Preschooler: What should you teach your preschooler?

I just graduated with a degree in elementary education. I haven't gotten a job yet and plan to stay home with my children for the next six months. I have a three-year-old son. I can't afford preschool for him because we are a one income family. I would like him to be more than ready for kindergarten when the time comes. We have started with shapes, colors, numbers and letters. Could you please give me some advice on how to proceed.

Question:

The most important lessons a child learns in preschool don't concern letters, numbers or shapes. They are social ones: how to follow a routine; how to share and wait your turn; and how to get along with other people, to name the three most important ones.

You can help your child in these areas by taking him to playgrounds or mommy-and-me classes and helping him deal with other kids. At home, you can play games or cook with him, and have him take turns with you as you mix ingredients. You can also make sure that your day has a structure of sorts, such as playtime, reading time (most important for his own future reading), hanging-out time, nap time, etc.

As for teaching your child letters and numbers, it is not important or necessary unless he is interested. And even then, it should be for only as long as he is interested. Three year olds have short attention spans. That's why there is so much to do in a preschool classroom! The children tend to flit from one activity to another, stopping for longer periods at what interests them.

When using intellectual materials with your child, make sure to take your cue from him. If he wants to spend just a few minutes on a task, that's just fine. Do what he is interested in. A good set of building blocks is probably your best investment at this age through six years. Block building teaches proportion, balance, creativity and social compromise (when building with others.) And kids just think they are having fun! These types of toys, called "open ended" because they have no "right answer," are the best thing for your child at this age.

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