When it comes to raising children there sure is no magical parenting handbook that can help you, but we do our best to make sure we tailor our parenting style for our child’s individual needs.
Let’s not forget that every family situation is different too. Some of our babies have gone to child care at just a few months old, some may only go to child care part-time, and other families have their children home with them full time.
Regardless of the situation, there is something that every family should consider for their 4-year-old child… Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK). It’s the next best thing to a magical parenting handbook and your child will love it too.
What is VPK?
Florida offers FREE Voluntary Prekindergarten to all families whose child is four years old by September 1st. It’s a program designed to prepare young learners for kindergarten with age-appropriate curriculum.
It’s typically offered during the school year where children attend Monday thru Friday and get 540 hours of instructional time. There is also a summer program which is condensed to 300 hours. For children that have an individualized educational plan (IEP), VPK Specialized Instructional Services is also available as a VPK alternative.
It allows for Specialized Services that support a child’s IEP to be delivered in individual or small group settings with a professional. This may include services through a licensed speech-language pathologists or licensed physical therapist.
Who offers VPK?
There are a variety of child care programs that participate in Florida VPK. The program can be found at private and franchised child care centers, faith-based centers, family child care homes, and even through the public schools. It’s important to pick a location that best fits your family’s needs. Help spark your little learner’s interest in VPK and bring them on the center tour with you.
Why is VPK Important?
Think of learning as baby steps. We don’t go straight from kindergarten to graduating. VPK falls within the first few baby steps of many that a child will have in their educational journey.
Many children don’t attend child care, so their daily interactions with other children their age can be limited, and separating from their caregiver can be scary. VPK can help ease separation anxiety from their loved ones and is a great way to start learning how to form friendships.
Children learn the fundamental skills to socialize with classmates like sharing and managing emotions, in addition to their ABCs and 123s in a play-based learning environment. Typically, the classroom operates on routine and different educational centers. Did you realize that they are learning when they play with baby dolls, trains, and make-believe play?
They are imitating life, learning how to console an upset baby, problem-solving by building train routes, and letting their imagination come to life. VPK gives your child the opportunity to learn and take direction from another adult which helps them build trust.
What are the benefits of VPK?
Your child will enter kindergarten with the social, emotional, and problem-solving skills needed to be successful in their learning journey.
Their first day of kindergarten won’t be a big unknown leap but rather a baby step that they are excited and confident about. Since 90% of the brain is developed by 5 years old, VPK aids in the positive brain connections needed for a successful future.
VPK may also act as an early intervention in identifying learning struggles that you may have been unaware of. Children that are enrolled in a VPK program are more likely to graduate high school and are more likely to have positive economic, health, and social outcomes.
You have done a great job raising your little one without some magical handbook and will forever be admired for all the hard work. Let the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County help support you and your child’s learning journey.
If you would like to learn more about Florida VPK or enroll your child, visit: elchc.org.
*Presented by the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County