SPONSORED BY: Out-of-Door Academy
It takes so much more for a child to be ready for kindergarten than just writing his/her name, recognizing letters, and reciting numbers.
There are many critical facets of development that a preschool experience promotes. Quality early childhood centers, especially those with degreed teachers trained in early childhood education, can help your precious little one become more well-rounded and transition seamlessly into the routines and expectations of elementary school. Your child continues to develop in a multitude of ways— emotionally, socially, physically, in language and literacy, and in cognitive skills. Look for preschool programs that support him/her in all of these areas.
Preschools lay an important foundation in helping children to not only understand their feelings but also to recognize and respond to the emotions of others. The preschool/prekindergarten program offers a plethora of opportunities for students to learn and practice self-regulation (learning to manage strong emotions and reduce personal stress to help others), collaboration, and empathy through literature, role play, and real, meaningful, and emotionally charged face-to-face connections.
Working with others is not often a skill that comes naturally. It takes guidance to develop collaborative skills. Making mistakes in a controlled environment helps children develop resilience. With the assistance of master teachers, children are mentored through purposeful opportunities and discover answers to questions such as:
“How do I lead and when should I follow?”
“How do I show respect when others are speaking?”
“How can I disagree with dignity?”
“How can I wait my turn when I really want to be first?”
The playground and early childhood classroom are the perfect places to gain this knowledge and perspective prior to entering school. Children do not need instructions to learn how to play. They will learn the “rules” from classmates. This is where boundaries are tested and understood, give and take is negotiated, and creativity and innovation are born.
You may not think that activities such as threading pasta, pinching clothespins, or cutting and glueing craft projects are that important in the scheme of a child’s development, but they are crucial to later expectations of holding a pencil, feeding oneself, buttoning, and zippering.
These muscle-building, stamina-increasing exercises strengthen fine motor skills and prepare students for an elementary school world where writing is a large piece of the curriculum pie and self-help skills of putting on a jacket, opening lunch containers, and independent hygiene and toileting are expectations.
Language & Literacy Progress
At its heart, literacy is about communication, which is why children learn literacy skills long before learning to read. Early childhood programs promote general oral vocabulary development and specific oral vocabulary related to school subjects, build upon auditory processing skills, bolster the recognition of the individual sounds, or phonemes, in words (phonemic awareness), and bring awareness of other aspects of the sound of language, such as syllables, rhymes, and sentence sound patterns.
Improved Thinking (Cognitive) Skills
Teachers are adept at modeling how to think, not what to think by asking open-ended questions, providing opportunities to categorize and classify, analyzing patterns, and encouraging curiosity. Throughout their time in preschool, children will also be exposed to the thought processes of their peers, allowing them to begin to understand how others think and that there are multiple ways of approaching problems - not just one correct way.
The greatest amount of brain growth occurs between birth and age five. In fact, by age 3, roughly 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed.
In contrast, the majority of our investments are made in the traditional education years of K-12, which begin at age five. [“Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through age 40.” Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 2005.]
Preschool is the perfect opportunity to capitalize on this rapidly developing process and provide rich and robust experiences that will lead to later school success. !
Tanna Horner has served as Head of Lower School at ODA since 2014. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a focus on Gifted Education and a Master’s in Educational Leadership. She is an avid reader and currently enrolled in two certification programs, Critical Thinking through USF, and School Management and Leadership through Harvard.