The preschool age is such a fun time in a child’s life. Children learn by exploring, which is guided by their curiosity. Sometimes during this age, it is easy as an adult, whether a teacher or parent, to unintentionally take away these learning experiences. It can be so much quicker to just clean up after a preschooler, but there is so much value in teaching a child to take care of his or her toys and to return them to a safe place to find for the next time.
During the preschool age you may notice that children are naturally trying to take initiative and to do tasks by themselves. Let them take the lead in this. When they are interested in learning how to button a sweater, scoop their food with a spoon, or put their shoes on by themselves, just plan to be extra patient and allow ample time for them to carry out these tasks. The best role we can take during these learning experiences is to provide them these opportunities…and to step back and let them do it by themselves. They’ll let us know if they need help.
I have come up with some fundamental skills that will help children as you are getting ready for preschool. Overall, this time should not be stressful. If a child is getting frustrated with a task, that means they are probably not ready for it yet, or they need a simpler way to practice the skill. These are all areas to help your child feel successful, and they are helpful for your child to become comfortable in a setting with a large group of children.
One of the most important aspects to help your child with is proper hand washing. When your child begins preschool, they are exposed to many more germs. In order to help your child and the rest of your family from getting sick, you can teach them these hand washing techniques. Have your child turn on warm water, get a small amount of soap, and begin to lather. Now comes the tricky part. It’s so easy for them to just rinse what they have lathered on their hands. Instead, have them sing a favorite song while lathering outside of the water stream for 20 seconds…feel free to turn the water off during this time to get them accustomed lathering thoroughly. One of my favorite hand washing songs is this (sing to the rhythm of Row, Row, Row your Boat): Wash, wash, wash your hands. Wash them so clean. Scrub the fronts, and scrubs the backs, and scrub them in between. Then repeat a few times. After your child has effectively lathered both hands and wrists, rinse, then dry. If possible, use a paper towel to turn off the water faucet.
Remind your child to wash his hands each time after using the bathroom.
Help your child learn to cough in his elbow.
Teach your child to blow her nose independently and to wash her hands afterward.
During the toilet training process, teach your child use proper wiping techniques, and teach him to ask for help if he needs it.
Self help skills
Offer opportunities to let your child learn to dress himself, including his shoes and coat. An added bonus is when he can pick out his own clothes (even though they won’t match).
Teach your child to clean up toys she is no longer playing with before taking more toys out. Explain the importance in taking care of our belongings to help them last longer as well as to prevent others from tripping on them.
Allow your child the chance to use utensils such as spoons, forks, and a cup without any sort of lid. I also encourage my children to use child knives for spreading and basic cutting practice.
Arrange an area at home where some of your child’s toys, puzzles, books, etc. are accessible for her without an adult’s help, and create a specific and designated “home” (tub/bin/shelf) for each toy.
Fine motor skills
Encourage your child to practice buttoning her clothes and zipping zippers.
Have your child become familiar with using a glue stick and squeezing a glue bottle.
Introduce your child to child safe scissors.
Give your child opportunities to use different writing tools such as markers, crayons, paint brushes, pens, and pencils.
Let your child participate in lacing activities or using pipettes/droppers.
Gross Motor Skills
Help your child learn how to put a coat on.
Let your child practice serving herself at meal times by providing a small pitcher to pour milk and scoops or spoons to transfer food to her plate.
Encourage fun games that incorporate throwing, crawling, running, jumping, and balancing.
Each child has completely different strengths, and these skills will come easily to some, while others will just need extra repetition to feel comfortable with it. Keep an open mind when offering these opportunities to your child, and you never know when they might just surprise you.