Entering preschool is an important milestone in your peewee’s life. He might be jumpy or feel super-psyched for his first day. As parents, we also feel nervous about this major step. Yet, we know that preschool ― whether its daycare or a nursery class ― is critical to junior’s growth and learning.
Besides his ABCs and 123s, shapes and colours, your little one will embark on an incredible journey in preschool during which he’ll begin to acquire critical life skills. Beyond being able to read, write and know his numbers, you little learner will be exposed to other non-academic concepts and skills that are just as important to his growth and development. These include:
1. Respect for authority
Positive and nurturing teacher-child relationships will have a significant impact on your little one. Learning to trust, respect and listen to another adult in authority (besides yourself) is a necessary skill that will see your child through his later years, as he moves into different classes or schools.
A secure and supportive teacher gives your preschooler the ability and confidence to try new things and feel comfortable with new experiences, even when you are not around. “My daughter had always clung to me for dear life in any social situation. But since starting at her childcare centre, she has learnt to trust other people and stand more on her own two feet,” says Gwendoline Lim, mum to Kylene, 3.
2. Learning to self regulate
Toddlers tend to live in the moment ― how many times have you asked junior to go brush his teeth, only to find that he got distracted midway when he picked up a toy (or two)?
Preschool, with its routines and schedules, enhances your child’s self-regulation skills. Your child learns that when the teacher says it’s five minutes to the end of playground time, she means it, and it means that he has to go down the slide one last time, or start putting away those buckets.
School is his first step into truly exploring the world, and belonging to a community that exists beyond his family and home.
3. Being part of a community
Before entering preschool, your tyke’s world might have revolved around himself, his parents, and perhaps a couple of family members. School is his first step into truly exploring the world, and belonging to a community that exists beyond his family and home.
He might be thrilled that he belongs to Class N1A, is part of the blue group and his best bud is his classmate Brian. Through preschool, he is encouraged to think about himself within a larger context. He will begin to learn about the similarities and differences among different people and groups.
4. Socialise with peers
Parents often cite this as their main reason for sending their kids to preschool. Getting to know other kids of the same age and developmental stage allows your little one to develop skills like self-control, empathy, as well as hone on his communication skills.
Your tot starts to realise that there are other little people in the world who have feelings, needs and desires just like he does. He learns that if he treats another child a certain way, that person is likely to get upset. Peer socialisation allows children to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate social behaviours.
Even preschoolers can learn responsibility…more ahead!
5. Playing skills
While your munchkin is pretty much a master of play at home, it’s a whole different ball game when he’s playing with other children. Many kids who first enter preschool engage in parallel play ― they play alongside each other but not with each other.
Preschool gives kids the opportunity to learn to interact with one another through play, as well as by taking turns, sharing and negotiating with one another. Preschoolers learn “big group” games and activities, like musical chairs, hide and seek, or obstacle courses. These teach them the value of being a good sport, whether they win or lose.
6. Acquires responsibility
“I was surprised that after the first two weeks of school, my daughter started telling me that she had to take out her extra diapers to put them in her locker, place her file on the teacher’s table and her water bottle on the kitchen trolley,” says Lim. “She’d never done such tasks so systematically before.”
Your tot perceives the responsibilities he is given at home differently from those at school. For example, putting toys away at school is fun, since everyone does it together, sometimes even with the accompaniment of music and songs. Junior learns to be responsible for various things while he’s in preschool, such as his lunchbox and water bottle, to making sure he’s worn the right shoes, before he heads home each day.
Your mini-me’s ability to follow rules helps him develop his sense of right and wrong in the actions he takes.
7. Familiarity with rules and routine
It’s important for toddler’s to learn boundaries and structure. Common rules at preschool include “walk when you’re in the hallway”, “listen to what the teacher is saying during lessons”, and “be kind to one another”. Your mini-me’s ability to follow rules helps him develop his sense of right and wrong in the actions he takes.
Routines are also important for your tot ― they help him feel secure as he’ll understand what’s to come, what he is expected to do. This will result in a confident, independent, relaxed and cooperative child.
8. Awareness of safety
Being in a separate environment from his parents for extended hours means that junior learns the importance of safety skills. It’s also a great time to reinforce what mummy and daddy have taught him at home about safety. After you drop your child off at preschool, your child needs to know how to act or react to ensure his own safety.
It’s important to teach your young ’un to be vigilant when he’s not with you ― for instance, by not straying onto the road, or chatting or accepting gifts from strangers when he’s on his own. During a class field trip, he learns to listen carefully to his teacher’s instructions, stay close to his peers, and even sit still on the bus when it’s moving.
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