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Good start in school

Starting school is like launching a journey. And like anyone else off on an adventure, a school-bound child will do best if she is well-prepared before she begins.

As a parent, you may wonder if there is a single quality or skill that determines how well a child does in school. The truth is, though, a combination of things contribute to educational success. Good health and physical well-being, social and emotional maturity, language skills, an ability to solve problems and think creatively and general knowledge about the world are all factors.

“Of course, children develop at different rates, and most are stronger in some areas than in others,” says Karen DeBord, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Child Development Specialist at North Carolina State University Extension. “Parents play an important role in helping children get ready for school.”

Following are just a few ways you can help your children acquire positive skills that will help them get off to a good start with school:

Nurture communication. Many everyday experiences can help develop pre-reading skills. As you’re driving in the car, taking a walk or even waiting in the grocery store line, there are many things to see and conversations to have. You can play “I spy” or look for particular shapes, colors or letters.

Be positive about learning and school. Your enthusiasm for your child’s accomplishments is contagious and can motivate children to learn. As the first day of school approaches, talk about what exciting things might happen, such as field trips and learning to read.

Encourage responsibility. Even small children can help with chores, such as picking up toys or stacking newspapers. Make helping around the house an expectation and applaud a child’s attempts at taking the initiative to help. Even if the end result isn’t perfect, you’ll still be helping them learn how to start and stop tasks, as they will need to do with school work.

Be adventurous. Go for a hike in the woods, visit a museum, explore your neighborhood. Your varied experiences together give your child the chance to learn about the world.

Let your child play! Interacting with others ? both children and adults ? gives preschoolers a chance to practice the social skills they need to thrive at school.

“As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher,” DeBord says. “Parents ? even more than child care centers and good schools ? help children develop such important qualities as confidence, curiosity and cooperation.”