Your child has turned four and kindergarten is looming in the not so distant future. You may find yourself questioning whether he’s really ready … after all your neighbor’s four year old is already reading! Will your child be behind the other kids? Is he really prepared?
Don’t worry, there is still time to make sure your child has all the skills he needs in order to have a successful kindergarten year. Ideally, preparing for kindergarten should begin the year before. Don’t wait until a month or two before school starts to begin working with him on the skills he will need to be successful.
To help make the transition from preschool to kindergarten a smooth one, begin to talk positively to your child about kindergarten. Talk excitedly to him about some of the fun things he will encounter in kindergarten such as making new friends, playing on the playground, and going to the school library. If your child has an older sibling that is already in school, encourage him to talk to his younger sibling about all the fun things he did when he was in kindergarten. This will help get your child excited about beginning kindergarten as well as help allay any fears that he may have.
Despite what you may have heard (or what your neighbor tells you), children do not need to be full on readers in order to be successful in kindergarten. Instead of worrying about reading, concentrate on making sure your child has the basic preschool skills down pat. For the year before he enters kindergarten, work with your child on the following skills:
- Being able to retell a simple story.
- How to spell his name.
- Tracing letters and numbers on paper.
- Recognizing the title of a book.
- Matching rhyming sounds.
- Recognizing shapes and colors.
These are the skills that form a foundation for strong prereading and prewriting skills which will help your child to be successful in kindergarten. Use flashcards and fun games to keep your child interested in learning.
Experts agree that one of the best ways to encourage your child to have strong future reading and writing skills is to read to him every day. Reading to your child often can help him to develop a positive attitude towards reading, making it less of a chore for him when he starts school. Reading to him also allows him to learn the basics of reading a book, such as that the words are read from left to right and the story continues when you flip the page. Reading to your child also promotes a longer attention span and builds listening skills, both of which will be beneficial to him in school. Studies show that children who are read to often do better in school than children who are not read to often, so schedule reading time with your child every day. To get him excited about starting school, and to help ease any anxiety he may have, read him some fun stories about beginning kindergarten. Some good books for this that you can usually find at your local library are:
“The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing
“Kindergarten Rocks!” by Katie Davis
“Countdown to Kindergarten” by Alison Mcghee
“First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneberg
“Welcome to Kindergarten” by Anne Rockwell
Reading books like these to your child will not only help alleviate his fears and get him excited about starting school, it will also encourage him to hop on the reading bandwagon, which will reward him with life-long benefits.
In addition to knowing his ABCs and 123s, there are also important social skills that your child needs to have developed before starting kindergarten. In order to have a strong start in kindergarten, children should be taught proper social and learning etiquette. Skills to work with your child on in this area are:
- Respecting authority figures such as teachers.
- Playing appropriately in a group.
- Listening and following instructions.
- Following rules put in place by people in authority.
- Respecting other people’s property.
- Understanding how to share and take turns.
- Being able to concentrate on a particular activity for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Being able to follow a simple routine.
- Knowing his personal information: his full name, age, address, and parent’s names.
In addition to the skills above, also work on preparing your child emotionally for kindergarten. Before starting kindergarten he should have some degree of independence and self-direction, so begin encouraging him to do more on his own. He should also develop self-control where he is able to wait for what he wants when there is a delay. Children throwing hissy fits when they don’t get their way is generally frowned upon in “big school” so work with him on this. He also needs to be fairly confident and unafraid to ask for help when he needs it. Assigning some light household chores is a great way to build confidence and encourage him to ask for help when he needs assistance with something or has a question. Also be sure that he is able to properly express his needs to adults and peers and can express his thoughts in complete sentences. This will help him communicate effectively once he starts school. Encourage him to replace any “baby” talk with the proper word, i.e. instead of “I have to use the potty”, begin encouraging him to say “I need to use the bathroom (or restroom)”.
There are also important physical skills your child needs to have developed before kindergarten. He should be able to dress himself, eat properly with good manners, and use the restroom independently and with proper hygiene (flushing, wiping, and washing hands). Other important physical skills to have mastered are hopping, skipping, running, and jumping. Also begin working with your child on how to properly hold a pencil.
Work diligently with your child on all of the skills discussed above and not only will he have a strong start to his kindergarten year, he will also enter into it with confidence and decorum.