Therapists often receive this question from parents of little ones ready to begin their journey into school. You may be asking yourself, “Is my child ready for preschool?”, “Am I ready to send them to preschool?”, or “Does my child need to attend preschool?”
The preschool environment sets a foundation for your child’s academic success by providing opportunities to interact and engage with peers, participate in structured learning activities, and increase independence. Here are five social-emotional skills to encourage as you prepare your child to enter this new environment.
1) Interaction with peers
Children learn how to engage and play with peers appropriately (sharing, turn-taking, compromising) during classroom interactions. You can encourage appropriate peer interactions within your current surroundings by seeking out opportunities that allow your child to practice engaging with peers. Some ideas include: playing simple turn-taking games with siblings or friends, bringing chalk or bubbles to share at the park, or attending a neighborhood play date.
2) Separating in familiar surroundings
If your child feels comfortable separating from you in familiar surroundings, he or she will have an easier time separating when it is time to enter the classroom. To prepare your child for this transition, begin to schedule short periods of time throughout the week that provide opportunities to practice.
3) Following simple directions
Preschool teachers will provide simple directions throughout the day to support learning. Your child’s ability to follow adult-directed activities, such as listening, understanding, and following simple directions is necessary for success. You can help prepare your child by giving simple directions throughout the day and helping them follow through (i.e. “go wash your hands” or “bring me your shoes”).
4) Anticipating routines
Preschool classrooms often follow a daily routine (circle time, story time, free play, and snack time). Building predictability into your daily schedule will help your child anticipate this. For example, create and follow a consistent bedtime routine or read a book together each day after breakfast.
5) Caring for simple needs
The preschool setting requires children to demonstrate basic self-care skills, such as washing their hands or eating meals without assistance. Build your child’s confidence in his or her ability to do things independently by providing opportunities throughout the day to practice self-care skills.
If you have concerns about your child’s emerging skills in these areas, consider enrolling them in a class through your neighborhood park district or attend our social-language playgroup where we target these specific preschool readiness skills.