For Parents

Family Fun: Post-It Note Games

Family Fun: Post-It Note Games 800 350 Maren Nelson

Keep learning year-round with indoor actives like this! Sent to us by our Preschool Pals teachers, you can adapt the game to different skill levels.

You will need: 
A blank wall or door (or even the front of the refrigerator), sticky notes, marker. 

Step 1:
Write each letter of the alphabet on a different sticky note, and put them on the wall or door.
Step 2: 
Ask the child to identify the letter, spell words, or find the letter based on its sound. 
Download instructions for identifying the letter, matching letters, alliteration, and spelling and rhyming for even more fun!

Family Fun: Cheerio Bird Feeders

Family Fun: Cheerio Bird Feeders 3334 1459 Way to Grow

It can be hard to find fun activities to keep kids busy indoors during the cold winter months. Tap into their creativity and watch some local wildlife together with these bird feeders! 

You will need: 
Cheerios, floral wire or pipe cleaners, ribbon or string for hanging

Step 1:
Shape your wire first – our example uses hearts, but you can twist it into other fun shapes, too!
Step 2: 
Thread the Cheerios on the wire.  
Step 3:
Twist the ends of the wire together to close the shape and keep the Cheerios in place.
Step 4:
Hang it up outside near a window and enjoy watching the birds that come for a snack, or make it educational by helping your children identify the birds and learning about them together!

Family Fun: Wax Crayon Resist Art

Family Fun: Wax Crayon Resist Art 3334 1459 Way to Grow

It can be hard to find fun activities to keep kids busy indoors during the cold winter months. Tap into their creativity with this fun snowflake art! 

You will need: 
white wax crayon, white paper, watercolor paint, paint brush, cup of water, salt

Step 1:
Draw a design on a white piece of paper with a white crayon. (This is perfect for snowflakes or a snowman!)
Step 2: 
Choose a color (or several!) to paint on your drawing. Be sure to paint over all your crayon designs. They will pop against the colorful background! 
Step 3:
For extra pizzazz, sprinkle some salt over your painting while it’s still wet. This creates a beautiful and unique effect when mixed with the watercolor paint.
Step 4:
Let your painting dry and enjoy!

Family Fun: Fall Leaves Hand Tree

Family Fun: Fall Leaves Hand Tree 3334 1459 Way to Grow

Believe it or not, it’s still fall! If you miss those beautiful colors, our Preschool Pals staff has a great activity for you to do with your family!

You will need: 
paper, pencil, scissors, markers (or any coloring/painting tool), toilet paper/paper towel roll
Step 1:
Trace your hands with the pencil. The more hands you trace, the fuller your tree will be. We recommend 3-5 hands.
Step 2: 
Choose your favorite fall leaf colors and color your whole hand. You can practice staying in the lines as an extra challenge or choose to go over the line to make sure every part of your hand is colored.
Step 3:
Cut out your hands along the line you traced.
Step 4:
Cut two 1-inch slits on either side of the top of your toilet paper roll.
Step 5: 
Place your cut-out “leaf” hands in the slits of your toilet paper roll. Arrange the hands so that the tree looks full of leaves. 
Step 6:
Enjoy your new fall tree!

Family Fun: On the hunt!

Family Fun: On the hunt! 1080 1920 Maren Nelson

Run out of ideas for your kids this summer? Our preschool staff has you covered with a scavenger hunt bingo game!


Download and print off this bingo card and grab a marker.

What to do:

Go on a walk around your neighborhood or anywhere you could find these items. Look around carefully and encourage your child to identify items on the card, as well as the different things you encounter. Encourage older children to lead the hunt by thinking about where specific items can be found, and increase the difficulty by setting a timer. When you’ve found an item, cross it off on the card.


You’ve won when you find five items in a line (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal), or continue until you have found every item. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your adventure together!

Learning at Home: Alphabet Wall Game

Learning at Home: Alphabet Wall Game 150 150 Maren Nelson

This activity comes from one of our Preschool Pals teachers and is a great game for you and your preschooler to play at home together.

What You Need:

  • Cards with all the letters of the alphabet (uppercase AND lowercase)
  • A wall you can put tape on in a room with lots of space to run
  • A helper! (that’s you, caregiver, family member, or friend!)

Game Set-up:

If you do not have letter cards, here’s how you can make your own:

Cut paper into small squares. On each square, write the upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet. Then tape these squares on the wall in a random order. (Make sure you tape them at a height your child can reach.)

How to Play:

Level 1: Letter Names

The helper calls out a letter from the wall. The child then runs to the wall, finds the letter, and tags it with their hand.

Level 2: Letter Sounds

The helper calls out a letter sound. The child then runs to tag the correct letter.

Level 3: Word Sounds

Option 1: The helper puts an object in front of them and the child must run and tag the first letter in the name of the object. (Example: the helper sets a cup in front of them, so the child should tag the letter “C.”)

Option 2: The helper calls out a word and the child runs to tag the first letter of that word.

7 Back to School Tips for You and Your Family!

7 Back to School Tips for You and Your Family! 2560 1709 Angelique McDonald

The start of a new year can bring challenges as well as excitement. We found this great resource from PBS to help you and your family get ready for the new school year. Here are just a few ways that you can get involved without getting overwhelmed! Click through to read more:

  1. Meet the teacher
  2. Tour the school
  3. Connect with friends
  4. Tool up
  5. Avoid last-minute drilling
  6. Chat about today’s event and tomorrow’s plans
  7. Ease into routine

Early Childhood Education Prepares the Way for Future Success

Early Childhood Education Prepares the Way for Future Success 2560 2048 Susan Cossette

“Becoming a strong reader begins at birth. The cornerstones of reading success – language, knowledge, and curiosity – should be cultivated from infancy, and in every setting.”

Nonie K. Lesaux, PH.D.,Turing the Page

From the moment a child is born, every day matters to ensure they develop the literacy and learning skills required for success in school and life. Starting at birth, children are learning every waking moment.  In fact, babies and toddlers are either learning or sleeping! And between birth to age 5, a child learns at a speed unmatched the rest of his or her life. It is during these years – when more than 85% of a child’s brain is formed – that crucial brain connections are created. These connections help develop indispensable academic, social, and cognitive skills, which are the basis for learning.

In 2019, the Children’s Reading Foundation released a national school readiness study that establishes children’s kindergarten readiness points predict their academic achievement in fifth grade and beyond. These findings have far-reaching implications as communities work to close the achievement gap to ensure that all students are prepared for success.

The study, Readiness for Entering Kindergarten: The Impact on Future Academic Achievement, was authored by Lynn Fielding, Jay Maidment and Christian Anderson and analyzes longitudinal data for 380,000 U.S. students from first to fifth grade. Key findings are as follows:

  • Children’s language and literacy skills on day one of kindergarten range four to five years. Some have the skills of a typical three year old, while others have skills more typical of 7-8 year olds.
  • Students who start ahead tend to stay ahead. More than three quarters (76%) of the students studied who started in the top 20% are still in the top (or second to the top) 20% when entering fifth grade.
  • Conversely, students who start behind tend to stay behind. The majority (71%) of students who began in the bottom 20% are still in the bottom (or second to the bottom) 20% when entering fifth grade.

The good news is there is something that can be done to address this.  From the time a child is born until age 5, home is the easiest place to position a child’s academic trajectory. Communities, schools, caregivers, and parents all have a role to ensure children are ready for school on day one. And at Way to Grow, our Family Educators support and empower families to be their children’s first and foremost teachers—because children who begin school ready will have a rewarding educational experience.

The full study is available at:

Join Us at Play to Grow!

Join Us at Play to Grow! 2560 1707 Ken Story

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Playtime is one of the most important ways to promote healthy child development. Children learn, flex their creative ability and curiosity, interact with others, grow, and most of all have fun! Both children and adults benefit from playtime, especially in an open and shared environment that allows each individual to hone in on and improve their social, behavioral, and emotional skills.

Way to Grow is proud to offer such an environment to the community through its Play to Grow program.

Offered free of charge, Play to Grow is a weekly early learning class that provides curriculum-based learning opportunities for children under the age of five and their parents. During these sessions, families have access to Family Educators for home visits, health, early education, and to Resource Advocates for connections to services. Play to Grow not only offers great socialization opportunities for children, but is an environment where parents can socialize with one another.

The group is held every Wednesday from 10:00-11:30 AM in the Way to Grow Family Room at Lucy C. Laney at Community School in North Minneapolis and is open to the public. Each Play to Grow session contains five elements:

  • Free play
  • Circle time
  • Snack time
  • Table activities/sensory play
  • Free play (repeated)

While Play to Grow officially starts at 10:00 AM, parents and children may arrive as early as 8:30 AM for extended free play while our Family Educators set up.

Free play is an important part of our program because it encourages children to interact with the environment around them on their own terms. It allows children to use their dexterity, creativity and imagination, and motor skills. Additionally, it helps them build their confidence and teaches them to work in groups, so they learn how to play with others through sharing and the occasional time where a conflict needs to be resolved.

Circle time is a group interactive time where the children and adults come together to focus on one activity, led by a Family Educator. Usually, circle time will consist of an interactive story, singing, or reading. This time is important because it allows the children to bond as a group over a common interest, but in a setting where they are being taught by an educator.

Because childhood is a crucial time for development and growth, Play to Grow provides a snack time with healthy and nutritious foods to supplement the children’s midmorning needs between meals. Plus, who didn’t love snack time as a kid (and even as an adult now)!

The program then leads into table activities and sensory play held in different stations throughout the room. Typically, there is a sensory table, play-doh, and a craft project for the children. Sensory play is valuable because these activities stimulate the children’s senses of touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight, and hearing. It leads the child to learn more complex tasks and supports cognitive growth.

As the day circles back into free play and winds down, this time allows the parents more time to interact with one another as well as with Family Educators. While Play to Grow is valuable for children, it is equally as valuable to adults as it allows time for socialization and peer networking. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Here’s what parents are saying about Play to Grow:

To learn more about Play to Grow, contact Ronel Robinson at or at 612-874-4740.

Read more about the development of social skills in young children:

The Value of Social Skills

The Value of Social Skills 2560 1707 Ken Story

Starting early developing social skills in children prepares them for healthier interactions in all aspects of their lives. Having social skills is an integral value in all functioning societies. Communicating properly with others, demonstrating good manners, expressing personal needs, and being considerate of feelings are all important components of solid social skills.

Play to Grow is a free weekly early learning class that provides curriculum-based learning opportunities for parents and children under the age of five. During these sessions, families have access to Family Educators for home visits, health, early education, and to Resource Advocates for connections to services. Play to Grow not only offers great socialization opportunities for the children, but is an environment where parents can socialize with one another and ask our Resource Advocates for advice.

Many children, like some adults, are more naturally inclined to adapt to social situations than others, making them the type of people that others gravitate to and for whom making friends is an easy process. While social skills can be learned, it is important that children are able to form meaningful and genuine bonds with others. These bonds will help them empathize and interact appropriately and allow them to adapt and navigate uncomfortable situations and environments.

One should not assume that children play just to pass the time. Actually, children gain most of their skills through playing. Playtime allows them to express interests, bond with others over shared interests, and explore and shape the world around them, and it gives parents the opportunity to teach their children new skills while playing. During these child-parent playtime moments, it is important for you to reinforce those learned skills by providing positive feedback. This will allow the child to feel more confident and secure in their development.

Feelings are an important aspect of social skills. As children grow older, it is important for parents to discuss feelings with their children. These discussions will allow them to understand and interpret the feelings of others, as well as their own. Feelings are a form of expression, so when  children learn words associated with those feelings, they can later use them to talk about their emotions instead of acting out frustrations.

The following strategies can enhance a child’s social development:

Teach empathy: Provide examples of different scenarios and ask the child how other people might feel when certain things happen, then substitute different situations each time.

Talk about personal space: Explain that personal space is one’s own area around them that makes them feel comfortable. Run through what would be their own personal space, why it is important, and proper ways to interact with others during playtime.

Practice social cues: Teach children the proper way to get someone’s attention, join a group of others who are already playing together, and ways to start conversations with others.  

Teach sharing and taking turns: Sit with your child for at least an hour a day to play with them and explain what it means to wait, take turns, and share.

By practicing social skills, children will have the ability to build gratifying relationships with others and adjust to different environments in society with ease. As children grow older, they interact more with people in situations and environments where direct supervision by parents is not possible. Being able to draw from what they learned from home and educational settings about socializing, children make friends within their peer group that will help refine their skills as they grow and mature.

These friendships are important for all children to develop and need to be given the opportunity to at all ages. Friends serve central and vital functions and fulfill children in ways that parents cannot, and they play a crucial role in helping define themselves and develop their sense of identity.

As mentioned earlier, while social skills can be learned, teaching them can be learned as well. If you or you know of a parent that would like assistance in all aspects of social skills development, please refer them to Way to Grow and Play to Grow, as we cover all skills mentioned in this blog.

Play to Grow is held every Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM at Lucy Laney at Cleveland Park Community School (3333 Penn Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55412).

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