The Latest
July 19, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Preschool Prep

Preschool Prep is Learning Through Play

Quality preschool programs provide big benefits to young kids, but preparing kids at home is great, too — the point is that it happens.

There’s been plenty of debate about whether or not kids need to attend preschool, but high-quality programs can really give a a child the preschool prep he needs. High-quality preparation can happen at home, too, by playfully incorporating learning from the start in preparing your child for kindergarten.    
    “Preschool offers kids experiences they might not get at home, such as exposure to a larger social environment that can help them learn how to get along well with others,” says Cathy Keller, a director of preschool and infant care center.    
    Developmentally, kids who’ve had at least a year of preschool are more ready to jump into the learning environment of kindergarten. According to Brookings research, if children are to achieve their development potential, it is important to lay the foundation during the earliest years of lifelong learning and positive behavior.
    “Preschool is an environment where kids have the opportunity to use language in many different ways with others who are at the same developmental age,” says Jennifer Kurumada Chuang, the owner of a multi-grade childcare center and preschool. But overall, preschool helps young naturally-egocentric kids learn how to exist with others in a classroom.
    “Preschoolers learn how take turns, follow directions, pick up after themselves, stand in line, sit in a circle, raise their hand, use their words to express themselves instead of physically acting out and talk when it’s appropriate,” Kurumada Chuang says. “If they master those social skills in preschool, they’re ready to learn in kindergarten.”
    All told, your child’s early learning experiences can set the tone for years to come. To help your child prepare for a preschool program or to do it yourself at home, keep lessons playful! As early as you can, “Get your child invested in the learning process with age-appropriate tasks,” says Keller. To encourage your preschooler, praise them for jobs well done, such as: “Wow! You picked your outfit by yourself? You’re getting to be such a big girl!” Here are more ways to work with your child:

Stick to a Routine

Establish a morning routine and stick to it. It might be: wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, have a short playtime together, etc. Structured routines give children a sense of control. A morning poster can help your child, too: put it in a common area at home, such as on your fridge. Using pictures, list an order of tasks such as dressing, eating breakfast, putting on shoes and socks, etc. 

Prep for Preschool 

Read, read, read to your child. “Being read to is the single most consistent and reliable predictor of academic success later in life,” says Kurumada Chuang. She recommends reading to your preschooler for 20 minutes every night at bedtime. While you’re at it, stop every so often and ask your child a question about the story before turning the page, such as: “Gosh, why do you think she was sad?” or, “What do you think it going to happen next?” Making reading more interactive makes it more fun and helps build your child’s comprehension skills.

    Also, help your child learn to follow directions. To help your preschooler, practice at home by giving simple commands, such as, “Help me pick up your toys and put them in the toy box.” Then, encourage your child to follow through by offering an incentive to do whatever it is you’re asking. Tell your child that you’ll play outside once he’s finished putting his toys away. An incentive helps a child understand that following directions makes other fun activities possible. If he doesn’t follow your directions to help put toys away, calmly explain that you won’t be able to play outside, after all. But praise him when he’s successful. “You followed my directions so well. Thank you for helping me put your toys in the toy box like I asked you to! Let’s go play outside.”

Help Your Child Master Sharing and Turn Taking

From age 3 to 5, children tend to hoard coveted toys and objects. They’re not really ready to grasp the concept of sharing yet. But you can help your youngster practice by having him “take turns” with toys and catching him when he shares on his own. To help him develop the empathy that true sharing requires, state what he did and how it makes others feel, such as: “Thank you for sharing. It makes your sister feel good when you share the ball.” 

Help Your Child Make Friends

If you get the sense your preschooler needs a little help in the social department, try hosting play dates with others your child likes. You might begin by asking your preschooler, for example: “How about a play date with Grace? I notice that she likes to draw, too.” If you’re not sure who to invite over first, and your child attends preschool, ask your child’s preschool teacher if there’s anyone in the classroom who might be a good match for your child. Then go from there and make the rounds so that your child gets the chance to know several children better.

Hone Your Child’s Listening Skills

At the dinner table and during car rides, help your preschooler sharpen her listening skills by asking her to wait to speak until her brother has finished his sentence. When it’s her turn, remind her, “Now it’s your turn to talk. Thank you for being patient and for being such a good listener while your brother was talking.” Explain that being a good listener shows respect for the speaker, whether it’s her brother or her teacher and the other students at school who are trying to hear what the teacher has to say. Becoming a good listener, like many things, can take lots of practice.
    Early learning matters, but children are not robots. Little ones grow quickly and respond well to playfulness — always keep that in mind!



About the Author