As you start to look at preschool readiness blogs or talk to other parents, you are going to hear that your child needs to be able to count or have rudimentary math skills or even be able to write in order to be successful in preschool.
As a preschool teacher who gets asked all the time about this issue, I’d like to clear a few things up. Here is a list of things that your preschooler REALLY needs to know or be able to do prior to attending preschool.
1. Be toilet trained
This means just that. Plain and Simple. Your child needs to be able to know when to go to the bathroom and be able to perform the function by themselves. If your toddler has to wear a pull-up “just in case” they are not toilet trained and therefore not ready to attend. This being said, all teachers know that during times of growth spurts or the beginning of the year when children are excited about new friends and experiences that more reminders will be required and some accidents are bound to happen.
You may be asking why this is so important: Preschool is meant to get your child prepared for school and gain some independence. They will not be reminded once they enter school, nor will a teacher help your little one each time they need to go. As well, many schools adhere to ratios (a set number of children to one teacher) and if a teacher is out of the room, or in a place where they cannot see the class for long periods of time it is actually unsafe for the other children. This is one skill your child must have mastered before school.
2. Be able to follow one-step directions
It is very helpful if your child can retain and complete one-step directions — we work on adding more as the school year progresses. If you can tell your child go get your bag, or come sit “here” and have them complete the task they are ready! If you can ask them to get their bag, sit on the stairs and wait for you, even better! One, two and three-step tasks are appropriate for this age range.
3. Be able to let you leave
As teachers, we know that your child (and likely YOU) may have some separation anxiety in the first days of school, which is reasonable and understandable. If this is your child’s first time away from you, and you haven’t practiced or prepped beforehand and know that your child is anxious, please understand we may ask you to leave with your child on the first day. This is not because we do not want your child to attend; we would love your child to stay. If your little one is having a full-on meltdown we may ask you to try again, or ask to contact you later to arrange a way to transition your child in. This is again due to the fact that we have x amount of other little ones that are probably a bit anxious about their first day as well, and we need to get to all of them. There are many schools that have staggered entry for just this reason. Your child may not start on the first day of classes or may start later than the beginning of class time so that the teacher can give each child their attention and set everyone up for success as they move into the classroom setting.
A good way to practice this with your child is to walk them through what will happen on the first day (which you can get from your teacher). You can then see about arranging a playdate where you can leave your child after going through the same routine as at the school. If you register before the school year ends, prior to your child starting in September, you can also ask to come and join part of a class with your child as a transition to prevent anxiety. Try getting a schedule from your teacher and set aside a morning to have a mock school-day; practice circle time, gym, snack, etc. Tell your child that you will return for them after class (without giving them a time, which is meaningless at this age). With this your teacher can also reinforce what you have been saying: if your child gets upset they can repeat the schedule (children thrive on routine) and THEN say that mom/dad/guardian will be back to get them.
4. Have some practice sharing
Now while this skill does help us teachers (it cuts down on the time we spend negotiating conflicts and give us more time for learning activities), it is primarily a skill that will help your child’s success. If right from the start your child is unwilling to share, takes toys from others, pushes and so forth, other children learn right away to leave them alone. Not only will your child have to work harder to make friends, they might have fewer chances to practice their social skills or learn cooperative play. Your teacher will of course work with children on this situation, but we cannot force interactions between any students.
Games or puzzles are a great way to introduce the idea of sharing. You each have to take turns, you put a puzzle piece down, and then your child does. Matching games where they have to wait their turn works as well.
Alternately if your child is not interested in puzzles or games, any activity can turn into a sharing one! Like building a tower — your child can add one block then you can add yours. Take turns when it comes to knocking the tower down too (as we all know this is everyone’s favourite part) taking turns will help your child practice sharing and learning to control their reactions and anticipation will boost their emotional maturity!
5. Be excited for school!
We love nothing more than when your child comes in excited about making new friends, experiencing new things and learning! The more excited you are about going to school and the more positive your talk about it, the more your child will feel the same way! This is a wonderful new experience in both of your lives – Enjoy it!