Every September, parents and their children prepare for the beginning of the school year with a mixture of anxiety and enthusiasm as families learn new school schedules and meet teachers. For very young children, however, preparing for school means developing important social and emotional skills, as well as cognitive skills that will help them get ready to learn when they begin kindergarten. There are many ways that parents and caregivers can help their young children acquire the skills they need to get ready for school, even if they won’t actually be starting school this year.Learning in children begins from birth, when babies first start to hear sounds and recognize patterns in language. Parents and caregivers can help their babies build on this early learning by reading aloud to them, pointing to objects and naming them, and playing simple word games. It’s also helpful to avoid baby talk, and to talk to your babies in full sentences so that they understand language and dialogue.As babies grow into toddlerhood, their attention spans increase and they become better able to explore their environments, leading to a greater understanding of their physical ability and the ways that they can interact with the people and things around them. Toddlers really enjoy going for neighborhood walks, participating in activities like group reading and singing, and playing pretend. Toddlerhood is also when children begin to learn the importance of self-control and to build their confidence; parents can help them improve these emotional skills by offering simple choices and encouraging the use of words to express their feelings.More than 80 percent of a child’s brain develops before age three, so these early years are critical to helping children learn confidence, how to problem solve and how to adjust to new environments. By learning positive ways to encourage healthy social and emotional development in young children, parents and caregivers can get their children ready for school now and in the future.
- What do we mean by school readiness? Find out in this article by Urban Child Institute.
- A school readiness guide for parents with children age birth to age 5, from the National Education Association.
- “Want your kids to learn more? Use your hands.” Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2013