You've changed their diapers, rocked them to sleep, and now your baby's heading to preschool! Here are some tips to help prepare your little one for school (and life in the long run) at home and in the community.
The first day of preschool is a big day for many parents! Maybe you've left your little ones in daycare, or with a babysitter, but preschool is a new step! They'll have group snacks, learn their colors and shapes, and maybe send a gorgeous finger painting home at the end of the week.
About ninety percent of our brains develop by age 5. So these early years matter. They form the basis for later lifelong learning. So often we think of preschool years or kindergarten readiness as making sure our kids learn their letters, math facts, or how to read. However, early childhood education is much more than that. Our children will learn how to learn during these years. Hence, preschool is less about the specific knowledge and facts your child acquires. It's more about developing a solid educational foundation.
So how can we make sure our little ones are ready for preschool? Here are a few ways to get them ready for school and later for life, beyond workbooks and educational apps.
Don't worry about loading your preschooler up with mountains of extra activities! Studies have shown that the best measure for later-in-life success is whether or not your 4-year-old helps with household chores.
No, this doesn't mean child slave labor or unrealistic expectations. It does mean that you can teach your child to be a helper- whether you're sorting socks or setting the table. This chart also offers some excellent guidelines for which chores your child can do at specific ages. You might be surprised at how capable your preschooler really is!
Whether you love the rhymes of Dr. Seuss or the humor of Mo Willems, reading to your child is a fantastic way to promote early literacy and family togetherness. Rhymes are a really fun way to build a strong literary foundation,. Books with great pictures on the other hand can foster an appreciation for the arts. So snuggle up together with a great book!
While some parents like to leave the super-messy crafts to the preschool professionals, activities from sidewalk chalk to painting to gardening are great preschool preparation. These sensory activities help develop your child's motor skillsand make them comfortable with different materials. They might also provide a great opportunity for your child to hone some new cleaning skills after your activity is complete!
Be on the lookout for great parks and playgrounds nearby, since they're a great starting point for your child to develop social and gross motor skills. Your child will learn how to wait their turn for the swings or slide. They'll work their leg muscles running around the jungle gym or playing a game of tag with new friends. Even the sandbox with lots of funnels and buckets is a fantastic place for sensory stimulation. Best of all: your kids come home exhausted, and your house stays just as clean as you left it!
Whether you're using traditional blocks, Legos, or Magna Tiles, building with blocks is a great preschool activity. In addition to honing their early math and engineering skills by learning to create a stable structure, block building spurs their creative juices. What will they make today? Also, it's really easy and fun to play blocks with a friend. They can build a tall tower together!
Regular family mealtimes can be another indication of your child's lifelong success, and it's not difficult to see why. In terms of health, your child is far more likely to be consuming good nutrients while sitting down with the family, than through mindless snacking or at a fast-food drive-through.
Family mealtimes also offer great social benefits. Your child will learn manners, like how to put their napkin in their lap, not talk with their mouth full, and how to pass food politely across the table.
Even more beneficial: family meals foster great family communication so your child can learn how to talk and listen to others. They might get a good vocabulary boost from adults discussing complex topics. Or family meals might just be a good place for them to feel heard and loved. In either case, family meals are a great way to prepare your little one for preschool and beyond.
These six suggestions are by no means exhaustive! They're just a few ideas to get you started on a lifetime of learning. Even though it might not seem like you're just going through the motions when you make dinner or take your child to the park for the millionth time, these simple things are great preparation for life. Keep up the good work!
For more ideas and a faith-based approach to early childhood education, check out the Faithful Beginnings School Readiness Guide and App, available through FamilyApp.