Balls, Blocks, Books, and Babies: Preschool Education
I once asked an expert on early childhood what I should get a preschooler for a birthday gift, she answered, “Go with the ‘B’ gifts, you can’t lose with those.” I asked her what the “B” gifts were. She said balls, blocks, books, and babies. I have to say she was right. Those are always a hit with the urchins.
With the academic skills pushed down to younger and younger students, we need to be a line of defense for our little ones. Parents, don’t get trapped into thinking your students need to be on the computer, or memorizing numbers and the alphabet a very young age. It’s far more important for 3 and 4 year olds to be having sensory experiences, imaginative play, large motor development and an opportunity to solve real problems in a safe environment.
Instead of studying academics, preschoolers need to be building forts out of cardboard boxes and playing dress-up. Parents, use this precious fleeting time to teach them with hands-on, minds-on experiences. Take them to the grocery store with you. Help them recognize specific fruits and vegetables. Talk about the colors and shapes you see. Develop their vocabulary in a meaningful way with tactile experiences. They are not ready for abstract learning until age five or six. In fact, many children are not ready to completely understand abstract concepts until they are seven.
I feel sad when I see a young mom jogging along pushing her baby in an umbrella stroller. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad she is out there jogging and with her baby. However, far too often she is in her own world listening to music or talking on the cell phone. On the other hand, when I see a young mom stopping to interact with her little one—pointing out bugs or smelling flowers, looking at clouds or airplanes in the sky—I beam. I know that little one is getting a tremendous boost in this world. Wee ones and preschoolers are little sponges, soaking up enormous amounts of information first hand.
Parents, when you see ads that encourage you to teach your four year old to read, run the other way. It’s not that they can’t learn to read, it’s just that it’s not the best way for them to be using this amazing time in their lives. Once they start school, your opportunities with them are more limited. That’s when they will be focused on academics. You can’t go back and redo these special years. Take full advantage of them now.