All parents hope their children have it better than they did growing up. This concept made sense when many of our parents or grandparents walked to school uphill both ways, barefoot in the snow, etc. However, in more modern times in the United States, many parents have been fortunate enough to grow up in a situation where they were not deprived of much. We had access to plenty of food, education, and material items; many of us were, for lack of a better word, spoiled. Now, we are giving our children everything that we had and more, with the exception of one important gift—our time.
This deficit becomes apparent when we consider that now, more than ever, students are arriving to school unprepared for the academic and social experience of kindergarten. What can parents do to make sure that their child enters the classroom primed for learning? Here’s a list of five teacher-approved areas that parents can focus on to make sure that their preschooler is kindergarten-ready.
1. Fine motor skills
- Using a pair of scissors: Children should be able to hold a pair of scissors correctly and cut in a straight line.
- Writing: Children should already have a consistent pencil grasp with a preferred writing hand and be able to write their own name.
- Getting dressed: All kindergarteners should know how to get dressed by themselves. This includes knowing how to zip up jackets, button pants and shirts, and tie shoes.
- Handling objects: Children should be familiar with pouring, scooping, and playing with liquids and small objects like rice, sand, noodles, etc. Playing with Play-Doh®, lacing string, and threading beads also encourages the use of fine motor skills.
- Story time: All children should be read to often. Try picking a specific time of the day to devote to stories and books at home--this will help your child be able to sit still and quietly pay attention during story time in the classroom.
- Letter recognition: By the time kindergarten begins, children should be able to recognize numerous letters and be aware of what sounds they make. An easy way to incorporate this skill into everyone’s busy schedule is to buy foam letters for the bathtub and/or magnets for the fridge.
3. Social and emotional readiness
- Problem solving and conflict resolution: Children should be comfortable in social situations and be able to solve simple social problems or conflicts without an adult. Setting up playdates with other families and attending preschool or daycare offer great opportunities for your child to develop these skills before kindergarten.
- Sharing: Children often want what another child has, and they tend to confuse this with the idea that the other child is not sharing. Children should have previous social experiences where they share their own belongings. However, they should also understand that they cannot always get what they want when they want it.
- The “Golden Rule”: Treat others the way that you want to be treated. Focusing on the importance of empathy and sympathy at home will go a long way toward developing your child’s social awareness. Try asking questions like: “How do you think that made someone feel when that happened?” and “How would you feel if that happened to you?” With these simple conversations, children become aware that other people’s feelings are just as important as their own.
- Self-regulation: Dealing with disappointment and frustration is a daily task for all of us. However, when you are only five years old, regulating these feelings is crucial to a successful rest of the day. Teaching children coping techniques, such as counting to 10 and taking deep breaths, will help them deal with these daily difficulties when you are not there with them.
- Imaginative and creative play: In this day and age of digital technology, children have an endless supply of information and entertainment at their fingertips. Many even have their own digital learning devices. However, many children and parents rely on this digital technology too much. Imaginative and creative play (that most of us adults had growing up) goes by the wayside. Bring it back by giving your child a simple “craft box” with some art supplies. You will be amazed at how creative and imaginative he or she becomes.
- Taking turns and waiting patiently: Many children are fortunate to live in homes where their every thought is heard and their needs are met almost immediately. In kindergarten, your child will be one of 20 or more children and will need to wait patiently and take turns with others. Exposing your child to preschool, sports, and other activities is a great means to give your child these learning opportunities. Check out your local community education programs for easy and inexpensive options.
- Structured play: Playing simple card and board games with your child can teach him or her far more than you might expect! Taking turns, following directions and rules, as well as learning how to be a gracious winner and how to deal with the disappointment of losing are crucial to your child’s ability to learn with kindergarten peers.
5. Learning through discovery
- In the car: Turn off the radio and talk to your child. Point out and talk about the things you see out the window. What color means stop? What color means go? Sing silly songs, rhyme, and play I spy. These activities might seem like nothing more than a way to kill time, but your child’s brain will be busy making connections the whole time.
- Cooking together: The family needs to eat, so why not make it a learning experience for your child? Call items by name and explain why the water is bubbling and how the noodles went from straight to limp. This is also a great time to talk about why we need food for our bodies and a good opportunity to practice fine motor skills by pouring, measuring, and stirring.
- Go for a walk: Talk about why the birds are flying south in the fall, look at different flowers, examine an ant colony, find a bee pollinating a flower, and talk about everything you see! What are clouds made of? Why is rain a good thing? Express interest in the world around you, and it will be contagious for your child.
- Household chores: Household chores are a key way for your child to learn about responsibility. Teach your child practical skills by doing household chores together at first, and think about turning them into a game to get your child more engaged. You can also instill a sense of personal responsibility in your child by making him or her responsible for his or her own items, including putting clothes, toys, and dishes away.
Want to give your child a head start on the academic skills he or she will focus on in the kindergarten classroom? Edmentum’s Study Island for Home offers engaging online practice, activities, and games to build and reinforce foundational skills. Start your free trial today!
*These opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Independent School District 192.