More and more parents are putting an academic focus on their children’s earliest years. Science has shown us that 90% of a child’s brain develops by the age of five. “A newborn baby has all of the brain cells (neurons) they’ll have for the rest of their life, but what really makes the brain work – and enables us to move, think, communicate and just about everything else—are the connections between those cells. And the early years of a child’s life are a crucial time for making those connections—at least one million new neural connections (synapses) every second, far more than at any other time in life.” –First Things First. This information has made many parents frantic to maximize their child’s learning potential from infancy with:
- Music lessons
- Fine arts experience
- Foreign language immersion
- Early STEM programs
But before you get overwhelmed by all this enrichment, don’t panic! While there is absolutely a place for academics with preschool-age children, rest assured that their brains develop best through play, natural exploration, and warm interactions with family and caregivers. Preschool is wonderful, but it doesn’t have to be “Mini Harvard” for your child to be extremely successful.
Resources for Preschool Parents:
- What Is An Early Childhood Learning Center?
- Daycare vs. Early Learning Center: What’s Right for My Child?
- The Importance of Play in Early Learning
- Will My Child Be Nurtured in a Preschool Christian Academy?
- Preschool Curriculum: What Will My Child Learn in Preschool?
- What Does A Typical Preschool Day Look Like?
- Preschool Guide: How to Find the Best Preschool
- 11 Questions to Ask When Visiting a Christian Academy Preschool
- Preschool Readiness Checklist: Is Your Child Ready?
1st Key to Future Success: Responsive Relationships
“The most important influences on a child’s development are their relationships with the adults in their life. Loving relationships with warm, responsive, dependable adults are essential to a child’s healthy development. These relationships begin at home, with parents and family, but also include childcare providers and teachers.” –First Things First. As described in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, immediately after the base of biological needs like food and water are met, human beings need safety to thrive. Children need to be surrounded by safe, loving, responsive adult caregivers for their brains to grow and develop properly. This means ample, intentional adult/child interaction like:
- Exploring the natural world
- Getting messy
- Creating art
These simple, everyday interactive tasks are what help a child’s developing mind thrive! The best preschool programs know this and incorporate it into every facet of their early learning philosophy.
Bottom line: children who receive daily loving and supportive interaction from adults will have healthy brain development.
2nd Key to Future Success: Emotional Intelligence
Infinitely more important than a child’s IQ is their EQ or Emotional Quotient. “Kindergarten teachers report that more than 30% of children entering classrooms today lack the necessary social and emotional skills needed for school life. Yet many teachers rate these skills as more important to school success than children’s ability to read or hold a pencil. In fact, a child’s ability to recognize emotions is a better predictor of success in first grade than cognitive skills or family background.” –Denise Daniels. EQ is related to many important outcomes for children and adults. Children with higher emotional intelligence are better able to pay attention, are more engaged in school, have more positive relationships, and are more empathic (Raver, Garner, & Smith-Donald 2007; Eggum et al. 2011).
Emotional intelligence in children includes:
- Ability to recognize and identify emotions in one’s self and others
- Basic conflict resolution skills
- Anger management skills
- Ability to set and respect boundaries
The late Candace Pert, Ph.D., a former neuroscientist of the National Institute of Mental Health and author of The Molecules of Emotions, stated,
“By teaching children how to manage their emotions, we are literally teaching them how to control their own brain chemistries.”
Excellent early education programs put a strong emphasis on developing and nurturing emotional skills in their students. In the earliest years, this can be as simple as understanding:
- Recognition of facial expressions
- Caring for friends and family
Bottom line: children with strong emotional intelligence develop into successful adults.
3rd Key to Future Success: Literacy and Language
While many 3-4-year-olds are still a little ways off from reading independently, the foundation for future literacy is built from infancy. Much of a child’s future literacy success is predicted by experiences before the age of five. Parents and caregivers who read to their babies from birth and raise their children in environments saturated with high-quality literature give them an edge for future success.
“An analysis of the research literature indicates specific skills and abilities of children ages birth through 5 years that predict later reading outcomes. Key predictive skills and abilities include:
- Oral language
- Listening comprehension, oral language vocabulary
- Alphabetic Code
- Alphabet knowledge, phonological/ phonemic awareness (the ability to discriminate sounds in words), invented spelling
- Print Knowledge/Concepts
- Environmental print, concepts about print”
The most important part of developing verbal skills in very young children is to talk to them. The Linguistic Society of America states that “Children who are never spoken to will not acquire language. And the language must be used for interaction with the child; for example, a child who regularly hears language on the TV or radio but nowhere else will not learn to talk.” A young child’s mind is a truly astonishing thing. Children do not actually learn language but physiologically grow language.
“Children acquire language through interaction – not only with their parents and other adults but also with other children. All normal children who grow up in normal households, surrounded by conversation, will acquire the language that is being used around them. And it is just as easy for a child to acquire two or more languages at the same time, as long as they are regularly interacting with speakers of those languages.”
Babies and toddlers can grow up multilingual with no effort at all if their parents are intentional about exposing them to fluent speakers of other languages in their everyday lives. Amazing!
Bottom line: In preschool programs for children as young as two, literacy and language development should be a primary focus to ensure future success.
College preparedness for preschool-age children is simpler than you might think. The best way to nurture your child’s brain development and natural intelligence is to:
- Interact lovingly
- Nurture their emotional intelligence
- Promote literacy and language through everyday experiences
As a parent, you are doing just fine. And when your child is ready, consider choosing an exceptional preschool program that will partner with you to help your child reach their full potential.
Early learning in Woodbridge, VA
Children growing up in Woodbridge, VA have unique families and opportunities. Many families in Woodbridge have demanding careers in the military or government. Washington D.C. is just a quick hop away, and a high proportion of parents make commuting a part of their daily routine. The parents of our students have high standards and high expectations for their children’s care and education.
Christ Chapel Academy understands the needs of our community, and we work hard to exceed our families’ expectations. Our academics are challenging and enriching from the earliest ages. Our programs offer early drop-off and extended day pick-up to fit the challenging schedules of many of our families. And our faculty and staff understand the unique needs of our children and parents.
Dual Enrollment in Prince William County: When is it too early to prepare?
From birth to age six, children have their greatest capacity to learn. The investment you make in enriching your child during this stage of life will pay dividends for years to come. Dual enrollment, the ability to gain college experience and credit in high school, is a topic of great interest to today’s parents. Why?
College is unique from high school in that students are expected to already have mastered excellent study skills, and be strong independent learners. By jumping into college courses during the high school years, your student will get a head start on mastering the skills necessary to be successful throughout their college career. Students who graduate high school with great study skills and the ability to learn in a self-disciplined manner will be successful in college, career, and life in general. Successful participation in dual enrollment also looks great on college and scholarship applications, opening more doors for your student than you may have imagined possible.
Consider this: the average Virginia university will cost you upwards of $919.50 per credit hour. Just thirty credit hours of college, a fraction of an undergraduate degree, will potentially cost your family $27,585. If your student completes a full year of college during high school, that’s nearly $30,000 in your pocket. Just imagine what your family could do with that much extra savings. Some programs even allow students to complete more than one year of college during high school, opening up the possibility of graduating from high school with an associate’s degree already completed.
Considering all of that, is preschool too early to start thinking about high school dual enrollment? Absolutely not! It’s never too early to set the stage for a great head start for your child. But what does dual enrollment prep look like for a preschooler? (Don’t worry. Your two-year-old doesn’t need to be quoting Shakespeare just yet!)
Nurture Delight-Based Learning
Preschool children are like human sponges, drinking in and retaining every single thing around them. By nurturing their natural curiosity and inquisitiveness, you are helping them to develop a love of learning from the very start. Some very simple ways to encourage curiosity day-to-day?
- Follow your child through the park or forest and notice what they notice. Allow them to find bugs and leaves and creatures. Let them get dirty and have multi-sensory experiences.
- Read with your child every day.
- Get your child a library card and allow them to pick out books that strike their interest.
- Allow your child to help you around the house. Even young toddlers can learn to help prepare meals, clean up, and put things away.
- Allow your child to do things independently, even when it takes longer or gets messy.
A love of learning and curious spirit is a high marker for future success in school, college, and beyond.
Choose a Preschool That Focuses on STEAM in Gainesville, Woodbridge, Dumfries, or Lake Ridge, VA
STEAM-focused programs, (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math), ensure that children receive a well-rounded education. While some of these subjects might seem advanced for preschoolers, Dr. Gloria Julius describes STEAM in early childhood education programs like this:
- Science encourages investigation and answering questions, often involving experimentation.
- Technology refers to using simple tools like crayons and rulers, as well as more complex ones like microscopes and computers.
- Engineering refers to recognizing problems and testing solutions.
- Arts encourage creativity and allow children to illustrate concepts they are learning.
- Mathematics deals with numbers, but also patterns, shapes, organizational skills and much more.
You can also promote STEAM principles at home in your everyday life! Check out this great, screen-free coding activity for preschoolers from Jamie Hand at Preschool STEAM:
Brown Bear Coding Game for Preschoolers
- Painter’s Tape
- Book, Brown Bear by Eric Carle
- Brown Bear Printable Pack
Before playing the game start with reading the story, Brown Bear and allowing the children to explore the story through different retelling activities. Once children are familiar with the pattern of the story then introduce the coding game.
Mark a 9 square grid on the floor or drop cloth with painter’s tape. Tape a large animal from the Brown bear story to a square of the grid. Repeat for each animal. Print and cut out smaller versions of each animal and place on the corresponding animal square.
How to Play the Brown Bear Coding Game
Select one child to be the “robot” and one child to be the “programmer.”
The “programmer” uses the arrow cards and verbally tells the “robot” which way to move.
Use the arrows to direct the “robot” through the grid towards the first animal of the Brown Bear book (the brown bear). Pick up and collect the small version of the animal. The programmer repeats giving directions until the “robot” has collected each animal.
You can get your children to start thinking like a coding programmer with very few supplies and no screen time.
Remember: Play Is Learning
The beauty of college prep for preschoolers is that it takes far less effort than most parents think it does. Play is not just play to a young child. Play is learning. Play is the key way in which their minds and social structures develop. An academic and play focused preschool in Prince William County is the ideal environment for your child to learn, grow, and start to become the person they will be for the rest of their lives.