Is preschool around the corner? As a veteran preschool teacher, I think there are some things you should know!
Preschool can be one of the most magical and exciting times in a child’s life, and it also helps set the stage for kindergarten! Have you considered preschool readiness — it’s not what you think!
So many well-meaning parents have walked through my door and given me a list of what their child already knows: how to spell his name, all of her colors, how to count to 20, and so on.
This is not what I’m going to talk about! A seasoned teacher knows that these concepts will come easily in due time.
We want to hear more about your child’s interests, in her self-confidence, and in his ability to cooperate. While there are many new concepts and insights that will be gained, preschool is a combined effort built by everyone involved: parents, teachers, and the child.
When children step foot into the classroom, they are learning more than just facts and concepts. They are adjusting to working in a community and learning to follow those rules.
Children are adapting to taking directions from a different adult, and they are also trying to figure out what their role is in their preschool class among their peers.
My “teacher hat” takes many forms, and before I can even begin to show a child how to write letters or to make patterns, there have to be social and emotional maturities achieved. Trust has to be built between the both of us, and the child needs to know that they are valued and in a safe environment.
This trust and maturity begins before I even meet them. It begins at home, and there are several ways that parents can help contribute to an easier transition to preschool.
Here are five key components that I believe every child should have in order to experience a successful transition to preschool.
1) A desire to explore: Before a child can learn, he must feel confident enough to discover and explore his environment. This is an innate skill that we are born with, and these moments are vital. Children learn best through play and need opportunities to explore, create, build, and to figure out how things work.
They thrive with windows of time to pretend at the dollhouse, to build with legos, to play outside with sticks and rocks, and to take things apart, again and again. The more children play, the more creativity they develop, and the more they understand how the world works around them.
Children who have lots of experience playing before preschool easily adapt to the environment and become absorbent learners quickly.
2) The ability to follow one and two step directions: A big part of the preschool day involves listening to the teacher. Teachers often give directions such as “throw your tissue away,” “put the truck back on the shelf,”or “get your coat and go to the door.”
It is important for children to be able to listen to these instructions and to be able to carry them out. While it might be tempting to do some of these activities for children, they are better off if we use them as learning opportunities.
It is a huge skill for children to follow directions, and sometimes it takes weeks for children to get the hang of it in the classroom setting. Children who are successful at following directions when they enter preschool have a huge advantage over those who do not as they are able to dive into learning activities instead of spending so much time practicing their listening skills.
3) Practice at completing tasks: As a child is playing, he needs to develop the skills to complete a project — or at least the opportunity to.
In our busy world, we are running around doing errands, jumping in the car constantly, and rushing to the next activity. I wish we could put these on hold because children need to be given time to just build a castle out of blocks, to paint a picture at the easel, or to splash in the water table until they have said they are finished.
Take time in the day to put away busyness and allow children the chance to explore and learn at their pace.
Children who have practice completing tasks also have much longer attention spans and have greater abilities to stay focused amidst all the distractions that a group setting brings.
4) The confidence to speak up: There are many times in a preschooler’s day that a child needs to feel confident and secure enough to tell the teacher something.
We want them to come to us and tell us when they need to use the bathroom, when they need help, when they are finished with an activity, or when they accidentally make a spill. Some of us are great at spotting the “potty dance” or sensing that a child needs assistance, but when there are lots of little bodies around, we won’t see everything.
Even a quiet and shy child can quickly build trust with the teacher and become an excellent communicator.
5) A beginning understanding of empathy: While this is listed last, it is definitely one of the most important traits that all children (and adults) should have.
Empathy is a huge factor in how children build relationships. Children who are empathetic are able to get along better with their peers and treat the children and adults in their environment with respect.
One of my favorite aspects of empathy is that it breeds strong leaders in the preschool classroom. The best way to teach empathy to a child is to role model it for them.
The next time your child cries, let her know that you see that she is very sad. Sometimes it’s scary when she falls, or it is hard when mommy says “not now.”
Children who have had their feelings validated all throughout their lives always stand out as they continually form positive and healthy friendships.
Did you notice that I left out potty training? It was intentional. See why here.
Every child grows and develops at different rates, so some children will exhibit these skills sooner than others. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, I recommend talking about them with your child’s pediatrician.