice new skills. What grownups do around children leaves impressions on their developing brain. As toddlers develop, they learn to engage when they imitate. An example would be Zoey, one of our toddlers, who came to class shortly after her first visit to the dentist. She told another 2 year old, Chloe, to sit down. She gave her a cup and a mirror, “Open your mouth. I am going to check your teeth!” She said, “Now you can use your spit cup!” Both toddlers had a great time “playing dentist” that day.

little girl playing with sunglasses imitating mom

Imitation is a natural way to learn. Treat it as an opportunity. Every interaction between grownups and toddlers can be a chance for imitation.


Things to keep in mind regarding imitation:

  1. Show repeated movements and reactions
  2. Explore
  3. Provide physical activities
  4. Model household activities
  5. Model behavior
  6. Have a routine
  7. Enhance language development
mom playing with toddler

1. Show repeated movements and reactions

Repeating movements will help toddlers take in information. When practicing and rehearsing every day, activities become easier and easier, which is a sign that a new skill is being built.

family having dinner together modeling good behavior at table

2. Explore

Toddlers learn by doing things, not just watching. So, model the use of a spoon, but let your child experience it too. Let her know that it’s ok to be messy sometimes. Making a bit of a mess is part of the learning process as your toddler masters the use of a spoon of fork.

family jumping in the park

3. Provide physical activities

Model by jumping, crawling and hopping.  Your little shadow will want to try it too.  This will help her develop motor skills. Your toddler can choose how she wants to go to the car. Does she want to march like a dinosaur? Or jump like a bunny?

mom modeling how to clean mirror in the bathroom with toddler daughter

4. Model household activities

Toddlers love to learn, copy and help. They will see you moping or sweeping and will want to imitate you. Make it fun while you are doing it and let them try!

mom modeling how to eat healthy sharing a brocolli with toddler daughter

5. Model behavior

Model the behavior you want to see in your child. Sometimes, this is not an easy task. The “do what I say and not what I do” way doesn’t show consistency. Toddlers need consistency to learn how to behave. You don’t need to say: “look what I’m doing here”, your child will learn by observing it. That doesn’t mean this will dictate your toddler’s behavior, but modeling behavior is an effective way to pass on values, beliefs and information. Modeling can also teach social skills, interaction with others and dealing with conflicts.

family of mom, dad and 2 kids bushing teeth together

6. Have a routine

Have your toddler with you during your daily routine. Model for him how you brush your teeth, broom your hair and get dressed. Show where the dirty laundry goes. Show him how to unload the dryer and fold the towels. If you want something done in a certain way, you must show how it’s done.

mom showing something to toddler girl

7.  Enhance language development

Your little copycat will try to imitate everything you say. So, repetition is key here. Explain how volume and tone of voice works, as “you can be loud while playing with your friends, but not while having dinner”. Explain why. Model how to use words such as please, excuse me, thank you.


Parents aren’t perfect. And that is ok. If you model the “wrong” behavior or if you say something you wish you could take it back, you can try to repair it by explaining consequences. Imitation serves as a basis to develop empathy. Children can learn that parents make mistakes. Mistakes also provide a good opportunity to model how to say: “I am sorry” – when you really mean it!


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The Early Childhood Development Associates is located at: 8344 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles | CA | 90069
Happy Graduation 2016-2017 Preschool Prep Group!

Happy Graduation 2016-2017 Preschool Prep Group!

June was an important month for our Preschool Prep Group as our toddlers and their parents prepared to graduate and leave our program. Our unit theme was “Beginnings and Endings”. We reflected on our progress, looking back at the simple activities our toddlers engaged in last Fall and reflected on the more complicated activities our toddlers are able to tackle now, including: the use of scissors for cutting playdoh and working together to create something wonderful!

toddler using scissors at Early Childhood Development Associates' class
todddlers at Early Childhood Development Associates' class builing with blocks

Skills that were emphasized included listening, following directions, sharing space, materials and time in our play room.

todddlers at Early Childhood Development Associates' class learning to plant pots

Toddlers learned some new songs. The favorites were: “I can Measure Myself from Head to Toe, Everyday I seem to Grow.” And “Hurry, Hurry Drive the Firetruck”.

Together children created their own version of Elmer the Elephant after reading the story. Working together as a group they created a mural of car tracks of all colors.

children gluing tissue paper in a picture of an Elefant at Early Childhood Development Associates' class
 picture of an Elefant made by toddlers at Early Childhood Development Associates' class
picture of what children think about the Elefant made at Early Childhood Development Associates Class "JA- Elmer is pink&black, Luke: Elmer is sleepy; Luke: Elmer goes peepee in the potty; Oliver: Elmer is big

They worked together in the dramatic play area and became a fire fighting team, taking turns “driving” the card board fire truck we made from a box and putting out fires using our pretend hoses made from paper towel tubes. Each child created a fire fighter self-portrait.

firefighter's hats made by toddlers at Early Childhood Development Associates' Class
toddlers pretend playing inside firetruck at Early Childhood Development Associates' class
firetruck made out of a box at Early Childhood Development Associates' Class

And they all participated in planning the snack menu for Graduation Party. Teachers made each child a keepsake photo book that they could take home along with a video of favorite pictures set to music. It was a memorable graduation celebration that parents and teachers will cherish. Here are some photos:

toddlers pretend playing inside firetruck at Early Childhood Development Associates' class
Early Childhood Development associates' gratuation party
firefighter's hats made by toddlers at Early Childhood Development Associates' Class

Bye bye Preschool Prep Group 2016/2017. We hope you have a great time in Preschool in the Fall!

Contact us to join our groups!