Is your child ready for preschool?

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis discusses parents’ roles in school readiness

What is school readiness?

School readiness, a term used frequently in the preschool and kindergarten setting, means that a child is ready to enter a social and educationally-based environment. In other words, the child is ready to start the process of learning how to do things independently. To do this, a child should have the ability to:

• Work independently

• Listen to what someone else is saying

• Get along with other children of the same age

• Learn and participate in structured situations such as story time

• Focus on and listen to one central person in the classroom

• Learn (have the necessary social skills/ability) in a co-operative learning environment where children learn from teachers and from one another

• Play with other children (wait their turn in line and so on)

Parents’ roles in school readiness

Parents are usually a child’s first teacher and can act as a role model when it comes to teaching their children to interact socially with others and to do simple things such as understand the need to wait in line or wait their turn. Parents can also help their children develop organizational skills at home by:

• Teaching them to pick up their clothes

• Teaching them to put their toys away and

• In older children, assigning simple household chores

Children should learn that they are sharing the home with others and that they are not the only person in the home. This concept applies to the school environment. These are important skills because at school, children will be asked to organize their desks, put things away and wait their turn. Having learned and practiced these skills/concepts at home will give them an edge once school starts.

Another helpful preschool activity that parents can practice is giving their children the opportunity to listen to and learn language through storytelling. One of the best ways to prepare children for school entry is to read to them. Not only does reading offer a one-on-one quiet time with children, it can help develop children’s listening and language skills. Today, research suggests that preschool-aged children watch TV for three to eight hours a day. New guidelines recommend no screen time before the age of two and not more than one hour for children between two and five years old.  Although educational TV programs are also helpful, they should complement and not replace the one-on-one reading time, which is also an opportunity for children to interact with their parents in a quiet setting and get used to communicating with each other.

What is the role of preschool?

The role of preschool is to foster learning in a fun environment. Preschool should be play in a structured environment. Activities include the promotion of children getting along with others and experimenting with new material under the supervision of qualified preschool teachers. Also, children attending preschool have a chance to:

• Develop their language and talking skills

• Listen to stories

• Experiment/play with sand, paper, clay (and so on)

These activities help to prepare children for the process of learning.

What is the role of kindergarten?

Kindergarten is where the psychological process of learning is prepared, including:

• Memory

• Organizational skills

• Social interactions

• The experimentation of new processes, such as more advanced paper/pencil tasks.

Kindergarten prepares children in a more structured “academic” environment. In most schools, the alphabet is taught and mastered by January. Generally, by the time they are ready to enter Grade 1, kindergarten graduates will have a good knowledge of the alphabet and an understanding of the concept of reading.