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Making the most of early childhood education at school and at home

Preschool kids doing crafts
Preschool experiences not only bolster academic skills for the future, but also social skills among peers and potential friends. (Source: Adobe Stock)

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” 

Preschool and other early childhood opportunities not only offer children specified time to hone their interests through play, but also to engage with peers of their own age group on a regular basis.  In addition to providing a structured and safe place for children to learn, the academic lessons learned during these early years can help build a strong foundation for a child’s academic future. 

Priming children for kindergarten

Before starting kindergarten, children are expected to have a grasp of a few developmental skills that can help prime them for the impending social experiences of a classroom environment. 

While qualifications can vary from district to district, the generally accepted list of skills a child should master before kindergarten includes:

• Being able to identify colors and simple shapes (square, triangle, circle, etc.)

• Count to 10 and identify written numerals 0-10

• Hold items like a writing implement or scissors with a functional grasp 

• Know how to track words with a finger from left to right 

• Be able to recognize their first name in upper case letters 

• Be able to write their first name 

• Identify seven or more upper and lower case letters and their sounds

Teaching, not childcare

Preschool teachers are specifically trained to facilitate positive connections with students through attentive listening and engaging the child in thoughtful conversation. By providing positive feedback, early childhood educators help children build confidence when communicating with others and emulate the same active listening skills. 

Other soft skills children learn in preschool include how to socialize, follow routines, tolerate frustration, respect others, use expressive language and focus on adult-directed activities. These same skills can be further developed through a child’s involvement with age-appropriate social and educational activities, such as pee-wee sports teams, tiny tots tumbling and dance classes. 

Social-emotional learning occurs throughout a school day as preschoolers interact with each other and learn to share, take turns and work together to solve problems. Other components resulting from those interactions are positive manners and self-presentation. 

Involvement at home

According to PBS Kids, preschool-aged children learn best via hands-on exploring and tactile experiences that incorporate all five senses. Simple home activities like counting blocks or sorting laundry can build a foundation for the mastery of more complex concepts. 

Encouraging a child to create stories or play scenarios will help them use their expanding vocabulary alongside their expanding imaginations.

While pre-school-aged children do develop skills through play, they still need attention from guardians or skilled caregivers to help funnel their energy and curiosity into productive learning. That’s why, even when little ones are learning from the comfort of home, it’s important for them to have consistent and dedicated attention from a parent or guardian.

One effective way to develop a child’s literacy skills also happens to be the simplest: talk to them. Conversations between two active parties not only teach children to convey their thoughts and feelings through words but also how to listen effectively.

Active discussions or reading aloud with a child can help to build key reading skills. To quote children’s author Emilie Buchwald, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

Little learners at home and school can take advantage of multiple local library and early literacy offerings, such as storytimes, first book giveaways and age-specific reading programs. St. Charles County Library’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program encourages parents and students to read together to prepare for the academic journey ahead. Details can be viewed at mylibrary.org. Also, search for “Grow Your Reader” to learn more about that program in St. Charles County.

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