What does being ready for elementary school really mean? It used to mean starting the first day of school with all the supplies on the list, but now we know so much more about how young children’s brains develop. More and more parents are aware of the positive effects of a high quality early childhood education for their child’s success. This knowledge has also led to extra emphasis on acquiring academic skills. Experts suggest parents take a step back and look for programs with a balanced approach to school readiness.
“With young children, everything is connected: their minds, bodies and emotions; creativity, happiness, security and intellectual progress,” says Dr. Robert Needlman, author and nationally acclaimed pediatrician. “A balanced approach to readiness celebrates this reality about children. It’s our best hope for turning out students who can think, feel and act independently and effectively.”
Choosing a Preschool
Dr. Joanne Nurss, professor emeritus of educational psychology at Georgia State University in Atlanta and former director of the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy, has conducted extensive research and published numerous articles in the field of children’s literacy development. Dr. Nurss encourages parents to look for high-quality early childhood education programs with the following criteria:
• Physical Development: Is indoor and outdoor physical activity part of the daily schedule? With childhood obesity on the rise and research that shows that movement plays a role in early brain development, daily exercise such as running, stretching or even dance should be a part of the curriculum.
• Social-Emotional Development: Does the curriculum include programs specifically designed to nurture your child’s social and emotional development? Look for programs that promote an understanding of concepts like friendship, generosity and honesty.
• Creative Development: Are enrichment programs such as art and music woven into the day’s activities? Young children naturally engage in creative activity in their day-to-day thinking, but ongoing enrichment activities lay the foundation for later creative skills.
• Academic Development: Does the classroom teaching method go beyond basic memorization to encourage concept mastery? Academic success is not just about fact memorization. Learning how to think critically, use mathematical concepts and expand listening, speaking, reading and writing skills will help your child develop a love of learning.