Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Preparing for Preschool

Preschool - For many kids this is their first experience in a large social setting, let alone a school setting! The important thing to remember about this age is that children preschool age are still in the process of developing a long term memory system; so you will feel like you’re repeating yourself 100 times and that is because you are, but to the child it’s like it is their first time hearing this instruction. What preschool tries to do is get them into a routine; if you have the same routine day in and day out, with the same expectations for behavior they will eventually remember it. This initial learning about school routines and social behavior are two of the biggest reasons for preschool. So what can you do to help prepare your child for preschool? Since I have been teaching in a preschool that prides itself on being developmentally appropriate, I will tell you what we expect children to be able to do and let you decide what to do from there.

We do lots of creative expression activities in preschool.  We color, paint, cut, and glue to make representations. We also practice expressing ourselves through pretend play (this could be a short formal play), moving our bodies to music (representing actions in a song or freestyle), and we give them lots of opportunities to play with instruments (playing with rhythms and beats).

               * *Hint: try to help them feel comfortable in doing things like this by giving them similar experiences at home. We know that glue and paint can be messy but if you show and tell them what they can do with those items they really can do it and it can be such a wonderful experience for developing their small motor skills (preschool obviously helps to develop these skills but preschool can be so much more meaningful and full of learning if they already are in the process of developing these skills).

Believe it or not we also practice MATH skills in preschool! But it’s not the math worksheet math you’re probably thinking of. We practice our counting and recognizing numbers. We also focus on making comparisons and the development of questioning skills. Again, they will learn these skills in preschool, but they will learn so many other valuable skills if these skills have already been being practiced at home. They can learn the meaning of numbers (matching a numeral number 5 to  5 objects); they can learn and identify sequences and patterns; and they can even learn what happens when we join to a set (add) or separate from a set (subtract)!

Writing and Literacy. This is a large part of a preschool day; because it is such an integral part you will see large growth in their skills. Especially if it is reinforced at home. We give them lots of opportunities to write and recognize their name as well as their classmates names. We practice rhyming and the recognition of beginning word sounds (relating sounds to letters). As far as reading goes, we want them to realize that books/print is read from left to right and top to  bottom.

**Hint: the most useful thing you can do to help your child with writing and literacy is to read with and to them (giving them opportunities to ‘read’ as well).

Last, but definitely not least is the development of social skills. We covered this pretty well already with last week’s post. A large focus of preschool is giving children opportunities to express their feelings in acceptable ways (getting them to use their words). We give encouragement to interact with their peers and demonstrate how (this can be through role play; or by telling them what they could say if they want to ask if they can join in a play setting; or by asking our friends/classmates at large group time about a problem like hitting, and what we could do instead to solve our problems).  If your child has siblings there will be lots of opportunities for practice and reinforcement at home; if not, no worries, preschool will likely be able to develop these skills but a playgroup setting or time at a local park to also practice these skills will be helpful.  The second biggest thing with social skills is sharing. This is second biggest because they need to be able to use their words to ask if they can use a tool or toy AND they need to be able to use their words to say “yes”, “no”, or “I am using it right now, but you can have it when I’m done”. As parents when a child asks for something nicely we usually give it to them immediately; we can help them learn how to emotionally regulate their  feelings by saying what we expect them to be able to say: “yes”, “no”, or “I’m using it, but you can have it after me”. Any response other than “yes” will be unexpected for them, so giving them practice at home before going off to school will help them know how to deal with the situation rather than being surprised and then angry.

Good luck and enjoy this fun period where there is so much learning, growth, and development taking place!

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