We know that education speak isn't something everyone is versed in. Thats why we're blogging-- for you to understand what we do to help our students grow and strive every day. 

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Posted by Kids Express Team on July 2, 2014 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (1)

In the Early Childhood field, the term “Pre-Writing” is one that is largely discussed. Everyone knows that writing is a very important aspect of communication that every child must master to be successful in life. Writing is a skill that most people use every day, whether it be writing a birthday card to a friend, or filling out a form for school. Even in a world full of technology, the written word is still everywhere. But how do you teach a young child to write, you ask? We teach them the skills they need before it’s time to learn to write!

Developing pre-writing skills is necessary to begin writing. It is an important step because it teaches children the correct way to hold a pencil, how to use a good firm grip, and emphasizes the use of fine motor skills (using our fingers and hands to complete tasks). Pre-writing also helps children develop hand eye coordination, learn that words go left to write, and that lines of writing go to the top of the page.

Tracing is a very effective way for preschoolers to learn how it feels to write. But children should not just be expected to learn how to trace instinctively. If your child is under the age of two, they should start out by learning the correct way to hold a pencil. Then, once the students’ muscle control increases, they can begin tracing dotted lines (curvy, straight, or jagged lines). Once the student has mastered that skill, they can move on to tracing more advanced shapes. Finally, after the child has successfully mastered these skills, they can begin working on letters and numbers! We also do a number of play activities that help strengthen little hands, like squishing play-dough! It is important to remember that all children develop at their own pace, so do not fret if your child does not develop exactly according to these general guidelines.



Here are some activities our classrooms use to help develop fine motor skills and practice pre-writing:

• Using play-doh (squeezing, rolling, forming letters)

• Playing any game that makes them learn to stay on a path or within two lines.

• Cutting and tearing paper

• Lacing cards

• Stringing beads on string, beads, or yarn

• Using finger paint to practice writing letters

• Using a child’s fingers to make letters in shaving cream

• Tracing their names in shaving cream

• Tracing letters and numbers on work sheets

• Using Stencils to trace shapes, letters, numbers, figures

Hopefully, after reading this information, you have gained a greater knowledge of how to help develop your child’s fine motor and other pre-writing skills necessary for children to be successful in Kindergarten, and ultimately become better writers!

Author: Megan DiNovo, Marketing and Administrative Assistant

Manipulative Play

Posted by Kids Express Team on April 23, 2014 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

While I was flipping through the Kids Express Parent Handbook one term that kept popping up was “Manipulative Play.” The first time I saw it I read it and forgot it, but then I saw it again and I had to ask Kelly, our Assistant Director, what the term meant. She had a difficult time explaining it without using the “Teacher Speak” that was ingrained in her throughout the years while she earned her degrees in education. And so, I thought this was a perfect topic to explain here on our blog.

Manipulative play can be defined as a time that a child (or adult) plays with small objects by twisting, turning, pulling, and physically manipulating it with their hands. This type of play helps enhance fine motor skills and hand eye coordination while developing muscles that the child will use throughout their lifetime.

I went to the expert, our Occupational Therapist who works for Achievements, to get more information on the matter for more information for you. She helped me to understand what sorts of manipulative play teachers plan for, why it is so important, and so much more.

One sort of manipulative play would be squirting a water bottle. Perhaps on a nice day you and your child could go outside and use a squirt bottle to water plants and flowers. This activity is fun AND it helps to develop the muscles that we use to do classroom activities like use scissors.

Another activity would be using tongs to pick up small objects. Encourage that the child use the “tri-pod” grip (like when you use a pencil) to pick up something like pom-poms, beads, etc. and sort them by color, shape or size. This strengthens the muscles your child will need to have to use a pencil or pen!

One sort of manipulative play that you and your child may do without noticing that it is manipulative play at all is doing puzzles! Think about it! When you do a puzzle you have to flip and turn the pieces until they fit! Our Occupational Therapist also mentioned how good puzzles are for overall development. They help develop organizational skills when you separate pieces into piles that look alike and they help teach how to visually differentiate between different objects!

So, now you know a little more about how important manipulative play is. Maybe you’ll think twice the next time your child reaches for the controller or remote and switch to do a little manipulative play yourself!

Sensory Play - What is it, and why is it so important?

Posted by Kids Express Team on April 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Helping our children to engage in sensory exploration is something most parents do all the time, often without even realizing it! Say, for example, it is bath time and your child is splashing the water with their hands or feet – this is a sensory activity using water! Or maybe your child has a blankie that they like to rub between their fingers or on their face. This is a sensory activity that your child might be using to self-soothe, or maybe they just like the way it feels!

At Kids Express, we really stress the importance of sensory play and sensory exploration for all of our students. Even before children lean to talk, they have been using their senses (sight, taste, hearing, smell, touch) to explore their environment for their entire lives! Children are hard wired to receive and utilize sensory material from day one. Even for kiddos who are preschool age, sensory exploration is their most familiar and most basic way to explore, process, and come to understand new information! This is why it is so important that we allow children to learn through play and experiences, rather than lecture. Children need to use their senses to be engaged and learn from meaningful experiences.

We tie sensory play into all of our lesson plans and link them to each weekly theme throughout the year! For example, when our theme was Eggs and Bunnies (Spring), our sensory tables were filled with colored grass for the kiddos to hide eggs and find them! During Gardening week, we fill our sensory tables with dirt, seeds, flowers, shovels and plastic insects like ants, grasshoppers, and ladybugs. This is a great way for children to experience what it is like to plant flowers, make anthills, and just have fun playing in the dirt! Sensory activities can also help to develop language, by asking children how substances feel. You will get a variety of responses, such as ‘this feels mushy, squishy and wet!’

For toddlers and preschoolers, sensory play is the best and most basic way for children to explore their environments. Children at this age learn through meaningful experiences and it is important that we foster these experiences in a way that children can have fun and use all of their senses at the same time!

For some cool sensory ideas for you to do with your child at home, check out our Pinterest page!

Author: Megan DiNovo, Achievements and Kids Express

Play Plans

Posted by Kids Express Team on April 15, 2014 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

We use Play Plans here at Kids Express in our classrooms where the children are ready for them. Since this was a new concept to me, one that was really unique, I’d like to take the time to explain them just a bit.

A play plan is a drawn and written description of what the child expects to do during a specific play time (usually center time), including imaginary situations, roles they want to be and even the props (toys) they might use. 

Planning on paper creates a record of what the child wanted to do that the child and the teacher can look at. The plan can be looked at any time to remind a child of their plan. Potential ‘hot spots’ are worked out in advance. This helps us lessen conflicts and it teaches the children to eventually solve conflicts on their own (meaning it helps them to self-regulate).

Teachers can write down what the child says they will do if the child cannot yet write. This turns the planning session into a literacy activity. The children can then draw their plan or even paste pictures that represent the roles on their plan.

Planning on paper strengthens play’s self-regulation function. It provides a way for both the child and the teacher to revisit the plan to help thechild remember what they planned to do.

In creating, discussing and revising their plans, children can learn to control their behaviors in play and beyond, thus acquiring self-regulatory skills (as opposed to the teacher always having to tell them what to do). Play plans can increase the quality of child play and the level of self-regulation, while teaching writing, reading, and other important skills.


Additionally, the play plan serves as a tool to measure each student’s growth. In the beginning of the year they may be drawing a very simple picture with not much writing but near the end the plans will be detailed and descriptive.


Play plans are a wonderful tool that you can even use at home! Simply give some options of activities and ask your child to choose one and draw what they are going to be doing!


For more information on play plans please ask our administrators or teachers or go to our Parent Resources board on our Pinterest Page!

What is Play-Based Learning?

Posted by Kids Express Team on April 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Because I don’t have any schooling in the education field, which helps me identify terms and ideas that might be foreign to the parents and guardians of our students. One of these terms is “play-based learning.”

We use the term “play-based learning” a lot when explaining how our preschool programs allow your children to have fun and learn at the same time. It may be something you hear a lot if you tour preschool centers and it may be something you see in letters that are sent home from you child’s teacher. Now, this concept may not be as difficult to understand as some of the other “teacher-speak,” but to help you get a better feel of what play-based learning is I asked some of the teachers and administrators to explain it to me.

Ms. Darci, our School Psychologist said, “Play-based learning targets all required early learning standards without children realizing that they’re learning. It’s fun and interactive.”

Ms. Tami, our Executive Director said, “We use play-based learning because play provides children with the opportunity for active exploration that helps build and strengthen brain pathways. The more children use their minds in creative ways at this age, the more flexible they become as learners which improves their potential for ongoing learning later in life.”

And finally, Room 18 (Ms. Emily, Ms. Renee, and Ms. Melissa) came up with this quote together: “In our classroom we see play-based learning when children are engaging with each other and making connections from their previous experiences. For example, when learning about flowers we give them an opportunity to play flower shop and not only participate in dramatic play but use each other as resources to learn about the parts of the flower how a flower shop runs, money sense and social interactions by using each other as resources. “

The glory of play-based learning is that it is often by the child’s free will that he or she participates and engages. This is a wonderful thing because it is not forced and allows children to explore their own abilities in a comfortable environment.

For more tips, ideas, and quotes about play-based learning you can reach out to any one of our highly qualified teachers or administrators or go to our “Parent Resources” board on our Pinterest page.

Our Policies: Let me explain...

Posted by Kids Express Team on April 10, 2014 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

The Kids Express Parent Handbook is the one source of information that is sent home at the start of your child’s enrollment here. It covers everything that you could possibly wonder about our programs and staff and well, a whole bunch more. There are a few things in there that I believe could use further discussion. These include: our food, sick, pick up, and behavioral management policies.


Listed in handbook as: “FOOD”

First and foremost, we are a peanut and tree nut free school. Many children have severe allergies to nuts and tree nuts and we can’t risk their safety. I know this is tricky, especially if you have a picky eater, but it is important to check all labels to ensure that products do not contain nuts or were not processed or contaminated with or by any nuts at all. There are many resources and blogs that have creative, nut-free alternatives for snacks and lunches! For some examples check out our “Parent Resources” board on Pinterest!


Listed in handbook as: “Guidelines for When to Keep a Child Home”

This section is pretty self-explanatory but sometimes questions arise. It is pretty important to reiterate as the sicknesses and germs covered in this section could be a pretty big problem. Germs that spread end up infecting other children and staff and before you know it we have a really big problem, which can even end up having too many staff absent due to illness. It is also unfair to other children to expose them to germs when it can be avoided simply by following our policy. Not only is the germ spreading a concern, but if your child is not feeling themselves due to illness that could lead to a very difficult day at school. This part of the handbook goes through each specific symptom and illness so I won’t write about each one of them here. If you are a current parent and you are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about feel free to ask us, or login to the Parent Zone and go through it yourself.


Not listed in handbook.

School safety is a hot topic as of late. For this reason, we have some strict policies about pick-up. First, we require ID at pick up. If the person who is picking up is unfamiliar we will most certainly ask for a photo ID. The name of the person must be listed on your child’s “Permission to Release” form for us to allow them to pick your child up. We also ask that no one other than staff open the door for anyone else. This might be awkward but it’s crucial for your child’s safety.

Behavioral Management

Listed in handbook as: “BEHAVIORAL MANAGEMENT”

We know that every child may engage in inappropriate behavior from time to time. It happens! It is our job to guide them in the right direction and teach appropriate behavior. We try to focus on the positive, encourage the child to express how they are feeling and figure out what might be causing them to act out. Next, we figure out how to help them. Some techniques we might use to deal with tricky behaviors include affection, prompting, redirecting, and taking a break. Our highly trained staff is very good at assessing the situation and figuring out exactly how to help the child.

Hopefully the information above was helpful to you and provided a bit of clarity for topics that can sometimes be confusing! These are only a few of the policies and procedures we have listed for you in our Parent Handbook. If you are interested in learning more about these topics, or any other information in the Parent Handbook, our friendly administrators are always here to help! Feel free to come in and chat with us, or call us anytime at (518) 328-0430.

All Aboard the Kids Express Blog!

Posted by Kids Express Team on April 4, 2014 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Welcome Aboard the Kids Express Blog! For those of you that don’t already know, Kids Express is an early childhood school located in Watervliet, NY just minutes away from Latham, Troy, Cohoes, and Albany. Our programs include toddler, preschool, kindergarten, K-Wrap, before care, after care, and school aged after care, and are suitable for children 18 months to 10 years of age.

More than the average daycare, we pride ourselves on having low teacher to student ratios, master’s level teachers, and curriculum that meets the NYS Early Learning Standards. Sure, this is something you hear a lot, but maybe you don’t know what it actually means. So, let me try to explain.

Our low teacher to student ratios means that in every classroom we have a main teacher and one, two or even three teacher’s assistants depending on the number of children. We try to never have more than 16 children at a maximum in a single classroom. This means that your child is getting individualized attention to ensure that they are getting the most out of classroom activities.

In each classroom there is at least one teacher who has earned their master’s degree in the education field. This means that they are practically experts on teaching and that they use what they’ve learned to help your children grow!

Having qualified teachers also means that they know what is going to be expected from them during the rest of their education (like when they enter grade school). NYS Early Learning Standards help set certain goals that should be met in preschool and kindergarten based on what your children will need to know to be their best self. The main goals that are met through these guidelines are having your child grow in the areas of social-emotional, language and literacy, cognitive, physical, and aesthetic development.

Long story short, we know that educators and teachers use certain key words or phrases that may be unfamiliar. Perhaps you don’t know how a child would benefit from going to school as early as 18 months or maybe you just want to know more about your child’s day… This blog will be your cheat sheet to understanding the things you may not know about Kids Express and early childhood education in general.

Author: Amelia Bach, Marketing and Administrative Assistant