Recently I did some work with Parents magazine about the importance of preschool and what a quality preschool looks like. The first topic I was asked to address is something that I am asked often: How do you “prepare” a child for preschool? My answer is always to remember three things: Talk to them, Read to them and Let them PLAY.
Talk to them: Children with large vocabularies and sophisticated speech are children who talk to people often and hear lots of conversation. Narrate what you are doing, ask children questions, and then respond to their answers. Expand on their answers with more information or another question. Never miss an opportunity to talk about an experience or an idea, or ask a child to talk to you about what they are doing and thinking!
Read to them: Children should be read to often and be given many opportunities to read and explore books. Have books and other reading materials throughout the house, and take as many opportunities as possible to read to and with the child. Children who are read to often are more interested in reading, and typically read at an early age. They have an understanding that pictures and words carry meaning, and will seek out opportunities to read and understand everything around them.
Let them PLAY: Children should be playing all of the time. They should be given opportunities to play alone and with others. When they play alone, they strengthen their attention span and their brains as they figure out what they can do with different materials. When they play with other children, they strengthen their social skills. They learn to converse with other people, ask questions and then wait for and listen to answers, take turns, and behave and negotiate in a group.
Do these three things and your child will have a larger and richer vocabulary, more knowledge of the world around him, and better social skills. And start at birth. From the moment a child enters the world he will benefit from talking, reading and playing. All three of these things build confidence and a strong self-concept. Children with a strong self-concept learn more because they are more open to new experiences and explorations. They feel good about themselves, and that makes them more curious and creative. And definitely “ready” for preschool.