Summer is upon us, with a flash of heat waves and school being out, or almost out, all over the country. I don’t know about you, but every change of season brings the promise of new opportunities. Growing up, at the beginning of each season my mom always asked my sister and I, “So girls, what are your goals for this…”. Now that I have an almost four year old, one of my biggest goals is to help my son retain what he learned at preschool this year and to prepare him for a great school year starting in the fall. In that spirit, here are 10 ways to get your preschooler ready for school.
Remember & Put Into Action the Teacher Recommendations
If asked, all classroom teachers have a list of things parents can do to prepare their students for school in the fall and keep them academically fresh over the summer. Your child’s school may send a list of recommendations home. If not, take the initiative, contact your child’s school, and ask. The most important thing for us parents is that we take the school’s recommendations seriously and help our kids follow them.
Embrace the Flexibility of Summer Without Throwing Out a Routine
Yes, we want our kids to learn to be flexible and go with the flow, but don’t completely throw out the concept of a daily routine. After five years of teaching elementary school and almost four years of parenting, I have yet to encounter a kid that does not benefit from the security and structure of a routine. Since my kiddos are still quite little, meals and nap time determine our routine. To cut down on fights over screen time, I’ve made “shows” a part of the routine: one or two shows in the morning and a show after rest… that’s it. Personally, I find having a loose routine every day helps us better use our time. In the end you have to find what works best for you.
Take Books Beyond the Bedroom and into the Play Room
Books have always been play things in my house. Of course we read stories at bedtime to help my kids wind down, but books are also an important part of play time. I suggest having a library book basket in your living room. Let your kids choose their own books and make those books accessible at home.
If your children aren’t showing any interest, simply get on the floor with them and start reading a book out loud while they play around you. They’ll hear the stories and I bet you’ll have a lap full before you put the book down.
Participate in at Least One Structured Activity Over the Summer
There are seemingly endless life skills a child can learn in structured settings outside the home: navigating social encounters, recognizing other adult authority, listening to directions, controlling impulses, etc. Such activities also present opportunities for children to discover new interests and be exposed to new things. Some of my favorite activities are: story time at the public library, VBS, and swim lessons. Still I must caution you not to over do it with the activities over the summer… it’s called “summer break” for a reason.
Seek Out Play Dates
Interpersonal skills don’t magically occur in our kids. They need opportunities to play with other kids. With school out, you may need to create space for this to happen. As a kid I remember walking to my friends’ houses, ringing the doorbell, and asking “can _____ play?” If you live in a neighborhood where your kid can do that great! If not, make it a habit to occasionally get on the phone and invite some of your kid’s friends over for a play date.
After the first month or so summer break seems to drag on and on. Perhaps it’s my inner elementary teacher geeking out, but there’s nothing like a fun theme to freshen things up. Be creative or let your kids help you think of activity themes. Here are some ideas to get you started: colors, animal group, a favorite book or movie, places, a letter, a number, jobs, etc. With a visit to your public library and a little help from Pinterest you can find a week’s worth of books and activities for the whole family.
Keep Academic Skills Fresh with Play, Songs, and Crafts
As Mr. Rogers said, “play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” Independent play is great, but investing 15 minutes of your time in some intensional activities will help keep them fresh and fill their little love tanks as well. It could be as easy as a trip to Michael’s or a couple of minutes on Pinterest.
When it comes to learning, variety is truly the spice of life so try to think multi-sensory when selecting activities. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Counting or sorting toys as a part of an imaginative game
- Sidewalk chalk for letter and number recognition
- Sing numbers and letters to the tunes of your favorite children’s songs
- Build letters and numbers out of play dough
- Scavenger hunts… the themes are endless!
- Measuring and counting while cooking or eating snack
Encourage Independence and Self Help Skills
This is an area I really have to hold myself accountable on. Heavens knows it’s SO MUCH FASTER to put my kids shoes and socks on, but constantly stepping in to help robs my kids of their independence. Instead, I try to use the line, you try first and then I can help. Moms, step back so they can step up. Trust me your child’s teacher will thank you in the fall!
Capitalize on Every Day Learning Opportunities
We’re constantly surrounded by learning opportunities. Keeping your kids school-ready requires intentionality, not a rigid homeschool program. Whether it’s counting cars on the way to the park or practicing color recognition with a quick game of “I Spy” while shopping for produce, capitalizing on every day learning opportunities can make the mundane more fun for everyone.
Soak Up Quality Family Time
A child’s family is their launch pad into the real world. Summer break is a golden opportunity for us to grow our kids confidence at home and set them up for success in the fall. While practicing skills in creative and fun ways is a great use of your kids’ summer break the most important thing you can give them this summer is YOU. So here’s to wishing you and your family a wonderful summer.
Wife, work at home mom, and bassoonist, Laura Ankrum lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Prior to the arrival of her two children Laura taught elementary music and band in the Boston area. Now her home is her classroom and music studio. Laura is passionate about education, encouraging other moms, and eco-friendly living. She is the social media coordinator at Thirsties Inc and regularly contributes to First Time Mom.