Preschool is a foundational time in child development. Kids’ bodies and brains are growing at a rapid pace. Even with long, trying, tantrum-filled days, the first day of the Big K — kindergarten — will be here before you know it.

Before the cute photos and mommy tears, you want to do all you can to make sure they’re good and ready to climb aboard the big yellow bus and face the big day ahead. If your little is progressing at the normal rate, there’s lots you can do today to help them get kindergarten ready. The idea is to focus not on the K, but the pre-K.

Through play and activities, kids’ minds are busy developing the important skills they need to start learning kindergarten things. We’ll walk through the list and offer ideas on what you can do to help that along. Think of it as play with a purpose. If you’re in search of a way to spend a little time together, this list can be your guide.

1. Play, play, play!

Having time and space to play freely is an important part of a child’s developing brain and personality.

As you know, play comes in many forms. Pretend play with imaginary friends and kitchen props give kids a way to act out different conflicts and situations, and learn to manage them. There’s playtime with friends, which helps them boost their skills around communication and organizing activities with others.

There are even benefits to playing alone, so as long as they’re content, don’t assume they’re feeling lonely and need you to join them. Solo play helps kids develop a sense of independence, which helps greatly at the start of school, and it gives their minds and imaginations space to discover and explore whatever feels good and right to them.

Playing with building blocks, LEGO Bricks and construction toys also builds and shapes young minds and abilities. These activities help kids develop fine motor skills, solve problems, plan and increase spatial awareness.

Luckily, playtime is something kids do quite naturally with no encouragement from parents. Give them the time, space and encouragement, and they’ll do the rest.

2. Read amazing stories

What’s better, when you’re small, than being on the lap of your favorite person who’s reading from a book of colorful pictures, while using funny, expressive voices and giving lots of snuggles? Reading together from a book helps kids build valuable pre-literacy skills, such as understanding the left to right movement of text, the idea that letters and printed words have meaning, and recognizing letters. Kids who are read to regularly are also exposed to more vocabulary words. Finally, that cozy time together just creates a positive association with reading — which is sure to help them when it’s time to learn.

3. Can I help?

Sometimes, when we’re doing a hobby we love or even rushing through the weekend chores, the last thing we want is a tiny human trotting up, eager to help. Whenever you can, be intentionally patient and find a way to let them “help.” When you’re busy at your workbench, give them a small block of wood and a little sandpaper so they can “help.” If you’re prepping dinner, let them tear leaves for salad.

It can make your tasks stretch out many times longer. But taking advantage of this natural inclination to jump in can pay off later, whether it’s a gradual transition into doing family chores or sharing a hobby. Either way, being included in the grownup world gives them a functional literacy that can help them in school.

But if your helper is making things really, really difficult, just remember, a preschooler’s attention span can be as brief as a butterfly’s. Eventually, they’ll get bored and transition to the next thing.

4. Leave room for adventure time

Having a routine brings structure, comfort and security for young kids. Equally important is exposing kids to varied experiences beyond their front doors. These can show them new things about how the world works, which can become a launching point for learning.

When searching for places to go, opt for variety. Choose activities that give ample room to roam, explore and make noise, such as a hiking trail, the beach or a kid-friendly museum with plenty of activities. Explore big downtown areas complete with a ride on the subway or city bus. Take in the nighttime chaos of a festival.

Be sure and check your local library and school district for the selection of enrichment activities geared for young minds — these can teach kids something new about the things they already love. Having experience in a structured environment can make the start of school feel less foreign.

Bricks 4 Kidz offers many fun-filled classes for preschoolers that lets them build cool projects with DUPLO Bricks, while helping them build on other skills that will help them get ready for school. Locate a class in your community and sign up today.