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Children's Thinking and School Readiness

Training Module

Learn about the 7 thinking skills that support school readiness in this 2-hour training.

Children's Thinking and School Readiness

Children are constantly refining their mental processes needed to connect past experiences with present actions. These processes help children regulate their behavior so they can concentrate, control their impulses, manage time, stay organized and follow multistep instructions. These skills also help children filter through the stimulation they receive daily to determine which information is important at that time. 

Developing these skills is critical to children's thinking and school and life success. ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, has identified seven social-emotional skills in particular, like self-regulation, which are essential for school readiness:

Confidence is developed when children expect to succeed and know that adults will help them to do so. Infants demonstrate confidence when they want to try new things and are enthusiastic about their accomplishments. For example, a one-year old who has just started walking, clasps his hands and smiles when he walks five to six steps. He also looks to the Early Educator for approval.

Curiosity describes children's desires to discover new things. Curious children actively explore and investigate their surroundings, using all their senses. For example, a three-year-old child notices a new red truck in the room and runs to get it. He then sees a red ball in the corner. He abandons the truck and runs to get the ball.

Intentionality describes children's determination and persistence. For example, a seven-month-old child listens attentively to her Early Educator and follows her face as she changes the child's diaper. A mobile infant sits with a book for five seconds, crawls to get a doll, stays with the doll for eight seconds, and cries to let you know she wants to be picked up.

Self-Control, or self-regulation, describes children's abilities to control their actions in age-appropriate ways. For example, when a two-year-old is about to bite another child, her teacher calls the child's name and offers her a toy. Or when one child hits another child with a book, the victim looks at the Early Educator and whimpers. In an assertive voice, the Early Educator answer: "Oh, I ‘m so sorry. Thank you for telling me that he did something inappropriate. "

Relatedness is children's ability to engage with others, knowing that they will be understood. For example, a thirteen-month old covers her face with a blanket, removes the blanket, and says, "Peek-a-boo!" The Early Educator responds, "I see you!"

Capacity to communicate involves the desire and ability to exchange ideas, feelings, and thoughts with others. For example, a four-month-old child coos while the Early Educator changes his diaper. "I know your wet," the Early Educator explains to him. "I'll change your diaper, so you'll be more comfortable." The child answers with more cooing. A two-year-old says, "Ceeyahl pees" (cereal please). The Early Educator replies, "You speak so well! You want cereal? I'll be glad to give you cereal. Thank you for asking me."

Cooperativeness describes children's ability to engage in tasks or activities that balance the children's own needs with the needs of others. For example, when the Early Educator begins singing the "Clean Up Time" song, some children hand toys to them while others place toys in storage boxes. A sixteen-month old looks at the Early Educator and smiles. The Early Educator asks, "Do you want to help?" The child smiles more. The Early Educator gives the child a small damp sponge, and she attempts to wipe the table. The early educator says, "Thank you so much. You are a great helper!"

Learning centers also help to support school readiness in the following ways:

  • They teach children concepts such as problem-solving, cause and effect, and classification in real contexts.
  • Allow children to explore their learning alone or in social groups.
  • Foster imaginary play, which provides children opportunities to expand their understanding of the social world.
  • Develop children's self-control.
  • Increases children's attention spans and improve their memory skills.
  • Provide children opportunities to sort, match and categorize.
  • Offer children opportunities to make symbolic representations of their ideas through art or movement.  

After reading this material, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  1. In your own words, describe a moment in the classroom when a child expressed confidence and how did you (or could you) support this?
  2. Many times children are punished for being curious. However, this mental process is essential for school readiness. Describe how you will be more supportive of children's curiosity in the classroom.
  3. Some Early Educators tend to mislabel intentionality, often describing this as lack of attention or being "too busy". In your own words, describe a situation in your classroom where you witnessed a child being determined and persistent and failed to realize the learning opportunity presented to you.
  4. Early Educators must teach children empowerment in order to support self-control. When witnessing a biting situation, describe how you can coach the victim rather than scolding the aggressor.
  5. Early Educators must positively support children's attempt at speech, rather than shaming them or making them feel indifferent. Describe a way you can encourage a child who may be struggling with their speech and capacity to communicate.



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