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5 Activities for Fostering Creativity and Critical Thinking in Your Preschooler

This is a sponsored post by Sean Aiken, founding Head of School at BASIS Independent in McLean. It does not represent the opinion of Reston Now.

As the father of a young child and the founding Head of School at BASIS Independent McLean in Tysons, Va., I know firsthand how often parents ask themselves, “Is my child set up for success?”

The key to laying the foundation for academic success is to ensure that preschoolers’ young, active minds are soaking up as much as possible. We want our kids to possess a joyful love of learning, and the best place to start is to expose their natural curiosity to as many kinds of thinking as possible.

Any good preschool will inspire and challenge your young learner, but there are many different ways to enhance their capacity to think critically and harness their creativity at home. I recently talked with Kate Briscoe, director of the Early Learning Program at our sister school, BASIS Independent Brooklyn, who shared five creative, easy activities for parents to do at home with preschoolers to keep the learning juices flowing:

Make Checking the Weather a Family Ritual

When checking the weather becomes a regular routine with your child, you begin establishing any number of critical thinking skills: Categorization, cause and effect, variable conditions — the list goes on.

“Keep a colorful chart to track and recognize days when the temperature gets colder and warmer and discuss why that might be happening. Is there a connection between clouds and weather? Are there clouds on sunny days? What about when it is raining?” Kate says. Take these observations and ask your child how they apply to specific actions. What clothes do we need today if it is snowing? What activities can we safely play outside?

Practice Writing in Different Mediums

Let’s be honest, 4-year-olds like getting messy.

“Put out a bowl of sugar and encourage them to practice writing numbers and letters, then have them try in shaving cream and rice. This helps students develop fine motor skills and is, of course, a ton of fun,” says Kate. “How does your finger feel when you move it through the sugar rather than the shaving cream or rice? What do you notice about the texture of the different materials (smooth and cool shaving cream versus bumpy rice versus grainy sugar)? Why does the shaving cream keep its shape?” Remember your compare and contrast essays in college? Same thing, but much gooier.

Turn Bath Time Into a Sink-or-Float Experiment

“At bath time, talk about which toys sink or float,” says Kate. “How many objects can you put onto a floating toy before it sinks? Bonus points to the parents who use terms like buoyancy and gravity!”

I know some of us remember the old David Letterman skit “Will It Float?,” so more adventurous parents may want to extend the game to other household items. Old veggies sitting in your crisper? Dad’s sandals?

(Fair warning, if you play this game frequently, keep track of your cell phone!)

Cook With Your Child 

There are so many learning experiences to be had through cooking: Measuring accurately with utensils of different sizes, working on numeracy and literacy, taste testing different foods for salty and sweet flavors and hypothesizing what happens when cookies are left in the oven too long (and why).

Not only can you foster healthy food choices, but you plant images into your child’s memory that will help them quickly grasp states of matter, energy conversions and algebra later.

“If the recipe says we need three eggs, and we only have one, how many do we need to buy at the store?”

Turn Household Objects Into Physics Experiments

You’d be surprised at how many different physics properties can be demonstrated with a yardstick and a few different balls. Show your preschooler how tilting the yardstick creates different slopes and affects how far balls will roll. What happens when you roll a marble versus a ping-pong ball? What happens when you roll the ball on a rug versus a smooth surface? Speed, acceleration, friction, inertia — these concepts aren’t scary the way they seem in most high schools, and your preschooler can prove it to you!

Sean Aiken is the founding Head of School of BASIS Independent McLean, a new preschool-grade 12 independent school located at 8000 Jones Branch Drive in Tysons Corner.

BASIS Independent Schools, located in New York City, Silicon Valley and now Northern VA offer a world-acclaimed, liberal arts, STEM- focused course of study. Learn more at mclean.basisindependent.com.

Photo Courtesy BASIS Independent

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Dental Career Fair in Northern Virginia

HEARTLAND dentalThe following is a promoted post from Heartland Dental, which is holding a job fair for positions around the D.C. area.

We are looking for Business Assistants, Dental Assistants and Hygienists in Northern Virginia.

Positions with Heartland are more than just a job, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow with a terrific dental team. We’re dedicated to offering proficient, trustworthy dental services and care, and the Dental Assistant’s, Business Assistants and Dental Hygienist position will play a large role in that. If this sounds a like a good fit, we would love to hear from you.

Our job fair will be held Friday, February 26 at the Hampton Inn & Suites, located at 117 Fort Evans Road NE in Leesburg, Virginia.

Interviews will take place between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Please bring your resume and certificates in preparation for an on-site interview

We understand that you work hard, which is why each supported location provides an excellent compensation and benefits package. Additionally, Heartland Dental’s extensive training and continuing education opportunities are unparalleled and exceed industry norms. Additional benefits include health and vision insurance, life insurance, 401(k) retirement plan, 6 paid holidays off and the potential for 2 weeks’ vacation.

For any questions, please contact Cyndi Baggarly, Regional Recruiter at [email protected].

Apply at www.heartland.com/careers.

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‘A Cleaning Service’ Prides Itself on Employee Loyalty, Independence

Kitchen file photo

This is a sponsored post written for Reston Now.

Beatriz Sampaio feels she is living her destiny.

Sampaio came to the U.S. from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1985 after studying at a university there. After less than a year in the states, she and a friend-turned-business-partner acquired a house-cleaning company based in Arlington. The previous owner was looking to leave the business, and handed over the keys to Sampaio and her partner.

Sampaio had no experience running a business but was eager to take on the challenge. She said she learned by working and watching.

“I was so young then, and so fresh,” Sampaio said. “I had the knack for it. I was born to be an entrepreneur.”

Sampaio’s partner left the business after five years, and since then, Sampaio has been the sole owner of A Cleaning Service, which is a residential and also a commercial cleaning service that serves Arlington and the D.C. area.

One aspect of her company that Sampaio says sets it apart from her competitors is that A Cleaning Service is not a franchise. When customers want to book an cleaning, have a special request or a problem, they can call her directly.

Sampaio says the direct line from clients to her office is something that hasn’t changed in the 30 years she’s been running the business. Clients appreciate her openness and availability in a world in which it’s often difficult to get a real person on the phone, never mind the business owner.

It’s these personal touches that make A Cleaning Service different from regular maid services. Sampaio is also proud of her employees, who have been called dependable, honest and responsive to feedback in online reviews.

The company does have notably consistent employees. Of her 50-person cleaning staff, Sampaio says many of them have been with the company for eight or nine years, and some many more. One woman, Maria, has been with the company the full 30 years Sampaio has owned it.

It’s her creativity as a business owner that Sampaio thinks makes her a good boss. Some of that creativity comes from connection to music. When she was 10, Sapmaio got her first guitar, and immediately fell in love with the sound. She’s particularly fond of classical and jazz music, and still composes and plays guitar today.

Sampaio likes that there’s low turnover in her company because the job gives workers a chance to really learn a how to do their jobs well, clients like getting to know the workers who often work in their homes.

The four-legged family members also appreciate a consistent staff in their homes too, says Sampaio, a long-time animal lover.

Sampaio’s love of animals goes back to her childhood, and it’s something she likes to incorporate into A Cleaning Service’s appointments. When her staff is friendly towards the animals they see every week or month, they also notice if something is wrong, and can tell the homeowners.

The direct line from clients to Sampaio is something that hasn’t changed in the past 30 years, though Sampaio says some things have changed. Like all businesses that have been around that long, she has had to incorporate computer systems and the Internet into her work.

The Internet has worked to A Cleaning Service’s advantage, connecting customers through forums to recommend their services. Angie’s List and Yelp reviews bring attention to Sampaio’s business because of thorough reviews from pleased clients. A Cleaning Service has won Angie’s List Super Service Award three times in the last four years.

“I really love this business, but sometimes it’s challenging,” Sampaio said of trying to keep up with a website and online reviews in addition to social media, especially when business picks up in the busy seasons.

The company’s busiest times, are, as one might expect, in the spring and before holidays and also at the end of the summer when people get back from vacations. But even in those busy weeks, Sampaio and her staff try to promptly respond to requests.

Just like Sampaio came from Brazil to fulfill her dream of being a business owner, the name of her business came from somewhere too.

When Sampaio was given the business, it didn’t have a name yet, but Sampaio was given the chance to give it one. She decided to go for A Cleaning Service because as it started with the letter “A,” it was a name that would appear at the beginning of the phone book.

Plus, she said, it’s simple. And clean.

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