Your little one’s formal academic launching is all about preparation, and preschools vary on what they expect of incoming children.
There are several steps you can take to improve your child’s preschool start, says Angie McDonald of 4C for Children, a local childcare referral service (preschools, too).
“The best thing parents can do is be ready for children to get messy!” says McDonald. “That’s how they problem-solve and learn.” She adds that Ohio has developed what are known as Early Learning and Development Standards (education.ohio.gov), markers of a child’s social/emotional, cognitive, language/literacy, and gross/fine motor skill abilities. There is also attention paid to “Approaches Toward Learning,” which looks at a child’s attitude toward learning, initiative, curiosity, level of attention and motivation to try new experiences. Preschool programs can use these standards as a guideline for what children will accomplish during their time with their program.
When researching preschools, McDonald advises parents to look for Ohio’s Step Up to Quality program, and Kentucky’s All STARS program. Both provide rating systems for preschool programs and programs participate voluntarily. Completion of certain milestones, like a low student-to-teacher ratio, gives the school a higher rating. Learn more about each program at stepuptoquality.org or kentuckyallstars.ky.gov.
Preschool readiness and success will really come down to finding the program that best suits your family’s needs.
McDonald suggests touring and observing programs, and bringing your future preschooler with you to see how he reacts to the environment and the teachers. Be sure to interview with the school, too.
Some of the things programs look for in your child when they assess them include:
• Independence: kids taking on tasks for themselves (like putting on a coat or setting a table at lunch time).
• Control: Children doing things in an orderly way and cleaning up afterward.
• Concentration: Attending to a task until completion.
• Order: Being able to recognize a beginning, middle and an end to tasks and projects, and completing the order of tasks. (This comes in handy as students progress to multi-step lessons.)