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Alternatives To PreSchool – Five Suggestions for Building Social Skills
Kindergarten is fast approaching for my daughter and I find myself constantly answering questions about whether she will attend preschool. The answer is no and most parents just ask, but some felt the need to have a firm discussion with me about how preschool helps with social skills. I’m not against preschool, I just prefer to continue teaching my daughter at home until the kindergarten adventure is due to begin.
I agree that preschool can offer children an opportunity to develop many skills, including very important social skills. However, these conversations got me thinking about other non-preschool opportunities for socialization that might be available in your community. Since social skills are best taught through real-world situations, I’ve listed some alternatives to preschool that will help develop or improve your toddler’s social skills:
1. Gymnastics/Tumble Class. These classes are structured to teach children to work as a team, sit quietly in a circle and pay attention, wait their turn, learn new physical skills, follow directions, perform in front of others and provide exercise that our children need. Not only will your child develop social skills within their own age group, but their self-esteem will grow week after week as they master somewhat complicated gymnastics techniques. Make sure the class trainer has a patient, encouraging and enthusiastic manner when working with the children and your child will grow into a more social, confident person within a short time.
2. Gymboree Play and Music Classes. Yes, the clothes merchant. The company has an early childhood education division that operates Gymboree centers throughout the United States. Programs include classes like music and art, and Centers even offers a two-hour school skills class designed especially for 3-5 year olds. The Center offers a free class for each course offered, so parents can preview a class before committing to a monthly plan. Parents are welcome to stay and observe or let their child experience the class on their own.
3. Discovery Centers. If these centers are available in your area, take advantage of them when you can. Discovery Centers can offer 2-hour classes to week-long camps for preschoolers. Children learn about science, are offered hands-on experiences such as working with clay, learning textures, art, playing music, etc. Drive yourself because some of the camps require you to leave the child with the teacher, but remember that this exercise is to help the child develop social skills.
4. Art Museums. Many museums offer story time, camps, kids’ clubs, and kid-related areas, where the real fun begins. Children have hands-on experience with other children their age including arts, crafts, using chalks, textures, etc. They must learn to follow instructions, take turns and share art supplies. Be sure to step back and let your toddler learn to respond to the teacher and find his way in an unfamiliar group of children.
5. Your Local Zoo. Check your local zoo for kid-related classes. Some Zoos offer children’s yoga classes, art classes, and children’s classes with arts and crafts, story time, and the opportunity to touch and learn about select zoo animals. The children’s classes especially teach the children to sit in a circle, learn to be silent, raise their hand to participate and listen and follow instructions on the assigned class project.
Whether you choose preschool or choose to keep your child at home until it’s time for kindergarten, you have options for teaching them valuable social skills. Do your research and look for the opportunities that will expose them to as much as possible. Yes, sometimes that will mean standing back and letting them learn their way, but every little step they take will be one giant leap toward the confident beings we all want our children to become.
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