As many of you know from my previous blogs, my oldest daughter just started Kindergarten. If you are about my age, and were in elementary school in the 80’s and early 90’s, you probably think of Kindergarten as very similar to preschool. Maybe you remember days spent finger-painting, learning to use paste for gluing instead of eating, playing with blocks, and reading a story. There was a lot of time for imaginative play and a nap after lunchtime. If this sounds familiar to you, I am here to tell you, Kindergarten is not what it used to be. Want to know whether your preschooler will be prepared while you still have time to do something about it? Ask yourself the following questions:
1. How is their letter recognition?
Kindergarten is much more academic than you remember. Much of the day is spent on reading and math skills. To prepare your preschooler for Kindergarten, make sure that they recognize the letters and are able to tell you the sound each letter makes. Start to introduce them to the idea that words are made up of letters and that each make their own sound. Have them practice tracing and writing upper and then lowercase letters. Make sure that they are able to write and spell their name. Read together daily and talk about what is happening in the story.
2. How is their number recognition?
Practice basic number recognition by learning to count to twenty or even higher if they are able. Practice tracing and writing the numbers one through ten and also by counting objects. Play games with the objects for example by saying, “ If I have five sugar packets and I take two away, how many do I have?” This will get them prepared to understand the concepts of adding and subtracting.
3. Can they sit quietly and pay attention?
Focus and behavior are arguably just as important to kindergarten success as academic skills. For Kindergarten, your child should be able to sit still and sustain attention to a task for ten minutes without redirection. Take your children to events where they will have to sit and listen to someone read a story or do a presentation. Practice sitting quietly and what it means to be a good listener. Give your child a task or a craft to do on their own that requires them them to sit quietly. First start with a small task and then increase the time working independently up to about ten minutes.
4. Can they follow directions given to a group?
Practice giving your child short directions. See if they are able to follow these directions when they are given once. Gradually make the directions more complex so that they are able to follow one and two-step directions. This can be directions to do tasks around the house or for an art project but the expectation needs to be that they listen the first time.
5. Do they get along with others?
Make sure that your child has plenty of exposure to other children and is able to interact with children and adults without hitting, kicking, or biting. Your child should be able to cooperate, share and work together with other children without constant adult intervention or supervision.
6. Can they function independently from you?
Make sure that your child can separate from you for long periods of time without distress. To do this, they must be capable of completing some personal care tasks on their own such as zipping their coat, buttoning their pants, using the bathroom on their own and washing their hands. They also should be able to use crayons, a pencil, glue, and scissors independently.
Practicing these skills with your preschool child now will make them well prepared for a successful and enjoyable start to Kindergarten.
-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.