I have been an early childhood development professional since 1987. I have taught, directed, been a curriculum developer, trainer and college-level instructor and I can tell you unequivocally the best place for a child under the age of five is at home with a loving parent or grandparent. The issue facing these caregivers is two-fold social/emotional development and preparing for Kindergarten. I am going to just say one thing regarding social/emotional development it is more about children learning to be self-reliant and doing things for themselves (putting coat on/away, cleaning up behind themselves, and independent bathroom use) and following directions than it is about getting along with others; although that is also important. I want to focus this blog on pre-skills.
Pre-skills are the preliminary things children need to know before they are ready to enter Kindergarten. Depending on your school-district, state or country of origin this may differ. There are four areas of pre-skills they are pre-reading, pre-writing, pre-math, and pre-science. Early Childhood professionals in classrooms refer to these as Reading, Writing, Manipulatives and Discovery respectively in classroom environments. Each of these area have specific skills needed in order to be ready for school.
Reading Pre-skills-Turning pages in the proper direction, eye movements int the correct direction, learning to handle books gently, learning a little about author/illustrator, recognizing words/symbols have meaning, storytelling.has a beginning a middle and an end
Math Pre-skills-counting, recognizing sizes (big,little), whole/part, volume (recognizing the same amount of water is poured from a glass to a bowl)
Science Pre Skills-curiosity, recognizing that things chance from liquid, to solid to gas, temperature changes (hot/cold), color recognition
Writing Pre-skills-eye-hand coordination, developing pincher grasp (How we hold a pen, age Four or Five), recognizing letters/symbols, recognizing letters or symbols which make up their name and learning how to write them
I know this seams like a lot to learn and of course it is. However, children learn these things just by living and parents/grandparents can help ensure they learn it by doing activities that will help them. Here are some suggestions.
Reading- read to your children, encourage them to look at printed materials. Take them to libraries and bookstores for story time, take them to sit down restaurants with hand held menus, let them see you reading
Math-if you need to count something get them to help, count your steps from the car to the stores door, ask kids to look at object like a real and a toy cars ask with is bigger, let them watch you cut an apple, peal an orange together point out the whole and the parts
Science-make jello, make iced tea (the old fashioned way cold water in a pan), ask children to notice colors of objects point out the varying shades of the same color when shopping for clothes etc., take children to museums and let them explore especially museums designed for children's exploration
Writing-get children to trace the shapes of letters, do puzzles, pick up buttons and put into a can or bowl, get the cardboard cut out sewing games, play dough, and play catch with small and large balls
I think the number one and most comprehensive activity to help children with all of the above is cooking with them. Especially if you are using recipes.Cooking above all else uses all the pre-skills in one way or another. There are many ways to support these skills not only can you cook at home there are great parent-child cooking classes and even cooking schools for children.
Parents and Grandparents can use these activities to support children as they grow. Want more ideas? My book Journeys Through Parenthood Volume One: An Educator Guide you Down the Path to Quality Childcare gives more detailed and specific information about pre-skills and their development. here is the link.