Preschool clumsiness is normal. Here’s how to help little ones stay safe.

By Donna Gray, originally published in the Calgary Herald
Advisory Board Member

For any parent with a preschooler, they’re bound to have a tale or two of trips, flips, scrapes, and minor accidents, even during the simplest of activities.

Relax, says Leah Bell, a certified exercise physiologist and coordinator for the Be Fit for Life Centre at the University of Calgary.

It’s normal for preschool kids to be clumsy while participating in physical activities.

“There are a lot of skills a lot of skills that children learn between the ages of 0-6 such as walking, running, balance, jumping, touching, kicking, and throwing,” she says. “They really need to focus on the ABCs–agility, balance, and coordination.”

She further explains that while kids may be learning to play a sport, or simply doing a freestyle activity, their body movements and the balance and agility requires, starts in the brain first. The problem is, their grey matter is still developing, hence the chance for injury.

“There are a lot of neural connections being made in the brain during this age,” she says. “Learning a variety of skills at an early age will give them an advantage in capturing the basics, and it will also boost their self esteem.”

Kids normally become more agile and able to play organized sports by age 8 or 9. That means parents of preschoolers have a long way to go before their kid joins a league or can efficiently play catch with mom or dad.

“Expect your preschooler will be clumsy,” she says. “They’re going to fall, trip, and get hurt. The more experiences they have to practice those ABC’s, the better they’ll do over time, and in future sports.”

Bell stresses keeping a physical environment challenging, but safe at the same time. And don’t forget that their attention spans are short and sweet, so don’t expect too much dedication.

“Bring in all five senses to a sport or unstructured play,” she says. “Avoid teaching them rules of playing the games and don’t obsess over technique or competitiveness. Start with a bigger ball, and then challenge them with a smaller ball.”

Planning ahead for nicks, cuts, falls, and other boo boos is essential, according to Valerie Powell, media spokesperson for the Canada Safety Council.

“The best thing for parents to do when their child is younger is to try and keep a watchful eye on them at all times,” she says. ‘”Be there to help them along in the learning process.”

Investing in a first aid kit and protective equipment are also helpful to ensuring a child’s natural clumsiness doesn’t get the better of them.

“Use protective equipment, especially a helmet for activities such as biking, skating, and skateboarding,” she says. “Learning First Aid and/or CPR training is a good idea for parents or caregivers. Keep a first aid kit handy, and make sure the kids have properly fitted shoes.”

For more information, visit the Canada Safety Council website at

Early detection of preschool learning challenges can help years down the road.

By Donna Gray, originally published in the Calgary Herald
Advisory Board Member

The first few weeks of preschool open up a world of experiences for a child. It can also reveal hidden cognitive, behavioural, and social issues that may need close attention.

From the age of four, any educational, health, or development issues become a shared responsibility with the Alberta ministries of Education, Family Services, and Health. If there is a concern before or after a child hits preschool, there is help available.

 “Children can start getting special education funding through Alberta Education at the age of two years, six months,” says Roxanne Bond, preschool co-ordinator at the Child Development Centre in Calgary.

The coverage needs to involve at least two issues such as delayed speech and language, motor (fine and gross), behaviour, and conditions medical in nature such as Attention Deficit Disorder, autism, genetic syndromes.

Some moms and dads struggle to step forward and ask for help, which can cause obvious delays. Doing so also requires research, extra time, and attention. The realization can also bring up fears that a child may not be perfect.

Bond says it is vital they work as advocates for their children.

“If parents believe their child has a delay, significant or not, it’s important to call their doctor first, or at least, call the Children’s Link Society for referral information” she says. “Pay attention to what the preschool teacher is saying about the child, if they are trained to notice such things.”

She also recommends parents who already have older children in elementary school, to talk with principals about programs, funding, and intervention when that preschooler eventually arrives at their door. 

“Principals often have to apply directly from their school for funding,” she says. “Preschools can do the same thing, so it’s a good idea to check if they applied for assistance before.”

Since many preschools are private, they may not be connected to public school systems, or resource programs. Joanne Baxter, an early childhood learning advisor and instructor at Mount Royal College, says some preschools may not be connected to provincial resources, but can offer private services or referrals for speech psychologists, collaborative mental health, psychologists.

“People wait and then look to the school board, but the resources aren’t always there,” she says. “People are still waiting half a year to see a psychologist.”

She adds that all children develop at their own pace, and cautions about coding too early.

“The early childhood education industry promotes intervention as early as possible,” she says. “But there are certain developmental aspects where young kids should not be coded until they are in kindergarten.”

Shirley Leew, pediatric rehabilitation clinical researcher with Alberta Health Services, has been screening young children for several years in order to determine the regions greatest intervention needs.

She says the studies help identify problems and confirm suspicions, but often parents don’t know where to go next.

“They’re not getting referred as often as they would like,” Leew says. “So we created an online resource book that gives them some leads.”

Leew says parents can be over vigilant, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Waiting until a child is 5 or 6 can be too late in terms of language,” she says. “The child has to relearn a whole new way of communicating by then, and it may be more difficult.”

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Preschoolers dreaming about future jobs is normal and encouraged!

By Donna Gray, Calgary Herald
Advisory Board Member

When Sean Tremble was five years old, he was crazy about cars—taking his toys apart, putting them back together, and making them go faster and further. His father Brent, was certain his son would pursue a career in mechanics.

“He was obsessive about all kinds of cars,” he recalls, “He would know the makes and models, and that would totally blow me away.”

Tremble says he promoted Sean’s interest when he could, even driving through car lots to look at new and vintage vehicles, and tinkering on his own car with his young son.

“Then, a few years later, he just stopped talking about cars,” Brent recalls. “He switched to video games. Now he’s on his way to university to study environmental sciences. You just never know.”

Over the past 30 years, Cora van Eden, owner and director of A Child First Preschool, has seen many children display vocational traits that can be displayed regularly during playtime. She says, sometimes, the evidence is so strong, that she automatically knows what profession a child will gravitate to.

“One of my former students is now a doctor,” she says. “When he was little, he was always in the house corner of the school, pretending to be a physician. He would even tell me which bandages were for heavy bleeding.”

She says the mandate of preschool is to start children on the road to discovery about themselves as well as the wide world around them.

“Sometimes parents worry that their children aren’t getting enough exposure to other activities,” she says. “The child may be obsessed with a particular activity or toy and cry when it’s taken away. The key is to keep showing them lots of scenarios.”

When a child shows a particular skill, does that mean they’re pre-destined for a certain profession? Perhaps, but it’s not a guarantee, says Cathy Carston, instructor for the Early Learning and Child program at Mount Royal College.

“Typically, they’re displaying portions of their skills being developed at different periods of time,” she says. “Some will develop physical before verbal, or vice versa. By age 7-8, it all comes together.”

For those children who are passionate about a certain activity or profession, she suggests encouraging activities that promote greater knowledge as well as individual skill. The danger, however, is that parents may be inclined to pigeon-hole their kids, steering them toward a profession they may not prefer or excel at later in life.

“If your child builds with Lego, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be architects or engineers,” she says. “It’s actually helping their sense of concentration and fine motor skills in preparation for future learning.”

She points out that 20 years from now, job descriptions and educational requirements will change, so go with the flow and give a child options.

“Talk to them about their interests and about what a doctor, or an engineer would do,” she says. “The more experience you can provide a child, they are better equipped and have more experiences to choose and dream from.”

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Preschool fears a reality, but a welcome opportunity

By Donna Gray
*Originally authored/published in Calgary Herald Neighbours Feb 2008
Advisory Board Member –

It’s the first day of preschool. You’ve built up the day for your child, preparing their clothes, snack, back pack. You’ve already done the tour, met the teacher, and talked about how fun preschool will be.

Once you get in the door, however, everything falls apart. Clinging, crying, and resistance make for a bad scene, not to mention feelings of guilt and remorse.

That’s exactly what Cheryl Gorski felt when her son Brandon began preschool a few years ago.

“Oh yeah,” she says with a laugh. “I remember it was pretty devastating for him. That surprised me, because he was always so bold and outgoing. He just lost it and gripped my neck. I left that place bawling myself.”

The drama lasted about a week, Gorski recalls. Then, her son finally figured out that she was coming back, so hanging out and playing wasn’t so bad.

“I had to be patient,” she says. “After that, he didn’t care. He’d just take off at the door to play without even saying goodbye.”

This scene is played out almost daily during the first few weeks of preschool, according to Joanne Baxter, chair of the child and youth studies department and an early childhood educator at Mount Royal College. The good news is, it’s normal. More good news, preschool teachers are prepared for intervention.

“The role of a caregiver is to make that transition, put a routine in place, and give the children some markers,” she says. “The understanding is that this is potentially stressful for the child and parent, both in the morning and at the end of the day.”

Part of a child’s ease into preschool is based on temperament. 

“For some children, it’s easy to make transitions, for others, it’s difficult,” says Baxter. “The most common fear is separation from mom, so we may invite her in for a while, but she never stays. We may also bring in extra staff to help and we have a goodbye song.

One of the rules of ECE professionals is to observe any behaviour that is beyond the normal reaction.”

“Sometimes they are crying and not easily settled,” she says. “You may also see some regression, where the child wets themselves.”

 Fear of the unknown can plague even the most confident child, especially in new situations and group settings. Michael Haggstrom says that preschoolers operate in their own space, and don’t dare to look outward until they deem it safe to do so.

“Little kids don’t think in words the way that we do, they feel,” he says. “They’re worried where mom or dad is going. For all they know, they’re gone forever.”

His tip to parents: be understanding, but firm. Show trust in the teacher, the setting, and demonstrate that the child can’t use the fear to get out of going to preschool.

“Some kids will think they can win the parents over,” he says. “The child may exaggerate. Let the child know it’s not negotiable.”

He also suggests taking a photo of the teacher and child in the classroom during a tour, shopping together for a back pack or lunch box, and preparing for the school day the night before just in case an emotional outburst occurs in the morning.

If the child is unusually traumatized, it’s up to the preschool teacher and parent to determine if the timing isn’t right or if there is another issue.

“Some kids are not ready for preschool,” he says. “If there is a concern, after a few days, really not adapting, it might be something to consider. A parent should still get the child involved in group activities, and after six months, a lot can change.”

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Play teaches important life skills

By Henna Viertio
ECE Specialist / Kujo’s Kid Zone Board Member
August 4, 2019

According to newest research shared play between an adult and a child encourages development and strengthens the child.  Children are naturally curious and eager to learn and they investigate and learn through play and exploration. Play is created through interaction.

Play is a child’s way to make sense of the world and practice his or her understanding of right and wrong. Playing together also teaches the child to play alone. In his or her play scenarios a child examines and explores the experiences of the day and practices wonderful new ideas. Playing together creates shared joy and strengthens healthy attachment. In good quality play, two minds meet to explore reality and imagination. Play can appear ordinary, but it is quite incredible that a 1-yearl-old child is able to pretend to serve his mother tea and enjoy shared and cooperative symbolic play.

At its best play takes a child on a happy, spontaneous and imaginative journey towards discovery. Art, culture and science development is made possible through play. Development is always based on play, creating and visualizing with one’s mind, freeing the mind from the ordinary. This is why connecting generations through play is so vital. All the participants learn something new and find hope for the future. Separation causes insecurity and disbelief, and togetherness creates hope and trust.

Play is miniature human life: everything related to life can be explored through play. There is danger and robbers, survival and accomplishments, competition and misfortune, coincidences and subtlety, there is love, fear, but above all, there is hope. In life, rules are necessary and we practice applying and modifying them through play.

Play develops child’s imagination and creativity, which helps him face the many tasks and challenges of life. Attentiveness and understanding cause and effect are practiced through play. Furthermore, child practices accomplishment and failure and develops courage for a successful life. It is not easy, however necessary.

Imagination opens the door to the development of empathy- our ability to imagine how others feel and to relate to them in a sympathetic way. By softening, balancing and correcting reality, imagination also allows enduring reality. Through imagination we can build our dreams for a better future.

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