Early learning programs have appropriately evolved and the age requirements for parents to enroll their young children is now lowered to 3 years old. Pre-Kindergarten was once specifically reserved for 4 year olds in order that the most vulnerable children enter kindergarten better prepared for academic success. It has always been my strong belief that publicly funded early learning programs, like Universal Pre-K in NYC, starting at age 4, was essentially too late to begin interventions for a great number of children who eventually will attend our public schools under-prepared and whose academic performance will reflect learning and achievement gaps and other disparities.
So, as schools make their moves closer to home, parents in the home must make their moves closer to schools. Hence, for parents who may be unaware or less aware of the critical roles that they can and do play to prepare their children for learning and succeeding in the classroom, here are some tips and suggestions for you that will help your child get ready for school. Don’t leave it up to the school to intervene or do it for you when there are things that you can start doing with your child even before he or she begins the enrollment process.
It is a fact of life that some children enter school better prepared for learning in school, but that does not negate any potentially untapped readiness cues that your child possesses. Simply put, even if there is an identified area of under-preparedness, your child may still catch up and possibly surpass his or her ‘better prepared’ peers.
To ensure that your preschooler is ready to learn, do your best make sure your child’s:
- physical needs are met with a healthy diet, enough sleep, exercise and medical care,
- social/emotional needs are met,
- play is stimulating.[Learning is play and vice versa. Don’t think that focused activities can’t be considered ‘play’-just directed.]
- questions get answered or given meaningful responses
- teachers, caregivers and parents have books to read to your child and reads for at least 10 minutes each day.
Introduce babies and toddlers to language[birth to 2yrs.]
- talk to your baby or toddler often.
- talk to your infant while feeding- look at pictures, photos, and tell your child about the pictures; what’s happening in them,
- show your baby new things, name them and talk about them
- sing songs-babies love music, and read nursery rhymes
- read aloud everyday, at least for a short while
- have your child handle books-books made especially for babies or toddlers, like interactive books-touch & feel, lift-the-flap. This helps with motor skills and language development.
Introduce young children to language.[3-5 years; preferably sooner]
- talk to your child often and encourage to speak by asking questions and talk about what happens during the day,
- show your child new things, name them and teach your child new words each day
- teach your child the alphabet
- read aloud to your child every day…this can’t be stressed enough…even for a few minutes a day.
Every child is different. Know your child’s unique talents, skills, abilities and interests, as well as special needs. Children can and should enjoy learning and they definitely possess healthy curiosity, especially as they get older. My children were reading at age 3, and it is not very difficult for any parent to do so, too. It isn’t ‘rocket science’! Aside from their basic needs, reading and language acquisition is the absolute key to preparing your child to develop literacy skills. We adults talk to one another, and we must talk to our children, too. The difference is that we demonstrate visually, what we are talking about.
When we see a school bus in our daily travels, name it, point to it, and make sure that you sound excited. It is exciting for your child. Everything is exciting and new to a little one. When I was breastfeeding my child, there was usually a book nearby, for the burping and sitting up process of feeding. In fact, as soon as children develop the ability to focus on objects and people, start reading, and introducing the wonderful, bright colors and descriptive words found inside.
As children begin to manipulate and handle objects like books, they will first try to ‘eat’ them[kidding], but that is how they initially learn about the world around them. Their first senses that develop early for children are sight and before that it is taste-oral. Before they develop their muscles-they taste-everything.All they come into contact with, goes in their mouths. They aren’t being bad or defiant-just curious and learning.
So, as you introduce books, be mindful that they are and will be very interested.
With rather short attention spans, and easily distracted, it is the absolute excitement in our voices-the animation-that holds their interest, though. They may turn pages before a page is fully read, but that is OK. Make up the words as you go along. The main thing is pointing out objects, colors, letters, and sounds. Eventually, they will help you along, and before you know it, there is a budding young reader in your midst. Preparing young children to read and learn in formal classroom settings is not too complex.
Be mindful that children are naturally curious. They have fun when learning, because learning is play and play is learning. Help them to identify what is placed before them, and limits to learning exist only by those imposed and set by you. Learning opportunities are everywhere for your child-just name it for them. Be creative! Your child’s first teacher is you-the parent, and the first classroom is in the home with you. You are the teacher, and it is in your classroom that your children learn. So, now what will you teach your child today?
No books? Visit your local library, and borrow some that are age-appropriate. If you find that very few of your friends and neighbors who are also parents of young children have few to limited books at home, start a group where everyone gets to take turns borrowing books for their children. Each would be responsible for the condition upon return, lost or destroyed books.
But, meantime, chairs, stairs, beds, dishes, your dress, your child’s shoes, windows, the sky, etc…identify colors, numbers, letters, words and just be filled with excitement. Think you’ve got any lemons? Name them, identify the color, and then make lemonade with your child! 🙂
You teach your child everyday and you can make the most of it all, because learning is everywhere! By the time you enroll your child in Pre-K or Kindergarten, at 3, 4, or 5 years old, he or she will be ready for successful learning and achievement in the formal classroom!