How Parents Can Lay the Foundations of Literacy from Home

For young children, one of the most important things that they’ll gain in preschool are the skills that lay the foundation for literacy. Under normal circumstances, many parents rely on the expertise of teachers to guide their children in developing these cognitive, social, and emotional skills. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are finding themselves taking on an even greater role in their child’s learning. Even though schools may be closed and many things have been put on hold because of the pandemic, learning doesn’t have to stop. To better understand what parents and guardians can do to help build their child’s emergent literacy skills, PrekAdvisor spoke to two experts in the field.

Chris Allen is the Director of Preschool and Kindergarten at Dwight School in New York City. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Hunter College, teaching classes such as Language and Literacy, Birth-Kindergarten. Julieta Carrillo is the Head of Preschool at Magellan International School in Austin, Texas. Here is what they had to say about emergent literacy and how parents can help their children at home.

Understanding Emergent Literacy

Emergent literacy, often referred to as pre-literacy, is the foundational awareness of reading, writing, and language. Adults may not give much thought to what goes into reading and writing. After all, for us, it just seems to happen. But many parts of the brain are coming together to make all these squiggly lines on paper mean something. 

“There’s a language section of your brain. There’s a memory section of your brain. Visual discrimination is part of your brain. They all have to work together to do what we call reading,” Allen explains. 

During the first five years of their life, a child’s cognitive ability grows by leaps and bounds. It’s important that during this time, children are given the foundational skills in each of these areas. When the brain matures, they can bring all of those individual skills together to successfully read and write.

The Most Important Goal: Instilling a Love of Reading

It can be easy to feel like your child needs to master stringent objectives to be ready for kindergarten. You may be eager to have your child reading as soon as possible, but the truth is, there’s not much science that points to the theory that early readers make stronger readers. In fact, some research points to the opposite. For your child, there is something far more important to instill early on: the love of reading. 

“If we push it too far, too fast, you’re going to have a child who’s not going to want to read,” Allen says. “They might lose that intrinsic motivation to read, and you don’t get that back.”  

Instilling a love of reading does several things for a child. For one, it unlocks the door to lifelong learning. Children who are motivated to read will naturally be more motivated to take the pursuit of knowledge into their own hands and value that for the rest of their lives. 

According to an article published by the University of Rochester, “[A love of reading] helps children learn to make sense not only of the world around them but also people, building social-emotional skills and of course, imagination. 

So how do you build the necessary foundations and impart a love of reading without pushing your child too hard? By making it fun, of course!

Fun Learning Ideas for Preschoolers

Young children learn through play. It’s how they discover and make sense of the world around them. Informal teaching moments allow your child to experiment with language and interact with words in positive ways. Here are at-home activities that will give your child the building blocks they’ll need later for reading and writing.

Read to Your Child

“Starting from when they are babies, children need to be read to” Carrillo notes. Reading to your child is one of the single most important things that a parent can do. But it’s important to do more than just read the words on the page and point at the pictures. 

Engage your child by talking about the story in a meaningful way. “Really start to pick it apart, ask questions, and make predictions,” Allen suggests. “Ask, why do you think he did that? And what would you have done in this situation?” Take your time with the stories and spark your child’s imagination. 

Cooking and Baking Together

A lot of learning can take place in the kitchen. Having your child help you with recipes and grocery lists starts moving the gears in language sections of the brain. They can even work on basic math skills by sorting, counting, and measuring ingredients. Stirring and combining bowls of mixtures builds fine motor skills, which will later come in handy when a child starts writing. 

Working towards a goal (and a sweet one at that) motivates your child and teaches them lessons that they don’t even realize they’re learning. 

Head Outside

“Explore, be creative, and enjoy discovering together,” Carrillo says. Taking their play outside can open up a whole new world of possibilities for your child. Encourage them to create with what they can find and use their imagination with simple tools like sidewalk chalk.

Dive into Your Child’s Interests

It can be hard to motivate a child to learn about something they have no interest in. Instead, pick out your child’s interests and help them dive deeper into those worlds. Whether it’s dinosaurs, spiders, planes, or cooking, do investigations into what they love. Check out books from the libraries on the subjects. Have them use their imaginations to create crafts involving the interest. They’ll be excited to learn more and share that knowledge with you, which builds all sorts of skills from critical thinking to communication. 

Overcoming Obstacles

When asked how parents can overcome the challenges from distance-learning, Julieta Carillo’s solution was simple: just relax. 

“Relax and play with them,” she says. “Every activity can be a teaching moment. There is no need to play the role of teacher and be very strict.” Trying to stick to a rigid schedule with strict rules simply isn’t conducive to learning at that age. 

Instead, focus on building your relationship. It’s a stressful time for millions of people around the world. Though times are tough, it is more important now than ever to not let the pressures of work and current events stress bubble over into how you interact with your child. Take the time to bond with your kids in a positive way.

Boy in Gray Jacket Reading Book


For parents who find themselves playing a larger role in their child’s education due to COVID-19, the important thing to remember is don’t panic. There’s no need to pack in years of higher education in early childhood development in just a few nights of research. Meaningful educational experiences can come from everyday interactions with your child. Take the time to be present with them, encourage them to explore what they love, and lead by example. 

How Preschool Sets Your Child Up for Literacy Success

Learning to read and write is a big milestone in a child’s life, and preschools play an important role in setting your child up for success as a reader. With the help of their preschool teachers, a child will gain the skills that will help them read and write a little further down the road.

To learn more about how preschools can help lay the foundation for literacy, PrekAdvisor spoke to two experts in the field. Chris Allen is the Director of Preschool and Kindergarten at Dwight School in New York City. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Hunter College, teaching classes such as Language and Literacy, Birth-Kindergarten. Julieta Carrillo is the Head of Preschool at Magellan International School in Austin, Texas. 

In this article, we’ll break down emergent literacy, why it’s important, and how preschool can help set your child up for success— all with helpful insight from our two experts. 

girl sitting while reading book

What is emergent literacy?

As adults, we probably don’t give much thought into our ability to read and write. By now, it just comes naturally. But, when you think about it, there’s a lot that goes into our brains making sense of the words in this blog. Preschool is the time where foundations are laid in several areas and the pieces begin to come together. 

Emergent Literacy Skills

Carrillo outlined some of the most important literacy skill sets that preschoolers learn, including:

  • Print motivation: Instilling a love of reading and learning is so important for young children. Preschool should foster print motivation, or the interest and enjoyment of books. Cultivating a motivation to read can enrich a child’s life all the way into adulthood. 
  • The oral language: Before a child can learn to read, they must have a grasp on the language that they speak. Building your child’s vocabulary is important at the preschool age.
  • Print awareness: Print awareness is one of the earliest introductions to literacy. Print awareness is the understanding that print has different functions and meanings. It is also the understanding of how print operates. For example, in English, we read left to right, up to down. 
  • Phonemic and phonological awareness: Phonemic and phonological awareness go hand in hand. Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate spoken parts of words. A child’s understanding of these concepts can be a good predictor of later reading success.
  • Knowledge of the alphabet: In order to later string sounds together to form words, children should have knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds that each letter makes.

However, emergent literacy skills also include abilities like self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability to control one’s behavior and focus on tasks at hand. For example, a child may exercise this skill while sitting and listening to a story. Reading should be fun and capture their attention and imagination.

boy in blue t-shirt writing on white paper

Why is it important for preschoolers to learn these skills?

“It’s important that during [the preschool] years we give them these foundational skills, so that later when the brain is mature enough, they can bring all those skills together and be a successful reader,” Allen says. Though seemingly unrelated skills like self-regulation may not appear to be directly linked to literacy, they are all a crucial part of the puzzle. 

Even if a child isn’t reading by the time they go to kindergarten, they have the foundational skills needed to make it happen when they are ready.

How do teachers build literacy skills in preschool?

One thing that is important to understand about preschoolers is that they learn through play. Many educators advise against preschools that place their focus on flashcards, worksheets, and the “skill and drill” mentality. Instead, preschools should promote learning through fun activities like:

  • Reading to children: Teachers should not only read the text, but engage in discussion about the book. Common activities to engage children include prompting them to make predictions, have them act out the stories, discussing characters, writing stories about the book, changing the ending, and more.
  • Singing songs: Reading starts as an auditory skill. Songs also give children the chance to experiment with language. 
  • Rhyming games: Games, songs, and text that include rhyming words help children discriminate between different sounds, building phonemic awareness.
  • Dramatic play: Through dramatic play, children put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This helps develop social skills as well as language skills. 
  • General conversation: Conversational speech is great at building vocabulary. 

The preschool classroom itself is designed to promote print awareness. You’ll notice environmental print everywhere. The child’s name is written on their belongings, spaces are labeled, and there are always interactive objects around the room that give kids the chance to see words in context.

Depth of Field Photography of P, L, A, Y Wooden Letter Decors on Top of Beige Wooden Surface

Starting with Success

Allen notes that the key is also to set children up for success. A preschool should not push your child too far and too fast, but instead give them the confidence they need to achieve at their own pace. “We really want to build from success,” she says. “If you give them activities to do or work on those skills that are natural for the age of development or stage of job, then they feel confident about who they are as a reader.”

All too often, parents try to hammer in the skills that they think make an accomplished reader. This, however, can demotivate children, causing them to lose their intrinsic love of reading.

What should a child know before they go to kindergarten?

“Preschool is, first and foremost, a social-emotional experience,” Allen explains. “We want them to walk out of preschool with an emotional memory.” Children should come out of preschool confident, believing in themselves, and knowing that they are capable and contribute to their classroom.

While knowing letters, having phonemic awareness, and being able to discriminate sounds is important, appropriate social and emotional skills will benefit them for years to come. “They need to develop their communication skills and be able to socialize,” Carrillo says. This means understanding sharing, taking turns, being patient, knowing when to lead and when to follow, and playing by the rules. 

Toddler Playing Soccer


Emergent literacy skills reach far beyond a child knowing their ABCs. When choosing the right preschool for their child, parents should consider the school’s approach to emergent literacy. How do they approach learning? Will they set your child up for success? Does the school focus on all aspects of development, including social and emotional? Finding a school with the right answers to these questions can help your child develop into a motivated learner with a passion for reading later on down the line. 

What Will Preschool Look Like in the Age of COVID-19?

Note: PrekAdvisor cares about the safety of students, parents, and teachers. This article is not meant to be a suggestion that schools reopen; rather we want to outline some of steps that parents should consider taking in the event that their children go back to school.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed the way we work, learn, and socialize. As states, businesses, and private institutions begin to announce their reopening plans, parents across the country are wondering what the ongoing pandemic means for their preschoolers and the 2020-2021 school year. 

Though the situation is ever-changing, PrekAdvisor wants to discuss some changes that you can expect to see in your child’s preschool routine and what parents can do to support their children and teachers during this time.  

Steps Preschools Should Be Taking to Keep Students Healthy

To learn more about what parents should expect in the classroom, we spoke with McKinsey & Company’s Associate Partner, Saurabh Sanghvi, and Education Practice Manager, Emma Dorn. 

“More and more, the research is showing that it’s a combination of measures that are going to add up towards safety,” Dorn states. 

To start, all preschools should follow the guidelines set forth by local, state, and federal governments. For further guidance, program directors and instructors should turn to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both organizations have recommendations, tips, and plans that outline the steps schools should be taking. 

Social distancing for young children may be difficult, but there are still risk mitigation strategies that preschools can put into place. Two of the biggest changes that parents will notice are the classroom structure and the sanitation practices.

The Structure of the Classroom

“One of the most effective ways to limit risk, especially with young children where it’s much harder to have masks and social distancing, is to have cohorts,” Dorn says. Cohorts, which are simply smaller class groups, will limit the amount of people (and, in turn, germs) children come in contact with. Instead of having large groups where students rotate between classes, teachers, or activities, cohorts keep the same students and instructors together for the entirety of the day. These class sizes are being limited to ten or twelve individuals. 

Not only is the composition of the people in the classroom likely to change, but so will the physical structures. 

Sanghvi notes that schools will be changing up the infrastructure of the classroom to make it easier for students to naturally follow distancing guidelines. “We’re seeing a lot of rethinking of how to use the physical space,” he says. This may include barriers, dividers, cubby spacing, and even changes in the flow of foot traffic in and out of the building. 

Similarly, it will also be common for parents to drop their children off in front of their preschool program instead of walking them in. Small changes like this will help reduce the number of visitors in the building. 

Taking It Outside

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that utilizing outdoor spaces when possible is one of the highest priority strategies for preschools. If remaining indoors, schools should ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase the circulation of outdoor air as much as possible. This is because outdoor transmission of the virus is known to be much lower than indoor transmission. 

Sanitation Practices

Another change is one that likely won’t be as visible to parents: sanitation practices. Schools should be cleaning vigorously between school days and disinfecting surfaces that children come in contact with frequently. This includes items like playground equipment, door handles, drinking fountains, physical education equipment, and toys. Teachers must also ensure that all cleaning products are properly labeled and stored out of reach of children.

Schools may also prohibit items from home where germs could potentially hitch a ride. Shared items in a classroom that are difficult to clean should be limited. Children should keep their individual belongings away from others’ items. Additionally, teachers should also be practicing and reminding children of good hygiene practices. Kids should frequently wash hands, cover coughs and sneezes, and report any signs of illness. 

But at the end of the day, it’s important to realize that even the strictest precautions don’t eliminate the probability of infection. “There’s no guarantee that everyone stays safe,” Dorn explains. “Everything is going to have to be a risk assessment, and we are going to do everything we can do to reduce the risk, but there’s no one silver bullet.”

How Parents Can Be Sure Schools Are Taking the Right Precautions

Because parents aren’t with their children throughout the day, it can be difficult to really know whether or not their preschool is taking the proper precautions. However, Rhian Evans Allvin, the Chief Executive Officer for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, notes that communication is key. “The best way parents can check in is to ask questions and to not assume anything,” Allvin explains.

Some questions that parents can ask their children’s teacher or childcare provider include:

  • What precautions are you taking throughout the day?
  • What are your cleaning procedures?
  • How are you communicating with parents if a case is reported?
  • What kind of transparency do you have in communicating if a case is reported?
  • What are your procedures going to be if a case is reported or identified?

“The more questions parents ask, the more, I think, they will feel connected to what the program has been implementing,” Allvin says. 

What Parents Can Do to Support Their Children and Teachers

Being engaged is one of the most important things that parents can do to help both their children and teachers during this time.

“Make sure you’re seeing emails that teachers are sending and that you’re responding,” Allvin advises. This goes for both in-person or virtual classroom settings.  “If a teacher is setting up a time for children to be interactive, ensure your child is there to partake in that.” 

And don’t be afraid to ask for guidance when needed. For example, you can reach out to the teacher if your child exhibits any behaviors that worry you. Stay in touch so that teachers can be supportive and help you navigate this time. Simply keeping them in the loop will help make their job (and yours as a parent) easier. 


In the era of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever before to take an active role in your child’s preschool education. Be alert and ask questions to ensure that your child’s preschool facility is taking the right precautions. 

Easing the Fears of Young Children in the Era of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly posed many challenges for families across the world. Precautions to stop the spread of the disease have changed the way we work, play, and interact with one another on a daily basis. Though it’s not easy on anyone, this time can be especially confusing for young children. They may struggle to fully understand the scenario, which can cause feelings of anxiety and fear.

Luckily, there are steps that parents can take to lessen their child’s fears in the age of coronavirus. To learn more, PrekAdvisor spoke with Rhian Evans Allvin, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In this article, we’ll share her wisdom and break down how parents can talk to their children, teach them how to be safe, and help them maintain routines in the midst of the pandemic.  

girl in pink long sleeve shirt sitting on brown wooden chair

Acknowledge the Situation and Talk About It

The first step to alleviating anxieties about COVID-19 is to put the situation out in the open for discussion. 

“I think overall the best way to overcome fear is to acknowledge the situation, whatever it is, and then talk about. Have conversations about it,” Allvin explains. Openly discussing the subject allows children to get answers to their questions in a way that they understand. Walk them through any changes or things that may happen that are out of the ordinary. These kinds of conversations will help eliminate surprises that might otherwise catch them off guard.

The CDC has even released guidelines and tips for talking with your child about coronavirus. Some of their biggest tips include:

  • Reassure them. Make your child feel safe and let them know that it’s okay to feel confused or anxious during this time. Let them know that they are safe.
  • Be calm. Not only will your answers help calm their fears, but so will the way you say it. Children are great at picking up on body language and other conversational cues. Explaining the situation without panic is key. 
  • Use language that a child will understand. Be honest about what is going on, but keep the conversation kid-friendly. 
  • Watch what they consume on TV and the internet. You may not think anything of it, but subjecting children to endless news cycles of dread and doom can be overwhelming. While you don’t want to hide the truth, too much info can lead to anxiety. Limit their screen time and access to information geared towards adult audiences.
  • Avoid language that places blame on others. Be mindful of what you say. Placing blame upon a certain group of people can lead to stigma. 

Get Specific About Their Fears

When talking about it, be sure to address specific fears. Allvin reminds parents to not only comfort and explain, but to listen as well.  

“Ask kids, point-blank, what are you afraid of?” she says. Inquire about their specific anxieties and fears.  This will allow you to hone in on particular aspects of the situation that they may find challenging. Some kids, for example, may be unsure of masks. “If a child expresses fear about the mask, practice putting one on while talking about why you’ve got the mask on and what it’s doing,” Allvin explains. Show understanding and empathy while simultaneously reframing their anxieties. 

“The more that parents are able to calmly explain and have conversation with children about their fears, about their questions, about their curiosities and wonderings, I think the more children have the opportunity to overcome their fear,” Allvin says.

Teach Children How to Be Safe

man in gray long sleeve shirt holding baby in red and white long sleeve shirt

Teaching children hygiene and basic safety precautions will not only help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other germs, but it can help soothe anxieties by giving them some aspect of control over their wellbeing. 

Some of the most important lessons to teach your child are:

  • Proper handwashing techniques: Remind them that washing their hands for 20 seconds can help stop germs from spreading. Important times to wash are before eating, after blowing your nose, after playing with others or outside, and after using the restroom.
  • Cough or sneeze into their elbow: Get them into the habit of covering their mouth if they feel a sneeze or cough coming. 
  • Avoid touching the face: It may be hard to get young children to follow this one, but stress the importance of not touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Sanitize frequently: You can even enlist the help of your children in cleaning around the house. Teach them about disinfecting their toys and surfaces they touch frequently.
  • Steer clear of people who may be sick: Teach them how to identify others who are coughing and sneezing and how to distance themselves respectfully. 

To learn more about stopping the spread of germs and protecting children, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Get Creative to Maintain Routines

Does your child have a routine that they’re missing out on due to social distancing? Maybe they usually go out for ice cream with Grandma and Grandpa on Fridays or have a playdate with neighbor friends on the weekend. Maintaining typical routines to the best of your ability can help anchor children in normalcy. Significant changes in schedules can be stressful, as they convey that there is indeed a crisis. 

“Kids thrive on social interaction,” Allvin explains. Finding ways to keep up with their routine social interactions is important.  Help your child break up the monotony of long days at home by connecting with others via Zoom or similar video conferencing platforms. Though it certainly doesn’t replace in-person interaction, giving your child space to talk, play, and collaborate with others their age, friends, and family through technology is vital. 

If you are unable to keep up with your family’s normal schedule, make an effort to create new routines. Parents can also recreate patterns that they may experience at school. Set aside time for activities like arts and crafts, free play, music, and more. 

assorted color pens on floor

You can also change up the scenery with time outside. Allvin notes that going outside while social distancing may be one of the most beneficial things for children. “There are more and more instances as states are opening where kids could be appropriately socially distanced outside,” she explains. Making time for outside experiences, even if it is as simple as chalk drawings on the sidewalk, is great for both the mental and physical health of children. 


Talking about the current situation, teaching children to be safe, and getting creative with routines are just three simple steps that parents can take to ease fears and anxieties in their children during this time. Remember that your children look up to you. How you respond and react to the situation will influence how they react. Be informed, be calm, and be safe!

10 Characteristics of a Great Preschool Teacher

What do you picture when you imagine a preschool teacher? Is it a brightly dressed, smiling face with a child-like enthusiasm? A professional that’s eager to make a difference in your child’s life? If so, you’re on the right track. 

When finding the right preschool for your child, there’s more to consider than the facilities and curriculum. Your preschooler will be spending hours a day with their teacher, and you want them to be with the best. Let’s take a look at the many characteristics that make a great preschool teacher so you know what to be on the lookout for. 

Education Requirements  

A Degree

The amount of education and certification necessary to become a preschool teacher varies from state to state and from school to school. While some only require a high school diploma and state certification, others require a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, preschool teachers typically have an associate’s degree at a minimum. A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or something similar is still recommended, as it teaches valuable lessons that will only make them a better teacher. 

In their studies, they will learn about: 

  • Age-appropriate curriculum and programs
  • Health, safety, and nutrition
  • Child psychology and development
  • Proper parent involvement and communication

Oftentimes, their knowledge and skill will correlate to the experience your child has. Because of this, the teacher’s education plays an important role in your child’s learning.

woman in gray long sleeve shirt sitting beside boy in orange crew neck shirt

Other Certification

Certification standards vary from state to state and from private school to public school. Nonetheless, having nationally recognized certification in the field is required. Knowing what certification your preschooler’s teacher has attained can help you assess their qualification. 

Child Development Associate (CDA) 

CDA certification is the most common in early childhood education. Earning this requires: 

  • A high school diploma
  • 480 hours of working with children 
  • 120 hours or more of formal childhood education 

Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) 

The National Childcare Association’s CCP credential can be attained by those without a degree or those with a degree in an unrelated field. Recipients of this certification must renew it every two years.

CPR and First Aid 

The safety of your child is of the utmost importance to you and should be for their teacher as well. All preschool teachers should be trained and certified in first aid and CPR. 

Beyond the Education: Personality of a Great Preschool Teacher

Though education can be a good indicator of a teacher’s quality, it is not the only factor. What really makes a great preschool teacher goes beyond the degree they attained. 

Passion for Preschool 

Molding the minds of young children is a big responsibility. Doing so requires not just proper education but, more importantly, passion to do so. This passion is what will get a teacher through their most trying days because, to them, it’s always worth it. Their love for what they do and the students they do it for is what will inspire and motivate their preschool students.   


Working with a bunch of rambunctious preschoolers with lots of energy and questions takes patience more than anything. At this age, students are still learning the basics of life like manners, hygiene, and the classroom system. That said, some learn faster than others. Having to adapt to each preschooler’s learning abilities while maintaining order in the classroom takes composure, endurance, and, the golden word, patience. 

woman teaching girl


Everyone could use a little structure, but this is especially true for pre-k age children. When they know what they’re getting into next, whether it’s snack time or shapes, they can dive into the activity with confidence and without anxiety. This organization not only applies to their classroom and lesson plans but also with their communication with parents. 

Communication Skills

A good communicator makes a great preschool teacher. They use these skills to communicate with two very important, yet very different sets of people— the students and the parents. 

Talking to Preschoolers

Children are like sponges who soak up everything you say. At this stage in their life, preschool children are just starting to develop and expand their linguistic skills. A preschool teacher must be able to help them do so by engaging them in back-and-forth conversation, asking questions, and using words that catch their interest. Listening is also a vital part of these communications. Pre-k children want to feel like they have your care and attention

Talking to Parents

Parent-teacher communication is extremely vital, especially at this stage of education. The parent and teacher are the two most influential people in a child’s life. A great preschool teacher makes an effort to foster this relationship and communicate through mediums that work best for the parent whether it’s parent-teacher conferences, emails, home visits, etc. 


Even with the best organization, things can go awry, especially in the preschool setting. Being able to appropriately adapt in these situations is important. Everything from a rainy day to a limited budget can throw a wrench in things. The way a preschool teacher reacts to certain situations and works around them reveals a lot about their character. 


Going hand in hand with flexibility is creativity. Not only should a teacher be able to create lessons that keep pre-K students engaged and interested, but they may also have to use that creativity to develop alternative plans if and when things suddenly take a turn.

It takes a lot to capture the attention of a preschooler. A great teacher can cultivate a child’s interest by offering new perspectives and approaches to subjects and bringing that child-like enthusiasm to the table.

Open-Minded Understanding

Every child is different. They learn differently and come from a wide array of backgrounds. A great preschool teacher should be accepting and understanding of this diversity and tailor their teaching to it. 


If a teacher has a passion for education, they also likely have dedication. Dedication to their students and dedication to their career path can take a good preschool teacher to a great one.


When evaluating your child’s preschool teacher it is important to look at both their education and their character. Preschool is a formative period in a child’s life and, as a parent, you want to ensure they have a great preschool teacher to guide them through it. 

Essential Tips for Preschool Parent-Teacher Communication

You’ve probably heard the saying that goes a little something like “The home is a child’s first school and the parent is the child’s first teacher.” Even little everyday moments with your child can turn into essential learning for them, especially during their pivotal developmental years. 

Though your child will inevitably transition into pre-k, a parent never transitions out of the teacher role. But the good news is you do gain a teammate in this journey— your child’s preschool teacher! Together, you will help your child grow and learn about the world around them, making effective parent-teacher communication vital.  

In this article, we will discuss:

  • Why positive parent-teacher communication is important 
  • Types of communication
  • How to foster beneficial parent-teacher interactions
  • Effective communication strategies 

Let’s jump in!

Why is parent-teacher communication important? 

Once a child starts school, they will spend nearly as much time with their teacher as they do their parents. Because you and your preschooler’s teacher are the most prominent adult figures in their lives, it makes sense that the way you interact with each other matters. 

Research has shown that a positive connection between parent and teacher helps to improve grades, social skills, attitude towards school and learning, work habits, and behavior. Not only does this partnership benefit the child, but it also benefits the parent and teacher. Johns Hopkins University evaluated this partnership and discovered significant results.

For one, parents reported trusting teachers and acknowledging their impact more when they have there is strong communication. Secondly, parent-teacher communication builds better teacher morale. Teachers reported that it makes them feel happier and more proficient as an educator when solid communication is established. Both of these are key factors in creating a healthy environment where children are empowered to learn.

Types of Communication 

Communication comes in many forms, shapes, and sizes. Here’s a little about the types of communication you can expect to see from your preschooler’s classroom.

One-Way Communication 

One-way communication is:

  • Linear
  • Strictly informative or persuasive 
  • Requires no response

A one-way interaction in the pre-k classroom setting goes from the teacher to parent. In this form of communication, the teacher is the authority and the parent is simply a listener. Common examples of this are newsletters and announcements that are sent home with your child.

This type of communication certainly has a time and a place. Still, to foster a good parent-teacher relationship, two-way communication is crucial.  

Two-Way Communication 

Two-way communication, on the other hand, is interactive and focused on feedback. Parents and teachers in this communication style are equals, working together for the success of the child. 

Examples of two-way communication are: 

  • Parent-teacher conferences 
  • Committee meetings 
  • Open, collaborative discussion via email or phone

Though both ways of communication are valid, two-way communication is the most impactful in building a genuine parent-teacher partnership.

Tips for Fostering Good Parent-Teacher Communication

Follow the Three C’s 

The Early Learning Network introduced three main components that foster a good parent-teacher partnership: communication, consistency, and collaboration


It is important to establish communication and connection early on with your child’s pre-k teacher. Ways to do this are: 

  1. Make it clear from the beginning that you want to take an active role in your preschooler’s learning. 
  2. Discuss the best form of contact whether it be by phone, email, notes, or in-person meetings. 
  3. Always be transparent and timely with responses. Two-way communication is key.
  4. Attend meetings to talk about your child’s strengths, struggles, progress, likes, dislikes, and goals. 


Establishing a consistent routine to enhance your preschooler’s education at home demonstrates that you and their teacher are in this together. To do so: 

  1. Ask their teacher how you can encourage and enforce continued learning at home. 
  2. Create a homework and learning routine. Having a consistent time and quiet place for this will make an impact. 
  3. Encourage healthy habits in everything from reading to eating to being active.
  4. Make sure that you and the teacher are on the same page when it comes to your child’s growth and learning. This lets them know that you are all in it together. 


Each of the Three C’s builds upon each other, so having consistent communication will make this step a lot easier. To promote collaboration: 

  1. Share the goals and expectations you each have for your preschooler during this school session. 
  2. Openly discuss how you can both help your child reach those and what modifications may need to be made based on their individual strengths and weaknesses. 
  3. Address concerns and solve problems together. 

Ask the Right Questions

Though there isn’t a special formula for the perfect parent-teacher interaction, there are important topics that should be discussed. These include classroom learning activities, your child’s accomplishments, and how to continue the learning at home.

Classroom Learning Activities

A parent should stay informed on what their child is doing and learning in their pre-k classroom. This allows them to assess the quality of their pre-k curriculum and find ways to support in-class learning. 

Child Accomplishments 

It is easy to get discouraged when the only interaction a parent has with a teacher is about a child’s misbehavior or shortcomings. When such bad news outweighs good news, it can make it seem like parents aren’t effectively helping their children, even if that’s not the case. While it is important to address issues that may arise, it’s equally as important to celebrate victories together. Remember, this is a team effort. 

Continued Learning 

Though your title is parent, you are still a teacher to your child. Again, you and your child’s preschool instructor are a team. Parents and teachers should discuss how they can take what their child is learning in the classroom and implement it into the home. In doing so, they can continue to practice and perfect the skills they’re developing. 

Strategies for Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

In-Person Meetings

Meeting with your preschooler’s teacher goes beyond the occasional parent-teacher conference. Opportunities to volunteer at school events, open houses, and after-school functions are all ways to engage in face-to-face communication. If none of these are feasible for your family, ask about home visits. 


We live in a digital age, which has created seemingly endless opportunities for interaction. It has also made frequent parent-teacher communication even more available. Email, video chat, and text are all ways for teachers and parents to maintain meaningful communication. 

Written Communication 

A more old-school route would be written communication. If you prefer, you can send your little one with a note for their teacher. 


Establishing good parent-teacher communication is one of the best things you can do for your child. Together, you are their support system. The stronger the communication and partnership is, the stronger the support system.

Red Flags to Look for in a Preschool Facility

When you drop your child off at preschool, you want nothing more than to get them back happy and healthy at the end of the day. But unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for many families across the nation. Time and time again we hear of preventable preschool tragedies caused by inadequate or outdated facilities and equipment and improperly trained staff. 

This is why it is so important for parents to take the time to find a preschool that takes the right precautions to keep their kiddos safe. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the red flags to look for in a preschool facility.

How to Spot Red Flags

You may be wondering how you can find dangers lurking in a preschool without the ability to do a thorough inspection. 


Don’t be afraid to do a little digging online. You can often find complaints filed against preschools or reviews written by other parents. These can give some indication of what a school is doing right or wrong.

Walk-throughs and In-person Visits

Many schools allow prospective families to tour the preschool before enrolling. This is a great opportunity to get eyes on the inside and take note of anything that may be of concern. Make sure to ask questions about safety precautions in and out of the classroom.

Ask the School for Certifications

Properly certified schools should be happy to provide you with information about their certification. Look into this carefully as some certifications are just voluntary self-checks. Make sure that the inspection or certification was completed by a legitimate third party and that inspections are performed on a regular basis.

Just these three things can help you catch dangers in a classroom that could cause potential harm to your child.

Red Flags to Look for in a Preschool Facility

While doing your research on different preschools in your area, be on the lookout for these red flags. 

On the Playground 

According to the National Safety Council, some of the biggest playground hazards include:

  • Improper ground surfaces: Swings and other playground equipment should be situated on the proper surface. Acceptable surfaces include: pea gravel, mulch, wood chips, or mats made of safety-tested rubber.  Beware of exposed concrete footing, large rocks, or tree stumps. 
  • Unprotected elevated areas: Any platform that is higher than thirty inches should have protective barriers or guardrails. 
  • Overcrowded areas: Equipment should not be crowded. Ample space should exist between swing set areas. 
  • Head entrapment spaces: Little heads can get trapped in small spaces, posing a strangulation hazard. Openings between rungs, rails, and ropes should be more than 9 inches or less than 3.5 inches.
  • Sharp edges and points: Equipment and structures outside should not have any sharp protruding points or edges like bolt ends, hooks, and more. 

Another aspect of playground and outdoor safety that is often overlooked is sun exposure. Schools should take steps to limit children’s sun exposure during peak hours and ensure that playground equipment is not hot to the touch. 

In the Classroom

Just like parents take steps to baby-proof and toddler-proof their homes, preschools should take steps to kid-proof their classroom. Even the simplest of precautions, such as electrical outlet covers, can prevent fatal accidents from occuring.

Entrances and Exits

Doors should be locked from the outside to prevent unwanted guests from entering a classroom without first checking in. However, for fire safety reasons, doors should not be locked from the inside. Handrails should accompany any stairs or inclined walkways. When it comes to windows, they need to be properly secured, as preschoolers can fall out and injure themselves.

Storage of Dangerous Objects and Toxic Substances

Materials and supplies that pose a danger to children such as tacks, scissors, cleaning solvents, and more should be kept safely locked away from small hands.

Walls and Electrical Sockets

Children are curious and will naturally want to stick objects where they shouldn’t go, like in electrical sockets. All wall sockets should have plastic covers. Wall hangings should be light and out of a child’s reach. 

Untethered Furniture 

Bookcases, shelves, televisions, and other large pieces of furniture should be secured to walls to prevent them from falling on children. Corners of all furniture pieces should also be rounded to prevent injury.

Floor Hazards and Ceiling Damage

The floor should be free of any splinters or sharp objects and generally clear of obstacles and debris. Rugs should have a non-slip mat or tape underneath to prevent kids from tripping or sliding on the rug. Similarly, make sure to check the area above your head for things like water damage. This can cause roof tiles to crumble and fall unexpectedly or become moldy.

Unsanitized Surfaces

Preschools are a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. Ensure that the school properly sanitizes and cleans the surfaces that the children come in contact with most often to prevent the spread of illness. 

In addition to these specific safety concerns, it’s also important that your child has adequate supervision. Huge class sizes and high student to instructor ratios may mean that your child isn’t getting the attention they need. It also means that they aren’t being watched as carefully as they should, leaving the window open for potential accidents. PrekAdvisor recommends a student-teacher ratio of no more than 10:1. 

Steps the Staff Can Take

Safety-wise, one of the most important things that you can ensure is that the staff at the preschool has undergone adequate background checks and are all trained and certified in CPR and first aid. This helps ensure that even if something does accidentally occur on the school’s watch, everyone around will be trained and up-to-date on the best techniques to help your child. 

Early childhood educators should also take time to practice necessary emergency procedures with students, including fire drills and lockdown scenarios. When children are familiar with these, they will be better prepared to react efficiently should the real event occur. 


Just by knowing these few things to look out for, you can help ensure a safe preschool experience for your child. If your child is already enrolled in preschool and you notice that something is amiss, bring it up to your child’s teacher or preschool director. The change may not be hard to make, but it could make the difference in a child’s wellbeing. 

Preschool Picassos: The Importance of Arts in Early Childhood

When you think of traditional preschool activities, your mind may immediately see images of finger painting, crafts, songs and dance, and other artistic endeavors. It’s no coincidence that these are usually the first scenes that come to mind— the arts play a significant role across many preschool and early childhood curriculums around the world.

And for good reason, too. The arts are more than just a creative outlet for children. It’s an educational tool that fosters cognitive development, builds fine motor skills, and grows linguistic abilities. In addition to this, art builds self-confidence in young children, encouraging them to share their ideas with the world. 

The Importance of the Arts for Young Children

Study after study show the benefits of the arts. For example, a five year study conducted by the University of Southern California showed that children’s brains develop faster with musical training. Even with older children, involvement in artistic activities have long been associated with gains in critical thinking, math, reading, and verbal skill.

For preschoolers, art is an important aspect of development. It’s learning, yet for children, feels like play. Because of this, classes and special time dedicated to the arts should be a part of every preschool classroom.

Let’s take a look at some of the basic skills your child develops when engaging in artistic activities.

Cognitive Development

For preschoolers, much of art is experimentation. Not only do they get to let their imagination and creativity loose, but they also absorb new information without even realizing it. As they manipulate materials and supplies, they learn about shape, movement, and spatial relationships. By planning out the image they want to draw, they hone in on critical thinking skills. 

Children also learn things like cause and effect. For example, if you push the marker harder, the ink becomes darker. All of these little small discoveries help little tikes learn about the world around them. Every aspect of the process builds upon existing skills and knowledge and works to create new foundations.

Fine Motor Skills

Preschoolers love the process of creating art just as much as (if not more than) the final product. 

Arts, crafts, and music are all hands-on activities. When your child holds a crayon, glues a sequin to a piece of paper, or shakes a maraca, they are working on improving their fine motor skills. The movements improve dexterity and hand-eye coordination, paving the way for activities down the line like writing. 

Linguistic Abilities

As a parent, you may be tired of hearing the same old nursery rhymes over and over again, but these simple songs actually go a long way in developing your child’s linguistic abilities. Songs help expand a child’s vocabulary and support the development of a child’s voice by getting them to use different pitches, inflections, and tones.

Even painting and drawing work to develop their language skills, because after all, what does every child want to do when they’re finished with a piece? Show it to you and talk about it, of course! Children add intricate and complex stories to their masterpieces and love to share. 


Lastly, but certainly not least, participation in arts, crafts, music, and song boosts your child’s confidence. With these activities, they learn to take risks and be proud of their work. They paint creations from their mind and sing as if no one is listening. Teachers and parents should be supportive and uplifting of a child’s work and refrain from critiques or criticizing. Doing so can damage self-esteem and limit future creativity.

Art acts as a stress reliever for children, supporting their overall well being, mental health, and emotional development. For this reason, it shouldn’t be something that just takes place in the classroom. Next, we’ll talk about some of the ways you can support your child’s creativity at home.

Supporting Creativity at Home

Participation in artistic endeavours shouldn’t be limited to the classroom. There’s so much that parents can do at home to facilitate learning and self-expression. Here are a few helpful dos and don’ts of supporting creativity at home.

The Dos

  • DO provide your child with open ended opportunities. You don’t want to limit your child’s creativity by giving them rigid assignments or instructions. 
  • DO give your child ample choices. Provide them with different mediums to work with— paints, chalk, play-dough, stickers, and crayons, just to name a few. Different mediums and instruments expand their horizons and unleash their creativity.
  • DO let them explore and not just create. Craft time isn’t necessarily all about making something. It could be about organizing beads or pencils by color. It could be about making a long stick by snapping markers together. As long as the child is safe, they should be free to discover and experiment with the tools that they have. 

The Don’ts

  • DON’T lead, but offer support and guidance when they ask. Being told exactly how to create art takes the fun out of it for many children. Let them figure out the steps to get to their final creation. 
  • DON’T focus on the final product. At this age (or at any age for that matter), art is not always about the masterpiece at the end. It’s about the fun and learning that took place while making it. For that reason, parents should focus on praising the process rather than the final piece at the end. Instead of focusing on what someone will think of their craft or painting, children will be set on coming up with new and fun ways to express themselves.

At this age, learning takes place in every way, shape, and form. Remember that your child is discovering new things as they experiment with arts, crafts, and music— not just playing.


Artistic activities are more than just fun ways to pass the time for young children. They play an important role in their learning and development throughout early childhood. Because of this, parents should always look into the arts programs that their children’s preschool offers. Will they be getting a healthy daily dose of painting, music, and more? Do they offer specialized classes? These are all questions to ask that can help inform your family’s preschool choice. 

The Right (and Wrong) Ways for Preschools to Discipline Your Child

It’s no secret that parents worry about their child when they’re off at preschool. Are they making friends? Do they feel safe and supported? Are they learning at the right pace? 

One question that you may not think about as often is, “Are they being disciplined correctly?” Your child is spending anywhere from three to seven hours at school, and how they are disciplined there will affect their behavior and how they respond to disciplinary actions at home. 

The way a preschool disciplines your child is indicative of the quality and level of focus that children receive at a school. PreK Advisor is here with some helpful tips on what to be on the lookout for when visiting preschools.

Good Disciplinary Techniques

It’s important to realize that behavior is a form of communication for children. Children don’t misbehave simply for the sake of misbehavior. Acting up, talking out of turn, running around the class, and pushing children in line are all actions that usually communicate something deeper. They are signals that a child needs or wants something, even if they aren’t sure exactly what that is. 

The role of an educator in these situations is to help the child find out what they need, learn from their experience, and help them in whatever way they can.

The following are good disciplinary techniques to ask about or look for in the classroom.

There are clear expectations of how students should behave.

Children should clearly understand what is expected of them in the classroom from the beginning of the school year, and rules should be consistently enforced. 

This isn’t to say that the first day of school is going over a student handbook. Expectations should be realistic for a preschool classroom and seek to set the child up for success instead of constant correction. Simple mantras like “we take care of ourselves, each other, our school, and the planet” are easy to understand and can be referred back to in any given situation.

The teacher uses positive corrections.

Instructors should utilize positive discipline in the classroom. With positive corrections, the teacher guides the child in learning why what their action is wrong instead of simply imposing punishment. Misbehavior is an opportunity to have a frank discussion on actions and consequences and gives children the chance to consciously make better choices on their own in the future. 

Positive discipline should be firm and kind. Children should be guided to reflect and display empathy for others. Over time, positive disciplinary techniques foster respect between students and teachers, increase student engagement, and lessen the overall need disciplinary.

The teacher provides praise for good behavior.

It’s just as important to reinforce good behavior as it is to correct poor behavior. It may seem easier to point out missteps, but when a teacher authentically praises a child, it motivates them to continue doing good. Children yearn for connection, and small praises and words of encouragement help satisfy this need.

The teachers and staff act as role models.

One of the most important things that an instructor can do is simply act as a good role model in a child’s life. Of course, no one is perfect. Even teachers slip up and break their own classroom rules every once in a while, but a good role model will own up to it and use it as a learning opportunity. 

Red Flags to Watch For 

It is also helpful to know a red flag when you see one. The following are negative disciplinary methods, which ultimately do not help a child learn from their mistakes. Instead, children will pick up on the destructive techniques and continue to exhibit misbehavior.

Children are punished for their actions. 

While punishment may be effective for curbing a behavior in the moment, it is a missed opportunity to teach a life skill that will allow kids to develop “self-control and intrinsic motivation for the long haul”.

According to early childhood experts, punishment can also lead to what is knowns as the “Four Rs”:

  • Rebellion: The child will do the opposite to prove they don’t have to do it the adult’s way
  • Resentment: The child feels that they can’t trust the adult.
  • Revenge: They will attempt to “get even” for the punishment.
  • Retreat: The child will either resort to sneaky behaviors or exhibit reduced self-esteem. 

There are no positive reinforcements of good behavior.

Positive reinforcements are simple gestures that can be as easy as a “good job!” or a high five. Though small, they are important. Neglecting to encourage and recognize jobs well done can be just as harmful as improperly correcting bad behavior. 

Children are humiliated or shamed for their actions.

Children have complex emotions and feelings of self-worth just as adults do. Harsh verbal disapproval, humiliation, and shaming (which are often a type of punishment) cause children to feel guilty, deficient, and bad about themselves. 

Psychology experts have noted that “As a form of behavior modification, though, shaming— whether obvious or subtle— is ineffective and even destructive.” 

Even slight gestures such as eye-rolling or snarky comments can damage self-esteem. Young children are not yet able to distinguish between their actions and themselves, meaning that an attack on action seems like an attack on them.

Behavior is simply ignored.

It’s also not a good sign if misbehavior is purposely ignored. Shutting down and not talking to the child about their actions does nothing to get to the root cause or address the issue. 

This is often a debated issue as some believe that ignoring mild disruptive behavior may actually reduce it. However, other professionals hold that ignoring bad behavior can reinforce unsafe actions and dismiss the student’s feelings. 


Discipline does more than keep children from causing trouble around the house and making scenes in public. It shapes little tykes into responsible children and adults, teaches them to make good choices, helps manage anxiety and emotions, and keeps them safe. Making sure your child’s school is positively disciplining children is just one of the ways you can ensure a safe, fulfilling, and successful preschool experience. 

Educated Educators: What Level of Education Should Preschool Teachers Have?

As parents, we often think about the quality of education that our preschoolers are receiving. Less often do we think about the education and training that their teachers have received. 

Yet, teacher education is an important factor to consider when looking at schools for your child. Preschool teachers do far more than simply lead children in song and play. They are key figures in your child’s life that shape their social, emotional, and cognitive development and lay the foundation for future learning. It’s important that teachers have the right training to properly guide your child in their formative years.

In this article, we’ll look answer several questions about preschool teacher education, including:

  • What are the requirements for teaching preschool?
  • Is specialized training needed for different curriculums?
  • What professional organizations can preschool teachers join? 

Let’s dive in!

What are the education requirements for teaching preschool?

Education requirements for preschool teachers vary from state to state, as well as from preschool to preschool. Most states require at least a high school diploma and state certification.

Government-funded and public school programs also have their own teacher education requirements. For instance, Head Start requires that teachers hold at least an associate degree. In addition to this, at least 50% of the teachers in a school must hold a bachelor’s degree. 

Nationwide, nearly one-third of preschool teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, while 12.7% hold a master’s degree. Less than 2% reported having less than a high school diploma. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the typical entry-level education of preschool teachers as an associate’s degree.  

Texas Requirements for Preschool Teachers

In Texas, preschool teachers must complete an approved teacher preparation program in early childhood education as a minimum. 

Still, it is highly recommended that teachers earn a bachelor’s degree, as it provides a solid foundation in the field of early childhood education and fulfills requirements to be licensed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) should the individual wish to teach other grade levels.

Other Certifications

There are a number of additional certifications given by recognized organizations that can give you some idea of an educator’s level of training and competency.

  • CPR/first aid: For the safety of your child, all teachers and preschool staff should be certified in CPR and first aid.
  • Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential: The CDA credential may be needed to meet state or specific school requirements. To qualify, teachers must meet certain criteria, including the completion of at least 120 hours of formal early childhood education training.

What do teachers learn with an early childhood education degree?

You might be wondering what exactly a degree in early childhood education or similar field trains a teacher for. During their studies, teachers learn about topics such as:

  • Cultural and social contexts of early childhood education
  • Child development and play
  • How to properly involve parents and guardians in the education of their children
  • Curriculum and program development suitable for early childhood education
  • Different types of early childhood education
  • Important studies, research, and theories in the field

It’s easy to see the importance of an educator’s education. Teachers will learn about developmental milestones, how children process the world around them, and how to build relationships with students, parents, and their community. 

Ultimately, all of this knowledge will allow them to be the best possible educator for your child.

Is specialized training needed for different curriculums?

Whether or not a teacher needs additional training depends on the specific curriculum. Some preschool programs such as International Baccalaureate, Waldorf, and Montessori all require specialized instruction and credentials. 

With this additional training, educators will learn how to properly carry out the pedagogy and curriculum of their specific program. These types of preschools often have their own established education requirement for teachers that is stricter than the state’s minimum.

What professional organizations can preschool teachers join?

Like any career, education doesn’t have to end with college or certification. It’s just as important that teachers stay informed on the latest information, practices, and research related to their line of work. One way that they can do this is by joining professional organizations. 

National Association for the Education of Young Children

The NAEYC has made it their mission to promote high-quality learning among young children by connecting practice, policy, and research. This organization seeks to equip preschool programs across the nation with the tools, knowledge, and resources for the best learning experiences. 

Association for Early Learning Leaders

The Association for Early Learning Leaders is an organization for childcare directors, owners, and administrators that are committed to promoting leadership development and enhancing preschool program quality. Their main goal is to strengthen the knowledge, abilities, and skill of early learning professionals. 

The group offers resources and conferences for early childhood leaders to train and educate its members.  

National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators

The goal of the NAECTE is to promote the professional growth of educators, to discuss educational issues, and to advocate for improvements in early childhood teacher education. The organization provides a communication network for teachers, facilitates the exchange of research and vital information, and cooperates with others concerned with the study of early education. 


Preschool teachers have an immeasurable impact on a young child’s life. Because of the pivotal role that they play, it’s important to consider the level of education and training that your child’s teacher has received. When trying to find the best preschool for your child, don’t hesitate to ask the director about the qualifications of the staff. A facility with properly trained and certified teachers should be happy to provide this peace of mind to prospective families.