The School Readiness series aims to guide parents in building a foundation for learning and cognitive development in children ages 0 to 5, preparing them for school and lifelong success. Each article, based on research studies in early child development, presents key concepts for learning and practical tips that can be used immediately with young children.
The Center for Children’s Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, in collaboration with the California State Library, proposes that school readiness be envisioned as a continuous process through age 8 rather than a finite checklist of abilities to master by age 5. Key findings reveal that encouraging depth of thinking and supplying quality interactions with adults is more valuable for children than rote learning. Put differently, teaching children how to learn and nurturing an enjoyment of continuous learning produces greater benefit than what information is absorbed.
Children have the potential to build developmental skills if adults in their lives offer experiences that will encourage:
- Complex thinking through math concepts
- Self-regulation and control
- Making and following through with plans
- Getting along with others
These capabilities align with the “seven essential life skills every child needs”, advocated by Ellen Galinsky in her book Mind in the Making. A synopsis of each of the seven skills was featured in the Mind in the Making series on our Kidsblog last year.
Roadmap for school readiness
Talk & Play
Adult-child social interactions such as conversations, questions, and experiences are crucial to champion a child’s learning process. Both quantity and quality of one-on-one dialogue factor into understanding language concepts. In addition to social connections, a child’s theoretical understanding is enriched through the combination of freedom and structure in guided play.
Science & Math
STEM fuels a young child’s innate curiosity to test, learn, and discover. Hands-on science exploration has proven to tap into a natural curiosity and desire to learn about the world that goes beyond absorbing, memorizing, and repeating back factual information. Studies reveal that patterns in a child’s ability – to determine who to ask, what to ask, and how much information to ask for – can be strengthened by adults who model different types of effective inquiry.
Math, more than any other subject, is a long-term predictor of educational achievement. A strong understanding of numbers before entering kindergarten enhances conceptual thinking, as well as contributing to later math and reading proficiency. Research also conveys that a growth mindset strongly correlates with math achievement. Anyone can be good at math with the right learning opportunities and positive mindset. For additional information see our Kidsblog article Math Concepts for Young Children.
Body & Brain
Parents can foster social skills and executive functions such as planning, awareness, and self-control through a child’s everyday experiences. These abilities reduce stress to allow greater learning in school’s structured environment, and aid growth in literacy and numerical abilities. A child can learn more, retain more, and their creativity will thrive when they have caring relationships with adults. Also, times of adversity are easier to overcome when parents have reinforced emotional regulation in a young child’s life.
In early educational systems, social skills are cultivated through child-directed play and adults who model helping behaviors. The ability to get along well with others, show empathy, be helpful, and be cooperative are skills that correlate with building social-emotional development for long-term success in a broad range of life outcomes.
Look for future School Readiness articles on our Kidsblog for more information and tips for parents about the areas of Talk & Play, Science & Math, and Body & Brain.
Galinsky, Ellen. Mind In The Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
Hadani, Helen. Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC) at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. (2016). Reimagining school readiness: a position paper with key findings.
Zero to Three. (2016, February 20). Getting ready for school begins at birth. [online article – parenting resource]