Whether your child's class studies butterflies, your hometown, baby animals, or holiday traditions, the topic is a way to train kids to think, remember, make connections, and theorize, all of which are foundations for future learning. You can help by stoking your child's curiosity and enthusiasm about whatever subject is being covered at school.
For example, Schwartz is planning a trip to the local science museum now that her 6-year-old son, Jeff, is studying rain forests in kindergarten. The night after an animal handler came to his class, he excitedly recounted to her how the lizard used its tail to defend itself. "His world had suddenly expanded. He was fascinated," says Schwartz.
She also plans to build on Jeff's enthusiasm by taking him on a visit to the library for books about reptiles they can look at together. "It's a huge boost to his confidence to feel as though there's something out there in the world that he knows about."
Parents can also reinforce the social learning that school provides. When Kaye enrolled Lindsey in preschool, she didn't realize how much she'd glean from her daughter's teacher about how to handle Lindsey at home. Like many young children, Lindsey sometimes found it difficult to move from one thing to another. "When I'd come to pick her up, she'd be so immersed in an activity that she wouldn't want to go. It was hard to get her to stop what she was doing," says Kaye. With the teacher's help, Kaye came up with a simple system to help Lindsey: a five-minute warning with a minute-by-minute countdown until it was time to go.
"I used it at home, when she didn't want a playdate to end, with equal success," Kaye says.
As much as possible, try to make your at-home expectations consistent with the school's. Plenty of social rules, such as doing minor chores and waiting your turn when someone else is talking, make sense in both places. By insisting on them at home, you make the adjustment to school easier for your child.