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Preschool is one of the most popular childcare options for working mothers—in fact, the White House Women in America reports that 64% of women in with children under the age of five have careers. The rise in preschool parents also means an increase in the number of little learners who need a place to learn and grow during the work week. Many states, such as Oregon and Washington, require a low teacher-to-student ratio of 1 to 10 for three-year-olds, which can help minimize classroom chaos—but preschool teachers still have their hands full.
Fortunately there are ways preschool parents can help the teacher beyond just feeding their kids a healthy, hearty breakfast. Here are six ways you can help your child's classroom run smoothly, so that he gets the most out of every day.
- Stay in-the-know with school staff. Taking the time to know what is happening at your child's preschool shows teachers that you're invested in what, and how, your little one is learning. "Our teachers love it when preschool parents are alert to what is going on at our school and ask questions about curriculum or how they can get involved," says Bobbie McCormack, the Preschool Director of Creative Kids Preschool in Sammamish, Washington. Reading newsletters, staying up-to-date on bulletin boards and noting decor changes in the classroom—which usually signify curriculum shifts—are all ways you can stay familiar with what's going on with your child.
- Bring curriculum home. Use your power as parent to continue your kid's education outside of the classroom. "The most effective teaching happens when parents and teachers work together to show children the three points of continual connection—home, school and community," McCormack explains. Fortunately, preschool curriculum is much more fun than high school algebra, so enjoy little learning experiences like grocery shopping, watching clouds and finger painting while it lasts!
- Communicate every day. On mornings where everything is running behind schedule, it is easy to just kiss your child goodbye and head out the door. Resist the temptation to split without chatting with your kid's teacher. Talking about things like your child's mood, new changes at home, his needs for the classroom (changes of clothes, snacks, etc.) and the curriculum shows a genuine interest in the well-being of both your child and his teacher.
- Divulge feelings about food. Letting the preschool staff in on your child's favorite dishes, food allergies and fare he avoids will be beneficial for snack time. "Parents who took the time to drop in and discuss what their child has and has not been eating was always helpful," says Cheryl Petersen, who worked as the head chef/baker at Bugbee Children's Center in Oneonta, New York.
- Be punctual. It's important to stick to a schedule while kids are young, to make sure that promptness becomes part of your child's routine. "It might sound easy and obvious, but being on time is one of the best things a parent can do for their child's preschool teacher and their child as well," says preschool teacher Stacey Smith of Creative Kids Preschool.
- Let your child have fun with learning. Fight the urge to fret if your kindergartener struggles to learn the alphabet, trace letters or recognize sight words. "Don't worry if your child isn't learning as quickly as their peers or as speedily as you want, just let things happen naturally," says McCormack. Instead, focus on playing educational games, making crafts and reading together. These activities will instill a love of learning in him—a much bigger accomplishment than being able to recite "See Spot Run" at age 3.
It doesn't take much to be a favorite parent around your child's preschool. The best part is that the preschool teacher isn't the only one who benefits from your involvement—your efforts will help your child thrive as well! So make a quick checklist of ways to get involved over the next few months and watch as everyone starts to smile a little more around the classroom.
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