I’ve been asked a lot lately about what a preschooler or kindergartner need to learn and how to achieve that at home. What should be in a pre-school and kindergarten curriculum? I think the most important thing in terms of academics is a good familiarity with numbers and letters. There are two basic ways to reach that familiarity and comfort so a child can move on from recognizing the symbols to manipulating and interpreting them.
- Using them and talking about them in everyday life on a random basis as they come up.
- Formally learning numbers and letters with a program of some kind.
First reading to your child once a day either at nap time or school time or bedtime is extremely valuable. Take the opportunity to make some of the books into a conversation. For example,
“How many trees are on this page? Let’s count them.”
“Where’s something purple? What color is this ball? What shapes is the ball?”
“Do you see how all these letters are on the page? The letters have sounds and we put them together to make words. This word says ‘cat’. See c-a-t, cat. Let’s write your name.”
During your daily tasks spend a little time, just a moment or two each day will do, the more better though, talking about the task and helping your child to help you. Whether it is setting the table or picking up toys or finding vegetables in the garden. As they are drawn into the adult world, their minds and bodies will grow.
Now the formal part. I really don’t think you have to be too worried about finding the right curriculum at this age. Just about any grocery store or office supply store has workbooks for this age of kids and they are suited for the job. Pick one based on price and how colorful and varied the pages are. Work for as long (or short) as your child wishes, especially a the 3-4 year old range. As they reach 5-6 years you can begin to have requirements, like finish two pages of this workbook and then read with Mom. But really a ten or fifteen minute time period spent doing a workbook with a four year old is enough. Some days they may want to spend 45 minutes if they’re in the mood and you’ll be glad not every day is like that. When they finish one workbook, buy another of a different brand and repeat the same exercises in a new format. Kids need lots and lots of repetition and practice to memorize and decipher all that code.
Some non-school books and supplies that are valuable for this age are connect the dots, game books, mazes, puzzles, and just drawing and coloring or doing simple crafts. Enlist others to help by attending preschool reading time at the library, putting your child in a sport or group, or just attending a playgroup. Be careful to keep it minimal though, one or two activities a week is plenty. If you also have older children the young ones will join in and pick up tons of stuff you never thought possible as well.