3 School Readiness Tips For Parents

School readiness starts with parents and caregivers. It is never too early to start spending time with your child to get them ready for school. Read to them, talk to them, and play with them. There are many tools that can send you bite-size instructions to perform such educational activities.

School-readiness refers to the academic, communication/social, and independence skills your children need to succeed in school. Here are 3 tips for parents to provide increase school-readiness:

1) Become their First Teacher (academics)
Children derive 83 to 96 percent of their vocabulary from their parents between the ages of 0-6. That is why it is crucial to spend time with your children to expose them to as many words as possible; enhancing their vocabulary. There are many activities you can perform as a parent to help. A couple examples include things like; teaching your child colors, reading to them daily, dictate every action you take throughout the day, and discuss what you read. Write, scribble, and draw with your child. Sing the alphabet song and etc.

2) Become their Coach (social/emotional/communication)
Since speaking and listening are sometimes learned before reading and writing, help your child communicate his/her thoughts and feelings. Not only will this help with their academic performance, but also prepare them to get along better with other children and adapt to changing environments. Things you can do as a parent to provide the communication and social skills necessary for better school-readiness include things like: setting rules and consequences, having routines, encouraging your child to listen and respond to others when they are speaking, discussing positive ways for your child to express his/her feelings and etc.

3) Be their Sensei (independence)
Your children need to build confidence and self-esteem at early ages by increasing their independence. As they grow they will be expected to do many things by themselves. Teach your young grasshopper how to fish early on. This is important because paying attention to the small details will immensely help parents raise self-sustaining adults. A couple things parents can do to achieve this are: buying clothes that are easy for your children to buckle and zip on their own, letting your children dress themselves and tie their own shoes, doing simple chores like cleaning up their toys, and letting them do puzzles or play with Legos by themselves.

Improving school-readiness is about providing your children the types of experiences that will help them be successful at school. Increase your child’s exposure to academics like vocabulary words and numbers, increase their social, emotional, and communication skills, and increase their independence. These three tips will help enhance your child’s experience being taught subjects in a classroom setting, interacting with other children, and being proactive about their independent behaviors to increase their self-confidence and competence.

Why is Parent Involvement Important in Early Education?

According to the Harvard Family Research Project, parental involvement are activities that parents conduct at home and in early childhood settings to directly or indirectly support their child's learning. The same goes for caregivers as well. Whoever is taking care of the child should focus on creating this relationship as it helps extend the child’s learning outside of the classroom and creates a bond which extends to adolescence. This means, through parental involvement, your child is equipped to perform better at school and make better life decisions.

Compiled together from multiple studies, underneath are examples of why parental involvement is important and how it can be accomplished.

1) Why is it important for children?
According to studies:
- children achieve more, regardless of ethnic or racial background, socioeconomic status, or parents' education level
- children achieve better grades, test scores, and attendance
- children have better self-esteem, are more self-disciplined, and show higher motivation toward school.

So, what do you do to achieve this for your child?
You don’t need the best educational toy but you do need to spend time with your child working on educational activities. Something as simple as, singing a song about what you are doing while giving a bath to your child is an example of spending educational time with your child.

2) Why is it important for parents?
According to studies:
- you become more confident in your parenting/decision-making skills
- you gain more knowledge of your child’s development, which provides an increased use of positive reinforcement and less use of punishment on your child
- you have a better understanding of the teacher's job, the school’s curriculum, and their effectiveness

So, what do you do to achieve this for yourself?
You don’t need to spend a ton of money on the newest toys and apps, but do invest in resources that give you examples of the educational activities that build this relationship and foundation. Something as simple as a picture book or a text message can go a long way in guiding you.

3) Why is it important for schools and teachers?
According to studies:
- schools experience better community support as they usually do better and have higher quality programs than programs that do not have involved parents
- teachers and principals often earn greater respect for their profession from the parents,
- school personnel and the parents both attain higher satisfaction and trust each other more

So, what do you do as a school/teacher to achieve this?
- invest in providing parents the opportunities/resources for parental involvement
- incentivize parents to spend the necessary educational time with their children. There are many platforms that can accomplish this deed for schools, so partnering up with one program would be the easiest way to go.

Parental involvement is critical as it helps extend teaching outside the classroom, creates a more positive experience for children and helps them perform better when they are in school. So, make sure to spend some time doing your homework to find the best tool to help you get more involved; whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a school.

Reading to a Child is More Effective Than Homework

We know parental involvement and engagement is crucial in building the right foundation, especially in early ages. NY Daily reported that a study on homework conducted by University of Tennessee professor of Theory of Practice in Teacher Education, Richard Allington, showed that reading to your child is more effective than homework.

Parental involvement is so important that states from Vermont to Florida have schools ditching homework for it. So crucial, that a whole county in Florida is implementing a "no homework" policy. But why? It is because, regardless of family income or background, it allows children to be more successful. This is not something new. In fact, it dates back 15 years to when Southwest Educational Development Laboratory reported that children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more when parents and schools are more involved.

Then, as parents and schools, how can you be more involved? Parents, it is not about getting your child the latest Fisher-Price toy or the latest app, it is about the time you spend with them and the relationships you build. Do not be content with the in-school activities, spend time with them to plan out-of-school activities. Read to them and get them involved in things they might like such as art and sports. For schools, share decision-making responsibilities with parents. National PTA recommends schools to invite parents to be full-time partners in making school decisions that affect families by sharing what the school expects from parents and vice versa. This can be accomplished by increased communication between school personnel and the parents through open houses, home visits, family nights and well organized parent-teacher conferences.

Though school contribution is crucial, parents you are the main focus for this matter. As parents you might say, we understand the importance of involvement for today, but why does it matter for tomorrow? The way your children will shape their academic future literally depends on these simple moments of engagement. The same studies that proved the importance of parent engagement also showed that children with more involved parents earn higher grades/test scores, attend their school and pass their classes regularly, enroll in higher-level programs, and have better social skills. In fact, the studies even found correlation between parental involvement and going on to post-secondary education and being promoted.

As parents, instead of focusing on homework or the next best toy or the next best app, being more involved with your children allows them time to be creative thinkers, follow their passions, and succeed.

What Age Should Your Child Should Go To Kindergarten?

School readiness is a tough assessment to make. Though we have always considered the cognitive side of development as parents, teachers or even evaluators, understanding the psychological and mental health readiness has always been hard. The study co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Thomas Dee found that a one-year delay dramatically improves a child’s self-regulation abilities even into later childhood.

Here are the 3 things Stanford identified as being mindful of while making the decision.

1) Does Age Matter
Thomas Dee said, “We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11 and it virtually eliminated the probability that an average child at that age would have an ‘abnormal,’ or higher-than-normal rating for the inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure.”

What to do?
Although most parents are choosing to delay enrolling their children to kindergarten for a year in US, according to the Stanford article, Dee suggests parents to have conversations about start time with teachers first.

2) Real World Practice
Though the study was performed with a Stanford professor, it was done in Denmark. Knowing that the kids who were studied had access to reasonably good pre-K since the study was done in Denmark, Dee also states that children in the U.S. may not be as harmed by starting kindergarten earlier if they do not have access to good pre-K.

What to do? 
Start at home. Parent engagement is vital to a child’s success. Parents should be mindful of the pre-K education their children receive before making the decision to hold off enrolling their kids to kindergarten. Which is why having a conversation with their teacher before making the decision is important.

3) Focus on "Play"
The study also showed consistent results with other studies that have shown extended early childhood education, especially if it is play-based, yields better mental health development. This means your children can benefit from longer preschool experience.

What to do? Focusing on play-based learning can allow your children to be more self-regulated and mentally healthy.

It truly is difficult to make the right decision when it comes to school readiness. However, these 3 factors can help you have a better understanding on how kindergarten ready your child is.

5 Ways To Improve Your Child's Diet

The director of The Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and the author of Always Hungry, Dr. David Ludwig, states that overeating is not the reason for making people fat, but rather it is due to eating the wrong things. Therefore, improving what your child eats at an early age is important since it will help them develop a palate for eating the right things. Developing a healthy palate today will help them tomorrow, since they will focus on eating the right things instead of how much they eat.

Here are five ways you can improve your child’s diet today so that they don’t suffer tomorrow:

1) Don't focus on the number of  calories.
Instead, focus on where those calories are coming from. For example, a can of coca-cola may only have 140 calories, whereas a grilled chicken breast typically has 230. The grilled chicken breast is clearly much healthier and more nutritious for you. Therefore, just because the food item has less calories, does not necessarily mean it is healthier for you.Fat usually gets a bad rap and fatty products usually have higher calories which put parents off. However, some higher fat diets do come with advantages. Dr. Ludwig states that “When you increase your fat intake, you displace carbs from your diet without missing them.”  So, how do you identify which fatty foods to buy? Nuts, nut butters, full-fat butters, avocados, olive oil, rich sauces, and even full-fat salad dressings are all fine.

2) Don't be fooled by low-fat
Dr. Ludwig says “low fat” foods that replace fat with sugar have raised insulin levels far too high. Therefore, it is important to balance the amount fat you feed to your children. You can accomplish this by cooking your with full-fat butter. Remember, sugar is bad; healthy fats are good.

3) It is more about biology than willpower
Dr. Ludwig states that your body will always have a good idea about how to regulate your own weight. This is also true for your children at early ages. So, if you overfeed your child, he/she will gain weight in the short term, but then his/her body will speed up his/her metabolism. The opposite is also true. When you under-feed your child he/she will lose weight, but then his/her body will become hungry more often and his/her metabolism will slow down, storing fat. That is why it is important to let your child’s biology indicate when and how much your child should eat. This means your child’s biology and metabolism has less to do with how much he/she eats but more to do with what your child puts in his/her mouth.

4) Lead by example
According to Dr. Ludwig, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to be a visual role model for thoughtful eating and snacking, to lead your child by example. He says “Kids are exposed to all kinds of unhealthy influences, but the home is the bastion of protection, where the only influences are healthy ones.” All you have to do is eat higher-fat foods, natural complex carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc.), fruits, and veggies. This will make it easier for your child to create healthier eating habits when he/she becomes an adult. A good way to do this is by putting healthy food out on the kitchen counter top so your child can grab and go without much preparation or thinking required.

5) Home should be the place for delicious food
Since tasty treats or junk foods, such as pizza, burgers, and candy, are always going to be outside the house teasing your child, you need to be extra careful to make good food at home. However, it is also important to make sure that the good food you prepare at home should also taste good. That way your child doesn’t think food at home is boring and food outside is tasty. The best way to go about this is simply google how to make a healthy pizza and you will have a recipe for a tasty treat at home.

As Dr. Ludwig puts it “We can’t expect the food industry to care for our kids. It’s up to parents to say no” and provide a tasty and healthier alternative. Just make sure when you are telling your child to not eat junk food, you are not devouring a double chocolate cake yourself. So, use these five ways to create a healthy diet for your children at home and they won’t have to diet in the future.