Monday, April 13, 2015

Tips for Applying to Preschool

by Dr. Michelle Nitka – Child psychologist and author of Coping With Preschool Panic the Los Angeles Guide to Private Preschools

Never mind college. How do you get your kids into preschool? Choosing a preschool, and being chosen, has come to feel like a competitive sport. The process of applying to preschool is enough to push parents of hearty constitutions to the edge.

But it does not have to be this way. Despite what some overachieving parents think, admission to the “right” preschool will not set your child on the road to Harvard. What is vastly more important is to finding the preschool that fits your child and your family. Given that the preschool search often begins when a child is not even a year old many parents may well ask, “How do I know who he is yet?  He can scarcely eat without drooling!”  It is important therefore to pay attention not only to your child’s needs but also to your own. The following tips will hopefully start you in the right direction.


1)  Do you want your child in a half-day program or a full-day program? How much flexibility do you need in terms of number of days your child is in school and hours your child is in school?

2)  How far do you want to drive? There are many outstanding preschool programs, and unless you have a pathological desire to listen to Barney or Elmo during long car rides, the closer the better.

3)  How much do you want to spend on preschool? Don’t forget hidden costs like the annual fund drive, capital campaigns, endowment funds, galas, etc. They all have different names but add up to the same thing – you are writing checks which can add thousands of dollars to your tuition.

4)  What is the educational philosophy you are most comfortable with (remembering of course that you are looking for the best fit for your child)? There are lots of choices out there, including but not limited to traditional academic, developmental, cooperative, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and Waldorf. 

5)  Would you consider sending your child to a preschool affiliated with a church or a temple? Remember that just because a preschool is affiliated with a religious institution does not necessary mean it is a religious preschool.   If you are interested in a preschool affiliated with a church or temple, joining the congregation can give you an advantage in the admissions process.

6)  Is diversity important to you, and if so, what kind of diversity is important to you?  Some schools are founded on the idea of having a diverse student body, while others are extremely homogeneous.

7)  Does your child have any special needs that might affect whether a preschool is a good fit? Some preschool directors are exceptional at working with and including children with special needs, while others seem to regard it as a burden.

8)  How much parent participation do you want to see in the preschool? What are the opportunities for parent involvement, and what are the expectations? There are some preschools, for example cooperative nursery schools, that by definition require a good deal of parent participation. If you have a very inflexible work schedule this may not be a good choice. On the other hand for a parent who has quit their job to be involved in their child’s early education, a school with little to no parent involvement might be quite frustrating.

9)  What is the school’s policy on toilet training?  Some preschools have a very strict requirement that a child must be toilet trained to start preschool while others are far more lenient and realize that peer modeling will probably accomplish the task rather rapidly. 

10) After preschool do you plan to send your child to public or private school? There are some preschools where everyone will graduate and attend private elementary schools. Those directors typically help their families with this application process and are very well versed in it. On the other hand, there are many excellent preschools where no one continues on to private school. 

11) Apply to the toddler program of the preschool you are interested in. Many preschools have toddler programs that start when the child is about 18 months old. Toddler programs generally meet once a week and the parent stays with the child. These programs are an excellent way of getting to know a preschool program. Although it is not a guarantee, many preschools acknowledge that attending their toddler program does afford the child an advantage in terms of admission to the preschool.

Finally, try to remember that although these first decisions regarding your child’s education are important, no preschool can ever replace you. There are no golden tickets – no preschool will guarantee success.  It is far more important to be a loving, involved, present parent.

Get Dr. Michelle Nitka's Book
Dr. Michelle Nitka teaches our Hot Topics lecture "Coping With Pre-School Panic" at all our store locations. For the next lecture near you contact:
  • Santa Monica: 310-998-1981
  • Hollywood: 323-469-5300

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mama, Dada, I’m ready for a Nap Schedule! 5 signs your baby is ready for ‘time of day’ naps.

By Julie Wright, MFT

Nap confusion is way up on the list of parents’ sleep questions and concerns.  No surprise here. Naps are notoriously tricky and constantly shifting like a moving target. 

In our book, we tout the incredible ‘90 minute awake span’ technique—a life-changer for babies and their exhausted parents in the early months. But what happens next?  How do we know when our little one is ready to move from napping based on how long he’s been awake, to a nap schedule based on the clock? 

The good news is your baby will show you the way. Here are 5 signs from your baby that he is ready for a nap schedule.

1.  I’m about 5 – 6 months old.
It may surprise you to hear that your baby’s circadian system—her internal clock that signals night, day and nap times—has matured a great deal by this age. Now she’s moved from the erratic sleep patterns of her early months into much more predictable, by-the-clock timing for going to sleep and waking up. 

Other developmental areas are also surging forward at break neck speed.  She is sucking her fingers or thumb, snuggling with her lovey and nestling her body to get comfy. By this age or soon, she is rolling and becoming comfortable with her physical prowess and newfound freedom. All of these lovely skills contribute to her ability to self soothe.

2.  I can fall asleep on my own!
Once your baby is doing what he is built to do – fall asleep on his own, you’re well on your way to much more predictable and scheduled naps.  That’s because when babies are accessing their innate capacity to fall sleep without outside help from you (rocking, bouncing, swinging, stroller, etc.), they sleep longer and more deeply.  They also are able to put themselves back to sleep after a sleep cycle or being awakened by a loud noise.  If they fall asleep in their familiar sleep space, using their helpful sleep associations (thumb, fingers, lovey, body position), they know just what to do to go back to sleep. 

3. My naps are starting to get longer.
What a welcome change! You thought it would never happen but those dreaded 30-minute (or less) naps are finally starting to stretch out!

Little babies often go down for their first nap after only an hour of awake time.  By about 6 months, especially if your baby is getting the 11-12 hours at night that her brain and body require, you’ll also see that span grow to 90 minutes and longer. These are sure signs that she is moving to a nice nap schedule.

4. My morning wake up time is settling in – finally!
Why oh why do little ones think 5:00am is a good time to start the day? 

This is very normal, but the good news is with maturity, self-soothing to sleep, and a consistent pattern of response from you, your early riser will start sleeping to at least his 11-hour mark (11 hours since bedtime)—which is what we want him to do. Once your little one is predictably ‘finishing his night’ and waking at about the same time each morning, this sets the stage for tolerating a longer awake span and being ready to move into time of day naps.

5.  My internal clock is showing the way.
Here’s the really cool one.  We know that sleep is natural and babies are built to sleep.  Well, then it would only make sense that their little bodies and brains know when it’s time to move to scheduled naps.  And it’s true!  You will start to notice a pattern emerging where that first nap not only moves a little later, but starts to settle into a predictable time of day.  You will no longer need to meticulously count the minutes of awake time but can now set your baby’s schedule. 

Here are examples of typical nap schedules for babies 6-9 months old:

                                    EXAMPLE 1                                    EXAMPLE 2

7:00 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
Wake time
6:00 a.m.
6:30 a.m.
First Nap
7:30 a.m.
8:30 a.m.
Second Nap
12:00 p.m.
12:30 p.m.
Third Nap
3:00 p.m.
3:30 p.m.

For more sleep help, join us at The Happy Sleeper Sleep Class for babies 5-24 months (all ages welcome). The next class is April 3, 11:15am – 12:45pm in Santa Monica. In the class we’ll teach you our approach for helping babies,
·      Fall asleep independently
·      Sleep through the night
·      Take healthy naps

Julie Wright and Heather Turgeon are the authors of the new book, The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Newborn to School Age (Penguin Random House).  Follow them on Facebook @TheHappySleeper

Mindful Parenting: How to Create a Joyful and Compassionate Home for Your Child

By Jill Campbell, PsyD

Jenny Q Photography
Often as parents we end up getting a lot of unsolicited advice. This advice, although well intended, might conflict with our own instincts and intuition. I believe that as parents, trusting our intuit has become an increasingly difficult thing to do. There is a lot of pressure today to be the “perfect” mom or dad. We have this unrealistic image in our heads of this person who always knows exactly what to say, what do to, who perfectly organizes and manages every detail of her family's life. In trying to live up to this idealized image in our heads, we often begin to lose who we truly are. 

The reality, however, is that not only should we let go of the goal of perfectionism, but according to renowned author and professor, Jon Kabat-Zinn, “perfect is simply not relevant." He states that “what is important is that we be authentic, and that we honor our children and ourselves as best we can. Being present, paying attention, being true to yourself .” I believe that, if we let it, parenthood can become a spiritual journey. It is a practice that teaches and inspires us to look inward, and grow as individuals. 

Jenny Q Photography
Parenting mindfully means parenting consciously and with awareness of what the present moment requires. Mindful parenting helps us to be present and attuned to our child's inner world. In order to do this we need to become calm, balanced, and consistent with ourselves. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is their full attention and validation.

Two wonderful books that I highly recommend on this subject are Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children by Sarah Napthali. Both books do a superb job of showing us how to really enjoy and embrace ourselves in the process of parenting, and how to see our children for who they really are. In Everyday Blessings, Kabat-Zinn tells us to try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. He asks us to do this for a few minutes everyday to remind ourselves who this child is and what he or she faces in the world. It is really such a simple exercise, but extremely powerful at the same time. It instantly evokes empathy and understanding which takes us out of our own heads, and brings us right back to the present moment. It helps us to see the difference between our expectations of our children, and who they really are. 

In Buddhism for Mothers, Sarah Napthali teaches us how to be aware of any tension building up in our bodies, and how to consciously release it. An exercise that can take just a moment to do, but completely centers and energizes us. It is from this place that we can begin to trust our instincts and intuition. It is from this place that all you need to parent lovingly and successfully comes to you.

I am very excited to be leading the workshop Mindful Parenting: How to Create a Joyful and Compassionate Home for Your Child at The Pump Station & Nurtury - Santa Monica on Thursday, April 2nd at 3pm. This workshop will teach powerful tools and techniques on how to be present and centered, thus creating an environment in which you can take better care of yourself and your family.

For more information on Dr. Jill Campbell's services, Lectures and Mommy & Me Support Groups please call us at 310-998-1981.