10 Tips for Getting Young Children READY for School!
Many of the things that we do on an everyday basis are advancing our youngest children to be prepared for school. Language development spikes in the first two years of life and we need to take full advantage of these valuable opportunities. Exploration and discovery attribute to how children view the world as well as help them establish essential problem-solving skills. Playing in a physical way can promote judgment, perception, and cognition for later in life. By being responsive and nurturing to all areas of our children's development—physical, emotional, social, cultural, linguistic, and cognitive, we can better prepare our children for formal education. Healthy growth naturally fosters school readiness, a wholesome adult-child relationship is paramount. Here are 10 tips for getting young children READY for school!
1. Take advantage of the power of role modeling, children learn from watching. It may not be obvious but children are much more observant than you could ever imagine. Model the behaviors and the language that you want your child to practice. Through observing appropriate role models, children learn to hone skills that will help them successfully participate in a healthy society. This is also the time to promote wholesome social and emotional competencies. Children are professionals at the art of imitation and again you want them imitating healthy/appropriate behaviors. Knowing that very young children's thought processes differ from grown-ups is not an easy task because it requires you to put yourself into the world as it appears from their perspective. Young children have a completely different view of reality than adults, they interpret things from their own delightful eyes and outlook. You are your child's first teacher and these formative years are by far the most critical in a child's development. MORE INFO
2. Talk to your child and instigate conversation. Encourage and help your child to learn how to listen when others speak, as well as how to respond appropriately. Learning to be a good listener is an essential skill that will serve you well throughout your life. Explore language through music and literature. Don't “teach, preach, or screech.” Learn more about your child by asking questions that are open-ended and require a specific or detailed answer. Encourage an open door for communication at all ages. Young learners should be in language-rich environments to foster vocabulary and build strong communication skills. Help your child experiment with new words by staying cognizant of the vocabulary you use and incorporating different words or synonyms when the opportunity arises. Always respond to your child's questions, even if the answer is apparent. When we ask questions of our child we don't want to correct them if their answer is "wrong," instead we want to restate the question in hopes of re-guiding the child to approach his/her response differently. Encourage routine dialogue between friends and family members that are far away using Skype or other applications. MORE INFO
3. Being accepting of diversity today is an essential part of our global society. Research has shown that when children are exposed to diverse groups of people at an early age the opportunity to become more comfortable with differences in race, religion, language, and lifestyle come much easier. By learning to work with others regardless of status or race, children will incorporate those attitudes well into adulthood. Fairness and equality can be a matter of common sense versus an area of naiveté. Make sure that you do not shelter your child from others different from yourself. Books and apps easily bring experiences in diversity right into your own home. MORE INFO
4. Digital citizenship/literacy is the standard of appropriate, responsible technology use and this needs to be part of every child's education. This is now part of our everyday culture and we need to help children understand the significance of navigating the latest technology. We as parents need to help children understand what a digital footprint is and how everything they post online is forever stored and accessible. It is so important to teach them to respect and protect themselves as well as others online, this is the new digital literacy. Remember YOU set the tone for the use of technology in your own home and culturally. MORE INFO
5. Reasoning or executive functioning skills are often thought to be the key to success. They are the "command and control" functions that determine how you manage life tasks. These abilities include self-regulation, the capacity to comprehend complex situations, appreciate others' viewpoints, stay on task, and be organized. To help develop these skills plan and structure transition times, and shifts in activities. Use memory aids such as mnemonics or acronyms to bolster working memory. Parents can support the development of these skills, first by helping children persist with challenging tasks and then by slowly stepping back to let children accomplish things independently. Most importantly helping children learn from their mistakes gives them the confidence to be risk takers. MORE INFO
6. Encourage play-based learning to build a strong groundwork for literacy and mathematical concepts. Your child doesn't necessarily need to be able to read, write or do mathematical equations before they start school. But, exposure to these skills in a playful way will get them on the road to being prepared when the time does come. Recognize that all children develop at different times and that an early reader may be no more advanced come age ten or twelve. Do read to your child daily and discuss the different topics contained in what you’ve read. Visit the library often and check out books and attempt to attend storytime or other activities that are offered in your community. Letter magnets or other learning toys will help your child begin to recognize the letters of the alphabet in a stress-free environment. Sing rhyming songs or provide different child size musical instruments for experimentation. Supply your child with puzzles and games that require counting and problem-solving skills. Use an assortment of tangible objects for sorting, patterning, counting, estimating, measuring, and opportunities to solve real-life problems. Children will learn to think in mathematical terms as they are exposed to these concepts by talking, reasoning, playing, and doing. The same developmental stages for literacy vary for grasping the number sense, that math prodigy may not be as advanced as they get older because every child learns at their own pace. Pushing children before they are ready can be a deterrent to establishing a lifelong love of learning, which is our main goal in preparing our children for formal schooling. MORE INFO
7. Take your child on simple and more in-depth field trips regularly. The zoo, park, post office, pet store or even the local street markets. All of these examples are ripe with learning potential. Talk about the sights and sounds and aromas of your visits. These outings can expose kids to exciting encounters and provide real-life experiences in a variety of settings. This exposure, even to what may appear to be mundane places, gives kids a broader perspective of their environment. Whole family outings have even broader possibilities of understanding the complexities of the globe. MORE INFO
8. Make plenty of time for movement or physical activities for your child to sing, dance, jump, run, climb, play tag or ride bikes or scooters. Physical activities help develop both fine and gross motor skills as well as bolster social and emotional health. Muscle control, balance, and coordination (climbing steps, opening and closing doors, and putting on their own clothing) are part of this domain as well. Encourage your child to be self-sufficient and support their autonomy to take care of themselves even if it does take longer, it will be time well spent down the line. Body awareness and an appreciation of personal space need to be modeled and practiced. It is wise to get your children outdoors exposing them to fresh air and their natural surroundings. If you live in a large city this can be a challenge, make an effort to frequent community parks or plan outings into the country. MORE INFO
9. Provide ample opportunities for children to be creative and use their imaginations. Children have a very different take on reality than adults and this gift should be allowed to evolve. Every child is born with a unique sense of creativity and imagination, this inclination should not be restricted. Children need opportunities and materials that promote creative thinking. Creative activities for kids are infinite. The more varied and multifaceted activities that kids are exposed to give a wider opportunity for creative expression. Provide playthings, props, art supplies, and recyclables to pretend play, create, and make things. Celebrate individualism and steer clear of perfectionism, you do not want to stifle imaginative and original works of art. Giving young children an appreciation for art encourages exploration, self-expression, logical thinking, confidence, imagination, and of course, creativity. MORE INFO
10. Understand that you are the parent and not your child's friend. Act as a firm but a friendly leader, communicating with your children in a calm demeanor. Reward - don't punish. Do hold your rewards more to commending effort rather than finished products. Begin to cultivate intrinsic motivation and establish a strong work ethic where an application of skills can be developed with continual room to grow and challenge young minds. Let your child do chores around the home like setting the table at mealtimes or cleaning up playthings when finished with them. Encourage independent hygiene. Give your child opportunities to work independently on free play activities such as solving puzzles, painting, or building. MORE INFO
It is never too early to start providing the kinds of experiences that will help your child enter school ready to succeed. “School readiness” is a concept, which involves academic knowledge, independence, communication, and the social skills children need to do well in school. Getting your child ready for school requires you to spend time reading, talking, and playing with your child. Most importantly keep their social and emotional health at the top of the list and forge strong and happy family relationships!