Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten
The approach of the first year of school can be stressful for parents, especially if your first child is starting school. I was a Kindergarten teacher for several years before my oldest was born, and even I worried about him beginning his official school career. Kindergarten has changed from when we grew up. The playtime we remember from our youth has been replaced with learning to read, write, add and subtract. So how do we get our babies ready for such a huge academic adventure when they are still trying to learn the ways of the world? Here are a few of my recommendations on how to prepare your child for Kindergarten:
Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten
- Teach your child how to be away from you for several hours. For kids that have been in daycare, this is a breeze. They learned this before they even realized what was going on, and it will serve them well when school starts. For kids that have been with a stay at home parent all their lives, this can be a huge struggle. When a child comes in upset and has no experience leaving a parent, they miss out on key learning at the beginning of the year while they adjust to the new reality. At least one year of preschool can make a world of difference for these kids. It helps get them past the struggle of separation before they reach the doors of their Kindergarten classroom. What if it is too late to enroll in a year of preschool or preschool isn’t in the budget? Check out local Mother’s Morning Out programs or ask a trusted friend or relative to help you with the task of preparing your child. Even if you are only leaving them once or twice a week for a few months, it will help them to see that it isn’t so scary to be without you for a while.
- Make sure your child can use the bathroom and wipe their nose without any assistance. At first glance, you may shrug this off, but really take time to observe your child a few months before the start of school to ensure they have it under control from start to finish, 100% by themselves. Teachers should not be alone in the bathroom with a child, even in a classroom bathroom. And most teachers will refuse to help wipe or pull up pants for fear of being accused of wrong doing or misconduct. Unfortunately, with the lack of funding for schools, even Kindergarten teachers do not have assistants with them at all times in most places, so there isn’t usually a second adult that can supervise the teacher when he or she is helping a child with bathroom needs.
- Help your child practice following two or three step directions. By the time they are four, most kids can follow a one step direction from an adult. For example, if you say, “Throw your trash away.” your child can probably accomplish this. In a classroom setting, a teacher will often give two or three step directions. He/she may say, “Return to your seat, put your name on your paper, and color the shapes.” This can be a lot of direction for a little one to hear, process, and carry out. Start helping at home by giving your child a list of things two or three things to do so he or she can practice taking it in, processing it, and actually accomplishing what has been asked.
- Teach your child how to make friends. Most kids feel better about going to school after they have made friends with a few of their classmates. Some kids are natural friends and peers are just drawn to them without any effort. A lot of kids don’t have this natural ability. Provide lots of opportunities for your child to make new friends by going to story times at the library, playing at the park and attending other events where they are not likely to know any of the children ahead of time. So many times, we think of our children as having a ton of friends, but if we really think about it, we realize that they are usually friends with the children of our own friends. Those friendships have grown from being with each other over and over again. Help provide them the experience of making new friends before they start school so they are pros when the time comes.
- Expose your child to the ABC’s and 123’s. The key word here is expose. Kids learn at different rates. My son knew all his letters and sounds by the time he was 3. He could read a little and count to 100 by the time he went to Kindergarten. My daughter didn’t know all her letters and only knew a few sounds before she went to Kindergarten, and she could only count to 14. Now that they are older, my son still outperforms most of his peers, but my daughter is also doing well academically. She just needed more time to get that spark ignited and that is perfectly fine! As long as you are providing opportunities for your child to learn, your child will be on the right path when they start school. This can include watching educational shows, going to library programs, playing with number and letter toys, singing songs, spending time on the computer or apps that teach the basics, and many other activities. Anything that teaches letter names and sounds, number recognition and counting, rhyming words, patterns, shapes, and colors will give a good boost to your child.
- Most importantly, you need to read to your child from the time they are born. I cannot stress the importance of this enough! Hearing spoken language helps your child more than anything else. When you read to your child, it not only models the language but also exposes them to vocabulary and concepts that they do not experience in everyday life. It stimulates multiple parts of their brains at once and helps them develop thought patterns. Reading also models a behavior that you want to see them copy when they start to learn how to read words. So many times, I am asked how I get my kids to read when people see them out and about reading. The answer is simple. They have always seen me do it. Whether I am reading to them or to myself there is rarely a day that goes by when my kids do not see a book in my hands. It is a natural process for them.
Starting Kindergarten is a big step for our little ones. By taking the steps above, you will prepare them for the routine parts of school so that they can focus on and successfully start their academic journey!
You may also like this post.