Cheri M. Gioe | 9/23/2005 2:36:52 AM
Where kindergarten once marked the first school experience for many children, it now has been replaced by preschool, says LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.
Gioe also stresses parents and caregivers should work to make preschool a positive experience for children.
"Today’s preschool programs are yesterday’s kindergartens," Gioe says, explaining, "Many parents and educators believe that children must attend preschool in order to ‘keep up’ with academic expectations that are now commonplace in most kindergarten programs."
The LSU AgCenter expert says that while many parents are emotional about their "baby" beginning school, most children are eager to start. "Many have watched older sisters or brothers go off to school each day, and they are anxious to follow in their footsteps," she says.
While siblings may incite some of the anticipation, parents and caregivers play an integral part in making a child’s first school experience a positive experience, according to Gioe.
"A positive experience is important, because research indicates that early positive experiences in school predict future academic success," she says, adding, "The U.S. Department of Education’s Learning Partners Program suggests that the top three goals of any preschool program should be helping children learn to listen, helping children follow directions and helping children learn to get along in a group."
Helping children learn to listen and follow directions is often challenging for most parents, Gioe says.
"Many times, parents will ask teachers, ‘How’d you get him to do that?’" she says, adding, "Consistency and routine are the keys."
The child-care expert also says reading to your child every day sets a pattern for future learning. "The children begin to expect the special reading time, and listening to a story requires that they pay attention," she explains. "Reading to your child daily will also prepare him with the skills of prediction, comprehension and evaluation."
In preparation for getting along with a group of other children, it is important that children have social experiences.
"Ensure that your child is able to play with older and younger cousins or friends," Gioe says of one step you can take to help children with these experiences, adding, "You also can schedule ‘play dates’ with two or more neighbors or friends. Or another good practice is to enroll them in a tumbling or music class."
The LSU AgCenter expert also says it’s important for parents to talk positively about school.
"Discuss all the friends they will make and the activities they will be involved in," she says, adding, "And don’t forget to talk about ways that you as a parent can be involved, as well."
Another suggestion is to begin the school routine at home about two to three weeks prior to the start of preschool.
"Put children to bed at the bedtime they will have during the school year and wake them up at the time they would wake up," Gioe says of this routine. "Also, practice a typical morning from waking up and dressing to eating and departing for school."
If the preschool or the teacher does not schedule an orientation or special meeting time for you and your child, call and arrange a visit, Gioe advises, adding, "Be sure to take your children with you so that they can familiarize themselves with the teacher and the environment."
When school begins, allow children to bring items from home that help them to feel comfortable, safe and secure, Gioe says, adding that stuffed animals and blankets are easily stored if they are a distraction but also are perfect as a naptime pal.
"By following these simple tips, your child should have a positive preschool experience," Gioe says.
Contact: Cheri Gioe at (225) 578-6701 or firstname.lastname@example.org