School Readiness Redefined: Beyond the ABCs

Children need to be flexible thinkers in order to make their way in today's world.

Researchers are finding that when schools focus on a narrow checklist to determine school readiness, the learning process becomes too limited and only based on content, leading to children who are not prepared for long term success. Critical pieces are missing from these checklists. Take a look at some examples below, along with ways to increase these skills at home:

The quality of language interactions. Talk with your children! Point out objects and name them. Describe your day, step by step, before, during and after. Use "parentese," the exaggerated way adults talk to babies.

Guided play. Defined as child-directed and adult-initiated play. Children decide what to do next and how, with an adult to ask questions which require detailed answers.

Math. Did you know a child's math mastery before kindergarten is a greater indication of future success in math, reading and writing? It's true! Here are two concepts you can work on at home:

  • Ordinality, or numbers as fixed quantities. Five is always five is always before six is always after four. Talk about numbers and count objects all around you. What's three plus three? What's four plus two? They're both six!
  • Subitization, or knowing how many objects are in a group without counting. Play games that require dice; your child will quickly be able to glance at a die and know that three dots means they get to move three spaces.

Science. Hands-on scientific learning teaches children about the way the world works. When they do science, they're using their brains to think in different ways, building mental flexibility and critical thinking. Then, give them the chance to explain to you how it works.

Asking good questions. Studies found children aren't asking the right questions to get the information they need. Stretch those little brains to make them flexible! Model good questions. Ask them open-ended questions (questions requiring more than one word answers) and give them time to respond. 

Social skills. Stronger social skills = greater success in life. Cooperation, teamwork, empathy and listening skills are all valuable commodities to society. Come to a storytime and play with us to foster social and emotional growth.

Executive functions. Self-control is so much more than learning how to sit still and behave. Add in memory, mental flexibility, multitasking, organizing and time management and you have executive functions, or soft-skills. One of the best ways to help a child's growth in this area is to make sure they're getting enough sleep. A quiet nap time is not only nice, it's necessary. A trusting relationship with an adult is important, too. When children know they have someone to care for their needs, they're more likely to explore and be curious.

It seems like a lot, but please know that you already have what it takes to provide these experiences for your child. Want to know more? Check out the Bay Area Discovery Museum's Reimagining School Readiness Toolkit, opens a new window or Ask a Librarian!