Feeling Thankful – Tips for Creating an Attitude of Gratitude

The holidays often stir up feelings of joy and excitement. For many families, the holiday hustle can also lead to feelings of overwhelm. Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, it is up to us to ensure that the holidays mean more to our children than stress and decorations. The holidays offer the perfect opportunity to reinforce the importance of gratitude with your children. Gratitude is one of the most challenging concepts to teach little ones, but also one of the most important.

Not only are thankful children more likely to be polite and pleasant, but they tend to be more sensitive to the feelings and efforts of others. On the reverse side, kids who are not taught to be grateful often develop a false sense of entitlement – which can lead to bigger problems later on.

Most experts agree that gratitude must be learned. Learning to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is a great start for children as young as toddlers and preschoolers. But developing an attitude of gratitude goes beyond good manners. Gratefulness has to be practiced daily to really take hold. How often as adults do we find ourselves longing for more instead of appreciating what we have? To keep gratitude going is a lifelong process.

So how can we encourage thankfulness? Here are some tips to encourage an attitude of gratitude that will stay with children through adulthood:

Model it – Children learn by example. Be sure to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when you talk to them, and insist that they use these words also. Good manners and gratitude go hand in hand. At Cranium Academy, students benefit from CRANIUM CHARACTER curriculum designed to nurture the development of values such as gratitude and respect. From preschool through elementary school, children learn how to show gratitude and good manners, and our teachers model and praise these behaviors within the classroom.

Talk about it – Weave appreciation for even the simplest things into your daily conversations. In saying things like, “We are so lucky to have this healthy lunch,” or “I am so grateful to have some extra time to spend with you,” you can help make gratitude a habit for you and your child. To ramp up the gratitude in your home, try to make talking about the good things that happened today part of the dinnertime conversation and/or your nightly routine.

Let them do it – While getting children to participate in household chores may seem like a chore, it’s the best way to teach them that time and effort are valuable and should be appreciated. In participating, children also build a sense of work ethic and responsibility.

Appreciate it – When they receive something, no matter how big or small, encourage them to focus on the thought behind the gift or kind act. “That was so nice of your friend to draw that for you. You must be a very special friend to him.” Attaching meaning to acts of giving will create a deeper appreciation for them.

Say ‘no’ to it – Kids are sure to ask for toys, games, and candy – especially around the holidays. It’s nearly impossible to feel grateful when you are given everything you want. Don’t be afraid to let your child know that you don’t have an infinite supply of money. Teach them from an early age that people work to earn money to support themselves and their families. When your child asks for things, it’s ok to say, “Would you like to put that on your wish list?” Or, “Why don’t you save up your allowance or birthday money to buy it?” Saying ‘no’ does not make you a bad parent – it teaches children that things are earned, and it helps them better appreciate what they have.

Share it – Think of ways to share your gratitude with others. Have your child write a special thank you note to someone who has been kind to them. Go through old toys or clothes to donate them and talk about how grateful someone else will be to receive them.

Wait for it – Don’t expect gratitude to flourish overnight. Like most values and good habits we hope to instill in our children, being thankful requires ongoing reinforcement and a lot of effort. But you’ll surely be grateful when your efforts pay off with an attitude of gratitude!

Cranium Academy offers a completely unique preschool through fifth grade private school experience, plus unforgettable summer camps, birthday parties, after school programs, and more! Now serving more of the Orlando area with our Winter Garden – Windermere preschool and elementary school location and our brand new East Orlando location near Lake Nona.

Building Cranium Character – Raising Kids Who Care and Contribute

Chances are you’ve read or watched the news lately and felt discouraged. Stories of kindness and compassion seem harder and harder to come by. As parents, we all hope our children will grow up to be kind, caring individuals who make a difference and leave a positive legacy. But how can we be more proactive in raising them this way?

Many say that if we want to make the world a better place, we should focus on building character. Our character is our moral compass, the thoughts and feelings we have which guide us in making decisions. As children grow up in a world filled with negative influences, they will need to rely on their character more than ever.

Although most children are born to be givers, as we get older, we are often socialized to think more about ourselves than others. We do our best to give kids love and attention. We give them hugs and encouragement, or even special gifts or treats. Children learn quickly that it feels good to receive such kindness. However, research has shown that to reduce bullying, enrich friendships and build more peaceful relationships, we have to teach children to be givers of kindness.

Children learn by example. Parents, siblings, relatives and childcare providers give children their first glimpses of kindness, honesty, generosity, and fairness. Caring is at the heart of character, and caring for others often starts with empathy. If children can learn to think and care about how their actions impact others, and how their words and actions make others feel, they are on their way to becoming more caring, compassionate adults who want to help others.

Character development begins at home and continues at school. Preschool often provides a child’s first interactions with others outside of the family. At Cranium Academy, students benefit from CRANIUM CHARACTER, curriculum designed to nurture the development of respect, responsibility, caring, citizenship, and more. Children learn about these values, then participate in hands-on activities which help foster their development.

So what can we do to help our children build strong character?

Tips to Raise More Caring Children

Make caring clear – Telling children to be nice is important, but simple explanations and examples of what that really means is typically more effective. Through Cranium Character, students learn that caring means to be kind, show you care, express gratitude, treat others as you want to be treated, forgive, and help people in need. Children benefit from simple examples of what that looks like throughout their day (sharing, taking turns, using kind words and gentle hands, etc.).

Lead by example – Even more important than telling children what caring people do, is showing them. If children see kindness, they are more likely to replicate it. Nobody is perfect, but if we want our children to have integrity, we have to do our best to show them what that means every day.

Encourage empathy – Children who stop to think of how others might feel are more likely to think about their choices, and the consequences of their actions. In conversations with your child, ask them to think about how others are feeling. Encourage children to think about how they would feel if something similar happens to them.

Recognize kindness – Praise kids when they do something nice for you or others. Be specific with your praise. For example, “That was very kind of you to share your puzzles. I’m sure that made your friends feel happy.”

Volunteer together – Teaching children about others in need, and showing them how they can help others is important to building character, compassion, and leadership in children. Look for opportunities to volunteer together as a family, and you’ll discover there are many benefits beyond helping others. Volunteering teaches even preschoolers about gratitude, compassion, empathy, and community responsibility. Also, children who volunteer are more likely to do so as adults.

Putting Our CRANIUM CHARACTER into Action this October

Throughout the year, Cranium Academy preschool and elementary school students have various opportunities to build character! In October, we are bringing character education to life through:

Pinktober – Students wear pink on a special day in October to support breast cancer awareness

Goodness Goodies – Students donate a portion of their candy from Halloween parties to create special treat bags for the families of sick children staying at the Ronald McDonald House

Harvest Food Drive – Cranium Academy families donate food for the homeless through Matthew’s Hope

If we want to make a difference, we can start with our children. Providing opportunities for children to see and practice caring is an important step to strengthening character and creating a more caring, peaceful world.

Cranium Academy offers a completely unique preschool through fifth grade private school experience, plus unforgettable summer camps, birthday parties, after school programs, and more! Now serving more of the Orlando area with our Winter Garden – Windermere preschool and elementary school location and our brand new East Orlando location near Lake Nona.

Send-Off Success! Tips to Ease Your Morning Drop-Off

So you finally managed to get your child through breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and getting in the car, but one hurdle remains – saying goodbye!

Whether going to school for the first time, or returning after a summer at home, going to school involves transition. Feelings of excitement may be accompanied by feelings of anxiety. Crying, clinging, and even begging (“Please don’t leave me!) can be harder on parents than kids. Remember that most children quickly turn off the tears after saying goodbye, then move on to learning and laughing with teachers and friends!

With a little patience and consistency, rest assured that you and your child will adjust to the transition. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions to help ease your morning drop-off:

Start early. Prep as much as you can the night before (set out clothes, prepare lunch and backpacks, etc.). Try to get kids in bed early so they get plenty of rest and can wake early enough for a healthy breakfast, extra cuddles and a calm morning routine.

Be consistent. Change can be tough for everyone. Consistency is key to a successful transition to school. Going to school on a regular basis will help your child adjust and teach them how to work through negative feelings. Each time you pick them up, remind them that you came to pick them up just as promised, which may ease anxiety the next day.

Talk about what to expect, and listen. Even for adults, the unknown can be scary. Keep explanations simple, but letting your child know what to expect may reduce anxiety. Explain changes to their routine, and try to focus on the positive side of each. Ask your child if they are excited about school, then listen. If they bring up concerns, acknowledge them and address them openly. Talk about healthy ways to ease their fears. If concerns persist or worsen, speak with your child’s teacher about them.

Use drive time to get kids excited. On the way to school, talk about what you know to be the favorite parts of your child’s day. Mention any special friends you know they’ll be excited to see to remind them of what they like about school. Stay upbeat, and if you sense the conversation is causing more stress, switch to small talk. Try to avoid giving your child any ideas (“Don’t throw a fit”) or comparing them with other kids (“Joe never cries at drop-off”).

Think about developing a goodbye ritual. Sometimes expecting that special hug or high five along with a consistent phrase (“See you later, alligator!”) can make it easier for your child to say goodbye. Once you’ve said your goodbyes, it’s best to leave quickly.

Stay positive and keep goodbyes short and sweet. Kids can pick up on your mood. So if you appear nervous and anxious, your child will likely follow suit. Try to appear confident that your child will separate easily — say goodbye cheerfully and matter-of-factly before leaving.

Read books with your child that address goodbyes. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney are excellent books that can ease separation anxiety in preschoolers. Children in elementary school and beyond may benefit from interactive self-help books such as ‘What to Do When You Worry Too Much’ by Dawn Huebner. Reading about how others deal with similar feelings can be comforting, and help reinforce your efforts to calm anxiety.

Help the teacher get to know your child. Ideally, your child’s teacher will be warm, caring, and able to anticipate your child’s needs. If you know your child is anxious, brief the new teacher with information that could help them get to know each other better. Knowing favorite colors, games, or even songs your child likes can be helpful. It may also help to know what techniques you use to calm your child when feeling upset or anxious.

Don’t be too hard on yourself! Remind yourself that these feelings are normal, and part of growing up. They often come and go. Learning to work through difficult emotions is an important part of becoming more independent and learning to cope with transitions in life. Remember that time apart is healthy for you and your child.

It’s important to find a school that creates a positive, welcoming environment where your child loves to learn. At Cranium Academy, our teachers look forward to working as a team with parents in easing the transition to school.

Remember that with patience and consistency, your little one will better adjust so you can say goodbye to tears and hello to a successful school year!

Cranium Academy offers a completely unique preschool through fifth grade private school experience. Students benefit from a unique combination of advanced curriculum featuring custom learning paths, critical thinking, innovative technology, and creative play experiences. Summer camps, holiday camps, birthday parties, after school programs, and more are also available. Now serving more of the Orlando area with our Winter Garden – Windermere location and our newest location in East Orlando near Lake Nona, FL.

Keeping Children Curious Over the Summer – Encouraging Critical Thinking

With the long, hot days of summer upon us, parents often ensure kids stay hydrated with plenty of water. But what about your child’s thirst for learning?  Although school is out, their need for learning continues.

Children are naturally curious. Did you know that all of those questions, which may try your patience at times, are actually making your child smarter?  Curiosity is the desire to learn more and to look for evidence. It also means being open to new ideas.  Experts often say curiosity is the driving force of intellect.

Critical Thinking – The Cranium Way

Cranium Academy was founded with a vision to encourage the natural curiosity within each child, preparing students to become the best critical thinkers of their generation.  But what exactly is critical thinking, and how can it help your child?

Critical thinking involves a number of different skills that help us learn to make decisions. It allows us to evaluate information to figure out whether it is right or wrong.  To think critically about a problem means to be open-minded and consider different ways of looking at solutions. And it may be one of the most important skills that today’s children will need for the future.

So can children as young as preschoolers be taught critical thinking?  Cranium Academy says YES! Critical thinking starts with curiosity.  Whether it’s learning how to do something new, how to react to a friend, or whether or not to listen to a teacher, children face opportunities to solve problems and use their judgment every day.  As they grow, their critical thinking skills will help them make judgments on their own, independently of parents or peers.

Teaching Critical Thinking ‘The Cranium Way’

Teaching ‘The Cranium Way’ involves a modern Montessori approach to critical thinking. Children are taught in a way that encourages curiosity and discovery, allowing them to truly comprehend what they are learning so they are able to apply it to real-world situations.

Our teachers focus on moving beyond ‘what,’ into ‘how’ and ‘why,’ and our exclusive curriculum is designed to go beyond memorization to a higher goal of active critical thinking.  So what does this look like in a classroom?

Let’s use the scientific method as an example. Traditional teaching techniques might have a child memorize the steps of the scientific method.  In teaching ‘the Cranium Way,’ students don’t just memorize each step, they go through each step as they become official Cranium Scientists!  After learning why scientists make observations, they use each of their five senses to observe grapes as a class.  How do they look?  How do they smell? Do they make any sounds?  What would happen if we squeezed one?  How do they taste? Working through each step of the scientific method in a fun way helps to ensure children comprehend and retain what they are learning.

Tips to Reinforce Critical Thinking at Home

If you don’t think your child’s school is encouraging critical thinking, then it will be even more important for you to work on critical thinking skills at home. Here are some tips to help:

Start early:  Preschoolers may not be ready for formal logic, but they can learn to give reasons for their conclusions.  And they can learn to evaluate the reasons that others give them.

Give them reasons:  Rather than telling them to do things a certain way without explaining why, give them a simple reason or explanation.

Encourage kids to ask questions:  It may drive you a little crazy but parents and teachers should foster curiosity in children. If something doesn’t make sense to a child, they should be encouraged to voice their questions or objections about it.

Don’t give them the answers:  Rather than automatically giving children the answers to their questions, help them think critically by asking them questions in return.  You can simply ask “What do you think?” or “How would you solve this problem?” Or you could say something like, “That is interesting. Can you tell me why you think that?”

Ask kids to consider different solutions: Getting the answer ‘right’ is nice, but for many problems it’s possible to have more than one solution. Considering different solutions may help children become more flexible thinkers who are more likely to think ‘outside of the box.’

At Cranium Academy, we share weekly tips and ideas with parents to reinforce critical thinking and the lessons we are learning in the classroom.  Here are some examples of how parents can use ‘the Cranium Way’ to bring natural science to life at home:

Think of a question together, something your child is curious about (like which of my toy cars is the fastest?). Then come up with a hypothesis. Work with your child to come up with steps for an experiment to test, and try it. Let them record data by drawing a picture showing what happened. Come up with a conclusion together and share your findings with the family!

Cook together, following a simple recipe. What might happen if you skipped a step in the recipe? Have your child make predictions about what will happen next, and what the final product will look like.  Follow the recipe, then use all of your five senses to observe what you made together!

In Conclusion

Just like any sound science experiment, this post must come to a conclusion! Children are naturally curious.  Together, we can encourage that curiosity and inspire the next generation of leaders and critical thinkers.

How can you keep curious minds active over the summer? Cranium Academy offers summer camps which are the perfect combination of learning and fun!

Cranium Academy offers a completely unique preschool through fifth grade private school experience, plus unforgettable summer camps, birthday parties, after school programs, and more! Now serving more of the Orlando area with our Winter Garden – Windermere location and a new location opening August 2015 in East Orlando near Lake Nona, FL.

Choosing a Preschool Program – Some Research Tips for Parents

There are many questions that can be asked to help in selecting the best preschool program for you and your child.  From the learning environment, to what type of method the school uses to teach your child, you can expect to find many differences between child care and development facilities.

Selecting a preschool for your child can seem overwhelming, but it is an important decision which can affect your child in many ways. Research shows about half of the brain’s neural network is set by age 5, 80% by age 8. So how do you choose the right preschool?  Before you start researching and calling schools, you should ask yourself a few questions.

Basic Questions to Ask Yourself

What kind of environment are you looking for?
Do you want a school located near your workplace or home?
Are you looking for a particular educational philosophy?
What is most important to you in a preschool program?
What kinds of specific needs does your child have?
What kinds of needs do you have regarding your schedule?
How much of your budget can you allocate for preschool expenses?

You will want to do your research and ask for word of mouth recommendations. Every parent has goals for their children growing up, and guiding them through the early years is crucial to their academic success and well-being. The preschool you choose should have a mission and values which align with yours to provide a healthy environment and ensure your child can continue to build on what they learn at home.

A preschool that has nurturing relationships between the children and their teachers sets a great tone for early learning and fun.  Make sure that there is a good balance between individual and group learning. Find out how the facility mixes the building blocks of learning with the excitement of play to keep all of their senses heightened.  Keeping your child engaged is key to advancement through the program and through life.

Tips for Researching Preschools

Knowing the main differences between the preschools in your preferred area can help you narrow down the right learning center for your child.  Taking the time to set up an appointment to tour the top 2-3 facilities you feel might best meet your needs is necessary to help you make that difficult decision.

When touring a facility, in addition to listening and asking questions, there are many things to look for. Be sure to observe what is going on within the school. How does the atmosphere look and feel?  Are the bookshelves stocked and does technology feel present?  A first impression of a preschool denotes what happens behind the scenes.  If a facility cares about the literature they give you, and they take pride in cleanliness, those can be early signs of a well thought out preschool program.  How is the overall noise level and organization of the classrooms?  If you see well behaved children and teachers which appear to be engaging the children and attentive to their needs, you could be in the right place.

Most preschoolers are capable of learning much more than ABC’s.  Ask questions about the curriculum that your child will be exposed to.  How situations are dealt with is a deciding factor as well.  From how a facility deals with allergies and accidents to confrontation and behavior, answers to these types of questions can provide a lot of valuable insight into the preschool program.

In your research for the best preschool solution for your child, you should ask friends and family with children what they are experiencing or have experienced.  They may be able to give you questions to ask that you would not have thought of.

Quick Tips on Choosing a Preschool for Your Child

Ask Yourself Basic Questions about Your Needs
Ask Friends and Family for Word of Mouth Recommendations
Schedule Tours with Your Top Selections
Observe Closely
Ask About the Programs
Review and Compare the Curriculum

Wanting the best for your child is completely normal.  While the search for the best preschool for your child can seem stressful and tedious, choosing one that you feel is the best match based on your research gives your child the best possible chance at success.

Find Out More About Our Preschool

Schedule a Tour

The best way to see what we do is to come see for yourself. We believe you will clearly see what makes Cranium Academy so special! Please contact us to schedule a tour of either our Winter Garden – Windermere or East Orlando (near Lake Nona) locations today.

Summer Camp – The Solution for Your Child to Help Them Stay Sharp

Parents are constantly on a mission to find the best opportunities for their children.  Enrolling them in a summer camp program can not only help keep children sharp and active over the summer, but can also increase independence by developing problem-solving and social skills.  From self-esteem to academic and life skills, children can polish what they learn during the school year, and apply it to the real world while having fun at summer camp.

Why is Summer Camp So Important?

Summer camp can help keep young minds sharp over the summer, and can also help children develop a sense of independence. Not only will this help you as a parent, but it can free up some of the precious time you spend doing things for them that they can learn to do on their own.

Successful summer camp programs are designed with learning and play in mind.  By combining them together, adventures are created to help children stay focused in order to stimulate all of their senses without getting bored.  The key to a successful summer camp adventure is in keeping your child motivated while strengthening self-reliance at the same time.  They will come home more prepared than the day before, armed with life skills they need to grow up accepting challenges and solving problems on their own.  The right summer camp program should create a healthy environment and a reason to be excited to return the next day.

Benefits of Summer Camp

Summer camps can help children feel more in control of their lives.  They will learn to take more pride in the projects they work on and the problems they solve.  When your child takes ownership of something they are proud of, they become much more likely to try new things.  Your child will become better equipped with what it takes to do anything they put their mind to.

1. Stay Active and Sharp – Summer camp can provide the fun and adventure that children are seeking while also helping to prepare them for the coming school year.

2. Learn Social Skills – Free from the usual expectations at school, kids can come together and work as a team to build strong relationships with their peers.

3. Keep Them on a Schedule – While it is fun to run around without structure, having it helps create responsibility.

4. Develop Independence – Summer camp is a perfect place to practice making decisions themselves and managing their daily choices.

5. Learn and Play – Summer Camp programs can build in time for play and help mend the scheduled routines at home and school while providing opportunities for higher learning.

Finding the Right Summer Camp

If your child has never been to a summer camp, you are probably asking yourself a million questions, wondering if it is the right choice for you and your child.  How do you know summer camp will be right for your child? Will your child get homesick? Which camp will be the best fit? Choosing to research about summer camps is the first step to begin the process of summer camp enrollment.

There are many different types of summer camps. Make sure you understand the program’s values and mission, and see if its activities match your child’s interests. Good camps expect to hear from you. Talk with camp staff, parents and other campers. When you find the right camp, you should feel that the camp is a special type of community which will have several advantages for your child.

Summer Camp Expectations







Service Skills



Self Respect

Character Building

During these special years, your child is developing at an amazing rate.  They are sponges ready to soak up tons of information.  Allowing them to be part of a summer camp program that keeps minds stimulated, while promoting fun and play, will continue them on a path to building character, developing independence, and strengthening their academic foundation.

Check Out Our Summer Camp Program!

Summer Camp Winter Garden

Summer Camp East Orlando




Building Cranium Character – Teaching Children to be Trustworthy

We all make mistakes, and we can all think of a time when we didn’t act honestly. The key is learning from the mistakes we have made and working towards more trustworthy behavior. This is true for both children and adults. The first Pillar of Character that our Cranium Character program focuses on is trustworthiness. And for good reason. There’s nothing more central to good character than the components of trust – honesty, loyalty, integrity, and keeping your promises.

Cranium Academy students are learning more about what it means to be honest. Honesty, quite simply, means speaking the truth. To a child, this often presents itself as promise-keeping… doing what you say you will do. As a parent, it’s easy to make promises to avert bad behavior. And while it might seem harmless, not following through on our promises does send a message. Promise-keeping means saying you will do something, then actually doing it. In our lessons on trustworthiness, the children are starting to understand that they have the ability to be trustworthy. They can learn from the mistakes they make, and identify ways to help them be more trustworthy.

There are some simple ideas you can use at home to help reinforce trustworthy behavior and the Cranium Character lessons at home. Break out some dominoes, line them up and push one down to show how one lie leads to a whole trail of lies. Talk about how this can be like our behavior sometimes. Share your expectations for trustworthy behavior in your home. Be sure to praise your child when he or she says or does something that helps you build trust. Most importantly, try your best to set a good example and model the behaviors you want to see in your child!