School Readiness – How to prepare toddlers for preschool

I love my kids – the kids I nanny. Even though I’m not their parent, I still form a close, loving bond with them. 

Parents and nannies start to love and get attached to who their kids are right now. You never know who your kids will grow up to be, but you cherish your relationship as it stands. As your kids approach school age, should you push them to be ready for the next stages of their lives? 

What will they think if I push them too hard?”
“What will they do if I don’t push them hard enough?”

These sorts of fears fill every parent’s and nanny’s head. But, these are the thoughts that could stop you from properly preparing your children for the next stages of life. 

The fact is, change is a natural part of every child’s life. If you are not there to help them grow, they will not be ready to succeed in life. Even though your relationship will change as they become more independent, it will be for the better. You can help them grow to be healthy adults by ensuring they are physically and emotionally ready for school when the time comes. 

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What does my kid need to know to be ready for school?

Many preschools require your child to have developed certain skills before they qualify. Potty training is one of the most common. However, your child will reap the most benefit from preschool if they are socially, physically, and emotionally ready.

Physical Skills

When your child is away from you, they will need to learn to care for themselves, especially as they’re learning to play with others. If a child needs something but isn’t able to do it themselves, they will get frustrated (often wreaking havoc on others’ day). Here are a few skills that will help:

  • Hand washing
  • Nose wiping
  • Opening lunch containers
  • Manipulating zippers and buttons
  • Covering mouth

Social Skills

A key aspect of going to school is learning socialization. This can be difficult early on if the child is naturally shy, introverted, or has not been taught how to socialize. You, along with the parents, should endeavor to teach your kids these social skills while still at home.

  • Sharing
  • Taking turns
  • Playing with others
  • Participating in pretend
  • Manners

Emotional & Academic Skills

  • Independence
  • Self-Soothing
  • Memorizing Personal Information
  • Numbers
  • Letters
  • Colors
  • Shapes

When should I start preparing them?

It is never too early to start teaching your kiddos these skills needed for school readiness. Before actually speaking, a child is learning how to speak by listening to you and speaking baby gibberish. It may not seem like it, but they are learning how to form sounds, and what those sounds mean. 

Just as many parents speak to their babies from the day they are born (or even earlier), you can start preparing your kids for preschool through everyday routines. Speaking, playing, and leading by example, can all be used to casually develop your child’s abilities from the moment you meet them.

how can a nanny help with preschool prep?

For each type of skill, you need a different mode of development. Let’s look at a few ways that you can prepare your kiddos for school physically, socially, and academically.

Developing Physical Skills

Sign Language. Teaching your baby sign language will help them develop better finger dexterity. First, you’ll need to brush up on some sign language yourself. Then, make sure to sign what you’re talking about. If you’re talking about “milk,” point to the object and sign milk while saying it. Eventually, Baby will start to copy you. 

Self-Care. Show your kids how to do the basics. Start by being a good example of self-care. For instance, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly, put away your dishes, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and wear your clothes properly. Then, have them try to do the same.

Potty Training. Drink lots of water with your kid, to ensure they get as much practice as possible “listening” to their body. Every time you have to use the restroom, ask them if they have to go to the potty too. Read more about potty training HERE.

Dexterity Exercises. Have your kid practice writing their name. Show them how to properly hold a pen. Practice drawing basic shapes, squares, circles, triangles, or coloring in shapes. Get your kids ready for crafts by practicing holding safety scissors. You can start even earlier by having your kids play with homemade play dough or simple dexterity games. Set up activities that further push their dexterity. I have a ton on my boredom buster page. Linked here is a set of magnetic building blocks.

Developing Social Skills

Cleaning Up. Kids are going to make messes while they play. Something they need to learn for preschool is how to clean up afterward. Start by showing them where each item belongs. Ask them to help you and make it into a game. 

Manners. When introducing children into socialization, they must be prepared to have proper manners. Make sure your child knows when to use please, thank you, & excuse me – as well as the importance of not interrupting people. You can get them off to a good start through your example – show these respects to others yourself, especially around the kiddo.

Kindness. Help your kids learn how to share, play nice, and show consideration for others. You can do this by 1.) showing kindness to the child and 2.) verbalize the importance of showing kindness to everyone.

Listening. Help your child form a habit of listening attentively to adults. Cultivate this habit by regularly engaging them properly. Instead of yelling, get down on eye-level, make some positive contact (a shoulder touch, for instance), and tell them – with as few words as possible – what it is they need to hear. Doing this regularly will lengthen their attention span. 

Developing Academic Skills

Memorize Personal Information. Personal information, such as phone number, home address, their full name, and their parent’s full name, can be vital. It’s also important that certain medical information – such as their allergies – are made clear to the child. Work this information into their daily routine, and they will start to pick it up in no time. 

School Basics. Numbers, letters, colors, shapes should all be (somewhat) understood before getting to preschool. Take a few minutes each day to go over some of this information with your kids. Point to the subject and verbalize (or sign) what you’re talking about. Once they have a grasp on concepts, like numbers or shapes, ask them to count to a certain number, or draw shapes. This will help solidify the concepts in their mind and help you identify any gaps in their ability. Linked here are preschool learning blocks.

School readiness is hard. But, by starting early in life, and working these practices into your daily routine, your kids will be ready for school, whenever that time comes.

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