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Dr. Heather: Back in the “bad old days,” we didn’t have much understanding of early childhood development. Young children were seen as too little to learn very much and a haphazard approach to learning was used. How have things changed?
Dr. Susan: Thankfully, we know better now. We know that young children are learning in leaps and bounds, making trillions of brain connections before the age of three, and trillions more by the beginning of Kindergarten. So it’s important that they have the right learning environment, both at home and at school, to support that amazing process.
Faced-paced development means that your three-year-old will learn much differently at each “mini-stage” along the way. For instance, a three-year-old may still be working on holding a crayon, while a four-year-old might be starting to write a few letters. But a five-year-old is usually ready to tackle writing whole words neatly and consistently. A good preschool will support your child’s learning through all the mini-stages that he goes through while transitioning through these years.
Dr. Heather: I’m actually in the process of looking for a preschool for my almost-four-year-old. It’s been a little confusing, because she’s considered “late born” – an October baby. What are some of the new curriculum options for preschoolers?
Dr. Susan: You want the preschool to customize the learning experience for your child as much as possible, based on her age, strengths and needs. In our schools, we have a School Readiness Path that helps parents navigate the best options for their child. So early-born four-year-olds might go from preschool into Pre-K with the extra enhancement of Kindergarten Prep so they will be ready for Kindergarten in the fall. Late-born children might take an extra step from preschool to a Junior K before starting Kindergarten. There are different steps available now that we didn’t have before.
Dr. Heather: That’s interesting, because in the past, it was just “preschool” or “Kindergarten.” Now it sounds like there are many more options for the wide variety of kiddos who are in that important age range. In our last Q + A, we discussed the “soft skills” necessary for Kindergarten readiness. Are those addressed in different ways at the different stages in the School Readiness Path?
Dr. Susan: Yes, those skills improve in steps along the way too. So in Junior Kindergarten, we’re still working on helping children handle their strong emotions. But by Kindergarten, they’re ready for more independence in how to handle their feelings. Each incremental step has its own key goals and objectives. That makes for a great transition into Kindergarten.
Read Part 3 of our series here, where Dr. Susan and Dr. Heather will discuss what you can do at home to prepare your child for a successful Kindergarten experience.
Read more here for Kindergarten readiness tips. Post your question for the experts here!