How Free VPK Benefits Children
One of the advantages of raising a family in Florida is access to free Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) programs. The VPK program gives young children a head start in their education.
But some parents may be wondering how much a four-year-old can really learn. Are we putting too much pressure on younger children to grow up too quickly?
In fact, early childhood education is an exciting field of study that tells us that young children are incredibly receptive to learning. What matters is that the educational content is age-appropriate, and engages kids with structured play and fun activities that don’t feel like dry, rigorous rote learning.
In this post, we’ll discuss how VPK can benefit your child, and what kinds of skills they’ll learn in a free VPK program.
Children benefit immensely when exposed to literature and books at a young age. Even though it will take some time before your child can read books on their own, they are still learning when read to.
At this age, children can begin to learn and recite the alphabet; some may be able to write certain letters, or even their names. Hearing stories read to them can help improve not only their vocabulary, but also their pronunciation and enunciation skills; this is also the age at which children learn rhyming patterns.
A child that picks up these skills in VPK has a greater chance of success when learning reading and writing at kindergarten. They will also learn how to communicate more effectively, and with a greater range of words at their command. Furthermore, instilling a love of literature and reading in young children encourages a life-long enthusiasm that will only benefit them later in life.
There are so many cognitive skills that your child is developing at this stage of life, even though they may not seem like ‘skills’ in the way we understand them as adults.
Learning to identify different colors and shapes, counting to 10, and matching similar items are all important foundational skills. Four-year-olds are also typically ready to understand the basics of how time works, as well as different seasons. With structured play, kids can learn sequencing, classification, contrasting and comparing, and basic problem solving.
Children can also acquire basic ‘general knowledge’ at this age: family members’ names, their address, the name of their school, animal and plant names, or what the different colors of the traffic light represent.
This is also a prime age for your little one to learn how to interact with others. Play makes for an important part of socialization: by playing games, children learn how to designate roles amongst themselves, how to create and abide by rules, and how to negotiate with others. They learn appropriate contact with others, and what is not permitted (i.e. hugging another child who doesn’t want to be hugged).
Kids can also learn the importance of manners, whether during meal times, saying hello and goodbye to friends and teachers, or during games and activities.
Structured play also benefits your child’s physical development, including their motor coordination, fine motor skills, and health and fitness. This is the age at which kids learn to hop and jump, catch and throw, and even use utensils (with supervision where necessary).
VPK provides games targeted at improving physical development and skills.
Spot Potential Problems
All children develop differently, and some learn these skills faster than others. However, teachers at VPK schools should be able to pick up on potential problems that may mean that the child has a learning or developmental disability.