Building Blocks for School Readiness

It may seem a little premature to be discussing school readiness on a site focusing on children from ages zero to three. The term “school readiness” has traditionally been used when referring to pre-kindergarten students, but more recently, it has been expanded to include infants and toddlers.

 

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Why? The latest research shows that by the time children reach the age of three, they have already reached key developmental milestones that greatly impact their later years of learning.

Relationships and experiences have the greatest influence on early brain development. A wide range of experiences--within the family, society, and/or early childcare and education--all affect a child’s budding development and learning.

The term “school readiness” commonly refers to skill development in the following five areas:
- perceptual, motor, and physical development
- social and emotional development
- approaches to learning
- language and communication
- cognition

There are specific supports for each of these areas, and adults who interact with infants and toddlers--primarily parents, caregivers and educators--should be aware of ways to support early development and foster school readiness. Professional development for early childhood caregivers and educators is needed to allow them to incorporate these specific skills and supports into their practice.

Most early learning occurs through children’s everyday moments and experiences, like talking, playing, reading books, and exploring and making sense of the world around them. For example, children learn language when adults talk with them, when they hear stories being read aloud, and by singing songs.

School readiness is not about the number of letters and numbers your child knows. Classes that push babies and toddlers into learning things they are not developmentally ready to absorb do not foster school readiness or speed up the learning process. They can actually inhibit growth and learning, by making children feel unsuccessful when they cannot accomplish artificial benchmarks and goals. Instead, early school readiness is more closely related to life skills, such as confidence, persistence and self-control.

That said, each child is an individual, and differences in development can be quite vast in the earliest years. Some children may be ready to advance, while others can show signs of developmental delays or disabilities requiring interventions and adaptations in order to achieve proficiency. Early intervention can be crucial to ensure that children develop the skills they need for school readiness.

It’s not necessary to actively teach your baby specific things. Yes, exposure to books and interactive play is beneficial, but the best approach is to offer up many different objects and experiences and let her choose what to play with. If your child is involved and interested in an activity, she is learning. Play along with her and have fun, because above all, she learns best through her relationship with you.

The developmental foundations established from birth to age three shape later school readiness, and supporting children in their development of skills can lead to lasting and lifelong success.