I always loved school growing up. In fact I was a fourth grade teacher for two years before becoming a Stay At Home Mom. To say I am excited for Gemma’s schooling is an intense understatement. But I found myself at quite a loss for how to best prepare her.
When I reached out to friends and family most people just encouraged me to “let her play” and “not to worry” but I just KNEW I needed to be doing a little bit more. So I talked to more people, did some research and bought some great curriculum and I realized exactly what I had been missing.
I needed to learn how to teach Gemma “in the wild”. We don’t do worksheets or structured school time since she is only two years old. But there are FIVE crucial things I do every single day to help her learn and prepare her for preschool. Since implementing these things I have seen such a jump in her knowledge and memory. It has been such a fun stage watching her vocabulary bloom and her grasping new concepts and ideas.
So here are the FIVE things we now do every single day.
1. Faith Memorization and Foundation
Since we are a Christian family and my husband is a pastor, faith comes first and foremost before anything else. We have a simple bible memory verse and some catechisms (question and answer) that we repeat with Gemma daily. We currently recite Genesis 1:1 and she knows all the hand motions and loves yelling one, one at the very end. We also ask her who made her (to which she responds, God made me) and we ask her what else God made (to which she SHOULD respond God made everything but she always loves to exclaim that God made Daddy!) We know that this is purely memorization. But we believe it is still laying a good foundation for us to build upon for her to hopefully UNDERSTAND in the future!
2. READ ALOUD
I have really been slipping up on this lately with everything I have going on, but I make a point to read aloud to Gemma and Evander every single day. I read to to them while they play, I read to them together and separately. I stop and read to them when they ask me to, or at least I try. Reading is so critical. They are learning vocabulary, and their brains are working to piece things together. I ask Gemma questions while we read and simple questions to test out her recall abilities. Don’t skip READING!
This was a real lightbulb moment for me. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t counting with Gemma daily. It really did not come naturally to me at all! However, within days of me taking the time to count with her on a regular basis, she started counting to three. Now she can count to five and I am sure ten is not far behind. We count anything and everything. We count toys, and people and blue cars and things we buy at the store. We count bites and trees and pillows and friends at the library. It’s made a huge difference and I can see the very beginning stages of her developing number sense!
4. DESCRIPTIVE WORDS
Again, I don’t know why this one didn’t come naturally. It originally began with working on animal sounds, body parts and colors. Now we’ve moved on to descriptions like hard, soft, big, little, sticky, etc. It branches out into sorting and categorizing and there truly is unlimited possibility. Sometimes I set up an activity with sorting, sometimes I emphasize these words when reading, but for the most part this happens “in the wild”. It happens in our day to day life at home, the store, the library, in the car, etc. Forcing myself to use these descriptive words and helped me be in meaningful conversations with my daughter when it’s tempting to get lost in my own little world.
5. OPEN ENDED PLAY (Preferably Outside!)
Now this was the most advice I received when I first began asking what I needed to do to prepare Gemma for preschool. I try and make sure the majority of her day is spent playing! This means no screen! We are on a mission to rid our house of obnoxious battery-operated toys and really hold on to things that are well made and imagination inducing. It will be a process and we might never perfect it, but I can already tell a difference in behavior when Gemma spends time screen-free and playing with things that require imagination.
Truly, there is no rush for preschool. Instead I am trying to enjoy this “school-free” time while I can and really embrace Gemma’s toddlerhood. However, taking the time to include her and communicate with her has a made a huge difference. Her vocabulary and understanding is growing daily and it is such a blessing to be a part of that!