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Q: I feel preschool will teach our four-year-old how to get along better, but my husband doesn't want our youngest to go, especially after a past problem with preschool with one of our other children. How can I help my child at home if she won't be around kids her own age, except at church on Sunday? My husband and I have already discussed the pre-k issue and decided to keep her at home.
A: You are right to be concerned about providing socialization experiences for your child. Early childhood educators have traditionally given high priority to enhancing young children's social needs. Fortunately, gaining the necessary social skills does not require attending preschool. Here is a list of some of the things that you can do to ensure that your child will have many of the same experiences she would enjoy in preschool:
- Enroll your child in a free or close-to-free library, park department, church, or community program that will let her socialize with other children one or more days a week for a few hours.
- Arrange to swap in-home play sessions once or twice a week with a neighbor or friend.
- Give your child the opportunity to develop close friendships with one or two children.
- Let your child see you interacting with friends so that she will imitate your behavior and learn good manners. Be sure to include your child in your conversations with other adults.
- Encourage your child to play games such as Farmer in the Dell; Mother, May I; and Simon Says -- games that let her take turns being a leader and a follower. She can play them with family members and other children.
- Make available a lot of dress-up clothes so your daughter can playact many social roles from cook to sailor.
- Above all else, establish certain rules of social behavior that you expect your child to follow.
Remember, if you and your husband are warm and loving to your child, she should get along well with others. Plus, another year at home with one-on-one attention from you will give her valuable nurturing time.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.