As the early childhood and early literacy consultant at the Macomb Intermediate School District, JoAnne Elkin understands how important it is for children to have a high-quality preschool education.
“Children who attend preschool achieve better reading, writing and math skills than those who do not,” Elkin says. “Primary long-term effects of early care and education include higher rates of high school completion, attendance and employment.”
A high-quality preschool program can help improve a child’s communication skills, literacy skills, school readiness and more. For parents hoping to enroll their children in preschool for the 2020-21 school year, read on for ways to prepare your little one for preschool at home.
Skills to master before preschool
Elkin suggests working on independence and social skills with your child prior to preschool.
To foster independence in your child, which includes washing their hands and opening their own lunch, Elkin suggests parents “follow a routine at home, such as always washing hands before eating. Give your child an easy chore such as putting away his or her laundry. Encourage your child to do something new, such as preparing a simple snack.”
Simple chores help children gain confidence and learn responsibility. Chores can include putting away toys, cleaning up after a snack and making the bed.
When it comes to socializing, give children the opportunity to interact with family members or friends as a way to practice talking and listening.
Encourage your child to talk and listen by talking about what you’re doing and what your child is doing. Expand on what your child says, she suggests.
“Ask questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer,” she says, such as “Why do you think?” “I wonder why that happened,” or “Can you tell me about what you are making?”
Read aloud to your child, too, which is a great way to introduce new words, she says. “Ask questions about the story and allow your child time to respond.”
Creative ways to learn at home
Put the technology away and kick it old school by playing a board game together, Elkin suggests. This is just one way families can help kids learn and prepare for preschool at home.
Elkin’s other suggestions include:
- Read a book to your child while he or she draws a picture to go along with the story – or simply act out the story together.
- Build basic language skills by rhyming simple words such as “cat,” “rat” and “sat” or singing nursery rhymes.
- Do a scavenger hunt around the house to find things that come in pairs (such as socks).
- Predict what will happen when you mix together different colors.
- Count the number of red cars, for example, that you see while on a walk together.
- Visit a local park, farm, library or museum.
- Go for a nature walk.
Choosing a preschool program
While the application process differs from preschool to preschool, Elkin says parents may be asked to bring specific documents based on the program’s policy.
“These may include a birth certificate, current physical signed by a doctor/immunization record, copy of the parent/guardian driver’s license and sometimes income verification if the program is based on income,” she says.
Most programs, she adds, start doing enrollment in the spring for the upcoming school year. Parents should start filling out applications around March or April.
If you’re still not sure which preschool to pick, there are some things to consider when making your decision. Elkin suggests considering the following:
- Location of the center. It is close to your home or work? Is that important to you? If so, take the preschool’s location into consideration.
- Before- and after-care. “Check to see if the preschool offers child care services before/after the preschool session,” she says, “if that is something you will need for your child.”
- Type of program. “There are several types of preschool programs. Head Start and The Great Start Readiness Program are income-based and no-cost to eligible families. Private preschools will charge a tuition,” she says.
- Education philosophy. “Parents will want to consider the educational philosophy behind the preschool program,” she says.
- Ask for help. Ask friends or relatives about their experience with the preschool program you’re considering. Visit the Great Start to Quality website to look up the program, too. “This will allow you to understand the different types of care available for your child, and to know the criteria a program needs to meet,” she says.
For more information on the Macomb Intermediate School District, visit the MISD website.