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What Grown-ups Should Know About Preschool

Quality programs set children up for future success

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Executive function

Children draw upon their executive functioning skills to manage the multiple streams of information coming at them at once and to respond appropriately. Working memory allows children to remember multi-step instructions (e.g., put your artwork in your cubby, get your jacket and line up for recess). Inhibitory control allows them to resist temptation and think before they act (e.g., ask to see a friend's toy rather than taking it). Flexibility allows children to switch gears in different situations (e.g., running on the playground is fine but running in the hall is not). These skills become more coordinated between the ages of 3 and 6 years and high-quality preschool curricula are designed to improve them.

Social understanding

Between the ages of 3 and 6 children become 1) more skilled at perspective-taking (e.g., I know Ahmed is upset because he asked for the red crayon and Jason accidentally broke it), and 2) better able to predict how another person might feel (e.g., Sarah may get her feelings hurt if she isn't included in playtime, so I will ask her to play with Katie and me). Qualified preschool teachers scaffold social understanding, which underlies social-cognitive reasoning skills necessary for managing complex relationships with friends and adults.

Language skills

Children begin to use language as a tool for thinking rather than simply a tool for communicating with others. They think aloud to help them stay on track (e.g., "get my jacket then line up"). They use private speech to work through a problem (e.g., "get the green and brown Legos to make a tree") or a frustrating situation (e.g., "just ignore my friend who keeps talking to me while the teacher is reading a story"). Qualified teachers help preschoolers make the shift to using language to guide thinking and reasoning, a powerful tool to control their own behavior and emotions.

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Tags: Health, In This Issue

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