By the time their children start preschool, many parents have big plans for their bright academic futures. But early reading, writing and math skills are actually less important than developing the social and emotional skills needed to cooperate, pay attention and be motivated to learn -- all of which are key to future success in life as well as school.
Like many parents, Anne-Marie Nichols of Longmont, Colo., was concerned that her four-year-old daughter might not be challenged enough in preschool. “At first, I was worried that Lucie might be bored,” she says. “She already has many of the skills that are taught in preschool. The joke is that she’d enroll in kindergarten tomorrow if she could.”
But Nichols understands the importance of having social skills along with academic smarts because of her experience with her older son. “Nathan is an innately good reader and speller, but he was sent home three times from kindergarten due to behavioral issues,” she says.
Skillful teachers will help guide young children in how to make friends, cooperate and cope with frustration. “If preschool only focuses on how quickly a child can learn facts and figures, he may be able to spit out answers in the short run but in the long run won’t have the confidence, interest or ability to apply those skills in new situations,” says Marilou Hyson, Ph.D., author of The Emotional Development of Young Children: Building an Emotion-Centered Curriculum (Teachers College Press) and former preschool and kindergarten teacher.
“We all know adults who are intelligent but lack the ability to collaborate with co-workers, maturely handle frustrations and follow through with projects,” says Hyson. “Ultimately, preschool teachers -- and parents -- should try to create a satisfied and balanced life.”
Here are steps you can take to help your toddler’s continued social learning at home:
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