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4 Preschool skills needed for kindergarten success

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Reinforce important lessons at home

There are so many important lessons taught in the preschool years. Find out the most important ones and how you can reinforce them at home so your child is prepared for kindergarten and beyond.
Preparing your child for kindergarten
Child raising her hand

Preschool isn't just about circle time and finger painting. It's an important time to learn concepts that set kids up for learning to read on their own, writing their names and more. But it's not just important to have them learn at school — the most important concepts need reinforcing at home too.

The alphabet

It goes without saying that the alphabet is a critical element for children to learn. It's the cornerstone of reading, writing and even mathematics. So, learning this important preschool lesson is of the utmost importance.

But it goes farther than even that, experts say. "Research has proven that children who start kindergarten knowing only a handful of letter names (not letter sounds), typically do not make many strides in learning to read over their kindergarten year. Even in a print rich, literacy focused kindergarten, they have much further to go than peers who know the letter names and are now learning letter sounds," says Grace Shickler, principal of High Meadows School in Roswell, Georgia.

Warm up your vocal cords! It's time to get singing those ABCs in the car, at bath time and whenever else you can. But that's not all you can do. "Preschoolers can manipulate magnetic letters on the refrigerator while they... sing the alphabet song. Then, to reinforce each individual letter name, parents can hide letters in a room, perhaps five at a time, for a child to find. Upon finding them, the name of the letter can be reinforced. This game can be adapted for the child who already knows the names but now needs to practice knowing the sound it makes or a word that begins with that letter. Start with the letters in the child's name," suggests Shickler.

Read 6 tips to get your child reading >>

Fine motor skills

Coloring, playing with Play-Doh and cutting out shapes aren't just crafty ways to pass the time in preschool. These activities also help children hone the ever-so-important fine motor skills.

Why are these skills important? They help kids develop their hand muscles that are necessary for the proper grip of a pencil (or fork), writing legibly and cutting with precision.

Practice at home by having your child write his name. "Parents can practice this by teaching letters, then practicing writing their name in something they could touch, like sand, shaving cream, or using Play-Doh to make the letters," suggests Amy Bonner, a former kindergarten teacher.

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Rhyming

Is your kid a Seuss-aholic? That's a very good thing. Learning what a rhyme is, what it sounds like and how it's used is an important skill as well. "Rhyme is a basic function of phonemic awareness and is essential to helping children crack the code of reading," says Shickler.

Practice this at home by teaching your child rhyming words, reading to them from rhyming books and asking them questions to get them thinking about words that rhyme. "Nursery rhymes, traditional and modern, are a time-tested way of building rhyme awareness. After hearing the rhyme over and over, a child might enjoy having the parent leave the rhyming word out so they can supply it: Jack and Jill, went up the… what," says Shickler.

Get 8 tips for building the best home library for your child >>

Etiquette

Preschool is often the first brush with the so-called real world for kids... and it shouldn't be the first time that kids have to take turns or share. Basic etiquette is an important preschool lesson — and an even more important home lesson. Who wants the impolite kid? "Skills like waiting patiently, using a quiet voice, asking politely, being helpful, being gentle, saying please and thank you, etc., are all lessons that should be reinforced constantly at home. They are vital to a functional environment (both home and school and later work!)," says former preschool teacher Angelica Menefee.

Read more on teaching your child proper etiquette here >>

More on preschoolers

Trains, planes and automobiles: Why preschoolers love transportation
Keeping learning fun for preschoolers
10 Things our kids' preschool teachers want us to know

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