” A new study suggests that children develop critical learning-related social skills – including independence, responsibility, cooperation and self-regulation – as early as age 3, and that those social skills are important for early academic success once children get to kindergarten.”

Did you know that the best time to work on developing social skills is around 3 years old? Just the right age for preschool classes. While playdates and other social programs can help, and should be encouraged, preschool classes help with more than just social skills. Both preschool classes and at home support should be used to help your child grow and become ready for kindergarten.

Good preschool classes or pre-kindergarten classes will use tools such as visual schedules and timers to improve executive function skills. Group reading time helps identify emotions, improve listening skills, and improves concentration. Opening and closing self-story times encourage children to create timelines and helps to improve their communication. All of this encourages children to interact and build relationships all facilitated by play.

Library programs and other community events are also great ways to improve social skills and build executive function skills but they should be attended often and consistently.

At home is where the magic happens in relationship building between parents and siblings. Some simple things you can do at home to continue their learning process is to read a book together before bed every night, enjoy child-led conversations, and keep consistent, visual schedules.

Each morning the child should learn what is expected of them by using some form of a visual schedule with their parent’s guidance and a timer or clock to know when they need to be done each task by. This consistency makes mornings easier and helps the child build independence. Reading a book together before bed is also a great way to mark the end of the day and opens up some time for conversations.

Dr Dan Gartrell calls these talks “contact talks”;

“Contact talks build healthy attachment between an adult and child like nothing else can. They support the development of a child’s self-esteem, social skills, thinking skills, and language abilities (key capacities for school success). If contact talks take place during physical activities, they enhance physical development.”

While Dr Gartrell suggests various ways to include these talks, it’s important to accept that your time may be limited between work, school, and other commitments. The important thing is to make sure you have these relationship building moments even if they are grouped with another necessary activity, such as getting ready for bed.

While a good preschool program will help your child’s growth and kindergarten readiness, that can’t be the only way they prepare for the next stages of their life. The parents and teachers should be cooperating to offer the greatest level of support during the most important stages of development. One without the other is still great but can only take your child so far. If you are unsure what further support your child needs from you, ask the teachers directly working with your child and create a plan together.

It really does take a community to support the child and parents at every stage.

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