Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I read about a survey given to mothers and kindergarten teachers which asked what skills are most important for children to have upon entering school... As a whole, the mothers all listed academic skills- like knowing ABC's and 123's, while the teachers all listed non-academic skills- like attention, listening, and fine-motor skills. While there isn't anything wrong with learning letters and counting (especially as your child shows an interest in learning them!), some of the best pre-school activities include: 

  • Character building! You have a stronger influence now then you may ever have the rest of your child's life. It is important to lay a strong foundation. The best prompts for having a little "life lesson" have been everyday things, but also reading bible stories or The Children's Book of Virtues.
  • Reading Aloud!!! Now is the time your child should pick up on the fact that reading is fun, not just school "work." Wet their appetite for it by reading aloud to them, often! Not only will it help grow listening skills, expand attention spans, and develop curiosity for learning, they'll be expanding their knowledge base with little effort and no stress. "The single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not work books, not fancy pre-schools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books."2  
  • Life Exploration! Experience new things... Take nature walks, trips to the park & zoo & other interesting places. Feed ducks at a pond & observe wildlife where ever you can. Take a trip to an art gallery. Check out a children's theatre. As one mom put it, "I thought we would do school this year; instead we did life, and somehow school happened anyway."1(Ginny) *Read the poem, "I Took His Hand & Followed"
  • Time Outdoors! This post is full of ideas perfect to try with pre-schoolers  outdoors. 
  • Imaginary Play! Examples include puppets, role playing (playing store, vet, etc.), and pretending with toys. Don't underestimate the importance of play! It is an essential part of healthy childhood development, and it's an important way that children learn and interact with the world around them. They need plenty of free, unstructured time in order to let their creativity and imagination lead the way. Over-scheduling and too much TV time are the biggest barriers in this area.
  • Playing Games! Children learn sportsmanship, how to take turns, enhance reading & math readiness, and enjoy quality time with YOU! A few of our favorites include: Duck Duck 1-2-3 , Hi Ho! Cherry-O, Jenga, Candy Land, Go Fish & other animal cards, memory (which can be played w/ the previous animal card deck), and sometimes Cootie. We also love the Lauri Crepe Rubber Puzzles, which come in varying complexities.
  • Gross (Large) Motor Skills!Physical activities that involve the large muscle of the body. This includes aerobic activities like skipping, galloping, kicking, dancing, riding a tricycle, taking a walk, pushing or pulling toys/trucks, swinging, climbing. Try games like follow the leader, redlight/greenlight, playing ball, tag, hopscotch. Do balance and coordination exercises like walking the line and eventually a balance beam, walking with a book on their head or balancing objects, playing with balloons.
  • Fine (Small) Motor Skills! Physical activities that involve the small muscles of the body, and enhance handwriting readiness. About the best tool for this is Theraputty, which is a strong silly-putty-like material that occupational therapists use. I'd recommend getting 6 oz. A great activity is hiding tiny items, like googly eyes, in the theraputty (be sure to count them first!) and have the child find them. They can even do this with siblings and friends. Another great activity is sorting small items into compartments of a muffin pan based on color or type. A few more include threading, lacing beads or cheerios or fruit loops, peg boards, puzzles, legos, finger puppets, sidewalk chalk, arts and crafts like using crayons, markers, paint brushes, finger paints, scissors & paste. Want some cool drawing lessons? Check this out
  • Talk! "This will help develop their vocabulary, comprehension, thinking skills, interpersonal and conversational skills, ability to follow directions, and more. It will draw you closer together, make them feel valuable, and establish a view that the world is interesting and understandable."1(Paula H)
  • Chores! Helping to cook, sort, clean, garden, & fold laundry introduce foundational math skills as well as service and responsibility.
  • A few well-chosen educational toys! Though these are not "necessary," a few good toys go a long way if they're well-chosen. Here are our very favorites. We got them for our oldest son at age 2 or 3 and they've been well-loved ever since. 

What about early academics? 
Here are my favorite bits of advice from experienced home schooling moms, who share some good thoughts to consider before launching into early academics with your children.  Also check out the post Pre-School and Kindergarten: Too Much Too Soon

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