When parents think about their children going off to Kindergarten, they often think about their child/children joining the “big kids.” This is an exciting time for many families. Families can feel anxiety, worry, and hope. We want children to be prepared to meet the challenges they are going to encounter, both academically and socially. Parents worry about how their child/children will adjust to a new routine, new faces and new expectations. Our hope is that children will like school and do well.
It's true that most kindergartens have become more academically rigorous than they were a generation ago. But that doesn't necessarily mean your child should enter kindergarten with a different set of skills than were needed in the past.
When kindergarten teachers are asked what abilities they hope incoming students will have, they say social and emotional skills are equally, if not more important, than knowing letters, numbers and shapes.
There are many components of kindergarten readiness, most of which are not generally considered to be "academic"; even though they directly influence how children learn.
- Self-care, self-help and motor skills (for example, dressing oneself, holding a pencil, and cutting with scissors)
- Playing well with others, relating positively to adults, and using language to express needs and wants
- Curiosity and eagerness to learn
- Self-regulation skills (for example, controlling impulses, paying attention, following directions, handling frustrations, and negotiating solutions to problems)
- Letter, shape, color and rhyming word recognition, counting objects to 10, writing own first name
Given these skills, you'll be supporting your child's readiness when you:
- Talk often with him/her and respond to their questions.
- Encourage active play; especially pretend play, with other children.
- Read, read, and read to your child every day. Talk about the words in books; ask them to predict what will happen in the stories and to make up stories of their own.
- Provide pencils, markers, crayons, and blank paper for drawing and "writing."
- Make things together out of empty food containers, markers, tape and glue.
- Play guessing games with them.
- Go places together, encourage them to notice things in their surroundings, and talk about all the interesting things there are to see and do.
- Use everyday activities to point out words and numbers.
- Encourage independence in managing daily tasks and helping with household chores, like setting the table.
- Limit screen time (television and video games) to allow time for more active learning experiences.
You can also help your child prepare for the actual transition to kindergarten by talking about what will happen. What will be their new routine? What friends will be at there new school, if any?
Reading library books about starting kindergarten can start conversations about this step in your child's life. Encourage their questions and expressions of feelings.
Travel the route your child will take to and from school, and arrange a visit, if possible. Take your child to play on the playground.
Knowing what to expect eases anxiety and will help your child feel more secure.
Even as you anticipate the start of kindergarten together, take time to enjoy your child. Play together. Go places together. Read and talk together. In the process, you'll be encouraging their enthusiasm for learning and helping them get off to a great start!