Monday, February 18, 2013

Dont Blame the Teacher : What Children Should Know before Preschool

What Children Should Know Before They Start Preschool

The job description of a new preschool student is pretty basic: No experience, or particular skills, necessary. While many programs do require potty training, teachers say they'll work with children who don't recognize the letters in their name, need help eating their snack, get scared in large groups and start sobbing when they have to separate from their parents. That's our job - to help them adjust and get them ready for kindergarten," said Taffy Inman, director of a Childtime Learning Center location in Virginia Beach. "We see ourselves as a big circle working together, both school and parents." But there are skills that parents can focus on this month to help get kids ready to jump into the school year, teachers say. Nearly all of them are social and emotional, not academic.

Here are their top Tips:

1. Separating from parents.
For many first-time students, by far the toughest part about preschool is realizing their parents are gone. So this month, try to schedule some time for them away from home - leave them with a grandparent, another family member or a friend for a couple of hours, or even sign them up for a short camp program. If a preschool class list is available, aim to set up a play date with a future classmate so there will be at least one familiar face on the first day. Gradually build up stretches of solo play at home so kids get in the habit of using toys and craft materials without a parent constantly hovering. That can mean having a child sit and draw a picture at the kitchen table while the parent does chores nearby. Take a child to see the school and playground, and if possible go inside to look at their classrooms and meet their teachers. Stay positive on those visits - regardless of any parental nerves - and emphasize that school will be fun. Make sure they know a parent will pick them up at the same time every day (repeat that message often so they absorb it). And recognize that most kids who cry will stop not long after a parent has left, and that teachers will call if there's a major problem. If job schedules allow, half-day programs are a good way to ease into the drop-off and pick-up routine.

2. Being in a group setting.
If a child has spent most of his time at home or in small play groups, a classroom full of noisy kids can be overwhelming. Expose him or her to bigger crowds, even if that's just going to an indoor jumping area, a bustling playground, a neighborhood party or a larger play group. At home, work on the habits children will need in a group, such as listening quietly to others, waiting for a turn, answering questions, keeping their hands to themselves and sharing ideas, toys and supplies. Practice as a family and with friends and praise good behavior and manners. Also consider setting up basic daily routines to introduce the idea of more structured days. For example, have lunch, story time, art sessions and/or outdoor play at set times. Have a regular bedtime so kids get enough sleep in the days leading up to the school year.

3. Basic daily skills.
How to wash hands, unpack food from a lunch box, eat without assistance and use crayons and child-safe scissors are high on the list. If a preschool requires children to be potty trained, have them practice closing and opening the bathroom door, flushing the toilet and pulling their pants up and down.

4. Basic facts.
Kids should know their name, age and birthday and start working on their address and phone number. Early academic skills are great, but not required. Read aloud together daily and start learning the alphabet by looking at letters in their name and on signs they see outside or during errands. Sing them the alphabet song. Introduce colors and shapes by talking about objects seen every day, such as the red, yellow and green circles on traffic lights. Ask the child questions rather than talking at them: "What color is the light now? What color do you think will come next?"

5. Following two-step directions.
Work on a child's ability to listen and follow through on simple requests. An example: "Go up to your room and get your shoes, and then bring them to me." Or, "Get out the red crayon from the box and color the big dog in this book." "If they can sit and listen to the teacher, that's half the battle," Inman said. "Then all the other things we want them to learn will come." Finally, remember that preschool job description: No experience necessary. "It's great for kids to have these skills," said Betty Casey, director of Ghent United Methodist Preschool in Norfolk. "But if they don't - well, then bring them anyway! Our goal is to make school a happy learning experience for all of them."

6.Personal Hygiene
When checking out prospective preschools, you need to ask where they stand on kids in diapers. Most prefer that children are potty trained, but some don't mind if the children are at the very least on their way to being trained. In any case, if your child is already potty trained, it's important that she feels confident in her bathroom skills. Can she go to the toilet by herself? Does she know how to wash and dry her hands when she is finished? Can she pull up and button her own pants? To foster a sense of independence and confidence, encourage your child to complete a bathroom routine on her own, being on hand in case they need you.
Going to the bathroom while at school can cause anxiety for many young children, especially if they haven't been away from home a lot or used a public bathroom frequently. Children between the ages of 3-5 still don't have complete control over their bladder and still are prone to having an accident, often because they get so caught up in whatever it is they are doing that they ignore the signals. Although the teacher will likely ask students if they need to go to the bathroom at fairly regular intervals, you'll need to teach your child to recognize when she feels she has to go. Also let her know that it is OK to ask the teacher to use the restroom, either by approaching her or raising her hand.
If by some chance your child does have an accident or is concerned about having one, tell her not to worry. Explain how these things happen to everyone and that the teacher is there to help her.

7.How to Get Along Without You
This isn't really an issue for kids who have been in daycare or another organized activity where parents aren't too involved, but for kids who are at home all day, this can definitely be a concern. It will be much easier for your child to adjust to preschool if he's used to being left with others. Start off easy -- leave him for an hour with someone he is familiar with -- a grandparent, favorite relative or friend -- building up until he's spent the whole morning or afternoon with someone other than you.
No matter how OK your child is with spending time away from you, it's important to note that many kids do go through an adjustment period at preschool when they are being left with someone they don't know. Trust your child's teacher to help him get through this time. This is a situation they handle every year and are quite skilled in it. If you have concerns before or after the school year begins, address them right away with the teacher or administrator.

8.Eating On Her Own
Even if your child won't be eating breakfast or lunch at preschool, chances are she will be served some kind of snack. Whether you send the snack in yourself or if it is provided by the school, you may want to practice with your child some table-time skills such as putting a straw into a juice box, opening a plastic container or zippered bag and wiping her mouth and hands with a napkin while she eats. These practice sessions will also let you see your child in action so you can pack her snacks or lunches appropriately with items that she can open on her own.
If your child is eating a meal at school, find out if she needs to know how to use a fork and knife. You may want to review some basic table manners as well. No matter what, make sure the preschool teachers and staff members are aware of any food allergies your little one might have and make sure she is aware of what foods she cannot have.

9.Basic Social Skills
Aside from preschool itself, it's likely your child has lots of questions about who will be there with him. And although saying "You are going to make so many new friends!" sounds reassuring, a young child may not know exactly what that means or how they are going to do it.
Talk to him about how everyone might be a little uncertain the first day. Relay an instance from your own life about how you were nervous about meeting new people and even try a role playing game where he can practice approaching a new face. You may also want to brush up on his social skills by inviting other friends over for playdates or hitting the local playground to see your child in action with other kids his age. Talk about what good friends do like sharing and cleaning up. Heap on the praise when your child engages in good behavior such as not tattling and not having a temper tantrum when things don't always go his way. Explain how this makes you happy and it will make his new friends and teacher happy when he does that at school.

10. How to Ride the Bus
It's big and yellow and noisy and it is going to take your child away from home. It's easy to see why kids might not be so found of the school bus, but if your child needs to ride one to and from school, you'll want to get her used to it now. Check in with the preschool to see if they offer practice rides and be sure to take full advantage of them. If you have public transportation in your area, try taking a quick trip on one of those buses. It might not be exactly the same as what your child will ride on, but will certainly offer a close experience.
Make sure to visit the bus stop before school starts and do a rundown of bus safety. Find out if she'll need to ride a seat belt and talk about what will happen once she gets on the bus and what she needs to do once she gets off. It's likely that your child's teacher will review all of this on the first day or at an orientation program, but to ease any fears your child may be having, it's a good idea to go over it before she starts.

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