9 ideas that will help preschoolers get ready for the big time

The first foray into preschool is a great time for learning to share, experimenting with crafts and singing the ABCs. But if your child is entering his final year of preschool, you can start thinking about getting him ready for the big time: Kindergarten.

Snooze time

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the American Academy of Sleep Medicine sleep guidelines:

Infants 4-12 months should sleep 12-16 hours per 24 hours.

Kids 1-2 should sleep 11-14 hours per 24 hours.

Kids 3-5 should sleep 10-13 hours per 24 hours.

Kids 6-12 should sleep 9-12 hours per 24 hours.

Teens 13-18 should sleep 8-10 hours per 24 hours.

 

The group found that adequate sleep on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.

 

The AAP suggests that all screens be turned off 30 minutes before bedtime.

 

Here are a few areas to focus on—academically, socially and emotionally—to best prepare your child for the road ahead.

Independence

Make sure your child is able to separate from you successfully. And if they’ve been at the same daycare for several years, introduce them to different environments where they are away from you. Playdates where you drop your child off are helpful, longtime Chicago Public Schools teacher Stacy Hauser says.

Number sense

Don’t worry about counting to 100. Instead, stress number sense. Does your child know if three is more or less than five? “Being able to play with numbers is more important than being able to rote count to 100,” Hauser says.

Reading and letters

Make sure they know the difference between upper and lowercase letters. “It does set them up for an easier time in the school year,” Hauser says.

And read daily together. “It teaches kids to focus, it teaches kids to listen, it gets their attention,” she says. “It gets their mind to think about a great adventure in their head.”

Self-care skills

Your child should be able to put on and take off their coat and boots independently, and to know where to store their belongings, says Kathy Boxell, principal of Barnsdale Road School in La Grange Park.

“I encourage families to have an identified spot at home where things go,” she says. This will help once they receive homework or paperwork that needs to return to school the next day.

Don’t compare

Focus on your child making progress against himself, not others. “Remember that all children are on a different continuum developmentally, and we recognize that as teachers and administrators,” Boxell says.

When it comes to mastering a specific academic skill, Hauser encourages parents to let the child take the lead. “If your child’s not ready, don’t push it, because it will happen naturally.”

Solid sleep habits

Since older preschoolers often no longer nap, keeping a solid bedtime routine with 10-12 hours of sleep per night will help your child have stamina for a more challenging day. Boxell says even 10-15 minutes difference in sleep can impact a child.

After the fun of summer, she suggests getting back into a good sleep habit almost a month before school starts. Hauser agrees, saying children thrive on structure and routine. “It definitely makes a difference in how they’re going to feel and behave and participate in class.”

Self-directed activities

Make sure your child has the ability to fill larger blocks of time on his own. “Set it up so your child has some downtime for a chunk of the day, so they have a chance to practice those skills,” Hauser says.

Hauser also encourages alone time for older preschoolers. “If they’re used to you giving them 100 percent attention, it’s a hard transition for them in a classroom setting or a group that they can’t be number one all the time,” she says.

Proper ways to get attention

In kindergarten, there are more students per teacher. A child may have to learn new ways to get attention in a crowded lunchroom or ask permission to use the bathroom.

It’s not just a teacher’s attention a child needs to learn to attain, but their peers’ as well. They need the ability to ask to play with a classmate, as opposed to pushing their way into a game.

Encourage a love of learning

You want your child to view school as a great place to go, not a burden. “I think one of the most important things is to get your children interested in learning, and encouraging them in a very fun, positive way,” Hauser says.

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