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Is preschool enough?

Learn your role in teaching your child

Learn your role in teaching your child

Before entering kindergarten, kids should have several skills. But who teaches them all these things? Do they learn everything in preschool? And what should you, the parents, be teaching at home?

Prepare for kindergarten with games
"A successful preschool classroom will help to prepare a child for kindergarten," says Pam Seegler, executive director of Kid's Place in Beacon. "Children who feel confident with their abilities are always eager to explore the world around them. The role of a preschool teacher is to create an environment where children feel they belong and are cared about outside of their parents' arms."

Some of the skills that Kid's Place teaches include the art of taking turns in a group setting and developing fine motor skills through sensory play. "The use of play-dough helps to develop the muscles in their fingers that will be needed to properly grip a pencil for writing," says Seegler.

The students also learn how to count. "As a preschool teacher, I encouraged parents to play with their children to build their foundational skills for reading and mathematics," says Victoria Hill, M.S.Ed. who is a former preschool teacher at West Point and is currently a first-grade teacher in Middletown.

There are many games that Hill suggests parents do at home. "Engage children in multi-exchange conversations to build language and listening skills," she says. "Play games that require turn-taking to build patience and social awareness. Guessing how many steps, hops or skips it is from one place to another builds spatial awareness and counting skills.

Silly word games build an awareness of the sounds in language, which is a fundamental skill required for reading success."

However, Hill doesn't want parents to feel like they must drill skills all summer. "Just reinforce the foundational skills your children will need for long-term school success," she says.

Parents are reinforcement
Once they come home from school, the parents' job is to reinforce what the child has learned in school. "For example, preschool is often the first time that children are exposed to a variety of mediums used to create," says Seegler. "The role of the teacher includes modeling how to care for our supplies as well as using them properly."

At home, the role of the parents is to let them create and use the mediums they have learned about in school. Rana Qader's four-year-old daughter loves art, which will help her to reinforce what she learns once she attends preschool this fall. "We are always playing and reading books as well as doing arts and crafts," says Qadar, who also is mom to a two-year-old son.

Each month, preschoolers focus on a self-help skill too. "In the fall it begins with placing our items in our cubby. It helps children know where to find their personal items at the end of the day. As the weather turns cooler children will put on and take off their own sweaters and jackets. The next step of course is working the buttons and zippers. It is truly amazing to see how the children are able to complete these steps by themselves towards the end of the year."

Mom can fill in the gaps
Since preschool is not mandatory in New York State and what each preschool teaches may vary, parents can choose to reinforce or even fill in the gaps with what they don't feel their child is learning. For example, Danielle Lee Soto's eight-year-old daughter Elizabeth attended preschool where she learned her letters and numbers and began reading and writing her name.

"I felt that her preschool did a wonderful job with drilling in the numbers and letters, but I do not feel like reading was a top priority for them," she says. "As a parent, I wanted her to have more knowledge with reading, so I definitely felt like I had to fill that gap. I think, overall, an introduction to reading in pre-K should be standard and it's really not, yet they half expect kids to enter kindergarten with some reading knowledge."

Soto continued teaching and reinforcing her daughter's newly found skills at home even after she graduated preschool. "We started with tutoring the summer after kindergarten," she says. "I did a lot at home with her the summer before kindergarten with workbooks, grocery lists and anything she could write on," says Soto.

Another way of reinforcing what your child has learned at school is to simply let them help take care of the home. "Learning the art of cleaning up when you have finished using a space is very important in the preschool classroom," says Seeger. "At the start of a school year this is no easy task.  For many children, Mom and Dad clean up at home after them."

Make time for play
For some parents, learning is meant for school time. Kristen Lee believes that children have plenty of time to learn in preschool, so her son plays after school and during the summer. "I didn't do anything special after he came home from school," says the mom of four-year-old Sebastian. "In Pre-K, they learn to write their names, play nice, stay in line, listen to direction. His pre-K is full day, so that's a long day for a three or four-year-old."

READ MORE: Parents can also be preschool teachers

Ready for kindergarten without preschool
But not every child attends preschool so what should parents do at home for those who go straight to kindergarten? Nicole Petit didn't send her children to preschool, so she made sure to teach them how to write their names. "I did not want them to be behind because of teachers' assumptions that kids have school experience before kindergarten," says the Ulster County mom of a now six and eight-year-old.

Talk to the teachers and ask what your role should be and for additional ideas to reinforce what they are learning. A well-rounded education at home and school will help make the transition to kindergarten much easier.

Lisa Iannucci is a writer living in the Hudson Valley.