Ten Skills to Help your Child Thrive in Preschool

Reading Time at Preschool

Heading off to school for the first time evokes many different emotions in children. As a mom of four little sprouts, and having worked in a preschool program myself, I have seen this through both a parent’s and a teacher’s eyes.

I have observed that these ten skills help children thrive in a preschool setting. Do you want to help create a smooth transition for your preschooler this fall? Practicing these ten skills at home will give your child the confidence she needs to start the year well.

(And to all of the teachers out there gearing up for another year, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for all of your preparation and hard work; and thank you for training, supporting, and nurturing our children all year long!)

1. Take turns and share.

This is a struggle every parent has with their preschooler. Whether it is a sibling, a friend, or a child on the playground, sharing and taking turns is difficult for  three and four year olds; yet it needs to be taught. Set a timer to take turns, or give children a task, like a puzzle, to work on together. This helps them understand the concept of sharing, and gives them a chance to practice playing well with others.

2. Follow a schedule.

A simple schedule in any setting gives a child predictability, and helps them feel comfortable in their surroundings. They know what is expected of themselves, and what they can expect of others. For example, a child will he willing to sit still for a short time when he knows play time follows immediately afterward. Write out a simple schedule together with your preschooler, and talk about each event on the list as you follow it.

3. Practice separation.

This might be the most difficult challenge to overcome for a child who feels nervous about new things, or feels shy around new people. In my experience, a quick goodbye is better than a long one; and sneaking out only causes a child uneasiness. Have a play date with grandma or a friend. Talk with your child about leaving and then coming back. And let them know it is the same at preschool. Talking about these ten skills will also help your child know to expect when she arrives at preschool.

4. Listen quietly.

The expression ‘listening ears’ is a familiar one in the preschool classes I’ve been a part of. It is a great way to help kids know what they are expected to do – listen. Have your preschooler practice ‘putting on’ her listening ears to help her pay attention to what you have to say. Kids also need to know that good listening means being quiet. At dinner time, take turns listening to each other speak. If you haven’t already, teach your child to say ‘excuse me’ when they feel they need to say something while someone else is speaking.

5. Use the bathroom independently.

While potty training may already be a distant memory, preschoolers often need help using the washroom. Even if your child asks for help, encourage him to try it himself before you help him with it. Chances are he can undo the snap, or turn on the facet himself. Not only will he feel proud of his accomplishment, he will be more comfortable trying these things when you aren’t there to help.

6.. Keep organized.

Teaching your kids to be organized from an early age is something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Have a place for their backpack, lunch box, school papers, etc. Set a routine from day one by having your preschooler put their belongings away. Set out clothes the night before so your child can get ready independently; plan breakfast and prepare snacks the night before to make the morning as stress free as possible.

7. Sit still.

Sitting still is not easy for any preschooler. Even though it is difficult, it will get easier with practice! Giving clear guidelines will help your preschooler learn how to behave appropriately in circle time or quiet time. ‘Criss cross apple sauce’ is a fun way for kids to remember to cross their legs. Another guideline is to keep hands and feet away from friends. Practice being still while reading a book together.

8. Speak in public.

My kids have all experienced different degrees of feeling shy when speaking to adults. Preschoolers may struggle to make eye contact, speak clearly, or say anything at all when spoken to. Have your preschooler look into a mirror and practice answering questions with a sad face and then a smile;n then looking straight at the mirror, and looking down. Model different ways of speaking to your preschooler, and have her tell you which is the best way to do it. Then encourage her to do it too.

9. Help each other.

Just as it is important for a child to ask for help, it is equally important that a child learns to offer his help. This can be done by encouraging your preschooler to help you at home. When he begins to feel that he can help you, he becomes confident that he can help others. Teaching a child to acknowledge his own needs, and see the needs of others, will help your preschooler develop healthy relationships.

10. Use words to express feelings.

Pushing, pouting, hitting or crying are all ways a preschooler may still express her emotions. Teaching your preschooler to use words to express how she is feeling will help her control her emotions. It will also help those around her understand how best to help. If your preschooler hits her brother when she is frustrated, talk with her about the words she could use to express how she is feeling. If you haven’t already, be sure to teach ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘will you forgive me?’ as a part of coping with any negative feelings she will experience.

Which skills have you seen in your preschoolers that have helped them thrive academically, socially, and emotionally?


This post has also appeared over at Nourishing Joy’s: Thank Goodness It’s Monday #85.

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