All children benefit from starting their schooling experience as early in life as possible. That is why preschool is such an important event for young kids. It is at preschool that children begin learning the fundamental basics and skills that will be required when they later join the formal education system.
Kids get their first opportunity to begin developing reading skills and becoming familiar with sounds and rhymes as well as free arithmetic and writing skills and learning to recognize patterns and shapes with their various relationships. Preschool routines expose children to the idea of managing time and taking instructions, an important part of preventing children from becoming defiant as they age.
Free play spells are also important in as much as they allow children to develop their imaginations, take exercise, and start developing social skills.
Given the lockdown measures in force in most countries at the moment, the majority of daycare centers and preschools are not open. But it’s quite easy to use your home as a preschool alternative for your little one.
There are plenty of good teen books around, but preschool books? Hardly any. So, as preschool is such a key component of your child’s pre-education, both in social and academic terms, we have devised a simple guide you can follow to turn your home into a super, preschool-type environment.
Setting aside a designated learning space
If you have the space, it’s an excellent idea to set aside a small area in your home where your child can learn. The size is up to you. A spare guest room or unused den will do the job nicely. You can fill it with educational posters, toys, and learning gadgets. But, if you don’t have this sort of separate space, a corner in the living room will suffice.
The important thing is that your little one can become familiar with this area and identify with it as a place where they can learn. Without such a designated area, it will be easier for kids to become distracted. So, coming up with a designated environment that one description or another will really help your child’s preschool progress.
Buying learning materials
One of the most exciting things about holding preschool sessions at home is that you can become creative with your teaching methods. You won’t need to invest in things like costly textbooks or difficult to obtain resources, as are used in the K-12 system. Instead, things such as building blocks, clothes to dress up in, musical instruments and toy kitchens are all suitable alternatives.
We are talking about teaching young children how to use their imaginations; how to put things in context, and how to identify the various relationships between different objects.
You can also obtain educational colouring and join-the-dots books that young kids enjoy. And in addition, don’t forget about children’s TV programmes which can also be very useful resources.
Obviously, you don’t want your little one glued to a TV screen. However, videos are an excellent way of teaching kids in a fun way, at the same time as giving you, the preschool home teacher, a break.
Keeping to a schedule
To get the best out of preschool in the home, it’s important to be consistent. Preschool-aged children are a curious bunch, and because they are new to things like working to a schedule, their attention can easily wander.
It’s important to ensure that your child knows what to expect every day. It might mean starting the session with a coloring book, showing them a certain task to complete, or watching an educational program on TV and then stopping for a few minutes to snack and play. By following this sort of routine every time, your little pupil will pick up the idea of following a routine.
A lot of preschools only run up until noon or 1 o’clock, and this is probably something you will be glad to do yourself. Small children do have limited spans of concentration, and going beyond these, they can easily become somewhat grumpy.
If you prefer a longer session, say from 9 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon, it’s a good idea to allow your child a long break period halfway through the session. You can then both resume somewhat refreshed. You mustn’t forget your own well-being too. It’s an important part of adopting positive parenting solutions at an early stage.
Coming up with a curriculum
It’s equally important to create learning goals and themes to formalize your kid’s preschool experience. While some parents prefer to create firmly detailed lesson plans, others are happy to work off a list of bullet points. At the end of the day, it’s down to you how particular you want the lesson formats to be. However, you do need to have some sort of curriculum to work to.
You could, for example, spend one week targeted on reading recipes and cooking. The next week you might decide to teach your child about the rules and etiquettes of different sports. By coming up with themes in this way, you will create a structure for your little pupil that will help him or her to make connections more readily.
You might create different goals each week, such as learning to count up to 10 or coming up with words that rhyme. All these things will facilitate keeping your child’s preschool experience moving in the right direction and staying on track.
Making allowances for free play
Although it’s a good idea to give your child’s preschool session some sort of structure, it’s also important to allow your little one to express himself or herself. Your child will be of the sort of age when he or she is beginning to understand the world, is curious about it all, and wants to exercise his or her imagination and thinking skills.
Exercising free thought and learning to follow instructions are important processes, and it’s free play time that will help the child to be able to balance both. Kids love free play. Not only is it enjoyable, but it gives them something to look forward to while learning. It also gives you, the parent, the chance to watch your child as he or she grows in front of your eyes.
Giving your child plenty of encouragement and praise
Okay, now we come to the last step, which must never be forgotten. Making it all worthwhile from the child’s point of view. Your young pupil will be putting in lots of effort in order to keep on progressing developing those essential skills. It’s not easy, although it might seem so to you.
Don’t be afraid to let kids know how proud you are of the progress they are making. Colored stars and other little snacks and knickknacks will be greatly appreciated and will serve to motivate young ones to persevere.
Never forget that preschool is supposed to be a fun experience for your child as well as an opportunity to learn. But it’s a great opportunity for you, the home preschool teacher too. It will give you an unprecedented chance to observe and wonder with amazement as your child becomes a real little person. A young human being who in later life will have a much better chance of avoiding becoming an at risk youth.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.