For most parents the trajectory we envision for our children goes something like preschool, kindergarten, elementary, high school, university, run the world - or something like that.
But as you stare down at the babe in your arms it can also be hard to envision those steps in action. "I know they will become Dr. President of the Universe someday, but today we work on getting cheerios in the mouth and not in the hair."
At CFIS when we begin our journey with your family we want it to start on the right foot, after all, we like to plan the growth of our students and community from the day they start Preschool to the day they graduate Grade 12.
Did you know… That the most important things for young children to learn in their first years of school are not academic skills? To be ready for later academics, young children benefit most from strong fine motor skills, independent self-care abilities, and a strong foundation of social emotional competence. This article from the American College of Education provides a summary of each of these, as well as links to more information about why they are important.
Below are some tips and resources to getting your little one ready for starting Preschool in September.
Overview: The basic rule of thumb for this one is making sure your child can communicate in a recognizable manner to most people around them AND that they can understand others.
Examples: Uses recognizable words to communicate their needs: hunger, thirst, toileting, etc.
Regularly speaking in sentences of three words or more: “I want juice.” “Daddy read book.” etc.
Can follow a single-step instruction (e.g. “Wash your hands.”)
Can follow two-step instructions (e.g. “Wash your hands, then sit at the table.”)
Responds to their own name
Can ask for adult help if a task is difficult
Development tips: Talk to your child, often and in a regular speaking voice. Many studies show that speaking early and regularly to your child helps develop synapses in the part of their brain that handles language. So, chat to them, narrate what you are doing, read to them, have them express their needs verbally - even if this means filling in the gaps till they understand the words "I see you are reaching for your blue cup, are you thirsty, Sophie?" As they progress with their language and understanding skills, add to the complexity of your sentences or requests. The more opportunities your child has to hear and practice language cues the better.
Overview: These skills are based on autonomy. Can your child function, for the most part, independently?
Examples: Can walk the length of a city block without needing to be carried.
Can, while holding the railing, walk independently up and down a flight of stairs.
Can pick up small objects such as cereal, small blocks, beads, etc, using their pincer fingers, not their entire hand.
Development tips: What you may already be doing has more benefits than you realize. These articles from Parents.com have some great ideas on how to turn playtime into a covert operation of skill development. This one on the power of play for coordination, this one on developing fine motor skills, and finally our blog post on the power of play.
Overview: Just as important, if not more so than physical or cognitive development, is teaching children to feel, acknowledge, and process emotion in healthy ways. It is widely thought that children who feel emotionally supported tend to excel faster than their counterparts that are dealing with internal turmoil. Can your child recognize their own and others’ emotions, and can they regulate when needed?
Examples: Will separate calmly from a parent to go with a known adult (grandparent, nanny, caregiver, teacher, etc).
If upset by separation from a parent, is willing to accept comfort and/or distraction from a caring adult, and calm down within 15 minutes.
Shows awareness when another child is upset or sad: may offer comfort, ask why they are crying, or comment “she is sad.”
Understands the concepts of sharing and/or turn-taking, even if they are resistant to doing so.
Development tips: The biggest and best thing you can do to help your child in this area is being a safe space for them. Talk about feelings, about their feelings, about your feelings. Discuss what a feeling may look like "I see you have a grumpy face, and your arms are crossed, are you feeling angry? Do you know why you are feeling angry?". Use some of their favourite books or toys to demonstrate emotion "Look, the boy in this book is crying. Do you think he is sad? Why do you think he is sad? Have you ever felt sad? What did you do?" or "Look, that child has a toy they don't want to share. How would you feel if someone wouldn't share with you?" Everyone has feelings, it's about learning to process them in a manner, and in an environment, that is safe.
Cognitive development & pre-academic skills:
Description: If we think of whole-child development like a building house, foundations need to be laid before walls can go up, or a roof can cap it off. The same goes for development and education. Pre-academic skills can provide a gauge as to where a child is in cognitive development, not better or worse, just where.
Examples: Will provide their own name when asked.
Uses the names of other children in their household, family, classroom, etc.
Can identify themselves in family photos.
Can use writing materials (crayons, pencils, markers, etc) to explore mark-making (“scribbles,” abstract shapes, dots, etc).
Makes drawings that represent real people or objects (e.g. reports that they drew a dinosaur, even if the dinosaur is not recognizable to anyone else).
Will sit with an adult to read a book for at least 5 minutes.
Development tips: Because cognitive development is about thinking and learning rather than memorizing you're probably already doing things with your toddler that are lighting up that frontal lobe.
Some examples of this may include asking your toddler questions "What colour is the sky?" "Do you see the bird, where is it? Can you show me?". Further to this use your conversations to talk about visual descriptions such as matching, comparing, sorting, etc.
Helping them to develop an increased attention span by engaging with them in activities they have an interest in.
Play problem-solving games like fitting blocks into the appropriately shaped hole.
Helping them understand cause and effect, and simple reasoning. "No, it's not snack time right now, it's almost dinner time. If you have a snack now, you won't have room in your belly to eat dinner."
Did you know…
That recent research has established a clear link between the ability to keep a musical beat, and reading ability? While the research is quite new, it underlines the importance of music as a component of a well-rounded education, and as a contributor to overall academic competency. You can read more about the study here.
Description: Children in Preschool should be able to show independence, within reason, at completing self-care tasks.
With no assistance, can put on their own:
- Pants or shorts
- Pull-over shirt (t-shirt, etc)
- Shoes (with assistance to tie or buckle if needed)
- Coat or jacket (with assistance for zipper if needed)
- Snow pants
Can feed themselves using their hands.
At most mealtimes, feed themselves using a spoon or fork.
Drinks from a straw (not a sippy cup).
Can hold their own cup and drink from it with no assistance (open cup, not a sippy or straw cup).
Sits at the table, without using a high chair, during meals (may use a booster seat).
Development tips: Practice makes perfect. The more often little hands can try out these tricky skills the quicker they will become comfortable with executing them on a daily basis. Here’s a great article and checklist.
Overview: Much like self-care, toileting is a big step for kids in independence. It helps solidify the notion of knowing one's body, listening to internal cues and following through, as well as developing privacy boundaries. We fully understand that accidents happen, especially in this age group, but for the majority of the time your child should be able to manage the process of going to the bathroom on their own, or with very minimal assistance.
Examples: Can identify the urge to use the toilet (for both urine and bowel movements).
Can inform an adult of the urge with enough time to get to the toilet.
Can manage own clothing in preparation for using the toilet.
Can manage own clothing after toilet use.
Can wipe themselves after urinating and after bowel movements
Wears underwear and typically has no more than one accident per day.
Development tips: This one is tricky. As any parent will tell you, potty training can be a Sisyphean task, with countless blogs, articles, books, videos and advice on the topic. A topic with, unfortunately, no concrete plan of attack. The best advice we can offer on this front is consistency, and not too much pressure. Anecdotally, a sign that your child may be ready is when they can execute 2 step instructions without challenge. You might find this article helpful.
Description: Good chance this is the easiest to check off your list, and one of the most overlooked learning tools. Play, in many forms, is incredible for development and is also integral for our early understanding of cooperation, negotiation, and interest development.
Example: Engages in play solo and with others.
Development tips: This one requires very little in the way of "tips". Just one in fact. Give your child space to play. Carve out time for you to play with them, as well as time for them to play on their own.
This one isn’t a developmental milestone but is extremely important. School challenges our little ones to focus and engage. Good sight is imperative to the learning process with 80% of it being visual. To learn more about getting an eye exam for your child and to book an appointment with an optometrist, click here.