10 Things You Must Teach Your Children Before Preschool or Kindergarten to Set Them Up for Success ~ and How to Do It
Ask any preschool or kindergarten teacher what you can do to help your child to succeed in school, and you might be surprised what you will hear. It's not going to be academics or reading. Any guesses?
1. How to listen when someone else is talking.
This is HUGE in a group. Of course, when a teacher is talking, it is super important for children to listen, but it is always critical that children can listen when peers talk as well.. First of all, it is impossible to learn from a teacher if you are not listening. Second, if everyone talks at the same time, then no one can hear each other. Third, it is just good manners to be quiet when someone else is talking.
To teach your children to listen to others, insist that they practice this at home. Take turns at the dinner table, and remind them to listen when other people are speaking. You can even model this with your child and make a game out of it by holding a special "talking item" and passing it back and forth. Only the person holding the item may speak.
Another really helpful method to teach waiting their turn to talk is to teach your child to put his or her hand on your arm when they want to say something and you or someone else is talking. This is a great method that you will probably appreciate, too!
2. How to take turns.
Teaching your children how to take turns is a necessity for getting along with a group of children. It is super important that they know how to wait when it is someone else's turn. Waiting for a turn is definitely not always easy. I mean, who likes to wait at a traffic light to go when you are anxious to get somewhere? That is probably how children feel when they want to have their turn.
A great way to teach kids about taking turns is by playing board games together. Not only is it fun, but also you absolutely have to wait your turn while the other person goes. You can even find board games that incorporate colors, numbers, shapes, etc.
3. How to share.
Sharing is probably one of the trickiest things in any group of kids. It's one of those things that will just always be tricky. Inevitably, there will be a toy that no one wants laying on the floor. However, as soon as one child picks it up and makes it look interesting, a handful of kids will all suddenly become interested in it as well. It's just the way it works.
Taking your child to playgroups and setting up playdates is the best way to practice sharing. Then, at the play times, be sure to monitor that your child knows how to share and how to ask for a turn. Teach your children to use their words - no grabbing or allowing another child to grab! This can be a difficult skill to master, but it is so very important.
4. How to put on their shoes (and socks).
This might seem like such a simple task, but when there is a whole group of children, it is really great if most of them can do simple tasks like this. It would take forever to get anywhere if a teacher had to go around the room and help each and every child with this task.
And, while we are on this topic, you should really think about the type of shoes you buy your child. Shoes with laces or ones that are hard to get a foot inside are really not ones to use for school. You are just setting your child up for failure if you choose these types. Do everyone a favor and pick out shoes for school that your child has a good chance of actually putting on alone.
Then, do the obvious, have them practice! I know what you're thinking, it is so much quicker if you just do it for them. But they will never learn if you don't let them practice. Just plan for a little extra time, and let them go for it! Your children and their teachers will thank you.
5. How to put on their jacket and backpack.
While we are on the topic of self care, I want to add how important and helpful it is for your children to be able to put on their own jacket and backpack, too. It will make them feel confident and proud, and it will make teachers happy. Doing zippers and snaps may be a little tricky - this can be something you work on eventually. But definitely teach them how to at least get their arms in the jacket with it right side up.
To go along with this, they also will need to learn how to get their sleeves right side out. This can definitely be challenging, I'm not going to pretend it's easy for young children. However, it's going to be really challenging to get their jacket on if it's inside out. So, it's just kind of a necessity.
One more thing that goes with this, is to put their backpacks on alone. This one isn't too tricky for most little ones, luckily. For some reason, so many parents feel the need to carry their child's backpack and hand it to the teacher. This is not going to help the child learn independence or responsibility. For your children's and teacher's sake, please have your child learn to carry their own backpacks.
6. How to put things away when they are done with them.
This is another skill that you as a parent will be so happy to have your child learn as well. Teachers really appreciate children who are able to put away their own items after using them without a million reminders. This is something that can easily be practiced on a daily basis. Whenever your children are done with anything, make sure you have them put it away. I know it's often easier for you to just do it, but that will not help them learn to be responsible.
Anytime they have a playdate, be certain that they help clean up the toys - even if the hostess insists it ok. It's the lifelong skills that you want to teach. Children love to be helpers, you just have to make it fun and be consistent.
7. How to sit quietly through a story.
When there is a group of kids, it is not possible for the teacher to listen to each child's commentary and thoughts about the story. During one-on-one story time, it is perfectly ok to have a child talking regularly during a story, but when there is a group of children, it just doesn't work.
To practice this skill, you can usually find free story times at your local library. Not only can this be a fun outing, but it is also really the best way to practice listening quietly to a story. You can also try to replicate it at home by explaining that during the story, your children must listen. They can also practice putting up one finger or their hand if they have an important question related to the story.
8. How to keep their hands to themselves.
Children often love to touch each other. Sometimes it's friendly, like with a hug or hand holding. However, often it can be pushing or occasionally hitting out of frustration. In a group of kids, it's best to teach them to just keep their hands to themselves. That way, nice hugging doesn't accidentally turn into bear hugs where kids get squeezed or knocked down on accident.
Their are several books about helping, nice hands that you may find at the library or on Amazon:
9. How to follow 1 and 2 step directions.
This is very important for classroom success. Children must be able to listen to and follow directions. If they can't do this, then it will be almost impossible to complete learning tasks in class.
Practice this daily at home. Ask your children to to something specific, and then make sure they follow through. If your lucky, your kids will be able to do this easily. However, there will be some children who need to be reminded several times before they complete the assigned task. You can make it a game for these kids. Set a timer, and see if they can get it done before it beeps. Or, if you don't have a timer, you can count how long it takes to complete the task. See how fast they can be! Anytime you can make a job fun, you are more likely to get cooperation.
Once a child can complete one step directions, it is time to add on to them. Now, see if they can do something with 2 steps successfully without forgetting one of the steps. If this is easy, add another step and so on... Once they can easily follow multi step directions, you know they will be able to complete learning assignments in the classroom with success.
10. How to play creatively without direction.
This may not seem at all related to school. However, it is actually a very important skill for several reasons. First, children will have time in early education classrooms where they get to choose an activity for free choice time. It is not fun for them or the teacher if they cannot find something to do and entertain themselves during this time. It really is kind of sad to see a child just standing there or roaming around not able to choose something to play with during the time that is supposed to be the most fun.
Many children have such over-scheduled days or too much time on electronics so that they cannot figure out how to just play and have fun. To help your children with this, be sure to have some time during each day where they must entertain themselves.
Not only will it make free choice time in class more fun, it is also so very good for their brain. Creative thinking is a better predictor of long term academic success than academic skills alone. You may feel that creative play is just a silly, optional activity, but it is actually a super important skill that will help your child succeed in life well beyond preschool and kindergarten. Innovative thinkers are going to be more precious in the workforce than people who can complete automate tasks! So, play on little ones!!
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