Your older children are back to school and you are ready to get your three or four year old in a preschool program. But what should you be looking for in a preschool program? The answers may surprise you.
While learning their alphabet, counting to 10 or higher, knowing colors and shapes are important skills that most associate with kindergarten readiness, they are not necessary to start kindergarten! In chatting with local kindergarten teachers, they identified a whole different set of skills that they want more of their children to come to school with. Strong social emotional skills are the ones that help the teachers and students succeed in kindergarten. Some of these skills are the ability to wait their turn patiently, the ability to share with other children, good listening skills, and the ability to self regulate as well as self advocate. Basic self help skills such as toileting, dressing and undressing, nose wiping and hand washing are also valuable skills to go to kindergarten with.
A great way to teach young children how to wait their turn and to share is to play basic board games with them. Have a game night and get the whole family to play. Candy Land is a great game for three and four year olds and while they think it is just “fun”, they are practicing color recognition and learning how to wait. This is a life skill that is better acquired early.
To teach your preschooler patience, involve them in an activity that does not offer an “instant gratification” outcome. An example of this is growing a small plant. Using a small Styrofoam cup, soil, seed, and water, your child can watch the life cycle and wait with excitement to see the first sprouting of green leaves. This teaches a child that some things take more time to accomplish and can help them to become more patient.
Last but certainly not least, self-regulation and self-advocacy are skills your preschooler needs to succeed in school and in life. This refers to the ability to solve problems without hitting, kicking or screaming and the willingness to seek and adult’s help when they need it. The most effective way to teach self-regulation is by modeling it. If you use good tactics in handling and resolving your anger and frustration your children will too. Also, talk to your children about using their words (saying “I am angry”) and not their hands or feet when they are upset.
If children report for kindergarten with these skills in place, the teachers have calmer classrooms and can get to the task of teaching much faster! There are fewer disturbances in class and this offers your child a more pleasant learning environment. So don’t worry if your four year old can’t write his name perfectly. If he can wait calmly for the teacher to help him, he is already on the road to success!