Promoting confidence when your child reaches school age is essential to their long-term success in education.
Studies suggest there are many precursors to doing well in school, including helping your little ones develop strong social skills, frequently exposing them to language, and creating a nurturing environment.
All these components can help set your child up for a positive school experience in the early years of development.
So, how can you help give them the best start possible?
If your child is approaching preschool age, here are ten things you can do right now to make sure your child is comfortable in a preschool setting and has the best possible chance of success.
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Helping your child develop solid foundational social skills is the first step to preparing them for a positive school experience. Do your best to connect with a network of parents in your area and expose your child to others frequently to help them learn to problem solve and play with other children.
If you have a shy child, model interactions with others and keep your play-dates small at first to help them come out of their shell. Be patient – some children take longer than others to warm up to different settings and new people.
There’s one common difference between students who perform well in the early years and those who struggle – language acquisition. Having an early exposure to words and spoken language means your child will more easily learn decoding skills when they read.
Developing language skills is often tied to life experience and family income, but it doesn’t have to be. The best way to encourage pre-reading skills is by reading together daily and engaging in conversation – both are easy to do.
If your child speaks two languages at home, this is even more important, as they will learn to differentiate between the two through practice, and it may take them a bit more time. You can help them switch back and forth by having each parent read and speak in only one of the spoken languages.
Children are naturally curious, but you can help them take it a step further and teach them how to follow simple steps in the process.
There are some simple activities you can try with your child to encourage their natural curiosity, including: cooking a simple recipe, doing science projects for kids, making slime, crafting, and coloring. Keep it simple and follow your child’s interests to keep them engaged as they explore.
Learning self-care goes beyond simply making sure your child brushes their teeth daily and bathes. By preschool age, children should be mostly potty-trained, able to dress themselves and put on their own jacket and shoes.
Simple tasks like opening a snack, water bottle lid, or juice box are helpful in a classroom setting as well. By teaching these self-care skills at home, you’ll be eliminating potential sources of stress for your child by showing them they can do it themselves.
In a preschool setting, you’ll likely be provided with a schedule that your child will follow daily. Whether you choose half-day or full-day preschool, it’s a good idea to request a copy of the schedule in the months before your child attends school.
You’ll be able to start mirroring the schedule by having your child wake-up and nap according to a similar pattern. This helps eliminate tiredness during the transition period.
Before school starts, you’ll likely be asked to bring a few supplies for your child in advance. A nap mat, a change of clothes, or a small backpack are common supply requests. Sometimes, students are requested to bring a daily snack or pack their own home lunch, but it may also be provided.
If your child has trouble transitioning to a school setting, send a family picture to school in case they are missing you. Make sure all their supplies are labeled.
Children entering preschool are expected to sit and be able to listen for about 5-10 minutes at a time in a group setting. There are a few great ways you can give your child a head start on learning to be an active listener.
Attending library storytimes with them will give them an opportunity to practice this skill. Enrolling them in sports can also help them practice focus and listening.
If your child is more used to being at home, attending a structured preschool setting may be stressful at first for everyone involved. It can take up to a month (or even two!) to fully adapt to a new daily setting and schedule. To ease this transition, practice separating from your child more regularly for short intervals and work up to longer periods of being away.
Make it a game. You can call it ‘school practice’ where they get ready with their supplies in the morning and stay with a supportive family member, babysitter, or neighbor for ‘pretend school.’ This will allow them to practice getting ready and remove additional stress on the first day.
Transitioning to preschool can be stressful for both the child and the caregiver. By keeping your demeanor calm and caring, your child will be more apt to have a positive attitude as well. Be self-aware as you speak to other adults and siblings about school. You want to send a positive message that school is a fun and safe place to be.
After you’ve enrolled, contact the school administration and take your child to school to observe their class or see the outdoor play area. Sometimes, it’s possible to take a school tour, meet the teacher, or see a class in action – but call ahead just in case there are designated hours for this.
Before you know it, you’ll be watching your baby walk out the front door as a big kid. Give them the best chance possible and set them up for success by doing some legwork leading up to the big day. And don’t forget the first day of school photoshoot – you’ll treasure these memories for years to come.