What Your Preschooler Really Needs
- Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Develop a sensible, regular routine for daily life and stick to it as much as possible. A regular time for meals, snacks, naps, and stories provides children with security, and keeps them on an even keel emotionally. Bring your preschooler into your daily routine, talking about everything you do. True, your bed won’t be made quite as neatly, but children’s best play is Mommy or Daddy’s work. Let your children learn while keeping you company--not only how to work, but how to count and measure while cooking, science while gardening, and so on.
Read, sing and talk with your children.
- Reading aloud to preschoolers is such a joy. Get expressive and use different voices while you read, pausing to ask your children about the pictures or about what might happen next. Encourage your children to chime in with books that have repetitive phrases. Look for books that will answer those why questions.
- Sing: You don’t have to have perfect pitch to enjoy music with your children. Many finger plays don’t involve singing at all, just chanting in a sing-songy voice. And if you don’t remember the classic songs and finger plays of childhood, there are plenty of CD’s to help you learn. Your voice is a musical instrument that goes with you wherever you go, and no matter how horrible you think you sound, your children love your voice and need to hear it. Also, be sure and help your children develop a taste for the classics by exposing them to the best in classical, folk, and religious music.
- Talk: Help your children grow their vocabularies and base of knowledge by talking to them about everything, and expounding on their speech. For example, if your child says, Mommy, look at that funny bird, you might say, Yes! That bird is called a sparrow. Do you see his brown feathers? Talk to your children constantly, about everything you are doing. Talk to them about everything they see, labeling things with their proper names.
Provide a stimulating home environment rich in books, music, and open-ended toys that grow with your children. Open-ended toys are toys that can be used many different ways. These toys encourage pretend play, imagination and creativity. Toys like play-dough, blocks, cars, dolls, puzzles, and Legos fit the bill. Keep paper, crayons, felt tipped pens, and other art supplies available for your children to use any time. And don’t forget children’s favorite play--outside play with pets, swing sets, balls, worms and tricycles. Children need time outside to play, explore, and run off steam every day the weather permits.
Let early learning be child-centered and developmentally appropriate. Don’t rush into formal academics; instead, explore your children’s interests through picture books and real-life experiences. Preschoolers don’t need to do any sit-down, written work; let them master pre-writing skills through drawing and crafts, and teach concepts through play, discussion, and games.
Provide your children the opportunity to succeed by allowing plenty of practice with new skills and concepts through repetition. Repetition strengthens and reinforces learning.
Most importantly, disciple your children in the ways of the Lord. Introduce favorite Bible stories and themes of the Bible, and use them to teach simple doctrinal truths like God loves me, God made me, Jesus is God’s son, and so on. Teach, practice, and train to develop good habits, manners and morals.
Parents who endeavor to do these things need never fear that they are not providing enough for their children. In fact, they are providing the very best for their children. No educational toy, preschool program, or expert preschool teacher can provide the love, individualized attention, and discipleship training loving parents can. I know this from first-hand experience--I used to be one of those expert preschool teachers. When I was on playground duty, children would gather around me to talk or be held. I loved those children; but that love in no way compares to the love I have for my own children. After the first of my four was born, I realized that as a preschool teacher, I was nothing more than a poor substitute for Mom. Those children weren’t gathered around me because I was such a wonderful teacher; they were simply hungry for love and attention--the kind of love and attention they should have received from their own parents. Much of their day was spent in loneliness and confusion.
Don’t let the messages of the world make you doubt your decision to disciple your children at home. Stand firm in the face of the expert’s advice. Your children will never need anyone or anything more than they need you. Let them have the love, time, and attention of their own parents. That’s all they really need.
Susan Lemons and her husband have been married for 23 years, and have homeschooled their four children (ages 19, 15, 6 and 4) from birth. Susan has earned both Associate and Bachelor Degrees in Child Development, and serves the homeschooling community as a mentor, first contact for new homeschoolers, and conference speaker.
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