Home Preschool Curriculum Guide

Developed by Fran Wisniewski for UniversalPreschool.com
With Contributions and Editing by Diane Flynn Keith

Social & Emotional Development

There are many activities you can do at home and within your extended community to help your child develop social and emotional skills. Some of these skills are only necessary to learn in the preschool years (ages 2-5) if you intend to place your child in a public or private school for kindergarten.

Children who are not institutionalized will learn these skills quite naturally at their own developmental pace (perhaps, but not necessarily, between the ages of 2-5). If a child is placed in a preschool, they may be forced to learn these skills before they are developmentally ready. That can cause stress, anxiety, and behavioral and learning problems.

We've provided this list of social and emotional skills so you will know what is expected of a young child in order to be ready to attend kindergarten away from home. Here are the skills preschool educators think children ages 2-5 should develop in order to begin formal academic learning in the institutional school environment:

A child should:

The emotional health of your child is extremely important. If you do not intend to institutionalize your child in public or private schools then there is no need or hurry to push your child to learn all of these skills — especially if it doesn't seem developmentally appropriate for your child. If you do plan to institutionalize your child in school, then what follows is a list of activities you can do to help your preschooler learn these skills.

Be Able To Be Apart From Parents Or Primary Care Givers For 2-3 Hours Without Being Upset

Some children have temperaments that allow them to adapt to new people and situations easily. They are relatively comfortable being apart from mom and dad and in the care of other people. Some children have a difficult time with transitions and change. They may experience a lot of separation anxiety if mom or dad (or their primary caregiver) is not present. Either way, helping a child develop the ability to be apart from mom or dad in the care of someone else requires empathy for the child's feelings, lots of patience, and practice.

You can help your child through separation anxiety by making sure they are very familiar with any new caregiver or babysitter. Start out slowly. Invite the caregiver (whether a relative, friend, or hired help) to just come over to your home and hang out with you and your child for an hour or two. Let the caregiver see your routine, and learn your child's likes and dislikes. Do that several times until your child feels safe and enjoys the caregiver's company. Then, you can try leaving the room while your child stays with the caregiver. If that goes well, try leaving the house to run an errand while your child stays with the caregiver. Be sure to reassure your child that you will return by a particular time — and then make sure that you do. Eventually, you may work up to a separation of 2-3 hours.

Again, children will adjust to separation differently. You must do your best to respect your child's emotional needs. If your child is inconsolable when you leave — your child isn't ready for separation. You may need to rethink your plans until your child is ready to be apart from you. Other ideas that may work include:

Meet Visitors Without Shyness

Young children may feel a little shy when they first meet strangers — or even relatives they have never met before. Little kids may feel anxiety due to the spotlight of attention they receive when they meet someone new. Sometimes a child described as "shy" is simply slow to warm up. They prefer to watch and observe new people and situations from a distance, and then, when they understand it better and feel comfortable, they will approach the people or join in the activity. Some children outgrow shyness, and others may be timid throughout their lives. Read "Shyness and Children" for a better understanding of the causes of shyness and learn strategies for helping your child cope with shyness.

One thing is clear: A child should never be ridiculed for being shy. In fact, it's wise to avoid labeling your child as "shy" and discourage other people from doing that as well. Instead, parents can try to teach their children skills to overcome or manage their feelings of shyness. Talking about feelings can help. Here are some books that shy children may especially enjoy reading and discussing:

Remember that children learn by example — so show them how to politely greet people with a smile and a handshake, by doing it yourself.

Talks Easily and Able To Enter into Casual Conversation

Practice makes perfect. Engage your child in conversation everyday. Ask your child questions and really listen to the answers she/he gives. Talk about everything! Ask what they want to eat, what clothing they want to wear, and what they want to do each day. Ask about their likes and dislikes. Talk about the weather, food, pets, things, and other people. Your child will become more comfortable with speech the more they get the chance to talk. Listen to your child's stories and jokes. Take turns reciting rhymes, poems and fairy tales you enjoy.

Talking to your child often will help them feel comfortable talking not only to you — but to other people as well. When you are talking to others, ask your child questions to include them in the conversation. Let your child talk on the telephone to friends and relatives. Teach your child the social graces of good conversation. Teach them to be polite by waiting for an opening and not talking over others.

Knows Full Name

Use these activities to help your child learn and remember their full name:

Knows Parents' Names

It is important for your child to know the first and last names of both of their parents. (This is especially helpful in the event you are ever separated, or your child becomes lost.)

Knows Home Address

Knows Home Phone Number

Play the "Roll Your Phone Number" Game!

Put each number of your phone number on a separate index card and have your child put them in the proper order as they say each number out loud. Play a dice game where your child tries to roll the numbers in your phone number and match them to the numbers on the index cards.

Note: Buy blank dice from an educational store or cover regular dice with masking tape and write a real number on each side (no dots). Remember regular dice do not have the #0 so if you need that number, blank out another number with masking tape and write a zero in its place. The Crayola website has printable paper dice you can make. Registration (free) is required by Crayola to access the materials. Or try using this free cube pattern.

Knows His or Her Own Sex

Parents may not feel comfortable talking to their children about genitals, but it's important for children to know the proper names of their body parts in the event that they need to communicate their needs to others and be understood. This is particularly true during toilet training time. For example if you call your son or daughter's genitals a "woo-woo" a trusted caregiver or doctor may not understand what body part your child is talking about! Use the real names, and help your child understand the difference between a boy and a girl. If you are bashful about talking to your child about their genitals, ask your librarian for books that will help you and your child to explain the human body. Here are some links to articles that may be helpful:

Takes Care of Toilet Needs Independently

Help your child learn proper bathroom procedure including how to wipe themselves clean, to flush the toilet when they are done, to readjust their clothing before leaving the bathroom, to wash hands when finished and to throw away paper towels. Show your child good hygiene by practicing it yourself. Keep checking your child until you are sure they are cleaning themselves properly and they can do it on their own. Here's a link to an article that may be helpful:

Dresses Himself or Herself

Knows How To Use Handkerchief Or Tissue

Most children are introduced to a hanky or tissue early in life when mom dries a tear, wipes a runny nose, or cleans up a jelly-smeared face. Schools are germ-factories and cold viruses run rampant. That's why educators want kids to know how to use a tissue — they would prefer not to wipe 20 runny noses. Learning to blow your nose takes practice. Demonstrate how to do it and encourage your child to try too. Children may have a difficult time understanding how to blow. Can they blow bubbles? Can they blow air and imitate "Mr. Wind." If they can, teaching them to blow through their nose will be easier as they can grasp the concept. Here is an article with activities you can try to teach them this skill.

Brushes Teeth

Show your child how to brush their teeth. Demonstrate for them with your own teeth. Let them brush right beside you in front of a mirror. Provide simple explanations about what kind of toothpaste, toothbrush, and floss to use. It might help to have your child brush his/her teeth to a 2-3 minute song, 2x a day. Here are some more tips and links to articles for teaching kids how to brush and floss independently:

Carry A Plate Of Food Without Spilling

Cares For Own Belongings

Puts Away Toys

Helps Family With Chores

Your child can help do simple tasks all around the house such as:



Other Household Jobs:


Cross Residential Street Safely

Although young children should not cross a street alone, they should know how too. Teach your child to: Stop, Look, and Listen! The best way for kids to learn is for a parent to teach them how to look both ways when crossing. Practice when crossing streets as you take a walk — and while in parking lots when you go shopping. Have your child tell you when it is safe to cross.

Roll Play: Do a roll play game with your child where you are about to cross a street, ask him/her what to do first. Stop! Then, look both ways (left and right, then left again) and listen for oncoming cars. Then when it is safe to cross: Go! Have your child teach their dolls and stuffed animals too!

Read books that help children (ages 4-8) understand how to cross the street safely:

Maintains Self-Control

Plays With Other Children

In addition to playing with brothers and sisters or neighborhood friends, here are some ideas to help your child learn to play well with others:

Shares With Others

While some young children may share without a moment's hesitation, for most young children sharing does not come naturally. Don't be horrified if your two-, three-, four-, or five-year-old child doesn't want to share. It's normal.

Until a child reaches age 6 or 7, they may not have the cognitive development to be able to consider the needs of others enough to be able to or want to share. You can see the problem, can't you? If you put your young child in an environment, such as a preschool or kindergarten, where there are many children and only one kind of particular toy — there are bound to be behavioral problems centered around sharing.

That's why teachers would prefer that every young child understand the concept of sharing and taking turns before entering school. If we just waited until a child was developmentally ready to share (age 6-7 or so) before we put them in school, this probably wouldn't be such an issue. However, since society continues to force children to adapt to environments that are developmentally inappropriate, educators will want young children to possess the skill to cooperatively share before entering school. You can certainly help a young child begin to understand the concept of sharing and taking turns. This takes patience and practice. Here are a few ideas that may help:

Gets Along Well With Other Children

Children will learn how to socialize and get along with others if that behavior is modeled for them everyday of their lives. Maintain good, respectful relationships with family members and friends so that your child can see and learn what constitutes good relationships. Encourage your child to be kind to others and complement them when they are kind and thoughtful. Point out inappropriate behavior and talk about other ways to handle difficult situations with people. Here are some other resources that may be helpful:

Recognize Authority

This "skill" is obviously required in a school setting, so that the teacher can control the students. (More on that in a minute...)

Most children, even those who don't attend school, recognize their parents and other adults as authority figures to one degree or another. Most children, when placed in an environment such as a Sunday school class, or a dance class, or a martial arts class, etc., will recognize the teacher as the authority figure in charge. This is especially true if their parents have modeled for them how to behave in various learning environments such as "mommy and me" classes, sports and recreation classes, library story-times, docent-led museum or zoo tours or field trips, and church services. Healthy, normal kids naturally pick up social cues as they are exposed to new environments and situations, and will undoubtedly intuit how to behave with any given authority figure if it has been appropriately modeled for them.

Of course, for their own safety, young children should be taught to immediately respond to the authority of police and fire personnel and security people in the event of an emergency. Again, this is something parents can model for their children. Arrange for tours of the local police station or firehouse. These agencies will talk to your children and let them know what to do in the event of an emergency. 4-5 year olds can learn a great deal and so will you!

Back to school... When a child goes to school they must understand who is in charge — namely, the teacher. They must follow the teacher's orders, and do what they are told, whether they want to or not. They must be polite and conform to the classroom rules and behavior required by the teacher whether it is relevant to their interests and needs or not. They have no power to defy the teacher or to remove themselves from that situation. There are very few other situations in life where that is true — except for prison. No wonder students get angry, act out, or become depressed and unhappy.

Authoritarianism is a useful crowd control technique in classrooms and penitentiaries. Unfortunately, when children experience it on a daily basis for years on end, it can lead to the loss of individuality and personal integrity. Children learn to subject their own interests and needs and conform to the needs of an authority outside of themselves. They learn to follow, not lead. The younger a child is placed in this kind of environment, the greater the risk for harm.

If your child goes to a government school, they will have to learn to exist in that hostile environment. There may not be an effective way to fully prepare any child for school or to protect them from the harm that may come from attending school.

That said, there are coping strategies and experiences that will help prepare a child for dealing with situations in the real world where they may need to recognize and subjugate themselves to an authority figure. These same strategies will help them transition into a school environment (but proceed at your own risk):

Able To Work Independently

Able To Stay On Task

This is another "skill" that educators think young children should have before they attend school. In school, kids have to do the work assigned and complete it. Unfortunately, the "busy work" assigned in school may have no meaning or relevance to the child. Who can blame a child for not staying on task when the task is boring or seems pointless? The problem is that bored children may become frustrated and act out or become disruptive. Rather than find a suitable learning experience for that child, we are seeing more and more children (even in preschool) given a pseudo-diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder and then put on psychotropic drugs that make them passive and compliant. It's abusive, and a national disgrace and disaster.

Fortunately, in the home setting, little kids aren't required to "stay on task" for a prescribed period of time. They can learn much more naturally and effectively as their interest, ability, and curiosity dictate.

Children can be quite focused and stay on task if they are really interested in what they are doing and if it speaks to their developmental needs. Sometimes kids need a break from the task at hand. In the natural setting of home, they can leave it, and then return later to try again with renewed interest and a fresh perspective. Interest-initiated learning is a better way for young children to learn. As they grow they gain ability, skill, and confidence, and are able to better tackle academic tasks whether they continue to learn at home or go to school.

Feels Good About Self

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