Skills Your Preschooler Should Be Practicing
by Danielle Schultz
Present-day kindergarten classrooms are much different from those of previous generations. Kindergarten used to be a place where children would come to prepare socially, developmentally and academically for the following years of school. This is no longer the case today. Present-day kindergarten classrooms require a much higher skill and development level of the youngsters inside.
Many kindergartens still take a play approach to continue to develop language, cognitive, physical and social/emotional skills. Children are often taught through small and large group activities, learning centers and whole language activities. Some classrooms will incorporate a pencil-and-paper “workbook” approach to skill development. Children must begin the year with a moderate level of development to make this first year the most rewarding it can be.
One concrete fact educators can state about children is that all children will develop at their own individual rate. They will also show areas of great skill, while they will need to continue to practice other skills to become successful.
Parents should take an active role in helping their children to develop skills that will not only help their child be successful in kindergarten, but in life in general.
The following sections will describe some of the skills children should at the very minimum begin to practice before kindergarten. Each section also has recommendations to parents for ways in which they can help their children practice these skills.
Concept Development Skills your child should be practicing: Demonstrates curiosity, persistence and exploratory behavior Draws a picture of her/himself including head, body, arms and legs Knows her/his body parts (head, shoulder, knees, etc.) Knows triangles, circles, squares, rectangles Matches or sorts items by color and shape Participates in art and music activities Recognizes and/or name colors Understands concepts such as: in, out; over, under; on, off; front and back; big, little; long, short; more, less; top, bottom; hot, cold
Activities to develop the skills above: Count objects in their every day environment such as plates and forks for the table, cars passing by, seconds until the traffic light changes, etc. Play with puzzles, blocks, or sorting toys. Play games with your child using words such as: “Put the ball on the chair” and “Get the pot from under the sink.” Play Simon Says. For example: Simon says, “Put your hands under your feet.” Simon says, “Put your hands over your head.” Use scraps, bits, boxes, and other things from around the house to use for creative experiences.
Physical Development Skills your child should be practicing: Bounces and throws a ball Controls pencil and crayons Cuts and draws simple shapes Cuts with scissors Enjoys outdoor play such as running, jumping, hopping, marching, standing on one foot, galloping, skipping, swinging and climbing. Holds a crayon or marker Pastes pictures on paper Puts puzzles together Rides a tricycle Tries to tie her/his shoes Walks a straight line
Activities to develop the skills above: Allow your child to have experience with scissors such as cutting pictures from a magazine or newspaper. Encourage your child to dress her/himself. Give your child opportunities to use crayons, markers, pencils, chalk and pens. Let your child to experiment with balls, tricycles and jump ropes. Take your child to a park to play on outdoor equipment.
Number Concept Development Skills your child should be practicing: Arranges items in groups according to size, shape or color Arranges items in size order, big to small or small to big Compares the size of groups of toys or items Counts four to ten objects Groups items that are the same Shows an understanding of the passing of time Uses words like bigger, smaller or heaviest to show comparison
Activities to develop the skills above: Arrange empty boxes (cereals, shoe boxes, etc.) Let your child set the table (child counts number of items needed) Play with blocks of assorted sizes, colors, shapes Provide opportunities to put away groceries Provide opportunities to compare objects Set up a routine or sequence for personal care
Language Skills your child should be practicing: Asks questions about how things work in the world around her/him Expresses her/his ideas so that others can understand Follows through when you give her/him one or two directions Pays attention Pretends, creates and makes up songs and stories Sings and/or recites nursery rhymes Talks about everyday experiences Talks in sentences Tells or retell stories Uses descriptive language (“That’s a big red truck round tires.”) Uses sentences that include two or more separate ideas Uses simple conversational sentences
Activities to develop the skills above: Encourage other members of the family to listen to your child. Encourage your child to develop and share ideas by asking questions and offering suggestions. Get down at eye level and show your interest. Let your child know what she/he says is important. You do this by listening to your child. Play rhyming games. Talk with your child about what interests him or her. Use open ended questions which have more than one answer such as: “What do you think?” “How would you feel?”
Reading Skills your child should be practicing: Attempts to invent her/his own spelling while writing Can tell a story from pictures Knows letters of the alphabet Knows some nursery rhymes Recognizes and attempts to write his/her name
Activities to develop the skills above: Accept your child’s “pretend reading.” Allow your child to select the story that she/he would like to hear. Give your child books as presents. Model reading to your child in both for both work and pleasure. Point out print in the environment (signs, cereal boxes, restaurants). Provide a wide variety of books for your child, including nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Provide your child with a special place to keep her/his books. Read to your child every day. Read your child’s favorite stories over and over again. Sing familiar songs and stories (London Bridge, The ltsy, Bitsy Spider, etc.). Visit the library with your child.
Writing Skills your child should be practicing: Attempts to write first letter of or entire first name Makes marks with writing utensils such as crayons, markers, pencils, etc. Recognizes her/his first name in print
Activities to develop the skills above: Accept your child’s practice writing (e.g., scribbles, pictures, etc.) Allow your child to use magnetic letters or letter flash cards (store-bought or homemade) to form his/her name and simple words. Answer your child’s questions about writing. Ask your child to read her/his writing to you. Display your child’s writing attempts. Label items in your child’s room or around the house with the name of the object written in print. Let your child watch you write. Provide your child with materials (e.g., crayons, pencils, paper) and a space for writing. Watch your child as she/he writes.
Social & Emotional Development Skills your child should be practicing: Asks for help when necessary Complies with rules, limits and routines Controls body movements and keeps hands to himself/herself while in line and during circle time Does things for her/himself (e.g., dress self, put away toys and belongings, takes care of own toilet needs) Expresses self verbally Follows through when you give directions Interacts appropriately with adults Is successful in taking turns and sharing Interacts appropriately with peers and makes friends Knows body parts Knows first and last name, parents’ names, home address, and telephone number Looks forward to going to school Maintains self-control Recognizes authority Respects the rights, property and feelings of others Sits quietly while attending to a short story Stays with an activity to completion (building a tower, creating a picture, etc.) Takes responsibility for own belongings (coat, school bag, lunch) Tries new tasks and activities knowing it,s okay to make mistakes Uses words to solve problems when angry or frustrated Uses words such as “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me” Works independently
Activities to develop the skills above: Allow your child to be responsible for small tasks around your home (bed making, folding towels, setting the table, picking up toys, pet care, yard help). Be a good example by treating your child and others with respect. Create the feelings that learning is fun and important. Encourage your child to continue practicing new tasks when at first he/she is unsuccessful. Encourage your child to dress and take care of personal needs whenever possible. Give your child choices: daily clothing, activities, order of tasks, etc. Give your child the opportunity to be with other children, such as a play group, library story time or playing at the park. Have high, realistic, expectations for your child. Help your child to use words to describe feelings. Keep in mind that discipline is teaching your child what behaviors are expected, not just punishing her/him for misbehavior. Keep your child informed of exactly what is expected. Model appropriate use of anger management. Role play ways your child can solve disagreements with others. Share fond memories of school with your child. Show your love to your child on a regular basis. Teach your child that all feelings are okay. Use praise and encouragement. When punishment is necessary, let your child know it,s the misbehavior you dislike, not the child.
After reading through this list a few times, work with your child on skills which seem least developed. Also practice and praise your child for skills he/she already has mastered. The greatest thing you can do for your child is to have a positive outlook. Remember that life is about learning and we continue to learn all of our lives. Share a love of learning with your child and you can’t go wrong.