Many kids don’t have the control or patience for preschool, but you can teach them.
Here’s a shocker, and something for parents of preschoolers to look out for in the New Year, if it hasn’t happened already: According to a band of researchers at Oregon State University, “A record number of American kids are being expelled from preschool, limiting their chances of success when they enter a full-day classroom.”
But take heart, the OSU early child development specialists say. There are ways — primarily through exercise, nutrition and brain-teasers — that parents can maximize their 3- and 4-year-olds’ chances of fitting into the pre-educational environment.
It’s hard to imagine such a thing happening, but the data goes back to 2005, to a study conducted at Yale University, which showed that kids in preschool are three times more likely to be expelled from class as any of their older peers, from kindergarten through high school.
According to that study, Oregon ranks 20th in the nation in its preschool expulsion rate, at just under 6.2 per 1,000 kids enrolled in younger-than-kindergarten programs. When it came to kindergarten through 12th grade, the rate was 3.5 expulsions per 1,000 students.
New Mexico led the nation — if you want to call it leading — with 21 preschool expulsions per 1,000 enrolled children (but rarely boots out kids in the older age groups, just 1.5 per 1,000).
Ten states don’t have preschool programs, and among the remainder, only Kentucky had not expelled a preschooler during the previous 12 months, at the same time kicking out a very low 1.2 older kids per 1,000 students. Only two other states with prekindergarten programs — South Carolina and Louisiana — also had fewer expulsions at the preschool level than among older age groups.
Not surprisingly, most preschoolers are expelled for out-of-control behavior, although the Yale study did not break down the specific reasons. However, the study showed that fewer expulsions happen in public school and Head Start preschool programs than in for-profit, faith-based and other privately operated settings.
Kids at age 4 were expelled 1.5 times as often as 3-year-olds, and boys overall 4.5 times more often than girls. The study, headed by Walter Gilliam at the Yale Child Study Center, used a random sample of 4,800 preschool classrooms, about 12 percent of the total nationwide.
Gilliam’s work offers some clues about what parents should look for in a preschool environment. For example, expulsion rates increase dramatically as student-to-teacher ratios increase, and with the number of hours spent in the classroom environment. Job stress, depression and level of teacher-child interactions also affect the expulsion rate.
The necessity for many children to spend extended periods in preschool environments while their parents work outside the home — and to start at early ages when they might not be emotionally ready — also can affect behavior, leading to disciplinary problems, the Yale study suggested.
Even so, OSU early child development researcher Megan McClelland says parents can do a lot to help their kids succeed in the preschool setting, and much of it involves smart play that teaches them confidence and self-regulation skills.
“(Preschool) is a much more structured situation than many children have had before,” McClelland said. “The key is to get them into a routine and start setting a schedule.”
Think of games to play with children that teach them to “stop, think and act,” she said. One is called “Red Light, Green Light,” in which one child pretends to be a stop light, the others cars. When the stop-light child says “green,” the others run. When they hear “red,” they must stand still. Traditional games such as hide-and-seek and Simon says also teach children to follow directions, remain quiet and cooperate in mutual activities.
Dancing is another good activity for children, McClelland says.
“Start by having children dance slowly to slow music. Then have them dance fast to fast music. Then tell them to dance slowly to fast music and vice versa.”
Her colleague in nutrition and exercise science, Ingrid Skoog, offers tips for helping children “stay focused and learn, avoid early fatigue and getting frustrated” by providing them quality meals that contribute to good behavior.
Breakfast: Avoid sweet foods that will leave kids tired and grumpy in an hour or so. Try other combinations such as milk, banana and a sandwich with nut butter (peanut or almond) and jelly; bagel with low-fat cream cheese and fruit; oatmeal with raisins, nuts or other fruit; low-sugar yogurt with nonsweetened cereal mixed in; smoothie with yogurt and whole fruit.
Lunch: Try finger foods that are “nutrient dense and fast to eat,” and avoid sweets, especially for kids who don’t usually eat their entire lunch. Vary the carbohydrate source with choices such as a sandwich on whole-wheat bread; tortilla wraps; homemade pizza rolls; pasta salad with protein, beans, cheese, grated carrot and peas.
Snacks: Choose high-fiber crackers; high-protein pretzels; apple wedges and carrot sticks; granola, raisins or other dried fruits.
When it comes to exercise, Kelly Rice, a graduate student at OSU in exercise and sport science, recommends keeping the little ones hopping so they’re better able to sit quietly and follow instructions in more structured settings.
Get kids away from television and computer screens and onto a homemade obstacle course — inside or out, depending on weather — to test speed and coordination, Rice recommends.
Invent new games, such as acting out stories, scenes from movies or video games, to keep kids moving and thinking.
Think of a 30-minute, inactive time slot in the family schedule each week and do something active, such as taking a walk, working in the garden, or heading to a nearby park or playground.
Source: The Register-Guard - http://goo.gl/fcR47