Parents often have questions about how to best prepare their child for preschool. Here are the biggest benefits of preschool as well as how to make the transition easy and fun for you and your child. Here are some tips on how to prepare your child for preschool.
Allow Children to Thrive
Tina Schneider, executive director at Cleveland Montessori School says one of the biggest benefits is exposing children to social activities and giving them the chance to be with other children their age. Another benefit is kids gain exposure to basic skills and they have opportunities to build upon their academic abilities early on.
“In Montessori, our focus isn’t just on the academics, but more about the whole child, so it’s helping to develop their concentration, independence and coordination, and all the things that will help them be successful in the academic areas down the road,” Schneider says.
Kids can start with activities that are going to help them develop fine motor skills, such as being able to dress themselves, or scrub a table and work with water.
Preschool also exposes kids to other people outside of the family setting, including teachers and their peers. Preschool allows kids to experience other personalities, and they can learn to make connections with a variety of people in a different environment.
“The three areas that I talk to parents about as far as getting their children ready for school are really about helping them to be independent, helping them to develop confidence, and then, exposure to the basic skills, and being ready to do some reading and math, and so forth,” Schneider says.
Reading, Playing and Exploring are Key
Janice Silvaroli, lead teacher, Little Saints Preschool at All Saints School of St. John Vianney in Wickliffe says parents often ask how to best prepare a child for preschool.
“By simply reading, playing, and exploring together with your child, you are helping your child get ready for preschool activities,” she says. “Spend time with kids away from devices.”
Silvaroli suggests going for nature walks often and participating in the Metroparks summer programs. Families can also work on puzzles together or play board games that allow your child to learn to take turns and count. She also encourages families to visit the library and attend children’s programs at the local library.
Another helpful tip is to offer your child a variety of active, playful experiences as well as quieter, more focused activities such as painting, either watercolor or finger painting, working with modeling clay, stringing beads together or using age-appropriate building blocks to build. All these activities help to strengthen a child’s fine motor skills.
Reading with your child also has multiple benefits, Silvaroli says, such as building his/her vocabulary. There are all kinds of books from rhyming books and nursery rhymes to fairytales and non-fiction books.
Additionally, she says, there are several fun books about preschool that parents and children can enjoy reading together such as “Preschool Day Hooray!” by Linda Strauss, “Llama Llama Misses Mama” by Anna Dewdney,“What to Expect at Preschool”by Heidi Murkoff, “Monsters Love School,” by Mike Austin and “First Day at Zoo School” by Sarah Dillard, to name a few.
Practice and Encourage Independence
Preschool teaches kids how to communicate with other kids and how to express themselves with words. Kids can also learn to do things more independently and explore the world in a safe way.
Silvaroli says parents can encourage their children to practice independent skills through activities such as washing their hands or putting on his/her own clothing and shoes. Other activities kids can do to build independence include packing a backpack, set- ting a table, putting away their toys or climbing up and down the stairs.
Children love pretend play, so parents can also use it to prepare a child for preschool. Pretend with your child that you’re going to school, hang up your backpack, and sit down for circle time,” she says.
Families can do simple things like playing games or making a snack. Then, they can talk about how to ask for someone’s attention, practice taking turns, or join in the play.
Daniel Tiger has many songs and stories about preparing and attend- ing preschool. Families looking for ideas for music can check out Laurie Berkner and Jim Gill on YouTube, among others.
Schneider says the children have a reciprocal relationship, where they help and learn from each other. The older children are role models and leaders for the younger children, for example.
One way to help kids develop independence, she says, is letting them make some choices at home – like what they are going to wear, or what they’ll have for a snack on a particular day.
“In the classroom, we offer them choices, so it’s not just an adult telling them what to do,” she says. “It’s saying, you can choose to do this activity, or that activity, and letting them have that opportunity to make a decision and them feeling comfortable and confident with the decision.”
Parents Help to Shape Kids Classroom Experiences
Sara Miller, director at Carol Nursery School in Shaker Heights says parents are often invited into the classroom and they have an opportunity to share their talents. Parents that love to garden come to the learning garden and help the children garden. For example, parents that love to cook, come in and cook with the students in the classroom. Then, the students eat what they made for a snack that day.
When it comes to what kids walk away with after preschool, Miller agrees that socialization skills and how to be independent are a few of the most important things they’ll learn.
Preschool teaches kids other important things like self-help skills, she says. Children learn that different people have different feelings about things, and they begin to understand the importance of respecting each other’s space as well as their thoughts and ideas.
Talking with Your Child
Miller encourages parents to have conversations with their children. Whether that’s talking to them about their day while they are driving home in the car, counting the number of trucks as they go by, or the stop signs you meet.
Parents can also engage with their children by making a grocery list when they go to the store, so the child has to practice, even if it’s just a scribbled list. Kids can help make a list, read the list when they get to the store, and then help their parents go to the shelves and find the items on the list.
“Those kinds of things really build a lot of what the child will need when they enter the preschool classroom. They build curiosity and expand their vocabulary, and all those kinds of things, and then, they’re ready. They don’t need to have knowledge of the ABC’s and 123’s, they just need to have their curiosity going and then they are ready to step in the door,” Miller says.
Kids Are Expected to Know More in Kindergarten
“When we talk with a lot of parents, and they come in to see what kindergarten looks like, they are pretty surprised at where kindergarten has gone over the years, and what kids are expected to know when they walk through the doors into kindergarten,” says Abby Kassel, director of student services at Revere Local Schools in Richfield.
It’s imperative that children get preschool opportunities that show them what school looks like, and feels like, so they can be better prepared as learners and as students, she adds.
Another consideration is that parents continue to get their children involved in school earlier on, and more young students continue to engage with preschool opportunities.
“I’ve seen our needs in preschool grow significantly, just the number of students that we’ve seen come through, that we’re able to support and give an early childhood experience to has just exponentially increased,” Kassel says.
For those looking at preschool, Kassel encourages families to learn more about what preschool programs are available in the community. She also stresses the importance of not waiting until the last minute to sign kids up.
“We have parents that come in June, saying my child needs to be enrolled for the fall, and I know a lot of programs, not just in the district, but many of the local programs have been filled up for several months now. So, it’s important to be prepared and to enter a preschool program with an open mind,” Kassel says.