Bedtime for my 2 (and half) year old is incomplete without reading a book or story. Every night I watch him excited, as he runs to his book shelf and picks out a book. Sometimes, it's the same book, which has been read two to three times. Other times, he'll quietly read and observe a picture book. Last month he surprised me by saying he wanted to read the book himself and proceeded to narrate his own version, clearly and animatedly. Hearing him read gave me a sense of happiness, an affirmation of how quickly his skills are steadily advancing and developing.
As we begin the countdown to one of his biggest milestones (i.e.) starting school, I realize that it involves more than just talking about all the fun things he will learn to do and the people he will meet. It means helping him retain and build up the skills he has already learnt. In addition to new faces, a different environment and the absence of 'mummy', my son will learn to perfect his social, emotional, cognitive, and language skills. A big start that's definitely possible if he has the right foundation.
Like all moms, I have always tried to make the best decisions to aid my child's growth and development. From his first experience with proper food, to his first toys, books and activities, everything has been tried and tested to enhance his skills because it’s no secret: a child's brain develops and grows rapidly during those first few years. With my son, I began to notice his interest in certain objects, his desire to express wants and inquisitiveness to question so I began to channel all my energy to boost these experiences and prepare him for preschool in the following ways:
The easiest and best way to enhance fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and mental development, here are some toys that have been all-time favorites.
Shape sorters and stackers: These brightly colored toys help critical thinking and problem solving. They introduced different concepts like falling, stacking, opening, and sorting giving my son the opportunity to observe, analyze, question and interpret each situation.
Blocks: The best way to build imagination and creativity, blocks help enhance memory, encourage innovative design and problem solving skills. Available in attractive colours, various shapes and sizes, they keep my son actively engaged for a long time.
Abacus: Apart from the thrill of moving the colorful beads back and forth, this popular counting toy is something that helps build fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. The concept of counting is sometimes a big fear and the abacus is an interesting toy that can make maths and numbers fun and engaging.
An important part of preschool is learning to pay attention, take directions and encourage quiet time. Here are some activities that have helped develop these skills:
Coloring: A great way to nurture an interest in writing and art, I introduced my son to colors and allowed him to scribble as early as two. Setting up a drawing space with paper, crayons and art supplies will give your child an interest not just for art but to write as well. His attention span, concentration and self-confidence increased with these activities.
Reading: A child's imagination is built through books so it is very important to encourage reading activities both at home and in school. Rhyming books, short, simple stories, interesting characters and colorful illustrations are some examples to ensure an interest in books. A reading room and routine that encourages storytelling and quiet time to read is an ideal attraction. It has helped my son to understand routine, simple instruction and honed listening skills.
Music and dance: Rhymes have never failed to soothe my son and uplift his mood and dance is something we tried to incorporate into everyday activities. There are days when we turned up the volume and danced like we just don't care. Therapeutic and relaxing, this activity helped my son express himself a lot, it was a great stress buster when he struggled with tantrums and also a great way to tire him out for bed.
3. Right nutrition
A common (and huge) concern for most moms is a fussy eater whose nutritional needs are equally important for proper growth and development.
In my case, having a fussy eater meant that there were some days when meals were not completely finished. Another concern about this fussy eating meant that he was probably missing out on nutrients, making his immune system weak and vulnerable to infections - something that happens to most school going children. That's when a friend suggested I incorporate a health drink into his diet. I preferred Junior Horlicks in particular because it provides nutrients that help in overall development of the child. DHA and Choline helps in healthy brain development. I decided to incorporate this in his diet giving him one glass in the morning and evening- it certainly was a treat to watch him devour this drink! Easy to digest, tasty, filling and nutritious!
As he has grown, it's been a thrill to watch him reach important milestones- walking, talking and quite recently the sudden urge to assert his independence. All thanks to his day-to-day activities he has mastered most of the basic skills he needs. My dream is that a few months from today when my toddler begins school he will leave my hand confidently, wave goodbye and begin this important journey of his life. It's a big dream and as we take baby steps to get him to understand the importance of this new milestone, I am slightly relieved to know I am on the right track. Do share how you've prepared for your child’s first day of school. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.