As a parent of one child who attended two years of preschool and one who didn’t attend at all, I do believe that preschool provides children with an advantage prior to beginning kindergarten.
However, that being said, I don’t think that children who do not attend preschool are at a disadvantage.
It sounds like I’m contradicting myself but I’m not trying to…
When my first child started kindergarten, I expected it to be rocky because neither he nor I knew what we were doing. But you know what? He got the hang of it really quickly, and sure there were some bumps in the road, but we learned along the way and that’s just the way I thought it was supposed to be.
At the same time that my son started kindergarten, my second child started preschool (something I never even considered for my first, by the way). The only reason we decided to enroll her was so she wouldn’t feel left out, but in the past two years I am surprised at how much she has learned and what a great routine she’s gotten into. I know will make it that much easier on her (and I) when she starts school in the fall.
Here is a list of things that my daughter has learned in her two years of preschool that I believe will result in a smooth transition to kindergarten.
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1. How to stand in a lineup
This is a big one because at school there are a lot of lineups. And if you’re like me, all your kids probably know about lineups is that they’re something worth complaining about…
2. How to socialize with other kids
Obviously friends, relatives, play dates, childcare, etc., all offer this same opportunity. The difference is that school socialization is more “unsupervised” (to a certain degree). Which means that children get the chance to socialize without an adult hovering over them making sure they “play nice” and “share.” So it’s up to them to do this on their own.
3. How to take turns
Preschool aged kids are naturally self-centered and having to let someone else do something that they want to do can be extremely tough. The more practice they can get at it, the better.
4. How to wait patiently
In a class with a lot of children it can take a while for everyone to get their turn.
5. How to raise your hand to speak
Where else does anyone do this except in school? It’s iconic school aged behavior and it has to start somewhere.
6. How to ask for help
Asking someone you don’t know very well for help can be frightening to some kids. Especially if it’s something embarrassing.
7. How to identify the spelling of their name
They may not be able to fully write their own name, but they need to be able to pick it out of a lineup.
8. How to make the letter sounds
Singing the alphabet only helps kids identify the names of the letters but learning what sounds they make is an essential first step to reading.
9. How to count and identify numbers up to 10
Specifically when those numbers are out of order.
10. How to recognize the date
Learning the days of the week, months of the year and the seasons is a crucial part of daily life at school.
11. How to tell the time
Actual lessons in telling time are reserved for later but kids learn pretty quickly what time school starts and ends.
12. How to listen quietly when the teacher is speaking
This is another big one that kids will need to do their entire school life.
13. How to sit in one spot for a designated amount of time
Whether it’s a story time rug, in a circle or at a desk, kids will need to learn to sit still during school hours.
14. How to follow instructions
Especially two, three or four step instructions.
15. How to maintain a school routine
A school routine is different from a home routine and can change often. Kids need to be flexible and learn what to do and when.
16. How to stop one activity and move onto another activity
Maybe they’re not done coloring yet, or they want to finish building that tower – too bad… time to move on.
17. How to wait for classmates to be done a task before moving on
Kids need to learn that everyone works at different paces and just because they are done something, doesn’t mean everyone else is.
18. How to cooperate with others
Working together is an essential life skill but it can also be very hard to learn for little ones with their own agendas.
19. How to sing along with others
My daughter loves to “shush” me while she sings because she wants the spotlight to herself – in preschool there are a lot of group songs and chances are, she won’t be able to hear the sound of her own voice…
20. How to participate in group activities
School is littered with group activities, not just in the younger grades, so the earlier they can master this skill, the better.
21. How to clean up in a timely manner
There are only so many minutes in a school day.
22. How to deal with separation anxiety.
Saying goodbye can be one of the toughest parts of starting the school day. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a sweet little story to help kids who have trouble parting from their parents.
23. How to socialize with other adults
Whether it’s the teachers, special guests, helpers or volunteers, kids are going to need to interact with other adults all the time at school.
24. How to greet people with respect
Everyday when I drop my daughter off at preschool her teachers greet her and for the longest time she stared off into oblivion, too busy watching all the hustle and bustle around her. I pointed out that the polite and respectful thing to do when her teachers greet her is to greet them back and now it’s the part of drop off that she looks forward to the most.
25. How to introduce themselves to new people
Sure, they’re great at making new friends but do they know their friend’s name? Does their friend know their name?
26. How to wait for attention
Kids are so demanding. In school they will have to learn that if they need attention, they may not get it immediately.
27. How to take care of their neighborhood
Learning about the community is so important to help kids become responsible neighbors.
28. How to care for the earth and environment
Sorting recyclables, reusing containers and picking up litter are just a few ways that my kids show me how much they care about the world we live in.
29. How to help raise funds for their school and/or charity
Fundraising is a huge part of the preschool and school age years. Usually preschools offer fundraisers that encourage kids to get involved and offer opportunities for them to learn about money, priorities and doing good for others. [Click HERE to find out if your preschool uses Mabel’s Labels as a fundraiser]
30. How to identify their own belongings
Kids seem to like a lot of the same things. You’re going to have to label everything and they’re going to have to know how to look for the label with their name on it. I recommend the Mabel’s Labels Starter Pack – they’re durable and waterproof and they come with so many different design options! [Click HERE for free shipping from Mabel’s Labels]
31. How to open snack packages
Ziploc bags, re-usable containers, yogurt, wrappers, etc., can all be a challenge for a kid and having to wait for help from someone else means they get less time to eat.
32. How to change to indoor shoes/outdoor shoes and where to put them
At home my kids throw their dirty runners all over the mudroom, but at school there is a place to keep them and they need to be kept neat and tidy.
33. How to do up their own zipper/buttons on their jacket
In preschool they get a lot more help than they do in kindergarten but the last thing you’ll want is your child running outside for recess on a cold day with an unzipped jacket.
34. How to put on their own snowsuit
Like the last one, consider the ratio of teachers to students and realize that there won’t be enough people to help your child get dressed every recess. This will take some practice but, from experience, your child will miss a lot of recess time in winter if they spend half the time putting on and taking off a snowsuit.
35. How to locate something that is lost
Knowing where to look for something they’ve lost will help kids remain independent and responsible.
36. How to pack/unpack a backpack
In preschool, there isn’t much in their backpack but the important routine of packing it before school and unpacking it after school will help them in the school days to come.
37. How to take care of toys that belong to the school
All toys should be taken care of, but especially ones that don’t belong to you.
38. How to do special jobs
Kids often rotate as “special helpers” and they need to learn how to be responsible enough to do them.
39. How to be safe in an emergency
Fire safety is a big deal at school and kids need to know what to do in the event of an emergency.
40. How to speak in front of the entire class
Having to get up in front of everyone and say something (ex. show and tell) can be terrifying for even the most outgoing child.
41. How to perform in a group for special events
Holidays and other events are exciting times when the kids get to do a performance on stage and having to practice songs and dance moves beforehand can be a fun challenge.
42. How to accept compliments
Kids get praised by their teachers all the time – how does your child react when they get a compliment?
43. How to decide who to be friends with
Some adults are still learning this life skill. Kids often tend to be drawn to other kids who are similar to them or who have similar interests. But what if your child made friends who someone you thought might be a “bad influence”?
44. How to observe right and wrong behaviors in others
Knowing the difference between right and wrong is another lifelong battle. Kids need to be able to identify when someone is doing something wrong so that they can know NOT to mimic that behavior.
45. How to use appropriate words
Don’t know about your kids but mine think bathroom words are hilarious. They’ll need to learn how to use appropriate words at school.
46. How to speak up when observing something wrong (without tattling)
Tattling on someone for no good reason is different than speaking up when they some type of injustice or something dangerous.
47. How to handle being interrupted
It’s bound to happen when they are one child in a class full of children.
48. How to handle jealousy
I am constantly working on this one with my daughter. For some reason she thinks she should have whatever anyone else has too…
49. How to include everyone
Cliques do start earlier than we’d like to admit. Preschool is a great opportunity for kids to learn how to play with everyone and not just with their favorite people.
50. How to interact with kids of different cultural backgrounds
This one is especially important. Kids need to be exposed to others who are different than they are. They will probably have questions about why those kids are different and the earlier they can learn about diversity, the better off they will be in life. I love that my kids go to school with children of different races, religions, abilities and family structures and I want them to feel comfortable asking questions, learning, reaching out and trying everything they can to relate to others who might seem different than them.