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10 Things Your Child Should Learn in Preschool

Mazzy attended her first day of preschool yesterday.

Judging by the cost of early education in NYC, one might expect that by the end of the year, their child will be quoting “To Kill A Mockingbird”, completing complex calculus equations and beginning the internet start-up company that will eventually be bought by Google for several billion dollars.

But just in case those expectations are a little high, I asked my sister (an early childhood development specialist) what exactly I should expect Mazzy to get out of her preschool education.

She said that participation in a preschool program is associated with many positive outcomes for children including improved cognitive development, better social skills and reduced chances of being retained or placed in special education.

Parents should send their child to a preschool with an emphasis on exposing children to new concepts and developing an interest in learning as opposed to placing too much pressure on mastering specific reading or math skills.

Below are 10 Key Developmental Opportunities for Children Placed in a Preschool Program:

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  • 1) Establishment of Teacher-Child Relationships 1 of 10
    1) Establishment of Teacher-Child Relationships
    The development of positive, nurturing, and responsive relationships with teachers is arguably one of the most critical outcomes of preschool. Research shows that teacher-child relationships in preschool can have a significant impact on the developing brain such that they enhance developmental outcomes including academic performance, mental health, and interpersonal skills. This is because young children learn through interactions with more capable adults and children are more likely to accept adult guidance within the context of a warm and trusting relationship. Teachers also have a critical role in providing children with the encouragement necessary to build self-esteem, confidence, and motivation for learning.
  • 2) Socialization with Peers 2 of 10
    2) Socialization with Peers
    The development of social skills is an important outcome of preschool programs and is highly predictive of future academic success. Through interacting with peers, children learn to share, take turns, communicate with peers in an appropriate way, and learn to regulate their behavior and emotions when interacting with others.
  • 3) Learning through Play 3 of 10
    3) Learning through Play
    Play is critical to a child's development. When children are playing, they more engaged in the learning process, able to make sense of their experiences, and able to express themselves and their creativity. In addition, the time a child spends engaging in pretend play is associated with better attention, memory, language use, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking. In recent years, experts in the field have argued that children aren't playing enough in preschool; and that children are spending too much time in teacher-directed seated activities as opposed to child-directed instruction and hands-on activities.
  • 4) Developmentally Appropriate Activities 4 of 10
    4) Developmentally Appropriate Activities
    Children learn at the highest rate when information is matched to their ability level. High quality programs have instructional materials and activities that are individualized for each student with the appropriate amount of challenge and stimulation so that children are engaged in learning as opposed to being bored or overly frustrated.
  • 5) Activities that Promote Self-regulation 5 of 10
    5) Activities that Promote Self-regulation
    Children's self-regulation (their ability to regulate their emotions and behavior) in preschool has been found to be more predictive of school achievement in reading and math than a child's IQ. Self-regulation can be enhanced by implementing classroom routines and schedules, giving children responsibilities (e.g., putting toys away, distributing materials), and providing opportunities for children to make meaningful choices and be more independent. In addition, children should be explicitly taught to follow rules and understand concepts that promote their personal health and safety.
  • 6) Early Literacy Activities 6 of 10
    6) Early Literacy Activities
    Children benefit from frequent opportunities to engage in interactive book reading with teachers. These activities should be designed to expand their vocabulary and encourage them to ask and respond to questions about what they read. Children should be exposed to basic print concepts such as how to handle a book; recognize letters, words, and sounds; rhyme words; recognize his/her name; write letters or letter-like shapes; and understand simple sentence structure. A child's ability to listen to, identify, and manipulate language sounds (referred to as phonological awareness) is a critical factor for learning to read.
  • 7) Early Numeracy Activities 7 of 10
    7) Early Numeracy Activities
    Children benefit from activities that expose them to early mathematical concepts such as identifying common shapes; number and quantity; sorting and classifying of objects; measuring, comparing, and ordering of objects; and simple addition and subtraction.
  • 8) Early Science Concepts 8 of 10
    8) Early Science Concepts
    Children should be exposed to activities that elicit early scientific thinking about how the world works. Teachers should encourage children to ask questions and explore their environment in ways that expand their knowledge and vocabulary such as making predictions, use of trial and error, making observations, and drawing conclusions.
  • 9) Early Social Studies Concepts 9 of 10
    9) Early Social Studies Concepts
    Children should be encouraged to think about themselves within the context of their family, community, and history. For example, they may engage in activities that require them to compare themselves to others, discuss similarities and differences across people and families, and use words or phrases that differentiate between events that happened in the past, present, or future.
  • 10) Alignment with State Pre-K Learning Standards 10 of 10
    10) Alignment with State Pre-K Learning Standards
    Most states have developed Pre-K learning standards that specify the types of skills and knowledge that children should attain in preschool. High quality preschool programs often develop or adopt a curriculum that is aligned with state learning standards. State standards are available to the public and are often available online. You may wish to review your state's Pre-K learning standards to inform yourself about the types of knowledge, skills, and activities that your child should be exposed to during the preschool years.

Photo Credits: istock/morguefile

Read more of Ilana’s writing at Mommy Shorts.
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