Learning the Preschool Lingo

Eliza Clark
February 14, 2011

We are constantly amazed at how much our young children learn, and how quickly. The physical abilities, the language, the skills, the cultural knowledge -- they pick it all up so readily that we can't help but be impressed with those brains of theirs. In comparison, our tired parent brains seem dreadfully underperforming....

But let's not sell ourselves too short. After all, hanging around our kids has to mean that some of that learning is going to rub off on us. Taking care of a new baby, for example, involves a very steep learning curve. By the time they are toddlers, we've mastered a whole new vocabulary of childcare. And when they are ready for preschool, you get to start all over again. 

Preschool comes with its own complicated lexicon that parents are often forced to confront before they even set foot in a building for a tour.  We've written before about the strange sounding educational philosophies attached to various schools.  Once your child is in school, you will likely get a taste of educational jargon such as "the phase-in mode of separation" (the weeks-long period when parents have to hang around the building while the kids get used to the new setting); "modeling and scaffolding" (which essentially refers to showing kids how to do stuff); "learning styles" (does your child learn best by listening, watching or doing?); and a whole lot more.  As a parent, you can get away with learning the bits you need, and happily skip the rest.

But what's more fun, and more or less inescapable, is to learn the lingo that your preschooler brings home at the end of the day.  He won't be talking about kinesthetic learning (thank goodness), but will likely bandy about a few new phrases that are not only cute and hilarious, but that also can come in handy at home.  Parents, take note.

"Circle time" will be the first new term that children learn when they step into the classroom (no explanation needed), followed by the slightly more arcane "choice time" during which the kids can choose from different activities and toys set up around the room.  We wonder if calling a plain old afternoon at home "choice time" might not make it sound a little more exciting....

Most kids seem to love talking about their school's "job chart," and this is a bit of lingo that can really translate well at home.  Your very own "snack helper" can give you a hand setting and clearing the table, while your "weather helper" keeps an eye on the skies and reminds you to bring your umbrella today.

The preschool terms we love best refer to various parts of the body in a delightfully (or delusionally) civilized manner.  When they emerge from school with their "indoor voices," "listening ears" and "walking feet," our kids are practically whole new beings!  Invoking those phrases may not turn mayhem into serenity, but they do work better than "hush" and "stop."  And when things really get crazy loud at the dinner table, you can always ask the kids to raise "a quiet hand."

Finally, the word "friends" takes on a new meaning in most preschool settings.  There, it embraces all classmates, no matter the minor conflicts or shifting partialities.  What a wonderful way to begin one's entrance into the world beyond the family: into a classroom full of friends.

From the Parents

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