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How to Get Ready for Preschool

10 tips for preschool success

The beginning of preschool is a major childhood milestone. Preschool presents new challenges, even for children who have already been in day care. Many preschools have expectations more commonly associated with Kindergarten or 1st grade, and some even require entrance exams that demonstrate mastery of specific skills. Use the summer to get your chilld ready for school by incorporating 10 simple activities into her daily routine.

  1. Talk with your child, not at him. Preschool is a verbal place where kids are required to express themselves in words. Give your child a lot of practice by encouraging family conversations. When your child tells you something, focus your attention on him and on what he is saying. Ask questions so he will tell you more.
  2. Find playmates. Set up playdates with kids her own age. At first each child may engage in her own activity; this type of “parallel play” is a developmental skill that must be mastered prior to “interactive play,” in which kids actively engage each other. Gradually introduce the concept of sharing, but understand that kids develop this skill at different rates.
  3. Emphasize physical play. A child’s muscle control develops in sequence from larger, looser movements to smaller, more detailed ones. For this reason, hours spent running, jumping, throwing a ball and climbing will help him master holding a crayon or pair of scissors later on.
  4. Provide sensory play experiences. Playing with, say, sand and water allows children to learn about the properties of each while developing perceptual pathways in the brain. Many preschools emphasize sensory activities in their reading readiness programs; see several sensory examples at MetroKids.com/sensoryplay.
  5. Introduce preschool materials and tools. Teach your child to create with paper, chunky crayons, washable markers, safety scissors, removable tape and glue sticks. Let her make pictures, cutouts and greeting cards.
  6. Read picture books. Read to your child, pausing occasionally to discuss pictures or action in the book. Your child will love having you close, and he will learn how to properly handle and enjoy a book. Some children learn to read letters or even words just by following along with a parent’s reading. 
  7. Teach simple hygiene for good health. Preschools are incubation rooms for germs, so make sure your child knows how to wash his hands before eating and after using the bathroom. Teach him to sneeze and cough into a tissue or, at the very least, the crook of his elbow. 
  8. Provide structured activities. Play simple games with your child and emphasize that following rules makes things go smoothly. If you don’t already have set morning and bedtime routines, establish regular sequences of tasks for those times. Make a chart with boxes that your child can check off as tasks are completed.
  9. Visit preschools together. Let your child get used to the idea of preschool with visits designed to tantalize. Point out the attractive toys, activities and any resident animals (bunnies, birds, fish). Remember that some fear and a period of adjustment are normal. 
  10. Explore your own feelings. Preschool can be more traumatic for the parent than for the child. Sometimes it’s painful to realize that our “babies” aren’t babies anymore. Try to separate your own emotions from any adjustment difficulties your child may experience, and you’re well on the way to success in preschool and beyond.

Sharon Nolfi is a licensed school psychologist whose articles have appeared in publications worldwide.

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