preschooler showing concept of support children's learning

How to Tell If Your Preschooler Is Learning (and Support Children’s Learning)

As the parent of a preschooler, you’ve gone to great lengths to keep the past year as “normal” as possible for your child. Still, you may wonder if—and how much—the disruptions of the pandemic have impacted your preschooler’s learning.

This article aims to answer Montessori parents’ questions about how to support children’s learning at home while also assessing their growth. We offer three essential tools: observation, conversation, and collaboration.

1. Observation

Scientific observation is one of the Montessori teacher’s main tools to support children’s learning, and it can be part of the parent’s toolbox, too.

When parents come into the Montessori classroom to observe formally, they take the time to sit quietly and watch their child’s work as well as the overall functioning of the classroom. At home, however, observation doesn’t need to be that formal. Parents can gain invaluable insight into their preschoolers’ learning by taking advantage of any small opportunity to step back and objectively observe their child at work or play.

Here are some ideas for observing to support children’s learning at home:

  • Don’t interrupt, ask questions, or try to help; just observe.
  • If possible, take written notes as you observe your preschooler learning. Notice, for instance, what activities your child prefers doing alone versus with others, and what topics are of special interest.
  • Especially note the types of work your child concentrates on intensely. These are the areas in which brain growth is currently occurring. 
  • Look at skills across different areas—fine motor, gross motor, social, emotional, language, math, and so on. This makes it easy to look back in a few weeks or months to determine whether specific skills are improving or seem stalled.
  • Note any areas of frustration. Observation often makes us aware of unnecessary obstacles in the child’s environment. A child who seems to get upset at breakfast every day may only need a better arrangement of the kitchen cabinets to facilitate more autonomy.
  • On the other hand, look for accomplishments that surprise you. Stopping to observe your child instead of stepping in to help may give you a chance to see just how independent your preschooler can be. Montessori pre-K learning strategies largely rely on the adult to stay out of the way and let the child act.
Student at a Montessori preschool taking notes

2. Conversation

Simple conversation is one of the most effective ways to support children’s learning. Preschoolers are in a sensitive period for language—not just for learning language itself, but for learning through language. Conversations are bridges to preschooler learning in every area of life.

Here are some ideas for how to support children’s learning at home with conversation:

  • Feed your preschooler’s word hunger with interesting vocabulary based on all of your shared experiences. A neighborhood walk might turn up tulips, a dachshund, a weeping willow, and if you’re lucky, a backhoe! There are lots of different ways to take that walk: try skipping, sauntering, or plodding. Think of more words together, and act them out!
  • Ask for your child’s help to solve a problem. “The tomatoes we’re taking to Grandma won’t all fit in this bag. What should we do?” Discuss together.
  • Play simple games with rhyming words, beginning sounds, and so on. Sound games build the foundation for literacy while also allowing you to assess your child’s preliteracy development.
  • Engage your child in conversation about the day at school—favorite activities, interesting happenings, and so on. 
  • In every conversation, be a good listener. Allow the extra time it takes for a young child’s thoughts to coalesce into words. Ask pertinent follow-up questions. This not only shows that you are interested but also models good social skills. In addition, it gives your child a chance to practice learned vocabulary, and it gives you a chance to gauge your child’s social, emotional, and linguistic development.
Listening interaction between a child and his mom
Make a point of closely listening to your child when they share their experiences with you.

3. Collaboration

Montessori Center School staff are eager to collaborate with parents to support children’s learning. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, in or out of the classroom, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher. Montessori teachers are specially trained to observe children’s growth and communicate with parents. They are also a great resource for pre-K learning strategies you can use at home.

Copyright 2021 Montessori Center School, Phoenix