Establishing an environment where children feel comfortable exploring and experimenting with a wide variety of learning styles is key to fostering healthy, well - rounded growth. Here are some ways you can help:

>> Create an environment where children feel safe trying out new approaches and ideas. Share examples from your life: "I tried a new recipe for dinner last night. I was a little scared because I had never cooked anything like it before, but it turned out great!" Also, be sure children know that it's okay to make mistakes and that everyone does- including you! "I even forgot one ingredient, but it tasted fine anyway!" Celebrate new endeavors together. "Jimmy, you made that birdhouse even better by making a new perch. What a great invention!"

>> Especially at the beginning of the year, offer interesting and familiar activities. You might add funnels, tubing, and sponges of varying shapes to the water table and colorful sifters, shovels, and different-size muffin tins to the sand table. Be sure your dramatic-play area includes items that children might find in their own homes.

>> Offer activities that reinforce both originality and the ability to work in a structured order. Children need to know that you value a wide range of learning approaches. Activities need to encourage exploring, experimenting, asking questions, sharing information, hypothesizing, using imagination, and finding out and telling about facts.

>> Children need ample supplies of fantasy and reality. In time, they learn to separate them, identify which is which, and travel between them. Rather than trying to force understanding-usually in place by the end of kindergarten-encourage children to use language as a tool to explore their thinking. You can ask them questions too: "Do you think that could really happen?" "Can you make up something using your imagination?"

>> Immerse children in a language - rich environment. Children thrive in places where they can be a part of discussions, listen, speak, read, sing, rhyme, invent words, and record their thoughts. Language develops when it is nurtured and when there is lots of opportunity for practice.

>> Use vocabulary to help children ground themselves. Understanding and using words such as now, later, until, after, before, and if helps children organize time. Similarly, over, under, here, there, nearer, farther, big, bigger, and biggest help them organize their environments and add to positive feelings of competence and control.

>> Consider these three R's: Receive, Ruminate, Respond. Children need to receive information, ideas, jokes, and emotional experiences. They need opportunities to ruminate-thinking about and relating ideas and concepts with their own experiences. And, we need to encourage children to respond in a variety of ways.