Let’s Get Ready for Kindergarten!
by Susan Rudich
Spring is here. The weather is warmer. Swim lessons have begun. If your child is starting kindergarten in the fall, questions about readiness for “real school” may be on your mind. Parents often ask me, “Will my child be ready? After all, kindergarten has become the new First Grade.”
Research shows that a confident start in kindergarten is important for a smooth transition and to foster a love of learning. Children succeed in kindergarten when they display the following:
· The ability to interact with other children and adults
· The ability to verbalize their wants, needs and preferences
· The ability to follow directions
· Recognition of basic colors, shapes, letters and numbers to 20 (or more)
· Strong fine motor skills (such as writing, drawing and the ability to use scissors)
· A sense of independence, such as caring for a backpack and lunchbox
Having these strengths will provide the foundation and confidence for de-mystifying reading, as well as for navigating the playground at recess.
Now…..how can you help your child to enhance those skills? It’s easy!
Play Games. Taking turns and making predictions are important skills for success in school. Simple games such as I Spy, Go Fish, Dots and Candy Land reinforce color recognition and offer opportunities to practice patience. Also, playing board games help your child develop simple strategies. While having fun, your child is learning cause and effect, learning to wait, and experiencing winning (and losing) in a safe setting.
Be Creative. While you wait for dinner at a restaurant, arrange sugar packages or toothpicks to shape letters for each child to identify. In addition, let your child form letters for others to guess. This experience will deepen the learning as they form letters, as well as read them. In other settings, guide your child to write letters and numbers with sticks, twigs, or even your bodies. For example, you might suggest the following: “Let’s make the letter “O” with our mouths … now, the letter “X” with our arms,” etc. Use a wide variety of media to practice letter and number recognition. Use your finger or a stick to write numbers in a tray of salt for your child to identify or encourage her to help you count the number of cars going by while you are at a traffic light. Remember to let your preschooler choose the activity and have a chance to “test” you too.
Add a Little Magic. Children love novelty. Incorporate an element of magic or surprise in every activity. Simply using a colorful scarf to cover the letter cards in an “alphabet bingo” game, makes the learning more memorable.
Model Problem Solving and Risk Taking. Show your child that trying matters. Verbalize when you make a mistake, and engage him in a conversation such as the following: ‘That was an ‘oops.’ Hmm… what do you think we can do to fix it?” Let your child be part of solving the problem. Give your child time to respond. The 21st Century learner must know how to work collaboratively. Give your children chances to be part of your team by encouraging brainstorming about real life activities, such as how to ice a cake or wrap a present. Let them help!
Read Aloud. The greatest gift you can give a child is a love of reading. She will be reading for the rest of her life. Reading enhances imagery, vocabulary and when done in a loving setting, creates a bond that no video game or “app” can ever rival. Engage your child in a conversation about what he thinks might happen next. Enjoy the illustrations together and chat about what you think a character in a picture is feeling. When reading, show that you are reading from left to right, and read all the way through the book or chapter. Task completion is an important skill for children to develop throughout their academic careers.
Stay Calm. Children may not be able to articulate all that they experience but they can pick up on adult anxieties. By modeling calmness and displaying confidence in your child’s kindergarten experience, your child will follow your lead. So, breathe, relax, and enjoy the time together with your child, and…..
Most importantly, have fun!
Susan Rudich is an early childhood educator and author. She has worked in both public and private schools for over 10 years and currently teaches in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, recognized for its outstanding achievement on the local, state and national levels. Previously, Susan taught at the prestigious UCLA Krieger Early Childhood Education Center and has also helped preschools obtain NAEYC accreditation. In addition, she spent many years working in children’s libraries and in promoting educational support programs for children with special needs
Don’t forget Academic Achievers offers Backyard KinderCamp to help your child transition into kindergarten. After working with one of our specially trained KinderPrep tutors, your child will be so excited to go to kindergarten– they will be on fire to learn more!