Tips for Teaching Early Friendship Skills!

Copy of independence_2291Did you know that learning to socialize is one of the most complex skills your little one will learn in their life? And, the fundamental way to make friends is through learning how to play!

So, how can you help your little one build crucial social skills needed to create friendships? Here are a few tips from our friends over at Good Days with Kids!

Friend-ship Making Skills to Teach

  • Learning Names: Help your child learn the names of kids they know. Keep a class list at home, or have photos of the other kids – run through the names with your child.
  • Meeting: Teach how to make eye contact, smile warmly, and introduce themselves.
  • Greeting: Once they know someone, encourage them to say hi, use the other person’s name, ask them about something specific – “how was your trip?” “what book did you bring today?”
  • Use Kindness to Connect: Suggest that they share a snack, make a drawing or card for a friend.
  • Finding common ground: Ask your child what they know about what another child likes to play or talk about, that your child is also interested in, so they know how to connect to them.
  • Joining into play: Teach them how to come up to the group with a smile, and ask “Can I play?” Or, play nearby, with friendly body language, and they may invite you in. Make a suggestion for how you could participate: “That looks like a fun town you’re building – can I add a house?”
  • Keeping a conversation going: Teach your child some standard conversation starters: “do you have any pets / brothers / sisters” or “what is your favorite food / book / movie / video game?” Teach them how to ask follow-up questions. Teach how to stay on topic, by teaching the analogy of a conversation as a Lego tower. Your friend says something. You say something related that connects. Then they ask something related that connects. You’re building a tower of connection.

How to Create Opportunities to Build Friendship and Practice Social Skills 

Playdates. Set up playdates with other children. The one-on-one practice is the best skill builder, and also the best way to build closer friendships.

Tips for success:

  • Timing: Pick a time of day when both kids tend to be in good moods. Keep the playdate short.
  • Have some plans: Work with your child to plan and set out possible activities that they think their friend would particularly enjoy. Sharing a fun experience builds connections.
  • Minimize conflict triggers: If there are toys your child has a hard time sharing, or games your child has a hard time losing, put them away for the playdate.
  • Supervise, but try to step back and let them play without a lot of interference from you.
  • Snacks: If things aren’t going smoothly, offering a tasty snack is often a good intervention.
  • 2 person or 4 person playdates are best. If there’s 3 kids, one often gets left out.

Play Opportunities: Take your child Gymboree Play & Music or other play locations, often. If your child wears a t-shirt or carries a backpack with a favorite character, or brings a favorite book, that can end up as a conversation starter with someone who shares the same interests.

Extracurriculars: Enrolling your child in activities and classes with a focus means that they’ll find kids there that they have something in common with. However, within the structure of something like music class or soccer practice, they don’t have a lot of time for free, unstructured interaction, which is what really helps to build friendships. So, try planning some playdates or free play opportunities with those kids after the lesson is over. [1]

Gymboree Play & Music is the perfect place to make your first friends! Come give it a try today! 


[1] More Good Days. “Teaching Friendship Skills.” January 29, 2018, 

June Book Recommendations: Making Connections!

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Summer is perfect for family time, adventures with friends and meeting new people.  That’s why our June theme is MAKING CONNECTIONS! The below reads are great for teaching your little one about friendship-building, sharing and diversity…all important things to learn when it comes to making connections!

Image result for how kind kids book How Kind! By Mary Murphy

Sharing, giving, being kind! This book’s simple story is a wonderful way to introduce our youngest reader to the thought: What is being kind? Pig, Hen and dog show us; it’s simple! The bright illustrations are as eye catching as the humble text, with a big message!


Image result for we all sing with the same voice We All Sing with the Same Voice  By J. Philip Miller and Sheppard M. Greene

This story (originally seen on Sesame Street) is a sweet message about how through all our differences we are all the same! It can be read or sang aloud. It’s diverse and colorful illustrations spark conversation from young listeners, perhaps they’ll even spot “themselves” somewhere in the story!


Image result for llama llama misses mama Llama Llama Misses Mama By Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama is feeling shy, sometimes new experiences and making connections with new people is difficult! Llama Llama is a wonderful story to show it’s okay to feel unsure and of course that Mama always comes back!



Image result for peanut butter and cupcake Peanut Butter & Cupcake By Terry Border

Peanut Butter is looking for a new friend to play! This story shows us it’s okay to keep trying! That making friends sometimes takes some time, and that’s okay! It also shows us how fun it can be when a whole group plays together!



Image result for the peace book The Peace Book By Todd Parr

What is peace? Todd Parr’s book shows us some of the simplest yet profound ways to show peace. Sometimes it’s taking a nap, and sometimes it’s doing something good for the planet, but mostly peace is being who you are.



Come visit your local Gymboree Play & Music for your very own Making Connections story time!

10 Surprising Benefits of Sensory Play

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Sensory play and sensory exploration is paramount in helping our little ones understand themselves…and the world! It covers all the necessities in early development — physical, cognitive, social and emotional.

Here are a few things you may not have known about sensory play!

  1. Sensory play isn’t all about touch. Sight, smell, taste, hearing, vestibular, proprioception…they’re all important!
  2. Sensory play can help calm your anxious or frustrated little one. Ever notice that bath time seems to calm your little one? It’s the sensory play!
  3. Massaging your little one is a form of sensory play. It helps them understand their body and touch.
  4. Sensory play supports cognitive skills like language development.
  5. Children use their senses to collect data about life.
  6. Every child can be successful at sensory play, building confidence.
  7. Sensory play builds neural pathways in the brain, strengthening their problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  8. Sensory play aids our little ones in building emotional awareness and expression.
  9. Using the senses to accomplish a task allows your child to learn even more throughout the activity.
  10. Sensory play is a great group activity. It provides a positive environment where children can begin to share their ideas and work together!

Gymboree Play & Music is a program for the senses! Visit your local site for some one-of-a-kind sensory play! 

7 Tips to Keep Messy Play Clean!

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Messy play has big benefits for our little one’s cognitive and physical development. While your child is having the freedom to imagine, explore and create, they are also building gross and fine motor skills to help with early writing skills and build strength!

While every parent wants to encourage their child to get messy, they MIGHT not be so excited about what comes with it…a MESS! Here are some tips for our parents to help encourage a big mess with maximum cleanliness!

  1. Get out the plastic and newspaper! Lay down some paper or plastic covers to rescue your floors. You might even want to bring out a cover for your child too (and maybe even yourself!) to really keep everything clean.
  2. Take it outside (and near a hose)! Get that chalk out! Then hose everyone down and wash it away.
  3. Use the bathtub — the mess is contained and you can wash away any mess. You can also turn bath time into messy play time! Just make sure to use washable materials…
  4. Really don’t want to have any mess at all? Use sensory bags!
  5. Use reverse psychology and turn clean up time into messy play time! You know what’s a BIG hit for the little ones? Cleaning your car! They think they’re making a mess with all the soap and water but they are also cleaning your car!
  6. Choose your materials wisely. You can have messy play with only a few materials. Example, they don’t need tubs and tubs of play doh. Just give them the amount they need. Same goes with paint!
  7. The most important tip of all — try to relax if things get a bit too messy! [1]

Don’t worry about the mess at all at Gymboree Play & Music! We do all the cleanup!


[1] “10 Tips to Keep Messy Play Clean,” Hands On As We Grow,


Let’s Get Messy! May Book Recommendations + Crafts!

We’re celebrating all things messy this May! Messy play (and sensory play) has a major role in early cognitive development, as well as building language and early writing skills. This kind of play is all about exploring, creating and experimenting, where there’s no agenda and just the freedom to discover!

little blue truck

Little Blue Truck, By Alice Schertle

“Little Blue Truck loves his friends on the farm, and he’s such a good helper when a friend gets stuck! This rhyming text with a fun use of onomatopoeias makes for an excellent read aloud! Extend your story time with some DIY “clean” mud to explore; how did the truck get so stuck?!”

DIY “Clean Mud” mud


  • Cornstarch
  • Water
  • Coca Powder (for color)
  • Materials:
  • Small Toy Trucks
  • Small Animals
  • Tray or bowl for exploring “mud”

Adapted from:

not my bunny

That’s Not My Bunny…, By Fiona Watt

“Touch, feel, pet, tickle! Babies and older children alike love a story that lets them TOUCH the story and get involved! Extend your story time by planting carrots in a spring sensory bin!”


sensory bin


Planting Sensory Bin

For babies: use shredded paper in tub (to avoid choking hazard), small pouring cups to explore filling and dumping, and real carrots!

For toddlers: Use uncooked rice or beans as base and big real carrots to practice planting then pulling out of the ground! Use shovels, cups and rakes for planting!




Splatter, By Diane Alber

“A fun adventure into the world of color mixing, friendship, and working together! Splatter helps up see what can happen when we work as a team. Add more fun by mixing the colors yourself with some messy finger-painting time!”



finger paintDIY Non-Toxic Finger Paint 


  • 6Tbs sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1cup cornstarch
  • 2cups water plus another cup for thinning if needed
  • Food coloring
  • 8-108 oz. mason jars or baby food jars


  1. Add all of the ingredients in a warm pan and stir until it is the desired consistency. If it’s thicker than you would like, add more water until it’s the consistency you would like.
  2. Cool to room temperature. When cooled, add to jars and mix in food coloring

Adapted from:

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Dragons Love Tacos, By Adam Rubin

“Talking about food is a great way for toddlers to be interested in exploring new things to eat! Especially if we are going to feed it to dragons! This story takes us step by step on how to throw a party for our dragon friends! Continue the play with making your own tacos OR using fresh fruits and vegetables and paint to make some artwork!”


vegetable stamps.pngDIY Vegetable Stamps


  • Celery
  • Peppers
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Potatoes
  • Non-Toxic Paint


Use the vegetables as a way to explore a different way to paint! You can stamp, slide, and squish the veggies providing a great day of messy play!


Edward Gets Messy, By Rita Meade

“Do we always have to stay clean? This book explores how fun it can be to get messy! After all, you can always clean up after! Have your own messy fun just like Edward with some Rainbow Spaghetti!”


rainbow spaghetti.pngDIY Rainbow Spaghetti 


  • Cook the spaghetti as you regularly would.
  • Drain as usual. Rinse with cool water while still in colander to keep it from sticking together.
  • Once drained and cooled, add a small (very small) amount of oil and toss.
  • Add a few drops of food coloring and mix well
  • Lay spaghetti out on parchment paper to dry for about 1 hour

Adapted From:

And, don’t forget to come get messy at your local Gymboree Play & Music! 

The Importance of Group Storytime

By Lauren OBrien

group storytime.jpgAs a parent of a little one, we know you’ve done your research on the importance of building early literacy at a young age.

You’ve built literacy into your daily routine — maybe over breakfast, during bath time, and that nightly story before bed. But, do you know the importance of exposing your child to storytime outside of the home? Specifically, storytimes where your child is part of a group and there is someone else reading?

When you take your child to a group storytime, they are actually building DIFFERENT early literacy skills than the ones you work on at home!

Here’s why…

  • Listening to another adult narrate a story. Everyone reads differently — different tones, different character voices, etc. By watching and listening to another person read, you child is learning social queues and body language expression.
  • Allowing others to pick the story. Not only does this mean YOU could get to hear a new story (aren’t you tired of reading Cinderella for the 100th time?), but your child gets to hear new authors and genres that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to otherwise.
  • Building social skills. Reading in a group exposes your little one to the experience of participating and sharing their ideas. It gives them an opportunity to practice their listening skills, use learned vocabulary/language skills and build confidence.
  • Learning new things…for you! That’s right! During story time, you might learn new rhymes, songs, reading games that you can do at home.

Visit your local Gymboree Play & Music, where we bring storytime to life!

8 Tips to Build Early Literacy

April’s theme is LITERACY. We’ve put together preschoolsteps_2-3y_storytime_7705some easy tips for your family to implement in to your daily routine to help build those early literacy skills and develop young readers!

  1. Start ’em young…really young! Studies show that early literacy skills begin immediately! It helps with brain development and lays the foundation for language and writing skills.
  2. Make it a daily routine. Making reading part of your daily routine (ex. read two books at bedtime) not only establishes it as the “norm” but also creates an activity that both of you look forward to. They also find comfort in having routines.
  3. Try different textured and colored books for babies. Cloth or board books and brightly colored or high-contrast illustrations are great for babies as they begin to interact with the book that you are reading.
  4. Talk to your baby as much as possible! When you talk, you are helping your baby learn different words. So, tell them all about everything! What you’re cooking, what you’re seeing while driving, what the weather is…it all helps!
    1. And, for toddlers, have conversations with them! Having a conversation with your toddler and encouraging them to participate in the conversation, helps develop their communication skills.  Example: Ask them how they are feeling or what they want for dinner (and why!).
  5. Ask questions while you read. Make your daily reading an interactive and fun experience by asking questions while you read the story. You can even pause before a character’s name and let them complete the sentence!
  6. Read the same book 100 times. By about age 3, toddlers will be able to complete sentences in stories they know. Reading those favorite books over and over helps them learn through repetition and familiarity.
  7. Point out familiar words and sounds. Children begin to recognize letters by age 4. Point out words that begin with the same letter of their first name. This will help them associate certain words with that letter.
  8. Be a Role Model. If your child sees you reading books it will help them develop their own love of reading.

Contact your location to start building early literacy skills today! 


Build Early Literacy with these April Book Recommendations!

This April we are highlighting early literacy! The journey of learning to read and write starts long before your little one is actually ready to do either. In fact, early literacy begins in their first three years! Your child’s interaction with books and reading will provide the foundation to develop critical early literacy skills.

Literacy begins with a love of books so let’s whip out those books and teach our children the joy of reading! We’ve picked books for ALL AGES!


The Pout-Pout Fish, By Deborah Diesen

Repetitive language in story books builds oral language skills. Pout-Pout Fish’s sing-songy text repeats over and over making for a fun educational read aloud that your toddler or preschooler will repeat again and again!



Jungly Tails, By Jollybaby

A full sensory experience! Introduce your babies to books as early as possible. This soft squishy sturdy book can be enjoyed in tummy time or simply allow baby to explore with their hands and even their mouth! That’s how they learn!


wakeupmagicduck Wake Up, Magic Duck!, By Moira Butterfield

Storytime doesn’t have to stop during bath time! Magic Bath Books bring literacy and learning into the tub! Magic Duck has a special surprise when she gets wet…she changes colors! Enjoy the fun that comes with books that are interactive and inspire babies and toddler to love reading!


polarbear Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do you Hear?, By Bill Martin Jr/ Eric Carle

Children love repetition and this book is full of memory building writing. Your child will be able to repeat the story back to you! Build early literacy by choosing high quality texts like this one!



babysfirstcloth Baby’s First Cloth Book: Zoo, By Nosy Crow

Charming cloth books with high contrast images are perfect for baby’s first reads. This book can also go with you when you’re on the go. Its convenient Velcro strap lets those tiny hands keep “reading” wherever you are!



Build those early literacy skills at your local Gymboree Play & Music! 


It’s Not Just Green Eggs & Ham, Sam I Am!

dr-seuss-birthdayBy Lauren O’Brien


Earlier this month it was the King of Rhyming’s birthday – Dr. Seuss! Both kids and adults alike love the rhyming fun of Dr. Seuss, but there was a method to his rhythmic madness!


The Benefits of Dr. Seuss and Rhyming: 

  • For Newborns: Dr. Seuss’s prose is literally like music to your baby’s ears.
  • For Toddlers:
    • Improved memory and cognitive development – the short rhythmic passages are easy for children to digest and understand, committing Dr. Seuss’ educational message to memory!
    • Increased vocabulary — Dr. Seuss’ use of made up words actually mirrors the way kids speak! And, even though “barbaloots” isn’t a real word, those pretend words help your little one explore language and learn new words.
    • An early love of books and storytelling — Dr. Seuss’ wacky words and ideas delights young readers with their ridiculousness. Did you say GREEN EGGS?! Little ones love the extreme silliness of his stories.
    • Better listening skills — Dr. Seuss is anything but boring! His crazy stories keep the little one’s attention, anxiously waiting for the next silly word to come out of your mouth!

So grab a book, find a nook and take a look at your favorite Dr. Seuss stories! Because it’s aways a good time to rhyme! 

Sign up for a Gymboree Play & Music class near you!