Will preschool help your child be academically successful?
Preparing your child for school success includes outings like this! School readiness is not just about letters and numbers!
It is that time of year when parents are beginning to look at preschools for next year. Sometimes I feel that there is more pressure on parents to find “just the right preschool” than deciding on a college! Preschool is a must for some children, but it is NOT a must for every child. Studies have shown us that children who have engaged parents who read to them and provide various activities at home but don’t attend preschool are not at any academic disadvantage. Some recent studies continue to show us that any academic edge a child may receive from preschool may fade by the 3rd grade.
So, do I think preschool is a waste? Absolutely not, I feel it is very advantageous to those children who have fewer opportunities. I also think that with Kindergarten now being a full day, a year of preschool often helps children adjust to the rigor of school. It has become more necessary for children to have at least one year of preschool to help with the adjustment, prepare the child for following directions, learning to sit still for periods of time, and the general routine of school. However, I do think that the choice of preschool attendance for 2 and 3 year olds from families who are able to provide outings, hands on activities, and reading at home is an option. Many children LOVE their preschool experience, and Moms often enjoy some time to themselves. Children also can learn very valuable social skills and have the opportunity to participate in some play activities that are not always offered at home like finger-painting and other messy play. However, everything that a quality preschool offers can be offered at home by a loving, involved and active parent, if they would like. At times I think parents are sent the message that they are not capable of providing the necessary experiences for their child to develop well and be successful in school. Parents feel inadequate in the task of preparing their preschooler for academic success. This is simply not true. Attending preschool will not insure that a child will be more successful in school and unfortunately will not guarantee admission to Harvard! More important than letters and numbers, a preschooler needs to develop life skills, social skills, self-confidence, and emotional maturity to be successful in school. To help with success in kindergarten, a child needs these basics:
- Good physical health so their natural abilities can grow and mature.
- Appropriate emotional maturity and self-confidence so they can accept new challenges.
- Good language skills so they can ask questions and participate in group activities.
- Good social skills so they will be able to share and interact with other children.
- Good listening skills to be able to follow directions.
- Familiarity with letters, letter sounds and numbers.
- The ability to sit still for short periods of time.
We are finding that a child does not need a structured academic program in a preschool; he or she needs the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills. Children who do not have that opportunity at home will benefit from a preschool program.
Young children learn best through playing, exploring, and discovering. Imaginative play will actually improve high level thinking which improves a child’s chances of school success. Forcing pencil and paper academics and academic drills too early might actually decrease a child’s natural desire to explore and learn!
What makes a good preschool?
- A preschool should be convenient for parents! If it causes stress to get to school because of location or time of day, it will not be worth it to you or your child.
- Children should be active in the classroom playing and/or working in groups or stations.
- There should be hands-on materials and activities available. Pretend play items; dress up clothes, water play, easels, painting, clay etc.
- Children should have individual time and group time with the teachers. There should be 1 adult/teacher for every 4 to 5 children.
- Children should have their work displayed in the classroom…and it should not all look the same! Children should have the opportunity to be creative with projects.
- The learning of numbers and letters should be embedded in activities throughout the day, not in concentrated lessons or drills.
- There should be outside play daily (weather permitting).
- There should be a developed curriculum that provides some structure to the day.
- Teachers should have an Early Child Development background/education.
- There should be a stable teaching staff with little turnover.
- Music should be incorporated into the curriculum.
- Daily life skills should be incorporated into the curriculum like buttoning, shoe tying, putting on jackets, picking up toys, sitting for short periods to listen and following directions.
- There should be opportunity for children to socialize in play with other children freely learning sharing, taking turns, and other social skills.
- Children should be read to in groups and individually.
- “Field trips” to experience the world should be included in the curriculum. Trips to apple orchards, parks, the zoo, nature centers and other community destinations are important.
What can you do at home?
- Provide time for imaginative play. Be sure that you have toys that encourage creativity and imagination.
- Provide time to use paint, clay, scissors, crayons, chalk, water play, and other tactile fine motor play.
- Provide outdoor play daily (weather permitting).
- Expose your child to the world by going to the grocery store, post office, library, zoo, park, nature center, apple orchard, pumpkin patch, and other places. Talk about your outings!
- Read daily. Provide books that your child can “read” alone.
- Talk about stories that you read. Ask your child what will happen next! Let your child tell you the story.
- Provide music. Sing songs and dance.
- Point out letters on signs, talk about funny words, find words that rhyme, talk about the sounds that words begin with.
- Point out numbers, count items when playing, incorporate counting into everyday life.
- Have a routine at home; following routines will help when your child has structure and routine at school.
- Allow your child to dress himself. Practice buttoning, shoe tying, independently going to the bathroom, hand washing, and other independent life skills.
- Give your child directions to follow. Start with one step directions and then move to two steps, and three and four step directions.
- Give your child developmentally appropriate chores or responsibilities. (Pick up toys, carry dishes to the sink, put dirty clothes in the hamper etc.)
- Provide sorting and sequencing opportunities. Use a muffin tin for your child to sort different cereal, colored pompoms, letters, or other items. Let your child help you sort socks!
- Help your child recognize his or her name in print.
- Talk about shapes your child may see around the house or outdoors.
- Provide opportunities for your child to play with children his or her own age.
We all want our children to be successful in school. I believe however that the most important skills our preschool aged children need are not academic but social. Children are very pliable; we can teach a child to do many things at a very young age. We can teach a 2-year-old to recite numbers and letters, and we can even teach many 4 year olds to read….but I question at what cost? Will our children develop those skills that are truly needed for success in school? The skills that will allow him or her to problem solve, interact socially in a respectful and appropriate manner, follow directions and listen, and think with innovation and creativity; those are what are most important. So whether your child is in preschool or at home, be sure you are opening up the world to him or her, not pressuring academics too early and then your child just might end up heading to Harvard! What are your thoughts?
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
- Posted in: Child care ♦ Education ♦ Fun activities for kids ♦ Growth and Development ♦ Uncategorized
- Tagged: activities, books, growth and development milestones, kindergarten, language development, preparing for kindergarten, preschool, preschool curriculum, preschool registration, preschooler, reading, school success, self confidence, self esteem, toddler
Great post! We won’t be putting Abner in preschool if we can still have the luxury of me getting to stay home with him. I have always heard the pro preschool conversation, but not very often the other side.
Hello! I think we are considering preschool for the social aspect and group atmosphere – but we are not sure yet! Do you have a list of preschools in Hamilton county by any chance? Westfield in particular??? Does anyone recommend any over the others?
I don’t have a list….best way to start is to talk with other moms in the area and find out where they sent their child. Talk to them about their choice, call the preschool, and make a visit. Not every preschool that comes with great recommendations is a good fit for you or your child. Visiting, asking questions, checking references all are good tools to help with the decision. Good Luck!
Thanks for this fabulous post. I’m glad to see someone advocating against academic preschools. I just want to add that pretend play in particular is important for kids this age, in part because it helps develop executive skills like planning and self control, which are critical for later academic success.
Pretend play is essential for children….it also helps develop empathy, helps work through fears, improves language, and allows children to try on different roles in life! Thanks for the comment!