Whether the idea of teaching your own young child gets you excited, makes you nervous, or some combination of both... one thing I'm pretty sure everyone thinks about is how to do their best. I mean we only get one chance at these important developmental years. Hopefully we don't mess it up! I am happy to share with you some of the most important tips and tricks I've learned after teaching preschoolers for over a decade so you don't have to guess.
Before I get too deep into the details, I want to clear one very important thing up:
IF YOU TEACH WITH LOVE, YOU CAN'T GET IT WRONG!
Coming from a place of love means you will be paying attention to what your child needs, open to making changes as you go, and understanding when your child struggles with something.
Ok, let's get to the details...
#1 - Read a TON of books
Seriously, reading to your child is one of the best ways to not only create a love for reading, but also helps teach your child cadence and beginning word recognition. Choose books that are interesting for your child. All different kinds are great: funny ones, seasonal ones, lesson teaching ones, etc. Go to your local library, visit a thrift store, check out yard sales.
Not only is this a great way to bond with your child and encourage a love of reading...but also think about all of the topics your child can learn about! Does your child like dinosaurs? Butterflies? Planets? Cooking?
Books are an amazing way to help a child grow his or her knowledge about what they already want to know more about. So, not only can reading books help your kid develop pre-reading skills, but they will also learn so much about the world.
And I'm sorry to say...but watching a video doesn't quite provide the same benefits. Sure, some videos are great. But, overall, reading an actual book provides the human interaction that is so important for children to develop healthfully.
#2 - Keep learning FUN
Yes, that is a very broad statement. I know.
But, I really do mean it overall. Anytime you can possibly make anything into a song, a game, include movement, art, or other creativity, DO IT!
Not only will this keep your child engaged and ultimately make your job easier, but it will also help your child actually remember and understand topics a lot more if it is fun.
Children really do not LEARN by sitting and doing worksheets in general. Or by hearing someone just talk/lecture about a subject. Kids learn best by doing. Most people of any age learn best by doing.
Sure, you can tell a child something and then have them repeat it 10 seconds later. However, if you want them to REALLY understand it, they must DO something with/about it.
Trust me, teaching little kids for over a decade has shown me this. We teach and then check for knowledge regularly - and know what works. (See the next points below for some of the ways we have learned kids REALLY remember things best.)
#3 - Teach through songs and movement whenever possible
We teach our preschoolers A LOT of topics. And then we assess throughout the year to see what children actually remember (more than for that day or two).
I have to tell ALL parents...pretty much every time we teach important topics with songs, almost everyone remembers them.
It can be letters, numbers, Spanish, science, history...almost anything. If we do it with a fun song that isn't too hard to remember, kids remember.
We started seeing this pattern years ago. There would be one topic we would do with a song, and another with some fun games. The children enjoyed the games, of course, and seemed to learn it at the time. However, when we went to assess later on, they almost always remembered the topics much better that were taught with a song.
In case you are wondering, YES, we have made up zillions of songs over the years to teach so many different topics in many different subjects. And the kids LOVE them.
Think about some of the most annoying (I mean, memorable) commercials you have ever seen or heard. The ones with great little songs are hard to forget! So...why not use that when we want people to remember something we are teaching?
I'm pretty sure you know what I mean!
#4 - Keep kids moving
Trying to teach shapes? How about Spanish?
This is my other most productive method for teaching anything. When kids involve their body, they are much more likely to internalize the topic.
My most favorite way to teach is through music (because I KNOW it produces great results), but the next best way is through movement.
In fact, as I'm sure you can imagine, music and movement clearly go together very well. We usually will at least add some hand motions to any song we have kids sing.
Not only does that help to keep them from poking their neighbor in a group setting, but it also keeps them involved, interested, and reaches another type of learner.
So, go ahead...encourage your child to form letters with his/her body, or act out being the earth going around the sun. Trust me, it works.
Plus it's fun - so you get bonus points here as the teacher, too.
Most of our major lessons includes lots of movement!
#5 - Include lots of sensory experiences
Sensory activities help children develop healthfully in so many different ways. Over the many years I've worked with children, it has become very apparent that kids who have experienced a variety of sensory activities regularly are better equipped to handle so many aspects of life compared to kids who have not had the opportunity or have chosen to avoid sensory experiences.
This may seem like a simple thing, but it has been a clear repetitive behavior - and it happens way to often to be a coincidence.
So...what does this mean for you and your child? Pull out that shaving cream, make slime, play with dirt, plant a garden, finger paint, visit the petting farm, encourage water play...all the things!
The more experiences like these, and the more often they are available, the more fully developed your child will be emotionally, socially, and ultimately academically.
Years and years of experience with many types of children just doesn't lie.
Bonus: It's fun! Yes, these things can be messy, but you can always do them outside and just hose the area off afterward.
I promise it's worth it!
#6 - Repetition is the way, I repeat: repetition is the way
So many preschool curriculums try to teach a "letter of the day" or similar...
While that may be easy to plan, and sounds like a fun idea, it does NOT work for actual learning for kids. Yes, they will learn the letter or topic for that day or two, but then quickly forget it.
How do I know? When I first started teaching preschool, I followed along with a very popular zoo animal phonics program (you may be able to guess the name). This is what they recommended. Have a really fun, big day or so for each letter - and then move on.
Well, when we performed our assessments, we learned that by just focusing on one topic for a bit and then moving on, that is exactly what the children's brains do. They soak it up, but then forget it.
So, whatever you want your child to learn, be sure to revisit it! That is why in our curriculum, we consistently review our most important kindergarten prep topics such as letters and numbers.
You can choose to keep doing something the same for review, or to find different ways to cover the topic - but the most important thing is to be repetitive.
#7 - Get outside everyday
Some of you may be thinking...what does this have to do with learning and kindergarten prep?
Well, just like with anything, preparation and priming is often just as important as the action.
Kids NEED to be outside. Trust me. The more we get our preschool kids outside, the better prepared they are for learning.
Not only is it easier for kids to run, move, and release energy, but the fresh air and sunshine just really prepares their brains for learning. Whether it is for later that day, or the next one, the results are amazing.
Going outside doesn't have to be anything fancy. Go for a walk around your block, visit a park, or even just set up something fun in your backyard.
These simple actions will help learning time go so much better. You can thank me later.
#8 - Establish a routine
Do you ever feel better when you know what your plans are for the day?
Well, kids do, too!
However, young children often can't look at a schedule, read it, and understand it. They go off of what they know in their head.
If you have a schedule that you tend to follow daily, this will help your child feel much more at ease. He/she will know what to expect and not have to worry about what is coming next and when.
Not only will it ease your child's mind (thus allowing more focus for learning and growing), but it also makes your life easier! If you have ever planned out meals for the week, you know what I mean. When you don't have to consistently try to figure out what to do, life is so much easier.
Do I think there should be flexibility in a routine? 1000% YES! We pivot all the time in our daily plans. However, if each day is very similar, it will help put everyone at ease.
#9 - Follow your child's lead
The very best laid plans with wonderful intentions may sometimes turn out VERY differently than you imagined. THAT'S OK!
It may mean that your child is growing and developing their own thinking, it may mean that someone didn't sleep well, it might mean that the super cool project you found on YouTube doesn't actually work...
Whatever it means, just go with it. Everything has a learning lesson in it.
I also want you to follow your child's lead in what he/she shows an interest in, and what they don't really care about. You don't have to completely skip what your child doesn't like, but you don't need to spend a ton of time on the topic. I mean, you could... but you will most likely. be talking to yourself.
And sometimes, if you move on for the day, you can revisit that topic another day and it might go completely different.
If you follow what interests your child, you can even include these other topics or subjects within that. Be creative, go with the flow, and just enjoy each other.
For example, dinosaurs can be used to teach letters, numbers, measuring, history, etc, etc. Find what your child really loves, and follow the lead. In the end, there will be more learning and less struggle.
#10 - Don't worry
I know, I know. That's easier said than done.
But your child is only young once.
What's more important? That he/she is one of the first ones to read, or the most happy and kind? I know my answer.
Take some time to think about your long tern goals for your child. Beyond letters and numbers.
Focus on that when the days get long or don't go as planned. The bigger picture is whole child development.
If you love your child with all your heart, you won't get this wrong. Take care of yourself so you can have patience, energy, and joy. Your child learns more from what you do than what you say.
Hug often. Stop to look at the clouds, smell the flowers, stomp in the puddles.
These small things you do will have a bigger impact than you know. Enjoy these moments as they will be gone in a blink!
Looking for more support for your preschooler? Whether you teach him/her at home or want to supplement learning from another program, we have many great options available!
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Hi! I am so excited to share lessons and tidbits with you about preschool, child development, and running a business. Come in and stay a while! xoxo, Jennifer
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