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Parents can also be preschool teachers



Preschool has its advantages, but learning starts at home


Education does not start in first grade or even in kindergarten. To set your child up for success at any age, look at every day as an opportunity to learn. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to give your child a head start. When it comes to learning, you just need to support your child’s curiosity and have the patience to explain concepts.

One of the recommendations made in the report by the National Research Council (NRC) is to form early childhood education partnerships between family and community programs to equip them to work together in promoting preschooler’s math. “Parents, in their desire to do the right thing, can get wrapped up in math and science but it doesn’t take fancy equipment,” says Kimberly Brenneman, Assistant Research Professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). “Everything they need, they most likely have.”

READ MORE: Preschool programs provide advantages that go into adulthood


Brenneman recommends parents be on the lookout for opportunities. Set-up a situation, like skills reasoning by playing with blocks. Ask your preschooler why the blocks didn’t fall over, what’s on top, under, next to, which shapes work well for building. She also reminds parents to have fun and get excited. She says not to worry about having every answer, but to explore and investigate together.

 

“Support your preschooler’s natural curiosity by exposing them a wide variety of experiences,” offers Goldin. “Encourage them to find answers to questions and build knowledge by taking a hands-on approach to problem solving. Take them outside and have them explore their environment.”

 

Advantages to early learning and preschool

 

While some programs are succeeding at emphasizing math and science, there is still a large gap within most preschool settings. Parents also have a great potential for influencing the experiences their children have with math and science, but must make an intentional effort toward making this happen. The result of education through everyday experiences coupled with intentional instruction in these subject areas may result in benefits far down the road for children who experience them as preschoolers.

 

“I think the research clearly points out that early development in mathematics and science skills do have an ongoing impact on the achievement of preschoolers as they progress to elementary school and beyond,” says Karen Bell, Associate Dean of the School of Education at SUNY New Paltz. “A strong foundation should be developed.”


READ MORE: Learning through play is one great advantage of preschool

No Special Equipment Required: 5 easy ways to expand your preschooler’s math and science experience

 

It doesn’t take fancy equipment or a trip out of town to take math and science to the next level with your preschooler. Here are some suggestions for parents looking for easy ways to expand science and math concepts with their child based on recommendations from Karen Bell.

 

Go beyond simply asking your child to identify circles, squares, and triangles, says Bell. Examine the characteristics or attributes of the shape, such as number of sides, number and types of corners and how shapes are related to each other.

 

It is important to show children that items can be classified in many different ways and to allow preschoolers to find their own ways to link things together. What about organizing a collection they already have? Dolls. Cars. Action figures. Sort the objects by a particular attribute (i.e. color, shape, size, etc). And then do it again with different selection criteria.


READ MORE: Is your preschooler acting out?

 

Math talk is extremely important. Graphing activities can be used to promote observations about comparisons that are then discussed. Young children can be encouraged to design their own surveys, report their findings and organize data in a way that makes sense to them. Children can create a survey to ask their family about their favorite foods, activities and interests.

 

Acting out stories and drawing pictures can be used to develop early problem solving skills involving numbers and operations. Link number activities to children’s literature and stories. The next time you read a bedtime story, ask your child what problem was trying to be solved in the book and if they would have solved it a different way.

 

Children are natural scientists and play can provide a venue for observations and investigations. Parents and teachers have to let go and allow for free exploration. And, if you don’t have the answer as to why grass is green or the sky is blue, look up the answer together.

 

Janine Boldrin is a freelance writer who lives in West Point, NY with her husband and three children.