Preschool and Preparing Children for Kindergarten: One Teacher’s View

For most children in the United States, it is time to go back to school, or for some, the academic year has already begun. My daughter began her second year of preschool three weeks ago and is loving it, especially because she has moved to a brand new classroom and their new building has three different playgrounds.

My husband and I never attended preschool before entering elementary school, but today it seems that most people see it as a necessary step before kindergarten.

I have two five-year-old nieces who just began kindergarten, one who attended preschool and one that did not. I must say that as a mother, my heart was concerned for the niece who had not attended preschool. She is an adorable girl, very intelligent and bright, but is generally very quiet and hasn’t had much socialization with a ton of other children except for mine. All is good; I am happy to report that she adores going to school.

childhood socialization

I thought it would be interesting to pick the brain of my daughters preschool teacher, Miss Tina, to find out her thoughts on preschool and how children should prepare for kindergarten.

What age do you think is best for a child to start preschool? 

I think children should have two years of preschool, beginning at the age of three.  At the age of three, skills such as appropriate social skills are taught.  We as adults take for granted that children know how to play.  That is a skill that is taught just like cutting with scissors or writing their name.  Task completion, turn-taking, following a schedule, following simple two/three-step commands and being able to sit by another child without “fiddling” with them are also taught at the young age of three. 

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Once these skills are taught, the primary focus of the second year of preschool is getting ready for Kindergarten.  The academic part is much easier for children if the basics are taught beforehand.    

What should parents do to prepare their children for preschool? 

Things parents could do to help prepare their child for preschool might be, reading to them, introducing them to numbers, letters and shapes. Get involved with other parents with children of the same age.  Have them develop some social skills.  Participate in playgroups.  It is OK to use a babysitter sometimes, other than a family member.  

What skills do kids need to learn before beginning kindergarten? 

I tell my preschool parents that Kindergarten is so much different now than when they were in school.  It is not only the child who goes to kindergarten, it is the parent as well. 

Parents can work with their child to be sure that they can write their name, recognize letters, as well as sounds, and are able to follow a schedule.  Be sure that they can complete a task from start to finish.  Let them have experience with scissors.  

Academics are not all that needs to be taken into consideration, parents need to be sure that their children are equipped with self-help skills (being able to use the restroom, wash hands, wipe their nose, carry a lunch tray and open a carton of milk).  Parents also need to provide their child with confidence that they will be able to be away from mom and dad for eight hours each day and everything will be ok. 

Another tip is getting your children on a bedtime routine.  No more going to bed when they are tired!  Getting into a schedule about two weeks before school starts is a GREAT idea. 

early learning

My husband and I didn’t attend preschool. With so much focus on standardized testing scores and teaching common core materials these days, do you think children who start kindergarten without having attended preschool are at a disadvantage? Why or why not? 

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I do think that kids who attend preschool are ahead of those who do not.  

Unfortunately, with the standardized testing, that begins in third grade, it has caused everyone to “up their game.”  I think that we need to remember that children are just that… children.  Preschool and kindergarten are programs that should still have a lot of “play” going on.  Children can learn so much through play.  With all the emphasis on standardized testing, play has been taken out of the curriculum and I am not sure that is the right thing for kids. 

There are so many daycares, daycare/preschool, and preschool options out there for parents to enroll their children in. What is your advice to a parent who may be considering different programs? 

My advice would be to decide what you are wanting for your child.  Do you need or want childcare?  or Do you want a more structured preschool, which focuses more on school readiness?  Go visit different programs, visit with the teacher and watch the program in action.  Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.   

Lastly, what is your favorite part of being a teacher and why did you choose preschool? 

My favorite part of being a teacher is seeing the eyes of a child light up after completing something.  It is the look of “I DID IT!”  I love preschool because it is never the same day twice and it is the little things that are so important.  I love to hear the giggles of children after hearing a silly story or singing a silly song.  I love that they like to sit in my lap and read.  I love that I am greeted with a hug and an “I love you.”  Who else has a job like that?? 

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Thank you, Miss Tina, for so graciously taking your time to answer all of my questions; I am very appreciative.

I hope this was informative for all of you parents out there. Did you attend preschool or go straight to kindergarten? Do your little ones attend preschool or do you intend on sending them to preschool?  I would love to hear your stories!

 

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