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7 Things No One Told You About Preschool

A lot of the most memorable moments for kids are “I have no idea what I’m doing” moments for parents. If you’ve never put a child in preschool, you probably look every bit as nervous as your little one on that first day. But you can prep yourself by learning some of the stuff that only time-tested parents already know about preschool.

  1. It’s Not Daycare: Hey, we get that you might be a little overjoyed at the thought of two or three hours to yourself, courtesy of your child’s preschool teacher. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that a preschool teacher is just a glorified babysitter. Your little one is learning the basics of education, social skills and artistic expression as well as how to do things for himself—skills that another child care provider may not tackle.
  2. Your Perspective Will Change: At home, your little guy is the center of pretty much everything. After all, he’s the smartest, most charming, funniest and sweetest child ever, right? Well, here’s the thing about preschool: It can be a rude awakening that your child isn’t the center of everyone’s universe. Don’t expect special treatment from the preschool teacher and keep in mind that most of the other parents think their child is numero uno, too.
  3. Your Child Will Change: Teacher and educational psychologist Jennifer Little warns that your child might be a little different after a month or two of preschool. “The biggest problem I’ve seen is that parents don’t know what their child has to do in preschool and how the child will be changed by those experiences. They don’t realize how the dynamics of a group of children change every child’s behavior…or how structured preschool has to be.”
  4. Don’t Compare: Whether it’s a freakishly smart kid who can recite all the U.S. presidents, a gorgeous little girl with bouncy curls or a child who has amazing artistic ability right off the bat, it’s tempting to compare your little one with the other kids. While you can’t help yourself from peeking at another child’s paper, make sure you don’t use it as a measuring stick for your own kid because preschool kids are all at varying levels of social and academic development.
  5. It’s More Than Academics: Don’t sweat it if, after a few months of preschool, your child doesn’t suddenly blossom into a tiny genius. The truth is that while most preschools offer academic lessons, the end goal isn’t to get your child ready for the SATs. Instead, preschool is about learning to socialize, take directions, spend time with people outside of the house and get ready for kindergarten.
  6. Register Early:Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have all summer to register your child for daycare. Most registration periods happen before the summer so the teacher has time to buy supplies and get set up. Ask around and you’ll probably find that it’s best to get registered in May. As an added bonus, the earlier you register, the more time you and your little one have to get to know the new teacher, which can help calm any first day jitters … for both of you.
  7. It’s Just the Beginning: Is your child the one kicking and screaming as you drop him off to school? Clinical psychologist Mark McKee tells parents not to sweat it. “A child that hates preschool may end up loving and excelling in school later on,” he says. Take a deep breath and remember that the more your child goes to preschool, the less of a fight it will become.

So, you’ve got the pencils, crayons and construction paper for your child to take to school, but don’t forget that a good attitude is important too. Watching your child make the leap from “Center of the Universe” at home to being one of a group of children might seem scary to you, but eventually he’ll love it. Now … what are you going to do with those two free hours?

 

Play in Preschool: Why it Matters

Parents often hear of the importance of play in preschool. But playing with dolls and blocks seems to have little to do with the academic knowledge that children will need to succeed in kindergarten. So why is it so important?

Play is the foundation for all learning for young children, and giving your child the time and a few basic toys can provide her with a variety of valuable learning opportunities. “Play is how children begin to understand and process their world,” says Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over 20 years. “Children’s play unlocks their creativity and imagination, and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation for learning.”

Why is play so important and what do preschoolers learn when they play? Try a few of these simple ideas with items you have around your house and learn about the educational benefits that each can provide for your child.

 

Fostering Courage in Your Preschool Child

“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the strength to be who and what you are—despite the fear,” says Dr. Janette Marie Freeman, host of the radio show Empowered Living. It is a willingness to try new things, to take chances, to move out of your comfort zone. Parents want their children to be brave but, at the same time, not to be foolhardy. So how can you help your preschooler develop courage without taking dangerous risks?Facing fear takes a lot of courage, but when one does it, fears lose their power. The same thing happens to children. So if you want your preschooler to develop courage, help her learn to face the things she fears most.

  • Reframe the situation. Many times your preschooler can gain courage by looking at his fears in a new way. A scary monster in her bedroom may only be a pile of clothes on a chair once the light’s flicked on. Try turning the light on and off until she can laugh at her fears. A barking dog may seem menacing, but if your preschooler can get the dog to chase a stick or a ball, he’ll feel more powerful and may even come to like the dog.
  • Begin with small steps. Rather than overwhelming your child by forcing him to confront his fear all at once, encourage him to take small steps toward the goal. Each forward movement builds courage, making it easier to take the next step and then the next. For example, if you want your shy child to play with others, begin small. Have him wave to another child on the playground. When he’s comfortable with that, encourage him to say hi. Gradually have him progress to side-by-side play, then interaction. Each success along the way will show him he can do this and will lead to the next step.
  • Challenge her to try new things. Never underestimate what preschoolers can do. If she wants to try something, give her a chance. And allow her to make mistakes. Children learn a lot from their mistakes as they go back and correct them. Courage is like a muscle that can be built up by exercising it. Each fear he overcomes builds courage to face a new challenge. Help your child find situations where he can demonstrate courage, and soon he’ll surprise you with his bravery.
  • Don’t overprotect. Parents who frequently warn children of the dangers in each new activity often do more harm than good. Although healthy fears and limits can save your child from real danger, overprotecting prevents them from learning how to deal with situations on their own. Without conscious thought, many adults repeat warnings they heard as children, whether or not the messages are valid. When you catch yourself sending those cautionary messages, stop and ask yourself if they’re true and, if they are, how likely they are to happen. Sometimes it’s better for your preschooler to get a few scrapes or bruises from trying something a bit beyond her physical capabilities than to stop her by instilling fear. If she’s encouraged to try, she gains courage that carries over into other activities, and soon she’ll develop a range of competences.
  • Demonstrate courage. To help you child become more courageous, let him see you doing things you fear. If you dread making a phone call, express your fear. After the call is over, mention the outcome. “Whew, I’m glad that’s over. She was angry, but we worked it out.” Or “Hey, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared.” Knowing that adults have fears and overcome them provides a powerful example for children.
  • Encourage him. “You can teach your child to demonstrate courage by encouraging him to be his best self, developing the spirit that will allow him to face difficulty, pain, danger or exclusion without fear,” says Mary Dixon Lebeau, parenting expert and mother of four.
  • Children who develop courage in the preschool years not only benefit by trying new things, but they gain an invaluable skill that will help them become resilient, courageous, and successful

Imagination and Creativity

In our fast paced and high tech society, children have fewer and fewer opportunities to use and develop their creativity. Children who are not given frequent opportunities to play may have a difficult time entertaining themselves as they simply do not know what to do without instruction. By providing opportunities for open ended play, your child will automatically get her creative juices flowing, and the possibilities are endless.

  • Dramatic Play. provide a few props such as dishes and play food, empty food boxes and a cash register or stuffed animals and a doctor’s kit, and your child will be transported into a different place! Watch and be amazed at what she will come up with as she plays.
  • Craft Supplies. Without a specific project complete, provide your child with a variety of craft supplies such as markers and crayons, scraps of fabric or paper, empty boxes or containers, glue, buttons and stickers. Allow her to create anything she likes and watch her inner artist emerge!

Language and Vocabulary Development

When playing with other children or adults, vocabulary and language skills are fostered. Your child will listen and learn the language she hears without even realizing. Children will learn to use language to communicate meaning as well as picking up new words and hearing the grammatical

  • Vehicles and Animals. Playing with cars, trucks and trains as well as animals provides for many new vocabulary words as children learn the names of each, what they do, what they eat or where you can find them. Additionally, children and adults can create all kinds of scenarios that the vehicles or animals might find themselves in, providing for further language and vocabulary development.
  • Dollhouse and Dolls. Playing with a dollhouse or dolls allows your child to reenact what happens in her everyday life, using the words and phrases she hears. You are likely to hear your own words come out of her mouth as she recreates events that have happened, perhaps with an outcome more suited to her liking!

Problem Solving and Mathematics

Children can solve complex problems that arise as they play and learn a few mathematical principals as well. Blocks and puzzles are excellent “basics” to provide your child with many opportunities to foster these important skills.

 

  • Playing with blocks provides for many problem solving scenarios. How can we make it balance? How tall can we make this tower? Can we build a castle? Children also learn some basic math concepts with the various shapes and sizes of the blocks.
  • When trying to make puzzle pieces fit, children are gaining important math and problem solving experience. Learning a bit about sizes (is the piece too big for that spot?) and shapes (does the shape of the piece look the same as the hole?) You can encourage this learning by engaging in conversations as your child plays. Your child will also gain an important sense of accomplishment as her practice leads to a completed puzzle in the end.

Gross and Fine Motor Development

Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the legs and arms while fine motor development is building the muscles of the hands that will be used for writing. Play can provide many opportunities to work on strengthening these muscles without your child even being aware of it!

 

  • Stringing Beads and Lacing. Giving children beads and plastic tipped laces provide a fun way to work on fine muscle control. Your child can create a beautiful necklace while strengthening the fine motor muscles. Lacing cards or child safe needles and burlap will also provide fun “sewing” projects for young children.
  • Balls and Balance Beams. Kicking balls and walking on balance beams can help your child become more coordinated. Get outside and kick a ball around, create a goal area to make it a game. Anytime you see a narrow brick wall or wooden plank, give your child some assisted practice at balancing.

Gather up the toys you have around the house and make it a point to provide ample time for play. Playing around with your child is sure to provide many wonderful childhood memories and reap some great educational benefits as well!

 

 

 

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