The littlest learners

Starting preschool or pre-kindergarten is a big step, one that can be as scary, as exciting or as overwhelming as you let it be.

That goes for both you and your child.

“That’s why it’s so important to introduce your child to the idea of being in a classroom away from a parent ahead of time,” says Diego Ferney Giraldo, early childhood education officer at Chicago Public Schools.

Don’t sweat the small things and don’t worry about if your child has absolutely everything in order before they begin school, says Jake Hanifin, preschool director for Butler Children’s Prep of Chicago. “That’s what preschools are for, to teach kids how to get ready for the next phase of school.”

He says it’s a great idea for parents and their kids to visit the new preschool and get to know their teachers and the environment before the first day.

While things like potty training are important to achieve before preschool, don’t forget to keep learning fun, says Kay Viecelli, of Sprouts Academy Preschool in Chicago.

“When they learn through play, we don’t seem to have a problem getting them where they need to be,” she says.

According to Viecelli, there is more than enough time to conquer all fears before they enter kindergarten. Luckily, preschool also often gets kids ready for the 300 early learning standards, including social, emotional, science and math learning, that kids must know before entering kindergarten.

As always, she says, it’s important to make sure kids are enjoying learning and excited to go to school.

“We don’t want them burned out or not enjoying learning,” Viecelli says.

Tips to support learning


Talk to your child and listen to their responses. Ask questions about what they are thinking and feeling and respond supportively.


Take the time to answer their questions. If you don’t know the answer, look it up together or even talk about what your best guess might be.


Read aloud to your child.


Encourage your child to draw and write—in a journal, on scrap paper, anywhere.


Share your interests with your child and encourage them to tell you about what they like.


Play at the local park. 


Attend meetings with your child’s teacher and follow through on the teacher’s suggestions for how to support academic development at home.


Praise your child for hard work and trying again—this teaches your child to keep going, even when they are faced with a challenge.

Source: Chicago Public Schools

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