Children are very curious. You might even say that they are explorers. From an early age they are learning about the environment around them through whatever means they have at their disposal. This can be both interesting and frustrating to parents.
In the beginning, you, as parents, are their teachers. Before they reach school there is an entire host of skills that they need to be taught and it is up to you to introduce them. Because kids don’t come with instruction manuals you may make a few mistakes but don’t give up on them or you. Relearn the world around you through the eyes of your child.
Once your toddler is ready for school, namely preschool, other teachers will take over the majority of the knowledge they get pertaining to education. But, that doesn’t mean your job as teacher is over. Reinforce what they learn at home and also stay on top of the school in an effort to ensure your child is excelling at the proper rate.
If you don’t remember what it was like to be a child, you are about to find out as you educate your little ones. In this report you will learn the skills that toddlers need to learn while they are at home before school is an issue. Then, move on to the preschool years.
Your child will be introduced to other kids their age and how to interact. Once they reach kindergarten, their curiosity finds form and structure as far as educational needs. We’ll also include activities that you can do with your child to help them hone these abilities at home.
TODDLERS (Age 2 to 3)
From the ripe old age of 12 months, kids begin to walk and explore their world. As they interact more with you and the rest of the family, language is introduced. Because they are preoccupied with discovering how their hands and feet work, language sometimes takes a back seat but don’t worry. As they reach the toddler stage, gaining a better grasp on their motor skills, language will move front and center and their learning in this area will increase.
The emphasis at the toddler stage is on life skills. Most preschool programs have guidelines about what children need to know before they allow them to attend. Most of those guidelines center on personal care skills.
Here are a few things that you need to teach your child at the early toddler stage.
- Their name and age – Their first words might be “mommy” or “daddy” but at some point teach them to say their name. Even if the entire family calls William “Billy,” make sure that he understands what his given name is also. Their teacher will use that name in class.
- Potty training – Boys are often harder to train that girls but most little ones have gotten the hang of it by age two or three. Essential abilities they need to know related to toilet training include being able to communicate that they have to use the bathroom, pulling their pants down and up again unassisted, sitting on the toilet and washing their hands. This doesn’t mean that accidents might not happen but they will be the exception rather than the norm.
- Following directions – As a parent, as soon as your child begins to explore, you will be directing them and turning them away from danger. Kids are like tightly coiled springs that always need to move in any direction that they can. As they learn motor skills, be sure to utilize direction as you guide them so they can get used to the words and what they mean.
- Best behavior – Kids are young so not paying attention or ignoring you when they get engrossed in an activity is normal, but they should also know how to behave. Simple commands like “time for bed,” “time to be quiet,” “pick up your toys,” and “come here” should be met with the appropriate action.
- Getting along without you – Children who are closely attached to their parents will have a hard time leaving them when school starts. Allowing them to spend time playing alone, with other children their age, and in the company of other relatives increases their comfort with people they learn to trust other than you.
- Feeding themselves – Don’t worry so much about a fork and a spoon all the time. Fingers are their first eating utensils. As they learn to manipulate small pieces of food from the plate to their mouths their dexterity increases. You can teach them to use plastic utensils for the appropriate types of foods that they will eat for lunch at school.
- Social skills – If you have other children, then socialization is often not a problem. For only children, setting up play dates is beneficial to begin teaching such abilities as sharing and communication.
Parent/Child Activities for Toddlers
The best way to engage a child is to make learning fun. They are already curious but you can focus that curiosity to teach them the skills they need to prepare for school. Here are a few activities you can participate in with your kids.
- Play dress up – It’s not just for girls. Use a doll for instance. Show your child how to dress the doll and then see if they can dress themselves in the same way. Or, let them watch you dress and then imitate you.
- Play school – Teach your child to sit up straight in class, walk in line and to have naptime. Use their stuffed animals as other students in the class.
- Acting out – This is not to be confused with acting up. Children do not necessarily need to know their colors or numbers or letters before attending preschool but you can introduce them to the concept every chance you get. When they play with a toy, mention what the color is or that it rolls because it is round.
- Puzzles – Kids love to play. Wooden puzzles offer the ability to practice fine motor skills as well as learning shapes, colors and how to build with toys.
PRESCHOOLERS (Age 4)
Preschool used to be an option for parents. With the desire for kids to have a more advanced education, most parents are signing their children up for preschool before kindergarten. One advantage is that it introduces kids to a classroom and some type of structure before they enter their formal educational years.
The prime age for preschool is age 4. Depending on your school district, they may take three-year olds if they are mature enough and have been taught the same things as their older counterparts. Find out what the requirements are and if your child is going to be ready.
We said before that kids are scientists. They love to explore their world like little sponges looking for water. Every interaction is an opportunity to engage them in learning. That is what preschool is all about.
If your child doesn’t know all of their colors or can’t recognize their numbers, they will be taught these things in preschool. Before preschool programs was an option, these skills had to be taught by parents or taught in kindergarten. Preschool prepares kids to advance their learning process and gain that much more knowledge at a younger age.
Here are some abilities that kids will learn at the preschool age. If you are not planning on sending your child to preschool or if it is not a viable option for you, then the following skills can still be implemented at home.
- Language – Kids can speak but how much of it you can understand is debatable, probably only about half. Teachers read simple language books to students to add to their vocabulary. Through listening, preschoolers learn a bit of pronunciation as well. Pictures introduce them to colors, shapes, letters and object recognition.
- Introduction to math – Shapes are a part of math. At this age, the concepts are basic, like recognizing shapes individually and within other objects. For example, they can learn that a window pane is a square or that the toilet seat is round like a circle. Counting begins with fingers. The concept of size or quantity is taught through words like “less” and “more” or “big” and “bigger.”
- Science – Kids love to explore and have plenty of energy. Walks outside and simple experiments teach kids about plants, animals, and humans.
- Playing – Kids are visual learners at this stage. As they play, they develop images in their head with each new skill. Concentrate on teaching a single ability at a time with each new activity. Since kids have a lot of energy, play combined with teaching is a win-win for them. Parents and teachers may get a little tired from all the activity though.
- Listening – Kids are not used to not being able to talk when they want to. During preschool they learn to understand one and two step directions as well as taking turns speaking. Teachers direct kids to move from one activity to the other without fuss.
- Social skills – As toddlers, the world revolves around your child, or at least that’s what they think. In preschool, participation in group play encourages communication and getting along.
Parent/Child Activities for Preschoolers
At this stage, kids still need prompting to learn different skills like transitioning from one activity to another, learning discipline and following direction and with social skills. As a parent, reiterating what is learned at school will further their thinking process.
- Have a conversation – Instead of using “baby talk” or playful words, speak to your child using regular language but with a playful tone. Ask them questions so that they can practice their language skills by giving you a response.
- Spend time outside – Kids love to play and you both get some fresh air. Go for nature walks and identify what you find: rocks, leaves, trees, flowers and small animals. Let them help you plant flowers so they can take care of them and watch them grow.
- Read books – Hold story time in the evening. Use animated voices to distinguish between characters.
- Counting games – Teach counting by having them count the food on their plate or the number of stuffed animals on their bed.
- Playing with others – Set up play dates or go to the park for kids to play with others. Learning to interact with other children is a part of their developmental growth.
- Drawing – Always have a supply of coloring books and construction paper for kids to get creative. In preschool they are not expected to be able to construct letters but they learn to scribble and make shapes. Let them practice this at home with their own supplies. Display their drawings in prominent places to encourage and build their self-esteem.
KINDERGARTNERS (Age 5)
If your kids have been attending preschool for half a day, they will now be spending a full day at school. For at home moms, it’s like a vacation.
Your little one is ready to become a big kid and start attending school like the other kids. In preschool, they have been exposed to a number of new concepts. That learning will be reiterated and built upon in kindergarten. The learning style is more formal now than the year before so that will be a change that your child will have to adapt to.
Here are a few things that your child will need to know before school begins.
- Riding the bus – You may have taken your child to preschool but now they will need another method if you work every day. Find out from the school system if you can have your child ride the bus for a day to try and get used to the ride. Let your little one know that they will be catching the bus with their friends. Answer any questions that they have in an attempt to make them feel comfortable with the idea.
- Carrying their lunch – If your child will take their lunch to school, practice with them so they recognize what their lunchbox looks like so they don’t forget it. Make sure that they can open all containers and their drinks before the first day of school.
- Gross motor skills – There is nothing too strenuous on this list. Basic movements like hopping, skipping, balancing on one foot and using playground equipment will help them interact with other children during classroom activities and recess.
- Fine motor skills – At this age, children are still learning to master holding their pencil and crayons. Cutting with safety scissors, folding and coloring can all be practiced over the summer before school starts.
Now, we’ll look at some of the skills that your kindergartner will be exposed to. Their minds and thought process are maturing to handle more than one concept at the same time.
- Language – Language ability has advanced enough that teachers can understand what a child is saying. To increase their vocabulary, instruction includes singing songs, learning nursery rhymes and listening to stories. Children are encouraged to make up stories of their own using these concepts.
- Math – Tools like blocks and other shapes are used as a counting tool. Addition and subtraction are also explored using props.
- Science – The idea in kindergarten is to continue to foster a love of learning in children. Because they are still explorers and scientists, looking at the way the world looks through the lens of science opens up another avenue for them. Animals groups are identified so children know which ones live on land, in the water and fly in the air.
- Social interaction – Children begin to learn about the bigger community around them and what part they play. Issues such as sharing, problem solving with others and learning about themselves are identified.
- Attention – Attention spans are a bit longer than before and teachers can get their students to focus on the task of the moment. Along with this is the ability to follow direction.
Parent/Child Activities for Kindergartners
Your child will be excited to come home and tell you all about what they learned. At this age, children need a lot of attention and positive reinforcement. Allowing them to learn to express themselves with your guidance can go a long way to increasing their confidence and self-image.
- Homework will be assigned but as a way of reinforcing concepts learned in class. One way to engage your child (if they are up for it) is to complete the homework while you are discussing their day.
- Watch educational shows – If you only allow a certain amount of television watching each day let it be used for education. Watch fun entertaining and instructive programs with your child.
- Play board games – Board games teach a number of skills like taking turns, counting, reading, and fun. Try traditional games like Chutes and Ladders and Candyland.
- Play outdoor games – Use sidewalk chalk and create a hopscotch board. Kids can practice gross motor skills and you can get a chance to be a kid again. Children are old enough now to know not to put small objects in their mouths. Add games like marbles and jacks to your repertoire.
FIRST/SECOND GRADE (Age 6-7)
Your child has made leaps and bounds in kindergarten. By the end of that year heading into first grade, students should be able to:
* Wait and take turns when playing games and participating in other activities
* Cut with scissors
* Gain a sense of which hand is their dominant one
* Follow rules of the classroom and instructions from their teacher
* Know and identify basic colors: black, white, red, blue, green, yellow, orange
* Identify the letters of the alphabet even if they still have trouble making them legibly
* Be able to spell their name
* Begin to count and recognize numbers
* Recognize basic shapes: circle, square, rectangle and triangle
* Know their address and telephone number
* Know how to share with their classmates
At this stage, children will begin to move from the basic concepts of the world around them to including more abstract things like feelings, decision making and characteristics like honesty, courage, reliability, and kindness. Play is still involved in their daily classroom activities but more emphasis is placed on increasing their attention span and working with others.
Your child is moving into new territory once again. Instead of just learning new things, they are accessing the knowledge that they already have to advance their thinking skills. With help from the teacher, their brains can make connections they couldn’t before. Frustration can set in if they can’t grasp new things with ease. Support and comfort them when they express anxiety and uncertainty.
Here are some things that your child will learn in first grade.
- Reading – Your child will be so excited when they can finally begin to decipher the words on the page of the book that the teacher is reading. It opens up an entirely new world but also more work. Practicing writing is necessary for them to understand sight words and how to form letters properly. Phonics is introduced as kids begin to sound out simple words.
- Math – Visual aids are still employed to teach counting by 1s, 2s, 5s and 10s.
- Science – Concepts extend to understanding how weather works, plants grow and breathe, and how the human body functions.
- Social interaction – The concept of family and friends are explored. Children further learn how they are related to others and about living in neighborhoods. At this age, kids are more self-sufficient in determining their own needs and figuring out ways to meet them.
We’ve combined first and second grade because they are closely related in the concepts taught. In second grade your child will further explore:
- Reading with greater fluency – Children are encouraged to work at their current level to understand words and be able to read them without stopping. When fluency increases so will their understanding of what they are reading.
- Math – Now that children know about numbers and how to write them, they can form more complex operations with them.
- Science – A study of nature is explored from the standpoint of children being able to see patterns in the way that things operate like life cycles of animals, plants and how the earth has changed over many, many years.
- Social – Children learn responsibility by being given more tasks to perform in the classroom. When they accept responsibility they can also take pride in their accomplishments.
Parent/Child Activities for First/Second Graders
Because children are older, you can have more fun because they understand more.
- Sleepovers – Now that your child has made friends, invite them over for fun at your house. Your child can help plan the party and entertain their guests.
- Games – Physical activity is important at an early age. Choose games that challenge them physically and mentally like bowling, miniature golf and playing sports. Emphasis is on teamwork and problem solving.
- Computer learning – Kids are more computer savvy than you think. Increase their hand-eye coordination with educational video games, websites and children’s movies.
- Cooking – Cooking teaches math and science. Let your child help you plan the menus and assist with easy tasks in the kitchen.
- Role playing games – Play dress up; tell stories; act out your favorite scene in a movie. It is fun and children get to express themselves in new ways.
The early years of a child’s life are when they learn the most. Their little minds are ready and willing to soak up all the knowledge it can hold. As parents we want the best for them and that includes a thorough education. Prepare your child for their school experience when they are toddlers. Each year, keep an eye on what they are learning and if it is “sinking in.” participating in parent/child activities reinforces important concepts and also involves you in your child’s life. That way, if any issues arise, you will know about them right away and handle the situation to keep your child on track.