Ways to help your child get a head start in school

Here’s how to boost your child’s brainpower at home, to further increase the chance of good academic results at school.

 Here are some basic building blocks to maximise early learning at home and school.

Early childhood development and learning should be viewed as a journey rather than a race. Preschool should be a rich, multisensory experience that matches a child’s developmental age and stage, even if it follows a formal curriculum. According to research, a child’s cognitive development is inextricably linked to her social and emotional development, which begins both in the classroom and at home.

Here are some fundamental building blocks for maximising early learning for children:

Multisensory experience

While it’s easy to hand over a tablet or cellphone to your little one to keep her occupied, it doesn’t give her a real, 3D, or multisensory experience of the world.

Rather ditch the phone or iPad and encourage these activities instead:

  • Sand and water play
  • Playdough and paint
  • Games with shapes (did you know a triangle, rectangle, circle, square and diamond contain all the lines you will find in letters of the alphabet?)
  • Puzzles for spatial planning, manipulation, and directionality (they have to physically turn the pieces until they fit – something she doesn’t experience in the same way when she builds puzzles on a tablet)
  • Lots of big body movements on jungle gyms, kicking and hitting balls, and riding scooters and bikes.

Stimulate the five senses

We all know about the five senses – hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling – but few parents are aware of how to develop these “invisible” senses.

Here are a few ways you can help your child develop their senses while having fun at the same time:

  • Rolling on the floor or down a grassy slope
  • Doing somersaults through your arms
  • Playing on swings and slides
  • Pushing, pulling, rolling, squeezing, and shaping play dough
  • Construction toys that require clicking or pressing together
  • Climbing jungle gyms
  • Riding a bicycle.

Get them moving

Did you know that every movement your child makes is a sensory experience that physically grows the size of her brain and wires it for academic learning later on? All children are born to move. Encourage large movements known as gross motor, as well as small movements, known as fine motor. Both are needed for your child to learn how to coordinate the different parts of her body with her eyes, and to get both sides of her body working together.

To encourage your child to move, promote:

  • Outdoor play – children love having space around them
  • Riding bikes and swimming, which are both excellent for bilateral integration (both sides of the body moving together)
  • Skipping around the house or garden
  • Hopping from one tile to another down the bedroom passage

Repetition, repetition, repetition

It may seem boring when your little one wants to do the same thing over and over again, or hear the same songs, or watch the same movie, but for her, this is how she consolidates her learning. Repetition helps your child build strong neurological pathways in the brain.

It’s a fact: for a memory cell to be formed in the brain (called an engram), the same movement must be performed at least 200 to 300 times!

Stacking and building 

The preschool years are actually all about your child pulling things apart and putting them back together again. This is how she learns about the world around her. Just look at an eight- to 12-month-old and how she’ll pull all the tissues out of the box, the Tupperware out of the cupboard, or knock down the tower you have built. Then, from about two-and-a-half years of age, she’ll start understanding she can put things together − whether she’s stacking something, matching shapes, or building puzzles.

Learning at preschool

Beyond exposing your children to a variety of age-appropriate and stimulating experiences at home, it’s important to ensure she is well socialised with other children. This is where preschool and teachers come into play.

The many benefits of sending children to preschool include:

  • Socialising
  • Communicating
  • Sharing and taking turns
  • Following instructions
  • Listening (to instructions and stories)
  • Following a routine
  • Learning how to be more independent