Much of a child’s perception of school, as well as social and academic strengths and weaknesses, are developed in the space between pre K and first grade. It’s a difficult time for child and parent, full of challenges that can often be hard to navigate alone. On top of that, between the ages of four and seven, a child’s brain is developing how they operate emotionally, socially and physically. This is an important time when children establish critical thinking skills, begin to develop a sense of independence, and obtain critical background knowledge to assist them in making sense of their world.
While every student is different, there are a few helpful ways that parents can assist their child in forming healthy response mechanisms to the world around them. Here are a few tips and exercises you can do with your child to stimulate their cognitive skills.
1. Develop numerical thinking. A great way to advance your child’s counting and measuring skills is to make everyday activities into fun mathematical experiences. Have your child stack their toys to measure the height of the dining room table, count the number of items in your shopping cart at the store, or help you measure out ingredients for a baking recipe. Establishing these habits in your home, an environment where learning is fun, will help your child naturally continue to think in numbers — a good skill to have at any age.
2. Familiarize your child with their neighborhood. Take a walk down the street, wave hello to your neighbor, visit the local grocer and the postman. It’s important that kids get a sense of their surroundings and how the world around them operates. Getting granular and starting in your hometown can help them better understand the world at large later.
3. Get them hooked on reading. To fine tune the skills required to be a good reader, play rhyming games with your child. Work on word scrambles and searches together. Read to your child. Let them see you reading. Ask them to read you a bedtime story. “You want to create a literature-rich home environment where children see that reading is fun and a part of everyday life,” explains Dr. Terrance Malone, Head of Lower School at Episcopal Academy. “When your child asks you to read them their favorite bedtime story, celebrate that. Children gravitate toward familiar books because they get to know what will happen next in the story and that provides them a sense of security. The repetition of the story also supports development of their recall and comprehension skills.”
4. Talk openly about touchy subjects. Oftentimes, the pre K classroom is a student’s first exposure to diversity and naturally, they will have questions. Know how to talk to your child about differences. When your child has a question, provide your answer in simple, sensible terms that reflect character. “It’s important to celebrate differences, keep conversations positive, and help our children understand that differences make the world a better place,” shares Dr. Malone. “Building the important skill of empathy while our children are young will help them immensely in the future.” Dr. Malone also suggests that your child’s teacher can be a great resource to help you through your discussions.
5. Get creative. Provide your child with the tools and resources to express themselves. Use arts and craft projects, disposable cameras, drawing and coloring exercises to introduce your kids to a wide range of the arts. Studies have shown that art can have a big impact on your child’s brain development and future academic success. And, it’s fun!
Visit The Episcopal Academy this fall to meet the faculty and learn more about their approach to early child development.