Laura J. Martin, MD
When it comes to helping your preschool-aged child work on language and math skills, it’s best to find games and activities you both enjoy. This can lay the foundation for a positive attitude toward learning.
“My perspective is that whatever parents do to teach children this age, they need to make it playful and fun,” says Pamela High, MD, professor of pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and director of the division of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Rhode Island Hospital. “You don’t want children to turn off to it because it’s too difficult for them.”
High tells WebMD that a good preschool or other early education program can help your child learn basic language and math concepts, as well as skills like being able to share and get along with other children. “These social and emotional skills are just as important for school success,” she says.
But experts say that preschoolers (ages 3-5) also benefit a great deal from the informal learning experiences that parents can build into everyday interactions and routines. Here’s how you can foster your child’s interest in reading, writing, counting, and more.
You can prepare your child for reading and writing when you:
If you’d like to teach your child a second language, the preschool years are a great time to do it. “For most children, the earlier they’re exposed to other languages, they more fluent they’re likely to be as they get older,” High says.
One way to teach your child to be bilingual is to speak, sing, and read to them in both languages from the time they’re born. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, learning more than one language will not cause a child to develop speech or language problems.
To introduce your child to numbers and other math concepts, you can:
Keep in mind that children develop their math and language skills at different rates. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, talk with your pediatrician.
It’s possible that a child who is struggling with language, for example, may have a hearing problem. Your pediatrician can evaluate whether your child may have physical or learning problem and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist.
If you find that your preschooler is drawn to one particular area, such as math, you can build on that by working on other skills at the same time. “If they’re interested in numbers, read a book together that has numbers in it,” High says.
You can also spark their curiosity by choosing books with their favorite characters and activities that allow them to show their talents. “You want to find your child’s particular strengths and gifts and give them the opportunity to demonstrate them,” High says. “That will feed their self-esteem and help them work on areas that may not come as easily to them.”
SOURCES:Pamela High, MD, professor of pediatrics, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University; director of the division of developmental-behavioral pediatrics, Rhode Island Hospital.Kristina Gawrgy Campbell, communications coordinator, National Association for the Education of Young Children.Kathy H. Barclay, EdD, professor of early childhood and reading, department of curriculum and instruction, Western Illinois University. U.S. Department of Education: “Helping Your Child Become a Reader.”National Association for the Education of Young Children: “Supporting Writing at Home.”American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: “Learning Two Languages.”Bredekamp, S. and Copple, C. eds. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2009.Juanita Copley, PhD, emeritus professor of curriculum and instruction, University of Houston.U.S. Department of Education: “Early Childhood: Where Learning Begins: Mathematics.”CDC: “Learn the Signs. Act Early.”
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