The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Parenting the Preschooler

Parents  of preschool children are concerned about  learning

and want to provide the best for their children so that they will

be ready for “real” school.  In an effort to do everything right,

parents  turn  to  the experts and attempt to  follow  them  even

though the experts disagree on what should be done.  As a result,

the parents are confused.
I  find  more and more that parents are following advice  on

what  they believe will help the intellectual development of  the

child,  while  the other aspects of the child’s  development  are

being relegated to a less important role.  I believe this is done

because  intellectual  development  can  be  charted,  evaluated,

observed and taught.  Also, parents have many commercial tools at

their disposal to help them as they interact with the children in

this realm. They can buy books for the children and read to them.
They  can  buy  crayons  and coloring books and  teach  them  the

colors.   They  can  buy  scissors and paper to  help  them  with

cutting.   The  list of things to buy is almost endless  – games,

puzzles,  computers.  As a result,  some children come to  school

with  these  skills while others may have  been  neglected.   The

problem  becomes  compounded  by the fact that many  schools  now

conduct  the kindergarten program as a downward extension of  the

regular  school  program so that  other  important  developmental

areas are ignored.
Besides intellectual development,  we must be concerned with

the  physical,  emotional  and social development of  the  child.

These  areas  seem vague and not as concrete as the  intellectual

area.   They are difficult to evaluate quantitatively,  but  they

are just as important.  In addition, there is the danger that  if

we  concentrate  on  the academic skill  aspect  of  the  child’s

development  to  the  exclusion of the rest,  we  may  be  asking

children  to do tasks which are inappropriate for their level  of

total development.
Children who are five years old should have had a great deal

of  experience  being physically active.   They should  have  had

opportunities to hop,  jump and later,  skip.   They should  have

been  helped  to  develop independence and be now able  to  wash,

dress  and feed themselves and to use the  toilet.   They  should

have had opportunities to play with their peers in dramatic  play

where they can take on a variety of roles.  They should have  the

beginnings of social skills.
Children  need  many  opportunities  to  interact  with  the

objects,  materials  and  people  in  their  environment.   These

activities   include   blockbuilding,   distributing   materials,

measuring,  weighing,  planting, pouring, filling, playing in the

sand  box  and so on.   They are concrete thinkers  and  need  to

interact  with  concrete objects,  not just books and pencil  and

paper.   Children  should  be  encouraged to be  active  and  not

passive learners.
Children  benefit when given opportunities  for  spontaneous

play.   This helps them to learn about themselves and others,  to

learn  how to get along with others,  and to learn about reality.

Children  at  this age  need to be given  many  opportunities  to

explore their world.  They are not empty vessels which are to  be

filled  by  teachers  with facts.  They  need  actual,  real-life

experiences  first before they can deal with  abstract  concepts.

When  a  child predicts that something will happen,  the  adult’s

response should be: “Let’s find out.”  The process of finding out

is more important at this level than the correct answer.
Young children need a rich physical environment and space in

which  to  explore  this environment.  They  also  need  time  to

integrate and practice new skills.   This is best accomplished in

an atmosphere that is child-centered and not adult task-oriented.

There should be movement,  activity, singing, dancing, nurturing,

exploring and finding out.   Parents can best help their children

by  providing  such an atmosphere at home and by  monitoring  the

programs provided for their children in school settings.

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