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5 Ways to Keep Toddlers and Preschoolers on Track for Kindergarten Success

When you are the parent of a toddler or preschooler, a top priority is making sure they’re learning the right things at the right time. You want your child to reach all the major milestones — colors, numbers, making friends, following directions — and grow to love learning.

But zero-to-four education has changed significantly in recent years — thanks, in part, to technology. Little ones are still learning how to read and write and count, but now there are tablets and smartphones and countless apps to consider along the way. This begs questions for parents: What tech is best for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds? How much screen time is too much?

Guiding your child’s development is hard work, and some days it can feel like kindergarten is looming out there on the horizon and you’re running out of time.

First, take a pause — and a few deep breaths.

Second, and most importantly, give yourself a break! Preparing a tiny human to navigate the world is stressful. To help you out, we consulted a few experts about how to best keep your child’s pre-kindergarten learning on track. Here’s what they had to say:

    • Master the Basics.
      Start by speaking to your child about what’s happening in their world. Let them hear the language as you introduce them to colors and shapes, letters and sounds and numbers and counting. A great place to start is helping your child learn to say their full name and birthday. Other key skills include gripping a pencil and crayon correctly, cutting with scissors, recognizing rhyming words and knowing the names of parts of the body.
    • Develop Routines.
      Give your child an edge by teaching them how to stick to a schedule and follow directions. Start with an at-home routine, discuss it with your child and write it out with familiar symbols — a sandwich for lunch or a ball for playtime — so they know what to expect. As they become more adept at following a routine, you can incorporate getting ready for school, afterschool fun and bedtime.
    • Choose Quality Learning Apps but Limit Screen Time.
      Technology is here to stay, so take the time to find meaningful and age-appropriate content for your tiny tot. Many of these apps are free and loaded with games and activities that are both entertaining and challenging.

      A few to check out include:

      • PBSKids: Ages 2-8; Kids play games featuring familiar favorites like Daniel Tiger, Alma’s Way and Wild Kratts.
      • Khan Academy Kids: Ages 2-8; Parents can set up a personalized learning path for their child.
      • Hungry Caterpillar Play School: Ages 2-5; Kids take the Hungry Caterpillar through games that cover science, basic math and problem-solving.
      • Peek-a-Zoo: Ages 2-5; Players identify animals by what they’re doing and sometimes how they are feeling, helping kids learn emotional cues.
    • Note: For children under 18 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages the use of screens other than video-chatting. Children between 18 and 24 months should use educational apps only with parents guiding them in a hands-on way. For children 2 and older, the AAP recommends one hour or less of high-quality digital content per day.

    • Surround Your Child with Books.
      And read them together! Books and reading aloud are critical to a child’s cognitive development and help them build the language skills they will need the rest of their lives. Research shows that a home filled with books sets children up for future academic growth, and they learn the value of books by holding them and learning to turn pages. And don’t forget the public library — get a card for you and your child. Access to books and exposure to reading also teaches children empathy and fosters emotional intelligence by helping them name and identify their feelings.

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