The Importance of Pre-K

Feb 21, 2018 by

Have you heard people say that Kindergarten is the new first grade and that first grade is like second grade, and so on? That’s because the educational expectations of students in America are increasing at a rapid rate. Children are now expected to leave Kindergarten knowing how to read, fluently. Whereas, not that long ago, Kindergarten was designed primarily to teach socialization and lay the foundation for reading skills. With these increased educational demands, pre-K classes are almost a requirement, not an option.

With nearly 25% of children in America enrolled in some form of daycare or childcare, more students than ever are exposed to the benefits of early child education. It’s quite ironic, actually, considering many of the kids enrolled in daycare are there because both parents work and they require daycare services. The underlying benefit of exposure to early childhood education, socialization, and fine and gross motor skill development is an added bonus.

But what if you don’t need daycare services for your child? If you are one of those fortunate parents that are home for their child before and after school, do you really need to enroll them in pre-K classes prior to Kindergarten? It’s certainly something to consider and is strongly recommended for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few.

  1. Capitalize on Brain Development

Approximately 85% of a child’s brain development occurs before age five – the age when they enter Kindergarten. It seems counterproductive to wait until a child’s brain is nearly developed to begin teaching skills and introducing education. That’s one reason why enrolling your child in pre-K classes at the age of three or four is so beneficial to their overall cognitive development.

The experiences a child has before the age five greatly impact the person they become. These early experiences also help shape how your child will learn and develop in the future. Enrolling them in a preschool program helps to capitalize on the thousands of neurons that are firing and connecting in their brains at at this early, vulnerable stage in their development.

  1. Socialization

Another important element of entering school is socialization. Children that aren’t enrolled in daycare full-time have limited exposure to interacting with others. Even those brief encounters at the park, disagreement over who’s turn it is on the swing or sharing that shovel in the sandbox are opportunities for little ones to learn coping skills.

Small children are egocentric by nature, meaning they are focused only on themselves and their wants and needs. This is completely normal. But interacting with other children helps your child to develop sympathetic and empathetic tendencies. They learn how to share and act in accordance with the certain external expectations. In early social settings children also develop a sense of self. These are all skills that will serve them well in a more structured environment such as Kindergarten, and throughout their life.

  1. Early Reading/Writing Skills

As mentioned earlier, children are now expected to leave Kindergarten knowing how to read. Introducing the concept of letters, letter arrangement, phonics, and letter identification before entering school is a fundamental skill for children.

Though there’s continued debate over when children should be introduced to writing skills, most often they first begin to recognize the letters of their name. Most parents are singing the ABC’s with their children from a very young age. But it’s important to note that learning how to recite the ABC song is more about repetition than actual retention. In preschool, children learn the sounds of each letter and how to decipher between upper and lower case letters, however, most teachers focus on five senses activities for preschool.

They may also begin to form letters using pencils and other writing implements. There are varying opinions on when a child should begin holding a pencil and writing their name. Some researchers believe that a child’s hand is structurally not prepared to grip an adult size pencil before the age of five. But there are a variety of ways to begin letter formation in preschool, especially with the countless educational apps available on tablets and computers. These are also games and skills parents can reinforce at home. Writing skills will be further developed in Kindergarten, but as with any skill, introducing it to a child beforehand can benefit them greatly.

  1. Structure/Routine

Infants and toddlers are accustomed to a pretty relaxed schedule. Of course they follow an eating and sleeping routine, but as they progress into older toddler years, they often lack structure. It’s important to introduce a schedule to children as early as possible. Children thrive on routine. They like to know what’s coming next. This helps them to feel safe and secure.

Beyond their feeding and napping schedule, children will soon enter a school environment that is based completely around schedules and structured activities. Their mornings will likely start with some sort of meeting or circle time, followed by free play, seat work, specials such as music and art, lunch, and recess. Introducing your child to this type of regimentation before they enter Kindergarten will only reinforce the concept of structure and help them to adjust more easily.

  1. School Setting

School is not home. No matter how hands-on a parent might be, there is no replacement for a school setting. At school your child will learn a long list of skills from self-control and spacial awareness to independence and responsibility. These are skills that can be reinforced at home, but exposing your child to a school setting early on will only benefit them once they enter public school.

A school environment also means obeying, respecting, and relying on adult figures that aren’t mommy or daddy. These are important social connections for children to make. A child’s self-confidence and independence are tested and developed in school. They learn responsibility and coping skills. Introducing children to the school dynamic before entrance to Kindergarten can help with this. Another factor to consider is that most Kindergarten programs run for a full day, which can range anywhere from six to eight hours. Preschool programs are often anywhere from three to four hours. This is a great way to help prepare children for a full day of school, away from home.

Understanding Expectations

It’s important to foster children’s skills through developmentally appropriate practices. This means working on skills that are appropriate for a child’s age, mentality, and physical development. There are just some concepts and skills that a child is not prepared for before a certain age.

Following a child’s natural queues of curiosity and exploration can act as a roadmap for their development. Though pre-K classes are still a choice, they may soon become mandatory. And by understanding the countless benefits that preschool classes offer to new students entering Kindergarten, it’s pretty clear why.

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