Play-Based vs. Academic-Based Preschool: Which Is Better for Your Child?

benefits of academic preschoolChoosing a preschool for your child is an important decision. There are many factors to consider, which can make choosing a preschool extremely difficult. Parents need to consider things like cost, location, schedule, safety, and discipline. While there are various factors that need to be considered, the school’s philosophy and classroom methods are two of the most important.

While three-fourths of children participate in a preschool program in the United States, not all preschools approach learning the same way. There are two main types of preschools: academic-based and play-based. Let’s examine both.

Academic-Based Preschool

Academic preschool programs are considered “teacher-directed,” meaning teachers lead the children in a structured way by planning activities and then guiding the children through them. This method of preschool is designed to prepare children for kindergarten. The benefits of an academic preschool include skill development: letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. The goal is to help students get ready for kindergarten.

The majority of academic preschool activities consist of following a structured schedule by participating in activities and enhancing basic skills.

Play-Based Preschool

In a play-based preschool program, children can choose activities based on their interests. Most play-based classrooms are broken up into sections, like kitchens, science areas, and reading areas. The children are encouraged to maneuver between activities throughout the day, participating in whatever activities they are interested in at the moment.

Although it may seem like just playtime, children are enhancing social skills as well as some basic math and reading skills. The preschool teacher acts more like a facilitator than a lecturer, monitoring students’ progress through participation rather than by more formal methods.

Which is Right for Your Child?

If you find yourself worrying that a play-based classroom might be too chaotic, or not give your child the individual attention they need, then an academic preschool could be the better choice. You can find comfort in knowing that your child is in a structured setting that will allow them to develop skills at an early age. The structured learning benefits of an academic preschool will prepare your child for not only kindergarten, but a successful start to school overall. However, if you find yourself desiring the benefits of both academic- and play-based programs, there are institutions that provide both types of activities for a comprehensive experience. These schools may be harder to find, but with a little research, you should be able to find the perfect fit for your child.

Finding the right preschool means choosing a preschool that is beneficial to your child and allows them to grow in an environment that’s right for them. Please contact us today if you have questions or would like to find out more.

Common Preschool Fears And How Parents Can Help

things to look for in a preschoolThese days, finding a great preschool is a top priority for most parents. After all, the percentage of three- to five-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs like preschool, nursery school, and kindergarten rose from 59% to 65% between 1990 and 2013. But just because you’ve checked everything off your “things to look for in a preschool” list and enrolled your child in school doesn’t mean that everything will be smooth sailing.

Even if you’ve chosen from the best academic preschool programs in your area, your child may have trouble making the transition from home to school. Sometimes, these transitional troubles are caused by fears your child may be experiencing. Addressing these fears and coming up with solutions can allow your child to feel much more comfortable in school and enjoy all of the preschool education activities available to them. Below are just a couple of the fears your child might have and how you can help your child face them in a not-so-scary way.

Missing You
Both parents and children often experience separation anxiety. This is to be expected. However, there are things you can do to ease this transition and help them feel less homesick. Visits to the facility can be extremely helpful. The more they become accustomed to being there, the more likely they are to feel comfortable and happy once they’re on their own. Once school starts, make sure to keep your routine consistent. This includes maintaining short and sweet goodbyes. One of the things to look for in a preschool is a staff that understands how tough these transitions can be. Enlist help from staff members to engage your child in an activity after you say goodbye to help distract them in a positive way. You can also have your child bring a comforting item (like a small toy, blanket, personal note, or photograph) from home.

Failing to Make Friends
No matter how great your preschool is, your child might be scared that the other children will be mean to them or that they’ll have trouble making new friends. Preparation will be your best friend here, as introducing your child to their teacher ahead of time can help reduce these anxieties immensely. Confide in the teacher or staff member, letting them know of your child’s reservations. The teacher will be able to make your child feel welcome and assure them that the entire staff is on their side. Should your child be worried they won’t be able to make friends, empathy can work well here, as well: let them know that all of the other kids are just as nervous as they are. With especially shy children, giving staff members a heads-up can facilitate new friendships and opportunities for play. A caring staff is one of the top things to look for in a preschool, so they can be a great ally in this case.

It can be tough enough to find a great preprimary program, but it’s not enough to simply enroll your child in a facility that has all the best things to look for in a preschool. You’ll need to be proactive and help your child face their fears in a healthy way. For more back to school tips, look around our blog or contact us today.

What Your Child’s Preschool Teacher Wishes You Knew

high-quality educationIt’s likely you understand the importance of obtaining a high-quality education, and that this foundation starts in preschool. In fact, 60% of at-risk children were found to be more likely to not attend college if they didn’t get a high-quality education in preschool first. Academic preschool programs are now in session. It can be tough for both children and parents to adjust to this new way of life, but experienced teachers and a welcoming environment can make things go more smoothly—and if you know these preschool educator secrets, you’ll be in a better position to embrace these changes head-on.

Preschool teachers want parents to know that…

  • The transition might take longer than you think
    When your child begins preschool, you may be worried about how they’ll react to being away from you. But the truth is that the separation can be just as hard on you as it is on your child. It might be the first time you’ve been apart for any lengthy period, after all. Each child has different needs, but it’s never a good idea to drop them off and leave while their back is turned. It’s best to give them a hug and reassure them that you will be back to pick them up after a fun day at preschool and leave as soon as possible. Have patience and realize it may take many days or even several weeks for your child to get used to their new routine. Soon enough, they’ll give up the teary goodbyes and look forward to their favorite preschool education activities—but don’t expect it to happen overnight.
  • Structure and routine are essential
    When you care for your child at home, you might have some kind of loose routine, but it’s probably nowhere near as structured as what your child will experience in preschool. When your child knows what to expect on a daily basis, they’ll be in a better position to pay attention, learn, and play. It’s also the best way to ensure your child takes a nap every day. Giving them time to unwind prior to sleep is extremely important, as is creating an atmosphere that’s conducive to rest. Children are typically less likely to act out if their schedule is relatively similar every day; disruptions in their routine can result in disruptive behavior.
  • Play is just as important as traditional classroom time
    Requirements for preschool vary from place to place. It is important that the preschool you choose has an academic focus. That said, traditional classroom learning isn’t the only important aspect of preschool. Play can be just as important as planned lessons. Yes, academics do play an important role in preschool, as this time is critical for neural development and will set a child up to receive a high-quality education throughout his or her life. Children learn a lot through playing, discovering, exploring, and socializing with their peers as well. Don’t discount the concept of playtime and how much children need it in their routines.

Every preschool is different (as is every child), but these three concepts are pretty universal. They can help you pick a great preschool program and make sure that both you and your child get the most out of the experience. If you’re ever in doubt about your child’s transition or their routine at school, consult these expert tips.

Is Your Child Really Ready For Preschool? Take Our Quiz To Find Out!

daycareFall is right around the corner, which means many parents and guardians will be readying themselves and their children to head off to daycare, preschool, or another childcare arrangements. While finding the right preschool for your family can be a challenge in itself, it can also be difficult to know whether your child is actually ready to start preschool. While the percentage of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs increased by 9% and 12%, respectively, between 1990 and 2013, that doesn’t always mean it’s easy to know whether it’s the right time to enroll. Our quiz can help you recognize the skills your child possesses and help you decide whether this year will be the year for preschool.

How does your child react when they’re away from you?
A. They’re comfortable right away and never know I’m gone.
B. They’re upset at first, but readjust within 10 or 15 minutes.
C. They’re inconsolable until I come back to pick them up.

How well does your child listen and follow instructions?
A. They do this very well.
B. They do this sometimes or most of the time.
C. They do not do this well.

How would you describe your child’s level of potty training?
A. They are totally potty-trained.
B. They are well on their way to being potty-trained, but have the occasional accident.
C. They are not yet potty-trained and have frequent accidents.

How often does your child socialize with other kids?
A. They play with other kids frequently without incident.
B. They occasionally play with other kids but may need to work on their social skills.
C. They barely play with other children or exhibit frequent behavioral issues when they do.

Does your child know how to share, take turns, and cooperate with others?
A. Yes, and they do this often, even without prompting.
B. Yes, but they sometimes need reminding.
C. No, this is a lesson we have to review often or they are resistant to do so.

Can your child clearly communicate their needs and recite your information?
A. Yes, they can express their basic needs and they know our address, phone number, and names.
B. Yes, they can usually express their basic needs and they know at least some contact information.
C. No, they struggle to communicate these needs.

If you answered mostly As: Your child is very likely ready for daycare or preschool. Of course, you should still do your research on specific academic preschool programs before enrolling your child. Inquire with teachers to find out their requirements and whether your child’s abilities would make them a good fit.

If you answered mostly Bs: Your child may be ready to take on those preschool education activities — if not this year, then definitely next year. There may be some key areas you’ll need to consider working on at home in the meantime, like more socialization, communication, or potty training. Ultimately, you’re going to be the best judge of whether your child is ready, but it won’t hurt to talk to staff members and get a second opinion.

If you answered mostly Cs: This year may not be the year for preschool. And that’s okay! Your child might simply benefit from more time to learn these skills. Talk with preschool teachers or daycare staff members in your area and zero in on which skills are typically the most important. Usually, the ability to follow directions and social skills are highly valued. Take some time to develop these on your own and through peer interaction before signing them up for class.

Figuring out whether your child will fare well in daycare or preschool isn’t an easy task, but these important questions can illuminate the skills your child has already acquired and the areas they may need to work on before being placed in a totally new environment. And as always, your preschool of choice will be a valuable source of information that can help you make the right decision for your family.

Helping Your New Preschooler Cope With Separation Anxiety

requirements for preschoolFor many parents, dropping your child off at preschool for the first time can be nerve-wracking. So when your child screams and cries upon arriving at school, that can only make it worse. To start, remember that this behavior is a normal part of child development.

“Children go through feelings of separation anxiety for different reasons, but on a basic level, they believe their survival is dependent on having a primary caregiver close by. Toddlers are also still too young to understand the concept of time,” Mali Anderson writes in Parents.

How can you begin to help your preschooler get past these feelings of anxiety? With three-fourths of young children in the United States participating in a preschool program, here are some techniques that parents can use to help their child feel more comfortable with their morning transition.

  • Give Happy Goodbyes: Your child checked off all requirements for preschool and arrived at the door of their first day, so this is your chance to show a positive attitude. Even if you are sad about leaving your child at school, do your best to smile and be enthusiastic. If you show that preschool is a happy place to be, your child may reflect this attitude. If your child senses that you are upset or that you have any doubt about leaving them, this will create more anxiety for them.
  • Develop A Routine: Children find comfort in routine, so create a positive one and stick to it. Whether it’s packing their lunch together or reading a book in the morning, use the morning to make your child feel safe and happy. This will get them in the best possible mindset to attend school that day.

Above all, be sure to communicate your concerns with your child’s teachers. The best academic preschool programs will be able to help your child work through their anxiety and sadness, and eventually, he or she will be excited to be there. Consider making this kind of support one of your requirements for preschool or daycare facilities as you select which is best for your child.

Preschool’s Surprising Impact On Children Later In Life

preschoolPreschools are more than just an alternative to daycare. As a matter of fact, children who attend preschools are more likely to succeed as adults and live healthier lifestyles.

According to the University of Michigan, children who were enrolled in preschool had higher salaries 25 years later compared to those who did not attend preschool. Additionally, up to 25% of at-risk teenagers are more likely to drop out of high school if they are not exposed to an academic preschool curriculum as a child.

But why does getting a high quality education at a young age have such a significant effect later in life?

Children typically exhibit personality traits within their first few hours of life. However, these traits can be shaped and changed during early childhood. Ultimately, children who attend preschool have a social advantage over children who do not attend preschool. Let’s look at a couple reasons why:

Academic preschool programs help your child learn to make friends
Children who attend preschool are given an entire school year to learn social cues, including how to make friends laugh, how to make them cry, how to make them angry, how to get along with them, etc. Children who don’t attend preschool, on the other hand, must wait until kindergarten to learn how to interact with their peers. Interacting with family is different than interacting with peers, and peer-to-peer interaction is essential at this stage in your child’s life.

Preschool engages your child’s mind
Children’s brains act as sponges for information. Before the modern day, this allowed them to learn survival skills to stay safe from predators. The earlier your child learns, the easier the information will be for them to retain. That is why it’s so important to begin teaching your child multiple languages at a young age, for instance.

Preschool academics help your child get a leg up in the academic world by exposing them to numbers and letters as well as art and basic science. Not only does this prepare them for kindergarten, where they’ll begin to add larger numbers and learn more advanced concepts, but it will also give them confidence in their intelligence.

Preschool is an exceptional setting for engaging your child with academics and friends at an early age. Preschool provides your child with the peer interaction they require as well as the academic stimulation that will pay dividends later in life.

Dos And Don’ts Of The Preschool Classroom: What Parents Should Look For

preschool education activitiesSince 1990, the percentages of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs has grown from 33% and 56%, respectively, to 42% and 68% in 2013, per the National Center for Education Statistics. Clearly, more parents have come to realize that academic preschool programs are highly beneficial for childhood development.

Unfortunately, the truth is that not every preschool is created equal: some have more highly qualified teachers, better resources, and safer environments than others. That’s why parents need to be very diligent when embarking on a preschool search. Because many parents research new preschools during the summer months, we’ve outlined a few things to look for in a new preschool — and a few things you should hope you never see.

What Parents Should Observe In An Academic Preschool Curriculum

  • A safe environment: Above all, your child needs to be safe during all preschool education activities. Your choice in preschool should be a secure, healthy environment where students are closely observed at all times.
  • A balanced schedule: While a child’s day may be full of different preschool education activities, they should never feel rushed or fatigued by the strenuous pace. They should also not be forced to engage in activities for too long, or else they may easily become bored. An ideal curriculum should help children acquire and build on new skills, gain knowledge, explore their individual interests, interact with others, and achieve goals. This can help them become more independent, creative, and self-confident while fostering a love of learning and attitude of curiosity about the world.
  • Teachers who care: Early childhood education teachers can make a world of difference in how children learn throughout the rest of their lives. Teachers need to be nurturing while still expressing clear behavioral limits. Overall, teachers should be highly engaged and passionate about what they do. This attitude will transfer over to the children in their care.

What Parents Should Not See In A Preschool Environment

  • Unrealistic developmental expectations: Highly qualified preschool teachers should have an innate understanding of what can be expected from the children in their classroom. While they should encourage independence in certain ways, they should never allow children to take on tasks that could present a danger. Likewise, while the best preschool education activities challenge young children, teachers should have realistic expectations of what young children can and cannot learn at such a young age. If you observe a teacher who doesn’t seem to grasp how to interact with the children they’re teaching, look elsewhere for a preschool program.
  • A disorganized or too-rigid classroom: A preschool environment does need to be carefully monitored. Children should not freely wander around without becoming involved in preschool education activities or play indoors without being observed. That said, the environment should not be too rigid, either. Children should be able to explore and play without feeling anxious. It can be a delicate balance, but it’s an important one. If students aren’t being watched — or are watched too carefully — you should consider a preschool with more experienced teachers.
  • Inattentive or uninvolved teachers: Above all else, a preschool teacher needs to be involved in what’s going on in their classroom. Most states have regulations about student-teacher ratios for a reason, but without passionate teachers these rules are meaningless. Some teachers may feel they’re above engaging in their students’ playtime or may ignore their behavior. Not only does this not help children learn through play but it could also put them in danger. Teachers also need to actively set clear limits in the classroom. Children need to understand the consequences of certain behaviors. Should you see teachers who are disengaged or who let children run amok during preschool education activities, try another program.

With these classroom do’s and don’ts in mind, parents will be in a much better position to recognize a great preschool environment.

At Learn and Grow Academy, we pride ourselves on providing a safe environment and highly qualified instructors to help students thrive. To find out more, contact us today.

Preschool Preparation: What Your Child Needs To Know Before Their First Day

grade school readinessPreschool is typically thought of as the first step towards obtaining a high-quality education. Most parents know that academic preschool programs play a key role in grade school readiness – which is why three-fourths of all children in the U.S. are enrolled in preschool.

If your child is to start preschool this fall, there are a few things you can do to make sure they’re prepared for the preschool education activities they’ll experience. Here are a few points to cover with your child before the first day.

  • Personal Hygiene
    Preschool policies may differ on potty-training: some schools require students to be potty-trained, while others do not. However, it’s usually a good idea for children to be at least well on their way to being potty-trained, as it can be stressful to handle bathroom issues on their own for the first time. Your child should also know to wash and dry her hands after using the bathroom. It can help to establish a bathroom routine while still at home and to ask before using the toilet. Make sure they know to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing and coughing, too.
  • Separation
    Preschool policies may differ on potty-training: some schools require students to be potty-trained, while others do not. However, it’s usually a good idea for children to be at least well on their way to being potty-trained, as it can be stressful to handle bathroom issues on their own for the first time. Your child should also know to wash and dry her hands after using the bathroom. It can help to establish a bathroom routine while still at home and to ask before using the toilet. Make sure they know to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing and coughing, too.
  • Following Directions
    Simple directions are a part of the routine at preschool. If you want to prepare children for this, it may be helpful to work on listening and following requests. These skills will become even more important as they grow up, so getting a head start on them now means they’ll have even higher levels of grade school readiness. They’ll have to put away toys, point to colors and shapes, and go to their cubbies during the school day. By being able to follow these simple instructions, you’ll set them on a successful path.

An excellent preschool program will set your child up for a successful life-long educational experience. Preparing with these tips in mind, your child will be ready to start preschool come fall.

Preventing Learning Loss: 5 Tips to Keep Kids Curious All Summer Long

back to school tipsFor many parents, finding the right preschool can take weeks or even months. In 2013, nearly 84% of five-year-old children were enrolled in preprimary programs, so there’s a pressure for parents to give their children the early educational experience they need to succeed. If your child has a year or two of preschool experience under her belt, she’ll probably have a high level of grade school readiness come fall. But whether your child will be attending primary school for the first time next year or you’re in need of some back to school tips for your older children, it’s never too early to start preparing. In fact, summertime provides all kinds of opportunities for continued learning. To ensure your child is ready for another year when autumn rolls around, you’ll want to follow these five tips.

Sign up for summer camp
Although sports-related camps are great, there are plenty of summer camps with an educational spin that will keep your children engaged and growing. These camps may be run through local organizations, museums, community centers, or even your school. Whether your child loves fun science experiments, has an interest in animals, or wants to explore faraway lands and planets, there’s likely a camp that can get them thinking and learning. Maintaining an active mind is one of the best back to school tips we can offer.

Drop everything and read
Making regular trips to your local library and setting aside read-aloud time can make a huge difference in your students’ interest in reading and in their reading comprehension levels. Many libraries have story time for local kids and may even host reading contests to see who can read the most books during the summer. If you’re able to make reading magical, rather than a chore, your children will seek out books instead of shying away from them. The key is getting children excited about reading. You could even act books out at home or create companion activities to the books you read together.

Encourage creative expression
If your child knows how to write, creative writing can be a fantastic outlet and can help them express their thoughts and feelings. You can encourage them to write a paragraph every day or help them write a few sentences and let them illustrate a picture to go along with it. In general, creativity begets creativity; in other words, their participation in a creative outlet — like performing, arts and crafts, storytelling, or even playing games — can make them more innovative in other parts of their life. They’ll learn to think outside the box and solve problems in new ways. This can be just as important for their development as any other educational activity.

Make math delicious
Numbers and math may not appeal to many kids, but you can help make them a bit more accessible — and yummy. Get your child involved in making healthy treats in the kitchen. You’ll pique their interest with the promise of deliciousness and will manage to bake some math right in. While younger children won’t grasp exactly how measurements relate to numbers, you’re still solidifying the idea that by combining several parts, you’re making a whole new recipe.

Visit local museums
During the summertime, your local museums are a great resource for learning and a welcome escape from the heat or rainstorm. Museums have exhibits that truly make learning fun for children. With focuses on science, math, nature, history, and even play and how it helps kids grow, these centers will soon become a favorite for your children. Many museums will even offer discounts for families during the summer season as a way of encouraging educational activities during the break.

To find out more about area summer camps or to learn more about our preschool programs, contact Learn and Grow Academy today.

3 Reasons to Enroll Your Child in a Summer Preschool Program

academic preschool curriculumMost parents know how important academic preschool programs can be for their child’s future development. The best preschools will help prepare your son or daughter for the language, math, and social skills they need to succeed in elementary school and beyond. But just because school will soon be out for the summer, that doesn’t mean your child can’t continue his or her educational, social, and emotional growth through an academic preschool curriculum. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the reasons why you should enroll your child in a preschool program for the summer.

  1. They can continue their learning

    At almost any age, the summer break can be detrimental to an ongoing education. While small breaks can help the mind feel refreshed, taking three months off can set students back quite a bit. Studies have found that having increased opportunities to learn, like attending preschool for a longer period, equates to additional developmental benefits. By attending preschool in the first place, children will significantly forge ahead. But by ensuring what they’ve learned during the school year doesn’t fall by the wayside during the summer months, they’ll be even more prepared to enter kindergarten.

  2. They’ll be supervised by educators

    Working parents can often use some help in the summertime. Although relatives and regular babysitters can provide some much-needed assistance in watching your children, they can’t provide the same academic advantages and structured days that preschool teachers can. The same goes for daycare workers; even if they have extensive childcare experience, they won’t do much besides monitor your child and engage them in some fun activities. With a summer academic preschool curriculum, your child will have a great time and continue their studies at the same time. It’s a two-for-one deal that most parents won’t want to pass up.

  3. They’ll be socially engaged without adding to stress

    The benefits of academic preschool curriculums extend beyond traditional learning. At preschool, children can socialize with their peers and will master important skills like sharing, cooperation, and responsibility. Increased social interaction will help your child become more confident and make lots of new friends. Setting up endless playdates can be exhausting for many parents, especially if they work full-time. However, preschool provides an easy way for children to create new bonds and build on the social skills on which they’ll rely for years to come.

Many preschools like ours offer summer programs that give children the chance to learn all year round. Instead of being parked in front of the TV until September, your children can experience all of the benefits of academic preschool during the summer season.

To find out more about the best preschool programs and summer camps Bergen County, NJ has to offer, contact Learn and Grow Academy today.