What Does My Child Learn in Preschool?

From ABCs and 123s to how to make friends, what happens inside the classroom

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Preschool pickup is always a fun time. Kids and parents, happy to be reunited with each other, little ones excited to show off the paintings and crafts they spent made. Buckling your child in his car seat or booster seat, you may pepper him with questions: What did you do today? Did you have fun? Who did you sit next to? Depending on what kind of kid you have, the answers may vary between long soliloquies filled with tales of paste and paint, or one word answers that don't amount to much of anything.

No matter what answer you get, you probably are still wanting more. After all, you leave your child for a few hours each day in the care of others. What goes on while you are separated? What does my child learn in preschool?

Even if your child gives you long, rambling answers, you might get an idea of what happens in a preschool classroom, but do you actually understand what your child is learning? The early childhood years are so important for building the foundation of education and what happens in that preschool classroom will shape your child's educational experience for years to come. Here's why:

Learning how to learn. Before a child can learn, she has to learn how to learn. Sounds complicated, but learning how to learn is simply the process where children realize they are absorbing information that they can use at a later time. Whether it is the rules of the classroom or the alphabet, your preschooler will soon figure out that information stays in her brain and she can access it when she needs it.

The important thing to remember is that learning truly is a step-by-step process. Kids learn at different speeds, and need to learn the first thing before they can learn the second.

Learning through play. In the preschool classroom, your child will learn how she does at home -- through the different types of play.

Social skills are honed on the playground and at circle time, as little ones must learn how to wait their turn and be patient. Learning to get along with others, The Golden Rule, and other lessons in friendship will probably take up a good majority of your child's day, whether they realize it or not.

Learning through a school routine. Unlike elementary school where the classes move through different subjects, learning that takes place in a preschool classroom is very fluid. For example:

  • Science -- Kids won't have science lessons per se, but they could learn about the life cycle of butterflies by raising caterpillars and watching their metamorphosis. Other common preschool science activities include planting seeds, blowing bubbles (Which one is the biggest? How can you make it so you can hold a bubble in your hand? Does the shape of the blower change the shape of the bubble?), playing at the water table and experimenting with what sinks and what floats, and learning about animals through a class pet.
  • Mathematics -- They won't sit at desks and figure out math problems, but they will engage in a lot of different math activities that will teach them about numbers, shapes, patterns and more. Whether playing with blocks, taking attendance and learning how many of our friends are present or not, or taking a survey of what different colors classmates are wearing, preschoolers will learn about math set against activities of every day life.
  • Reading and language -- Does your preschooler sing a lot of songs at school? Does the preschool teacher read to the kids often? These simple activities help teach phonics and vocabulary, as do group discussions. When a teacher reads out loud, your little one learns that books are read from left to right. When the teacher models writing on a blackboard or whiteboard, your child sees how letters are formed, and may often even start to try to write her own name on any papers or craft projects she completes. The great thing about teaching reading and language (and learning it) is that it is a lesson that can be done all the time, just by simply observing.
  • Social studies -- No real history lessons yet (perhaps the basics around holidays like Thanksgiving and President's Day), but your preschooler will learn about his place in the world and the community around him. Preschool teachers often bring in guest speakers -- police offers and fire fighters are the most common ones -- to come in and speak about what it is they do, as well as teach the students important safety lessons. It is also very common for preschool classes to go on walks around the area to get a feel for where they live.

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