When you think about preschool, you might conjure images of children playing games and creating crafts with classmates. Now that your own child is ready to enter pre-k, you may wonder what exactly she’ll be learning in between the games, snacks, and naps.
While pre-k may seem like mostly fun and games, pre-k teachers actually prepare your child for a lifetime of learning. They use games and activities as tools to encourage growth in the five domains of school readiness, as determined by the National School Readiness Initiative: language development, cognition and general knowledge, social and emotional maturity, approaches to learning, and physical development.
In preschool, your child’s vocabulary and language skills will develop and grow through everyday conversations with teachers and classmates. She will also receive formal language instruction from her teacher. Though she may not be learning to read just yet, your child will learn to recognize written language and learn phonological skills, such as recognizing rhyming words, listening for syllables, matching sounds, and basic letter recognition.
Cognition and General Knowledge
Cognition and general knowledge include your child’s thinking and reasoning, understanding how the physical and social worlds work, as well as his memory and problem-solving skills. Development in these domains take place through interactions with other people and with the surrounding world.
These skills are also taught formally in pre-kindergarten through basics like numbers and counting, measurement, and recognizing and describing shapes, objects, spatial relationships, and patterns.
Social and Emotional Maturity
In pre-kindergarten, your child will spend most of the day working together with his peers for the first time. From this interaction, he will learn how to get along with others, resolve conflicts, and practice social skills, such as sharing and taking turns.
Your child will gain emotional maturity in pre-k as he learns how to express his feelings to his teacher and classmates. Emotional maturity is essential to your child’s school experiences. Research shows that emotionally-mature students perform better throughout their academic years.
Approaches to Learning
In their first year of school, children discover how education works and learn to think of themselves as students. Through play and activities, your child’s teacher will encourage him to develop traits that will be beneficial, such as curiosity, initiative, and persistence. He will learn to follow directions, to work as part of a group, and to tackle challenging tasks without giving up.
Your child’s education is focused not only on her cognitive and emotional development, but on physical development as well.
Physical activities in pre-k are focused on both gross (large) motor skills and fine (small) motor skills. For gross motor skills, your child may play simple sports or games with her classmates. To encourage fine motor skill development, your child may participate in crafts, drawing, coloring, and other activities. She will develop her abilities to use scissors to cut along a line, pick up small objects, assemble puzzles, copy shapes, and stack objects.
Where Your Child is Heading
Pre-kindergarten is a time of growing and learning for your child, and by cultivating these skills in him or her, your son or daughter will achieve the ultimate goal of any pre-k program: being ready for the challenges of kindergarten the following year.
If you are looking for some books you and your child can read together about starting school, check out some of our suggestions: 7 Books to Read to Your Child About Preschool
Domain 7: Approaches to Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Headstart
Ford, K. (2010). 8 Strategies for Preschool ELLs' Language and Literacy Development. Retrieved from Colorin Colorado
News You Can Use: Foundations of School Readiness: Cognition and General Knowledge. (2013). Retrieved from Head Start
Nurturing Your Child's Emotional Development: Preschool through Adolescence. (n.d.). Retrieved from The University of Alabama
Reinsberg, K. (n.d.). What is Social-Emotional Development? Retrieved from AbilityPath.org
Stanberry, K. (n.d.). Understanding Language Development in Preschoolers. Retrieved from Get Ready to Read
Stanberry, K. (n.d.). Understanding Physical Development in Preschoolers. Retrieved from Get Ready to Read
What Kids Learn in Preschool. (n.d.). Retrieved from PBS