Pre-K (short for pre-kindergarten) is an early learning curriculum that allows for children to develop the necessary skills that will prepare them for Kindergarten. VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) is a Pre-K program offered for free in Florida for all 4-5 year-olds. It is similar to preschool, in that it aims to give your child a head start in developing their learning, thinking, and social interaction skills. For many children, Pre-K is often their first schooling experience. This can be a daunting environment for them as they embark on their new schooling journey. Everything may appear scary and unfamiliar. Going to a school will now be out of their normal daily routine, so it’s up to parents and teachers to help them become prepared to face the unfamiliar.
As The Parent, What Can You Do To Help Your Child?
We have the answers right here! There are several activities and examples to choose:
- Pay A Visit To The School: Take your child to visit their new school and all its surroundings. Your child should be encouraged to explore the playground, class rooms, and cafeteria etc. so that they can become familiar with them, which will help ease their first-time experiences at school. You can also play on the playgrounds with your child to make it a pleasant experience.
- Become Familiar With Your Child’s VPK’s Daily Schedule: Knowing your child’s schedule can help you plan routine behaviors for home that will help ease your child into the VPK program. For example, you can have a look at your child’s VPK program and see their lunch times, and then plan your lunches at home accordingly.
- Establish A Morning Routine: Getting ready for school will take longer than you think! Allow enough time in the morning to prepare lunch (should you need), make and serve breakfast, pack bags, and dress your child. Add a few minutes extra for your first day of school so that you can feel extra prepared without having to stress or try and hurry yourself and your child.
- Inform Your Child About Their School Routine: Make sure that you know the before and after school routines. Tell your child in advance what the day will entail in order to mentally prepare them for the day. For example, if you are involved in a carpool club, then tell your child on what days you will be fetching them, and what days you won’t be fetching them so that they will not feel nervous and confused should a different driver pick them up. Also, make sure your child can identify who trusted drivers are and that they should not get in the vehicle of anyone they don’t recognize.
- Have A Plan B: There is a chance that something may happen during the day which will make it difficult for you to fetch your child from school. Organize to have someone who can be available to fetch and babysit your child, should the need arise. It would be a good idea to take your emergency baby sitter to the school and show them the routes and procedures for an easy and stress-free fetching routine. Keep some lunch money in a safe place in the car for a backup lunch plan, in case you forget to prepare the lunch or forget it at home!
- Teach Your Child Important Daily Skills Before School Starts: Simple actions like unzipping a coat, putting on socks and shoes, hanging a coat on a hook, unzipping a school bag and unwrapping a sandwich are very important self-help skills that your child will need for their school day! Practice these skills with them and use pretend play or games to encourage these behaviors. For example, you can have your child pretend to go to school with you, enter the school classroom and take off his/her coat and hang it on a hook.
- Let Your Child Get Used To The Idea Of School: Read your child stories about school, and play games involving parent, child and teacher roles to help them understand the concept of schooling and what is expected of them as the child.
There are several Pre-K Programs offered in Florida with different curriculum plans. Contact the preschool and ask for more information about the programs offered, and what they entail. Providence Children’s Academy, for example, offers a free Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program for all 4-year old’s living in Florida. These VPKs are provided by the Early Learning Coalition (ELC). It includes 540 instructional hours designed to provide development in social and interaction skills, early literacy skills and early numeracy skills. There are various public and private VPK institutions: public-based, private-based, faith based, and care-based, where you can choose a program that best suits your child’s needs. Enrollment starts in March and programs start in August. For more information, you can visit our website!