Your child’s first year of school should be a fun and exciting
time. Children who are comfortable with and prepared for this
first school experience are more likely to have rewarding and
productive years, and therefore associate positive feelings with
education. Since parents are children’s first and most
important teachers, you can play a key role in preparing your
children for a successful school experience by pre-exposing them
to key concepts they will experience in school. This can be
done in a fun, enjoyable manner by making everyday play
experiences learning experiences as well.
New learning builds on prior knowledge, therefore the more
exposure or background a child has with a concept the easier it
is for new learning and deeper comprehension to occur.
Providing your child with pre-exposure to concepts such as the
alphabet, numbers, following directions, listening, reading,
cutting, tracing, etc. will help them feel more comfortable and
confident when they experience these similar concepts in school,
thus better enabling learning to occur. Schools are becoming
more academic, dependent on standardized tests, and fast-paced.
Giving your children some familiarity with concepts they will
encounter can help lessen the anxiety and stress that often
accompany these experiences. Children who are overly stressed
or uncomfortable are less likely to be able to concentrate and
Children have a natural motivation to learn and a curiosity
about the world. You can enhance and nurture this natural
motivation by making enjoyable play experiences learning
experiences as well.
For example, children’s games are great resources for combining
learning with physical activity. Duck, Duck, Goose can be a way
of reinforcing concepts such as the alphabet by having children
say the name of a letter in place of the word, duck, and a word
that begins with that letter in place of the word, goose.
Hide and Seek can become a learning experience by hiding numbers,
letters, colors, your child’s name, phone number, address, etc.
around the house and asking your child to find them.
Simon Says is a great game to practice following
directions and positional words such as on, above, below, etc.
Bingo can be used to reinforce number recognition, letter
recognition, the difference between upper case and lower case
letters, letter sounds, colors, etc.
You can have a treasure hunt while shopping, driving, or at home
by seeing how many letters, numbers, colors, or shapes your
child can find.
You can also play I Spy where you state, “I spy with my little
eye something that is…” and you describe a letter, number,
shape, color, etc. that you can plainly see. Your child then
tries to guess what you are describing. Your child can also
take a turn describing something (this helps develop verbal
Children’s individual interests can also be incorporated into
Blocks or Lego’s can be used to teach patterns
(have them build towers with alternating colors), counting,
sorting (separate the blocks by colors, shapes, size), etc.
If your child likes to color, have them create rainbow tracings
of letters or numbers by tracing them with as many colors as
Play dough can be made into shapes, letters, and numbers.
An interest in cars and trucks can be used when learning how to
trace by telling your child to keep his car (crayon or pencil)
on the road (whatever is being traced).
An interest in animals or dinosaurs can be used when learning
how to cut with scissors by relating the opening and closing of
the scissors to the opening and closing of an animal’s mouth.
You can pretend the animal is “eating” the lines on the paper.
Your child’s surroundings can also play a part in preparing them
for school. Providing a number and variety of books for your
child and taking time to read to them is one of the most
important things you can do for their education. Reading to a
child teaches them vocal skills, vocabulary, listening skills,
left-to-right orientation, cause and effect, knowledge about the
world around them, and pre-reading skills. Most importantly, it
instills a love for reading and books which will benefit them
throughout their entire education. After all, every subject
(even math) requires reading.
Our brain absorbs information from our surroundings on a
conscious and unconscious level, and between 80-90% of all
information absorbed by the brain is visual. Therefore,
providing visual displays in your child’s room or elsewhere can
actually aide in learning. Things such as the alphabet, colors,
numbers, etc. can be hung up or displayed in places where your
child will see them. Even magnetic letters on the refrigerator
can aide in retention and learning. This is why many schools
have plenty of visuals displayed in the halls and classrooms.
Young children can also learn many concepts through music.
For example, they usually learn their abc’s by the alphabet
song. There are many children’s tapes available that teach
concepts through music. Playing these while in the car or while
your children play can aide them in learning. Even though they
might not be singing along or seem like they are even paying
attention, subconscious learning can be occurring.
You may also want to practice separating from your child for
short periods of time, such as enrolling in a program or play
group or having them spend time with a babysitter. Separation
anxiety can be traumatic for some children if they are not used
to being away from their parents, and this anxiety can inhibit
their ability to learn and relax while in school.
Lastly, no matter what methods you try with your child, the most
important thing to remember is to make them enjoyable. You
want your child to associate positive feelings with learning.
Take turns choosing activities; give your child some choice
sometimes. This makes them feel less dictated to and more
willing to learn. Also, offer them some variety in activities,
do not always use the same learning methods all of the time as
this can create boredom and disinterest. Choose the methods
that work best with your child (every child is different) and
Children are like flowers, they all bloom at different times.
But, parents can help nurture them by providing experiences that
enable them to blossom into children who love learning and