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Skills to Learn Before Starting Preschool

If your child's starting pre-K this month, you've probably been practicing the 1, 2, 3's and ABC's, and emphasizing proper potty behavior. No doubt these will help her get ahead. But so will other, less-heralded skills:

Caring for her cubby. At school, she'll be expected to keep track of her things and join in when it's time to clean up after group activities. So start getting her into the groove. One idea: Set up a coat hook or rack at her height, with a basket underneath, and get her in the habit of putting her things there every time you come into the house.

Keeping her germs to herself. In the classroom, illness is a major concern. Model good hygiene, such as coughing or sneezing into your elbow. Also, have your child practice how to use and dispose of tissues, teach her proper hand washing, and let her know not to share drinks, says pediatrician Peter Liber, M.D., of Wheaton Pediatrics, in Wheaton, IL.

Putting a straw into a juice box. Like zippering a backpack or taking off rain boots, this task takes fine motor coordination. Fine-tune your child's by giving her plenty of unhurried opportunities to practice, says Terri Jo Swim, Ph.D., early childhood education professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, in Fort Wayne, IN.

Plus: Is your child ready for preschool? Learn the signs of readiness.