Starting school can be a major adjustment for both children and their parents. Parents can help ease that transition by ensuring that their children are thoroughly prepared for preschool. This will make children feel more comfortable and capable in the first days of school, and will help parents feel confident that their children are prepared for success.
While expectations may vary among states or school districts, children entering preschool are generally expected to posses some basic social and academic skills. These skills form the foundation for learning math and reading, as well as appropriate behavior for the classroom setting.
Social Skills: These abilities facilitate successful interaction with the teacher and other students.
- Know how to take turns, share, and work together with other children of the same age
- Respect other children’s personal space and belongings
- Sit quietly long enough to listen to a story
- Follow simple, verbal directions
- Explain their feelings
Academic Skills: These competencies enable a child to move forward with new academic skills such as reading, writing, and basic mathematics.
- Identify most letters, including those in the child’s name, along with numbers up to ten
- Count up to ten objects
- Know the names of basic household objects, common animals, and eight basic colors
- Recognize and name four basic shapes
- Correctly hold and use crayons, markers, pencils, and scissors
In addition to these basic skills, being familiar with technology-based toys or computer programs can give children a significant educational advantage. As children grow older, they are expected—and encouraged--to have proficiency with technological tools, and this early introduction will prime them for continued success and comfort.
But technology doesn’t take the place of all other educational tools. Children, especially preschoolers, learn through doing. The key to getting kids interested in educational toys, games, and activities, is to choose appealing materials. Children are drawn to bright colors, along with interesting, inviting textures. Bringing these features to classic educational activities will have kids counting, naming, reading, and sharing in no time.
- For reluctant readers or kids who ordinarily wiggle out of reading, a cozy kid-size reading nook makes curling up with a book a more exciting activity
- An art station, outfitted with kid-friendly crayons, markers, scissors, art smocks, and other tools, helps kids practice holding and using items that will be common in school
- Traditional counting abacuses reinforce spatial awareness, counting, and identification of shapes and colors. Available with varying complexity, these wire sculptures are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers
- To improve manual dexterity, games like ring toss are a great outdoor option. Themed sets can also help children learn the names of animals, sports, or colors
- Encourage story telling by asking children to share their adventures. This is a great way to pass time in the car. Children can also take a turn telling the story from a favorite book, or make up a story to go with a piece of original artwork.
- Magnetic toys never cease to astonish children. They can also be used to teach letters, complete mazes, or myriad other skills and activities
- Activity centers generally offer enough options for children to use together. They can be used to teach specific skills, but activity tables also help children learn to share and interact appropriately with others
The beginning of kindergarten marks a milestone in a child’s life. Letting go can be difficult, but preparing a child for school doesn’t have to be. Providing an environment rich in colorful, age-appropriate toys and educational opportunities will help children learn as they play.