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Games, talk time key to preparing kids for school
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Sending a child off to preschool for the first time can be a rough and emotional time for both parents and the child.  For the child, however, it doesn’t have to be.  Getting ready for school isn’t just about learning letters, numbers, shapes of colors; the real teaching starts in the household.

According to Oregon State University’s Megan McClelland, a researcher in the field of early childhood development, parents can prepare their kids by playing games that help develop better self-regulation skills.

Self-regulation, or the ability to control one’s behavior and follow directions, is increasingly being seen as a key indicator of academic success in later years.  According to McCelland’s research, a child’s ability to self-regulate as early as preschool can predict academic achievements in math and language in much later years.

“It is a much more structured situation than many children have had before,” McClelland said.  “The key is to get them into a routine and to start setting a schedule.”

Communication is also key in preparing children for preschool, according to Debra Cannella, director of Sacred Heart Preschool in Turlock. 

“Throughout my years as a director, I have noticed that kids nowadays are getting more delayed with their speech,” said Cannella.  “It is important for parents to be able to communicate with their children and be able to answer the basic questions who, what where, when, why, to keep their minds engaged at all times.”

According to Cannella, entering preschool can be tough for a young child but it is the parents’ responsibility to get them adjusted upon entering school.

“It is important to understand that parents play a much more significant role than we do as educators.  They are the primary instructors, not us,” said Cannella.

With the economic downturn, many parents are finding themselves working more than one job at a time, Cannella said.

“During these tough economic times, we see many parents are working a lot, sometimes two or three jobs at a time.  This greatly affects the children because parents don’t spend as much time as they can with them,” said Cannella.

Cannella recommends working parents spend 10 to 15 minutes every day reading to their children. 

“Parents need to be able to give a certain amount of time to spend with their kids throughout the day.  I always tell parents to make sure to put their kids to bed and read them a story before they go to sleep.  Also, make them answer questions from the story.  It helps kids with their cognitive development and reasoning,” said Cannella.