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Five Ways to Prepare for PreK Beyond Academics

When it comes to getting ready for PreK or kindergarten, parents often focus on the ABCs and 123s. But can your children cut with scissors? Do they know their name and birthday? How do they react when they build a tower and it all falls down?

A successful start to school depends on more than academics, and summer is the perfect time to work on developing skills that will make it easier for young students to learn and interact in a school environment. On the advice of Corbett Prep prekindergarten teachers, here are five fun and low-stress ways to prepare for the first day of school.

Fine tune fine motor skills. Put out the Play-Doh, pour Legos on the floor or hand over safety scissors—and let your child get to work. The pincer grip (thumb and index finger) gives students the dexterity to turn pages, write and draw, zip zippers and fasten buttons. Corbett Prep PreK3 teachers Kristen Fields and Lauren Fopp suggest using household items or small toys to develop this grip. Ask children to pick up small items with tongs or tweezers and sort them into piles or different containers or have them water plants with a spray bottle. Squeezing levers or manipulating tongs helps kids practice their pincers and build muscles to help with holding, grasping and performing other tasks.

Practice independence. Encouraging independence may be harder on parents than kids. It’s tempting to do everything ourselves when we’re short on time. Although teachers are always willing to help kids, knowing how to perform simple tasks on their own benefits students in school settings. Have your little ones try to put on shoes and socks themselves. Teach them to work buttons. Allot additional time at meals so kids can get used to opening containers, pushing a straw into a juice box or maneuvering utensils.

Summertime is also a good opportunity to review personal information with your child. Do they know their full name? Can they recite the day and month of their birthday? Do they know their parents’ real names? This information is important for your child’s safety and also helps them act independently in class.

Mess up. Go ahead and make mistakes. Yes, your kids are watching, and that’s what’s so good about it. When parents model positive ways to handle errors, they show their kids that goofing up is part of life. What matters is how you correct mistakes and move on. Young children can be hard on themselves, prekindergarten teachers say, so it’s important for parents to point out that adults aren’t perfect and show kids the steps they take to make amends or forgive themselves.

Let them play. Different types of play offer different benefits. Independent play lets imaginations run wild. Children look at an empty box or a pile of Lincoln Logs and think, “I wonder what I can make with this?” They exercise creativity, practice problem solving and learn resiliency as they figure out what they want to do and how to do it, says Corbett Prep PreK4 teacher Kathryn Smith Rouse. Resist the urge to jump in with your own solutions when they hit roadblocks. Offer guidance without instructions or leave the pile of toys out for another day for your kids to discover new inspiration.

Playtime with other kids is valuable, too. While board games teach children about taking turns, following directions and being a good sport, unstructured pretend play increases empathy and communication skills. Pretending with others helps children form and understand relationships by interacting as imagined characters and working out conflicts themselves. Listening and communication skills improve when kids alternate inventing games and swapping ideas about scenarios to role play.

Mirror a school day. We all love the summer vacation mindset of lazy mornings and unscheduled days. But your transition to the fall will go smoother if you spend a few weeks before school starts following a schedule similar to PreK or kindergarten. Gradually begin getting up earlier and try to align lunch, snack and rest time with your family schedule. It will make the adjustment to school much easier.

More than anything, have fun with your child this summer. Fill their “love cup,” says teacher Smith Rouse. Listen to audiobooks in the car, follow their lead at playtime, bake together, help them learn about their favorite topics—and just talk with them. Sharing experiences and conversations shows children they are important to their parents and builds their confidence. Happy children turn into happy students, who have the right mindset to love learning and are ready for success when classes begin.

*Presented by Corbett Preparatory School of IDS

Originally published in July 2021

Courtney Cairns-Pastor
Courtney Cairns-Pastor
Courtney Cairns-Pastor is the Content Creator and Social Media Coordinator at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS. After 15 years as a newspaper reporter covering education, parenting, health and local issues, Courtney changed careers and now tells the story of Corbett Prep. During the week, she’s busy creating content about the private school and managing its social media. On the weekends, you’ll find her running on Bayshore, reading obsessively and cheering on the Tampa Bay Lightning. She lives in Seminole Heights with her husband and son.

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