“I did it myself!” Every time I hear this, it brings an immediate smile to my face. As a classroom aide, I spend 8 hours a day with 2-4 year olds, who learn about the world from their ‘work’. The work of play – of exploring, investigating, and questioning everything around them. Play doesn’t equal school readiness life skills though.
Or Does It?
What Skills Does My Child Need to be Ready for School?
At the start of the year, parents invariably ask “How can I help my child prepare for Preschool and Kindergarten? Should they know all their letters? How high should they be able to count?” We spend a lot of time talking with parents and assuring them that academic skills are not expected and not really age-appropriate for early learners.
Of course if your child is interested in numbers or letters and is openly investigating the sounds letters make, that’s great! This isn’t what school readiness really is though! The skills we would most like to see, and those we will build on every day at school, fall into the soft life-skills category.
Soft Life Skills
If your child can work with you or others to pick up toys when play is finished, and is able to work together with others to clean up a spill or get a task done, they will also have the ability to work willing with others on group projects in elementary school and beyond, and be team players in their first professional position, 20 years down the road. But let’s back up a couple of decades and talk about what it means to have soft life skills.
The life skills a Preschooler and Kindergartener needs to demonstrate for school readiness fall in to three basic areas –
1) Self-identity and independence
2) Social identity and empathy
In the area of self-identity and independence, it takes a lot of patience as a parent, but let your three year old put on their own clothing, head to toe – show them how to hold their socks open with both hands so they can successfully put them on. Show them how to pull a coat sleeve right side out before they put their coat on. They will take pride in being able to do these things themselves, and we will build on these skills at school.
Social identity – This is the tough one – we teach children how to insert themselves into play with another child – how to ask if they can share a toy – how to share the toy they have at the moment themselves – to understand how the other child feels when a toy is offered, or an invitation is made to come and play.
Community identity – We encourage children to learn to work as a team – The ‘many hands make light work’ concept. Let’s all pick up the Legos together so we can go outside! Let’s clean up the playdough so we can use our table for snack!
School Readiness Is:
A child that can take care of their own needs in clothing and in the bathroom. School readiness is a child that can give and receive toys and take turns. It’s a child that can work together with others on a group project. A child ready for school is a child who will be able to learn and build vocabulary, letter concepts and math skills. Since their basic needs are met, they have the ability to concentrate on new concepts as well as build the important friendships that will contribute to their self-confidence.
Put your school readiness preparation emphasis on these soft life skills, and together, at school and at home, we can both enjoy hearing “I did it myself!” with the joy that only young children can express!
Laurie Elliott is a life-long resident of the Quad Cities, and proud mom to 21 year old Christian and 18 year old Jessica. She works as a classroom aide in an area private school, and spends her free time in a number of pursuits, including sailing, kayaking, downhill skiing, hiking, biking, gardening and photography. She and her husband Steve in live in rural Blue Grass. She works at Rivermont Collegiate.