You may be lucky enough to have a spot for your child at the #1 preschool in town, but will she be ready when the time comes? And, what exactly does “ready“ mean today?
For tots on the verge of preschool, it’s helpful to know that much of the preschool experience is about learning how to cooperate and coexist with other kids. To help prepare your child, look for opportunities for her to play with others at the library, the local playground and anywhere else that fits naturally into your life. Jenifer Wana, author of How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into and Preparing for Nursery School (Sourcebooks; $14.99) , says, “Remember that your kid doesn’t need to be ready for preschool when you’re applying, which may be months in advance of actually entering the school. Consider that gap as a period to help your child become more mindful of sharing and taking turns. Kids should be able to understand appropriate behavior even if they don’t model it.” Here are other points to consider:
Many preschools require new students be potty trained upon entry, but many don’t. If your preschool does, ask if disposable pull-ups are OK. Ask how they handle accidents. And, if you’re struggling with potty training, know that your child will get it soon enough – being among other youngsters who have mastered it can really help.
Wondering how the little girl racing around your home will ever manage to sit still in preschool? Don’t worry about holding her to unrealistically high standards. Wana says kids should be able to concentrate for the number of minutes equal to their age, for example, a 3-year-old should be able to concentrate for three minutes. She says, “Difficulty with concentration should not be a reason to refrain from sending kids to school. If anything, being in a school environment should help children improve their ability to focus.” So, if your child is already able to focus for a few minutes on her own, you’re in good shape.
Preschoolers are kept busy whether it’s a half-day or full-day program, and naps are always a part of the picture for children age 2 and younger, sometimes twice a day. For preschool classes in the one to two years prior to kindergarten, generally there is one nap in the middle of the day. If your child has already given up her nap, try to get her accustomed to the idea of quiet time – especially if she’ll be staying in a full-day program. Help her to learn to settle each day with a picture book or small activity.
Ability to Communicate
You may understand what your child says to you, but will others? She will be more successful if she can communicate her needs when you are out of sight and she’s with others. She may not be ready for preschool if she has a hard time communicating, but that doesn’t mean that she has to be a chatterbug. Wana says successful communication can include tugging on a sleeve or even pointing to what’s needed. The main thing is that she can let others know what her needs are so she doesn’t end up repeatedly frustrated.
Comfort with Routine
Prepare your child for a successful transition to preschool by helping her to follow a consistent routine at home. Preschools run consistent programs and she’ll be able to adapt better if she’s used to routines. Also, preschool programs run with varying schedules, allowing you to pick how many hours and how many days you want your child to attend. Once they get there, your little one can expect a predictable order of events, like circle time, play time, snack time, meal time and naptime.
What’s the best schedule for your child? Wana recommends a minimum of three days a week, to avoid the continuous cycle of re-adjustment that “two-day-a-weekers” feel. Half-day programs are fine if they are of reasonable length (three to four hours), but if your child is closer in age to kindergarten, you may try a longer full-day program.
Ages & Stages
Remember that the expectations for socialization vary depending on the age of the child. Wana says, “Two-year-olds should show some interest in socializing with other children. Three- and 4-year-olds are expected to have had some experience with sharing and listening to instruction. Socially, they are expected to refrain from hurting other children and be involved in cooperative play.”
Charlotte Russe is a freelance writer.
- Share, take turns and listens quietly
- Wait patiently and use words to communicate
- Recognize and know your full name
- Know your parents first and last name
- Use toilet by yourself
- Dress yourself
- Know how to zip, snap, tie, button
- Recite and recognize alphabet letters
- Recognize your left and right hand
- Know basic colors, shapes and numbers 0 – 20
- Recognize different coins
- Use positional words (over, under, up, down)
- Print your first name, uppercase for first letter only
- Know your address and phone number
- Know how to use a pencil, crayons, glue and scissors
Learning Through Play
Experts say the best way to engage your preschooler with learning is to make it fun and not a chore. Try these tactics:
- Count how many blue cars you see on the way to the grocery store.
- Name colors and shapes in our world while driving or exploring inside our house.
- Scramble 26 letters and numbers 0 – 10 inside a hat, and name them as you pull them out.
- Sort the coins by penny, nickel, dime and quarter.
- See how far you can count to 100 together while waiting for the tub to fill up.