Growing and learning with preschoolers

How children learn

Children are natural learners. They learn best when they are happy and when they have interesting things to do and safe places to do them.

The first and most important learning experiences happen in the family. Children learn from what they see, hear and do in the family and the wider community.

Parents and family members are in the best position to know what their children can do and what they enjoy. Children learn from:

  • watching
  • listening
  • asking
  • trying new things
  • and, very importantly, practising the skills they have learned.

Children do best where they feel loved and safe. Parents and families will be doing the best that they can for their children's learning by spending time with them and encouraging them to try new things.


Helping at home

While you are carrying out your everyday tasks at home let your children help you do things that they can manage and talk about what you are doing together. Don't expect young children to always want to do these things, there are many times when children enjoy making up their own games.

Food Preparation

Preschoolers learn by trying and doing and asking.
Preschoolers can:

  • spread sandwich fillings on bread or crispbreads - cream cheese, butter, honey
  • sprinkle other toppings on bread such as sultanas or grated cheese
  • use biscuit cutters to make interesting shaped sandwiches
  • choose vegetables for salad or soup
  • cut or grate vegetables
  • look through recipe books to find different types of meals
  • help to plan meals (eg choose what they would like to eat sometimes).


Playing outside

PreSchoolers can:

  • feed pets and clean out cages/pens with help
  • feed chooks and collect eggs
  • wash the car (with help!)
  • rake up leaves
  • draw on paths with chalk
  • paint on paths, walls or fences with water
  • kick a big ball with you
  • plant some bulbs or seeds
  • make cubby or tree houses. Old cardboard boxes make good cubbies. You may have materials such as floorboards to make a stronger cubby or tree house
  • jump over cracks in the pavement, or into puddles
  • count the number of steps the tree, to the post box, to the shop, to the fence post or gate
  • play "I'm thinking of something of something which is....(red, tall, on the road, etc)"
  • walk on their toes, heels, backwards, sideways, with giant steps, with tiny steps.


Playing with water

Always supervise your child when playing with or near water.

In the bath

  • Have some toys which float and sink in the bath.
  • Make bubbles.
  • Play in a paddle pool with supervision.
  • Fill and empty different jugs and pots.
  • Use an old paint brush and container of water to "paint" the house, fence, path etc.
  • Help water the garden.

At the shops

  • Look at and talk about different types of shops and what we buy in them.
  • Look at and talk about signs, eg stop signs, walk signs, parking signs etc.
  • Talk about safety at the shops, waiting for the bus, and in carparks.
  • Choose shopping items together.
  • Encourage your child to read labels and to find things that are on your list. He may need help at first.
  • Count the fruit or vegetables as you both put them in a bag or ask your child to choose you a yellow apple or a red apple (if you want them).
  • At the checkout let your child unload some of the items from the trolley.
  • Sometimes allow your child to pay for an item and talk about paying money for things.
  • Give your child a bag of shopping to carry.

Developing imagination

Preschoolers have very good imaginations - you need to provide the "props". (Let your preschooler include you in the game; let her choose who you will be, shopper, police officer, handsome prince, wicked witch etc.)

  • Empty boxes and packets for playing shops.
  • Large cardboard boxes for making cars, boats or houses.
  • Clothes, hats, shoes, handbags for dressing up (boys and men's clothes too).
  • Cardboard or paper, chalk, textas or pencils and sticky tape for making labels and signs.
  • Plastic bowls, an old saucepan, cups and spoons for playing 'house'.
  • Plastic garden and shed tools.
  • A picnic rug and hamper.
  • A broom to use for a horse or witch's broom.
  • Building blocks for making buildings, vehicles, roads, robots, spaceships etc.


Preparing for kindy, child care or starting school

Before going to kindy, child care or starting reception it is a good idea if you help your child to settle in better by teaching her :

  • To dress herself
  • How to recognize her name
  • How to put away her toys
  • How to share with others
  • How to look after pencils, crayons and how to put them away again
  • How to put rubbish in the bin
  • How to sit and listen and take her turn
  • How to 'read the pictures' in a story you are reading with her and talk about what might happen next.
  • How to hold a pencil or crayon

Put her name on everything and get her to find things with her name on.


Importance of Preschool

Importance of Preschool:

Preschool Teachers Help Build The Future

 I hope this has helped anyone who is thinking about placing their child in preschool or already has their child in preschool and that it will better help you understand its importance not only on the child's life, but on society as a whole. Preschool teachers, in my opinion, are the world's unsung heroes. They do an extraordinary amount of work and good for our world as our children are any country's greatest asset. We are building the future together. A quality preschool education can be one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child.

Brain development is highest during the first four years of life. The brain is forming important neural paths to help develop the child's ability to perform and function and learn well. Children are able to learn at a rapid rate and want and need to learn new information. I've heard so many teachers and parents remark that at this age their child's brain is like a sponge.

Their brain absorbs information and stores it, often feeling saturated with new input (another important reason your child needs at least 10 hours of sleep). But that is precisely one of the functions of the brain. Your child can benefit immensely when interacting in a quality preschool which is content rich with appropriate information and materials.

Parents often hear of the importance of play in preschool. But playing with dolls and blocks seems to have little to do with the academic knowledge that children will need to succeed in kindergarten. So why is it so important?

Play is the foundation for all learning for young children, and giving your child the time and a few basic toys can provide her with a variety of valuable learning opportunities. “Play is how children begin to understand and process their world,” says Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over 20 years. “Children's play unlocks their creativity and imagination, and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation for learning.”

Why is play so important and what do preschoolers learn when they play? Try a few of these simple ideas with items you have around your house and learn about the educational benefits that each can provide for your child.

Imagination and Creativity:

In our fast paced and high tech society, children have fewer and fewer opportunities to use and develop their creativity. Children who are not given frequent opportunities to play may have a difficult time entertaining themselves as they simply do not know what to do without instruction. By providing opportunities for open ended play, your child will automatically get her creative juices flowing, and the possibilities are endless.

Dramatic Play. provide a few props such as dishes and play food, empty food boxes and a cash register or stuffed animals and a doctor’s kit, and your child will be transported into a different place! Watch and be amazed at what she will come up with as she plays.

Craft Supplies. Without a specific project complete, provide your child with a variety of craft supplies such as markers and crayons, scraps of fabric or paper, empty boxes or containers, glue, buttons and stickers. Allow her to create anything she likes and watch her inner artist emerge!

1. What's the difference between childcare and preschool?

Childcare centers are generally an option for working parents who need their children to be taken care of during the day; centers accept babies as well as toddlers and are full-time, full-year programs. Preschool refers to an early-childhood educational class for 3- and 4-year-olds. Many offer a part-time schedule (for example, a few hours a day, two to five times a week) as well as full-day care, but only from September to May. Yet the terms are often used interchangeably. A childcare center with experienced, well-trained teachers and stimulating activities offers kids similar advantages to a preschool. "In fact, many preschools are part of childcare programs," says Linda Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. 

2. How important is preschool?

"There's increasing evidence that children gain a lot from going to preschool," says Parents advisor Kathleen McCartney, PhD, dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "At preschool, they become exposed to numbers, letters, and shapes. And, more important, they learn how to socialize -- get along with other children, share, and contribute to circle time."

Statistics show that a majority of kids attend at least one year of preschool: According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), more than two-thirds of 4-year-olds and more than 40 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled in a preschool in 2005. "Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not," says NIEER director W. Steven Barnett, PhD.

In fact, educators have so recognized the importance of giving kids some form of quality early education that about 40 states now offer state-funded pre-K programs.

3. What will my child learn?

In addition to strengthening socialization skills -- how to compromise, be respectful of others, and problem-solve -- preschool provides a place where your child can gain a sense of self, explore, play with her peers, and build confidence. "Kids in preschool discover that they are capable and can do things for themselves -- from small tasks like pouring their own juice and helping set snack tables to tackling bigger issues like making decisions about how to spend their free time," says Angela Capone, PhD, senior program manager at Southwest Human Development's Arizona Institute for Childhood Development, in Phoenix. "Plus, 4- and 5-year-olds have begun asking some wonderful questions about the world around them -- what happens to the water after the rain? Do birds play? Quality preschools help children find answers through exploration, experimentation, and conversation."

4. But what about learning his ABCs?

"Young children can certainly learn letters and numbers, but to sit kids down and 'teach' them is the wrong way to do it," says Smith. "They learn best through doing the kinds of activities they find interesting -- storytime, talking to their teachers about stars, playing with blocks." To help kids learn language and strengthen pre-reading skills, for instance, teachers might play rhyming games and let kids tell stories. Keep in mind that for small children, school is all about having fun and acquiring social skills -- not achieving academic milestones. "Kids need to be imaginative and to socialize -- that's what fosters creative, well-rounded people. It's not whether they can read by age 4 or multiply by 5," says Flynn. An ideal curriculum? Parading around in dress-up clothes, building forts, and being read to.

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