What Do Kids Learn in Preschool?

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      What do Kids Learn in Preschool?
      • Gross Motor Skills. Physical development starts with developing gross motor skills – the large muscles of the body. ...
      • Fine Motor Skills. ...
      • Early Mathematical Concepts. ...
      • Problem Solving. ...
      • Language and Vocabulary. ...
      • Pre-Writing Skills. ...
      • Listening Skills. ...
      • Musical Skills.
      Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
      • Names some colors and some numbers. video icon. ...
      • Understands the idea of counting. ...
      • Starts to understand time. ...
      • Remembers parts of a story. ...
      • Understands the idea of “same” and “different” ...
      • Draws a person with 2 to 4 body parts.
      • Uses scissors.
      • Starts to copy some capital letters.
      What Your Child Should Know by the End of Preschool
      • Identify name in print.
      • State first and last name.
      • Identify letters in name.
      • Sort objects by color, shape and size.
      • Understand sequencing (first, middle, last)
      • Rote count to 10.
      • Demonstrate one to one correspondence.
      • Count out objects from 1-5.

      From learning how to take turns to counting to 10, preschool is about discovery. By the time your child graduates from pre-K, they will have learned a lot. 

      The entire span of lessons and content that your child will be taught during the course of preschool education is what's known as the preschool curriculum.

      Depending on the preschool you choose and the early childhood education philosophy it follows, your child may explore a wide variety of academic, social, physical, and emotional lessons. 

      In addition to academics and social skills, many preschools also work on critical speech and fine motor skills.

      In some settings, preschools are also able to help children complete their toilet training.

      By the time they get to kindergarten, children who participate in preschool should be ready to speak in longer phrases and sentences, use a pair of scissors, follow instructions, and kick a ball.

      Preschoolers learn “pre-skills,” which lay the groundwork for the future. 

      Through their playing, singing and learning, preschoolers gain skills that ultimately help them learn to read, write, build their math and science skills, and become successful students. 

      Preschoolers also learn “school readiness” skills, which help them understand the routines of school, how to work in groups, and how to be students.

      Preschool classrooms are often organized by centers or areas that are divided by different subjects and types of play. 

      For example, a typical preschool classroom may have the following centers: reading, arts and crafts, water/sand table, building and math toys, and an area for pretend play. 

      The school day is structured with both time for free play, during which children can choose which centers to play in, as well as structured schedules devoted to each subject.

      Though it may seem like it, preschool is not all fun and games. In fact, preschoolers learn through fun and games! 

      Research has shown that the development of early literacy and math skills in preschool is associated with future school achievement in both mathematics and literacy. 

      Preschoolers are very enthusiastic about exploring the math and science concepts described below and these positive attitudes can also greatly contribute to their future success in school. In addition, as preschoolers move through their classrooms and manipulate toys, puzzles, and shapes, they develop important cognitive skills. 

      Your child's preschool days are filled with social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. 

      The cognitive skills learned at this stage—like basic counting and vocabulary—may seem simple, but they will set your kid up for a lifetime of knowledge. 

      Preschool also helps with the development of social skills and positive self-esteem. 

      If kids feel good about themselves and know how to feel proud even if they make a mistake, everything else will fall into place.

      Here are the important learning milestones children will typically achieve in preschool, with tips for helping your child stay on track with the preschool curriculum at home.

      Academic Concepts in the Preschool Curriculum

      The preschool curriculum offered at one child's preschool may vary significantly from what is offered at other schools. 

      This is because preschools are not governed by the standards that apply to K-12 education.

      So, individual schools and groups of schools have the freedom to teach what they please in the manner they prefer. 

      For example, preschools located in religious institutions may include religious education in their curriculum. 

      Montessori preschools use specific materials and activities to encourage children in hands-on learning.

      Teachers may also adjust their educational approaches to suit the needs of individual children in their classroom. 

      While preschools don't all adhere to the same educational guidelines, they're intended to prepare students for kindergarten. 

      That means most effective preschools work on key skill areas, which include math, science, and literacy skills.

      Important concepts in the preschool curriculum include the following:

      Letters and Sounds in Preschool

      As part of the preschool curriculum, kids will learn to recognize and name all 26 uppercase letters and some lowercase letters (lowercase letters are harder to learn at this age). They can identify their own first name and write it out, along with other letters and meaningful words like Mom, Dad, and love.

      Preschool children will also develop a connection between letters and sounds, and they’ll know some of the sounds that letters make.

      Reinforce letter-learning by having your child play with letter refrigerator magnets. Sing the "ABC song" together and look at the beginning sounds of words in your everyday lives. 

      A love of language, reading, and books starts at home, so encourage this by reading to your child regularly. 

      One of the most amazing things parents can do is read to their children every day. Even 10 minutes each night makes a difference; make it a warm, cozy experience by looking at pictures together, pointing out words, and talking about what's happening in the book. 

      Ask questions ("What is this?" "What is she doing?") and discuss your child's observations and thoughts. 

      Songs, nursery rhymes, and tongue twisters also teach your child about how sounds work—and they get plenty of giggles to boot!

      Colors, Shapes, and Objects in Preschool

      Preschoolers will continue to learn the names of colors, basic shapes, and body parts.

      As you read through books together, ask questions about color: "What color is that car?" and "Which hat is yellow?" 

      Point out shapes of household objects and ask questions like, "Does that picture look like a square or a triangle?" 

      When your child is getting dressed, talk about the colors of her shirt, pants, shoes, and socks. 

      You can also help the preschool curriculum by turning everything into a game. Play a "Where Is?" game to learn body parts; for example: "Where is Mommy's nose? Where is Mommy's chin? Where are your elbows?" 

      In the car or on bus rides, play a game where you ask about an object, and encourage your child to figure out the shape and color of it.

      Numbers and Counting in Preschool

      A large part of the preschool curriculum is learning what numerals 0 to 9 look like and naming them correctly. 

      Counting is a separate skill that starts with memorization; kids will memorize the order of numbers and say them proudly as they "count" objects. 

      As preschoolers advance, they’ll realize that numbers and objects actually correspond.

      When you see numbers in everyday life—in books, on food cans, in TV advertisements, etc.—ask your child to identify them. 

      You can also count everyday objects together, such as the stairs to your upper level, the crayons in a box, and the blocks on the floor. 

      Ask your children, “How many cereal boxes are in the cupboard?” and “How many oranges are left in the bag?” 

      When they're having a snack, ask, “How many crackers do you have?” Line the crackers up and have them point with their fingers and count each cracker one at a time.

      Reading in Preschool 

      Preschoolers develop their literacy skills throughout the day, not only during the scheduled “reading” time. 

      Teachers use read-alouds as well as poems, songs, and rhymes to teach topics across all subjects, and classrooms are filled with signs and labeled objects which help kids make connections between objects and words, and words and letters.

      In order to build reading skills, your preschooler:

      • Recites rhymes, songs, and poems.
      • Is surrounded by words and labeled objects in his classroom.
      • Begins to recognize letters and their sounds.
      • Reads, listens to, and talks about books.

      Reading Activities

      • Make Character Puppets: Create sock or brown paper bag puppets of your child’s favorite characters in books you read together. Use the puppets to act out the stories with your child. You can also use finger puppets like those in this The Day the Crayons Quit Tote Bundle. 
      • Make Up Stories: Tell your child stories about your childhood and make up stories together. 
      • Use a Computer: Identify and type out letters, names, and words.
      • Make Letter Cookies: Roll out cookie dough into letters. You can also spell out your child’s name and other words with it. Here are sensory ideas for teaching sight words. 
      • Rhyme Time: Play a game in which you take turns saying words (both real and silly), thinking of as many rhymes as possible. 

      Writing in Preschool

      Many of preschoolers’ early writing skills are developed through the various arts and crafts projects they do throughout the day.

      As preschoolers paint, draw, cut, stick, and glue, they build strength in their hands and develop their fine motor skills, gaining the strength and skills required to hold and use pens and pencils. 

      And, of course, the reading that your preschooler does is directly connected to developing her writing and literacy skills.

      In order to build writing skills, your preschooler:

      • Draws, paints, cuts, and glues, developing fine motor skills.
      • Practices writing letters and names.

      Writing Activities

      • Practice Writing Your Child’s Name in Creative Ways: Use sidewalk chalk, paints, a stick in the dirt, or write on a steamy window.
      • Arts and Crafts: The more your child draws, glues and paints, the stronger his hands will be. Preschoolers love to glue and cut anything from googly eyes and shapes to pictures from magazines.
      • Write Letters and Cards: Your child can help you write a letter or card to someone. She can decorate it and help you decide what to write. She can even hold your hand as you write some of the words (particularly, her name) or add her own “note” or picture to a card you write.
      • Cut things: Guide your child in cutting out different shapes from paper, felt, or another material. He can also cut objects such as plastic straws or lines on wrapping paper. 

      Math in Preschool 

      Daily preschool math activities include learning numbers, practicing counting, creating and learning shapes, and working with calendars. 

      In addition, playing with puzzles, building toys, blocks, and games helps preschoolers practice and build math skills as they count, manipulate objects, and work with different shapes, spaces, and sizes. 

      In order to build math skills, your preschooler:

      • Counts.
      • Learns what a number is.
      • Learns about, finds, and forms shapes and patterns.
      • Measures.
      • Sorts, categorizes, and compares objects.

      Math Activities

      • Count in a Fun and Active Way: Count steps as you climb them, count as your child jumps, or count objects as you buy them in a store.
      • Play with Shapes and Patterns: Use blocks, straws, sticks, and other objects to make shapes and create patterns.
      • Sorting Races: Ask kids to sort different shapes and colors as fast as they can.
      • I Spy:  Play “I Spy” with shapes and colors. For example say “I spy a circle,” or “I spy something red.” You can also use the I Spy books for this. 
      • Shape Collages: Make collages or books of objects that are different shapes and colors.
      • Number Books: Make your own counting book. Each page can have a number and that quantity of objects. Use drawings, photographs, magazine clippings, or actual objects (buttons, small toys, etc.).
      • Play with Your Food!: Make different shapes out of food such as sandwiches, cut up vegetables, noodles, and pizza dough. Alternatively, cut pizza dough or tortillas into different shapes of pizza.

      Science in Preschool

      Very often, teachers will teach specific science lessons once to a few times a week.

      During this time, the class will learn about a certain topic (for example, water, weather, animals, plants, and nature) through the use of books, demonstrations with actual objects, explorations outside, or interactive activities. 

      In addition, preschoolers are natural scientists as they play and explore the world around them with their curious minds. 

      They constantly experiment and learn as they play outside, explore natural objects, and play with toys such as clay, sand boxes, and water tables. 

      In order to build science skills, your preschooler:

      • Is a natural scientist, constantly exploring, observing, questioning and experimenting as she plays and interacts with her surroundings.
      • Sorts and organizes.
      • Interacts with and learns about nature.

      Science Activities

      • Go Outside: Draw, write about or take pictures of plants, insects, animals, and nature.
      • Cook: Mixing, measuring, and cooking all introduce your preschooler to scientific concepts and skills. Talk about what happens when things get hot, cold, or mix together, and which measurements are "more" or "less."
      • Garden: Growing plants teaches preschoolers the basics of how plants grow and what they need to thrive.
      • “Study” Your Pets: Talk to your preschooler about the scientific parts of your pet — its body, how it grows, its habitat, and what it needs to live. 

      Motor Skills


      Preschool-age children are learning to master both gross motor skills (which involve large physical movements) and fine motor skills (such as manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination). 

      Many preschools spend time actively engaged in working on these developmental skills.

      Fine-motor activities, which are important for writing, grasping, and coordinating fine movements, include drawing, cutting, coloring, and gluing. 

      Gross motor skills are often worked on during recess and may involve using playground equipment, running, skipping, jumping, and kicking or throwing a ball to a partner.

      Cutting and Drawing in Preschool

      Before entering kindergarten, children should be able to cut with scissors. 

      As they develop better hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, they’ll start drawing and coloring beyond just scribbles. They’ll also learn to use pencils, paintbrushes, and glue.

      Give your kid plenty of jumbo crayons and markers, thick sidewalk chalk, and ample opportunities to draw. 

      Using Play-Doh also builds your child's fine motor skills. "Squishing it and squeezing it will really work the muscles in their fingers," Meade says.

      Social and School-Readiness Skills

      Preschool also aims to teach kids social and school-readiness skills. 

      These lessons include teaching kids how to function in a group setting, with an emphasis on such behaviors as sharing, turn-taking, cooperative play, transitioning from one activity to the next, and following classroom rules. 

      Preschool also helps kids learn self-care skills they will need in kindergarten, such as putting on their own shoes and coats, feeding themselves, and using the bathroom independently.

      Social Emotional Learning in Preschool 

      Social emotional learning in a preschool classroom occurs throughout the day, as preschoolers interact with each other, learning to share, take turns, and work together. 

      Through these interactions, they build their social skills and learn how to be successful students.

      As a part of social emotional learning, your preschooler:

      • Works in groups, sharing and taking turns.
      • Cleans up and helps organize the classroom.
      • Practices manners during meal and snack time.
      • Develops conflict resolution skills.
      • Develops communication and conversation skills.

      Social Emotional Learning Activities

      • Mind Your Manners: Practice manners such as saying “thank you” and “please” during meal times.
      • Talk about Your Day: Share moments from your day with your child and ask her to do the same. When something very interesting or exciting happens, take a picture of the moment or ask your child to draw a picture of it, then decide together what you can write to describe it.
      • Clean Up Toys Together: Make clean-up time fun, asking kids to find like objects, put back toys as quickly as possible, or put away toys that are a certain color or shape. 

      What to Look for in a Preschool

      No matter which philosophy your preschool follows (Bank Street, Reggio Emilia, and HighScope are common ones), the preschool curriculum should promote learning while helping children meet the various language, social, physical, and cognitive goals. 

      In an ideal situation, a quality preschool curriculum will be taught by certified teachers and be based on the most up-to-date childhood education research.7

      Depending on the school and the preschool philosophy employed by the preschool, the preschool curriculum can be developed by administrators, teachers, and in some cases, even parents.

      If you ever have a question about the curriculum or anything that's going on at your child's preschool, reach out to the teacher or preschool administrator.

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