Gearing up for Kindergarten
By Kimberly Evans
When I was in Kindergarten, I remember learning the “letter people” through songs, playing dress-up, and sitting at tables coloring and “writing” letters. Nowadays, kids come out of Kindergarten reading versus naming letters or making letter sounds. The challenges of Kindergarten have changed dramatically.
When preparing for the first school year, emotional as well as academic needs should be under consideration. Several simple and oftentimes routine activities can jumpstart this process.
READ, READ, READ to your child! Not only will reading to your child boost an interest in books and reading, it will help your child better understand what he is reading and what normal reading behaviors are (i.e., how to hold a book properly). Reading time can also be interactive where your child “reads” to you using her own understanding of the story through the pictures. You can find further information about reading preparation and success at www.reading.org/informationfor/Parents.aspx
Have routine discussions with your child where questions are asked and answered. These dialogues prepare children for class participation and social conversations. They feel less threatened and shy when expressing themselves in front of the class or out on the playground with friends. This article discusses when and how to have these dialogues: http://simsbury.patch.com/articles/5-reading-tips-to-prepare-your-child-for-kindergarten-cd26e0d3
Kids love music! Songs, another great tool, are fun. They can also introduce and reinforce the basics of reading. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Itsy Bitsy Spider focus on repetition, rhyming, and building vocabulary. Kindergarten is usually full of song singing, so your child gets a head start in this daily routine, too if you make songs a part of your daily routine. Check out more ideas around the benefits of singing at www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_home.aspx?ArticleID=478
Think about enrolling your child into a preschool (age 3 years) or prekindergarten (age 4 years) program. Early childhood education is invaluable for building social, emotional, and academic skills. These programs also give your child a jumpstart in preparing for Kindergarten. Keep in mind that program costs can be substantial and most programs are not state-funded. When making a preschool decision, think about what type of program you want and the goals you have for your child. Harvard’s report on getting ready for Kindergarten is thorough and useful when deciding if you want to enroll your child into a pre-kindergarten program, http://www.hfrp.org/publications-resources/browse-our-publications/getting-parents-ready-for-kindergarten-the-role-of-early-childhood-education
No matter what, doing a variety of hands-on activities aids in your child’s development and preparation for Kindergarten. If you dive into your child’s interests and spend time doing fun, simple educational activities, your child will enjoy the experiences in Kindergarten. Here are a few more resources focusing on preparing your child for Kindergarten: http://www.education.com/topic/preparing-for-kindergarten/ and http://www.familycorner.com/ages/preparing-your-child-for-kindergarten.html
Once your child is enrolled for Kindergarten, remember to visit the school. If he or she is going to a private school then you all visited during the admissions process; however another visit prior to school starting will help the transition. Public schools have an orientation day prior to school starting to ease your child into Kindergarten with you along for the visit. If the school is close enough, walk-bys are another way to remind your child of school and to start a discussion around feelings about this milestone. No matter what, regular talks about school – what it will be like, what feelings or emotions are involved, and what will be different – help your child transition to being a successful Kindergartner.
Kimberly Evans ([email protected]) is founder and owner of KAEvans Consultancy, specializing in professional development for teachers and administrators. She has been in the field of education for over 15 years, earned an Ed.D. from GWU, and is mom to two-year-old daughter Caroline.