There’s no single type of preschool student and no single key to success in early learning.
Preschool students are at a crucial phase of their intellectual, emotional and physical development. It’s a time when little humans and little learners are finding themselves; it’s a time rife with transformation and evolution.
That process looks different for every single kid. Every 2- to 5-year-old has their own path to success. That may feel overwhelming for parents looking for a set formula to prepare their young ones for success at the earliest phase of their academic development.
Here’s the good news: while every kid has their own needs, strengths and challenges, early education specialists from across Boulder County have tips for ensuring that preschool is a success for all kinds of learners. That’s important because according to experts, preschool can serve as a critical bridge to later academic achievement.
“Enrolling your student in a high-quality preschool program is one of the best ways to give them a strong start on their academic journey and ensure a competitive advantage in elementary school and beyond,” said representatives from St. Vrain Valley Schools.
To make sure this critical phase in a child’s development is successful, parents can take simple, straightforward measures. Preschool students can find independence and learn cooperation. There are simple ways to encourage student discipline and prevent meltdowns; parents have options when it comes to helping their students successfully face big transitions and keeping up a sense of play at home.
According to representatives from TLC Learning Center, “Children increase their independence and strengthen their social and emotional development through peer interactions and play-based learning.” Preschool is a critical time to build those strong skills, a time that calls for a diverse approach to learning and curricula. “(It’s a time to) teach reading, math and science exploration, and social skills, while also fostering a child’s cognitive and motor development.”
Making sure all of those lessons resonate takes a balanced approach, according to Carrie Riesberg, spokeswoman for the Thorne Nature Experience in Boulder. The school encourages joyful, hands-on, place-based environmental education experiences that foster an emotional connection to nature.
Riesberg said the key to a successful preschool experience is adjusting to the present moment, practicing kindness and always drawing on a deep store of patience.
“Avoid direct confrontation. It doesn’t help anyone,” said Riesberg, whose words reflect the expertise and input of the facility’s preschool staff, and spoke to the wisdom of incorporating play into every aspect of conflict resolution. “Instead, get creative by refocusing and making things a game instead of giving an order.”
Similarly, Riesberg said that letting preschool students learn important lessons sometimes means letting go. Parents and caregivers are understandably focused on controlling their child’s environment – it’s a natural instinct, especially when it comes to protecting one’s youngest and most vulnerable.
But preschool is the beginning of a long learning journey, and sometimes that journey necessitates lessons learned independently.
“Appropriate risks are important,” she said. “Learning how to navigate risk as a younger child helps us navigate larger risks as an adult.”
That’s not to say parents should cede control completely. It’s important to be involved. Learn about what’s going on in your child’s school. Interact with teachers. Play a role in the everyday and extracurricular life of the facility.
Most of all, find your own center of calm and focus to help your child through the journey.
“Ask for help,” she said. “Study conscious discipline, non-violent communication, meditate and go to therapy. We all need support.”
Finally, though preschool is the beginning of an academic journey, we’re still talking about kids younger than 5. They should retain a sense of wonder, freedom and play, even as they’re beginning to find their approach to learning.
“Kids learn through play. Play is important,” Riesberg said. “Make sure there’s lots of open space for kids to play on their own. If you feel like you’re always playing with your child, stop it. They need time to explore at their own pace.”
By Adam Goldstein for Raised in the Rockies