- Writing their names
- Learn their full name, address and phone number
- Practice self-advocacy
- Hone social skills
- Learn about letters and numbers
- Learn the kindergarten flip
Ready or Not – Here Comes Kindergarten!
Kindergarten is all about learning how to be independent. Critical skills ranging from recognizing patterns and decoding symbols to making friends and navigating the library and are foundations that will set kids up to be successful for the rest of their educational years. Kindergarten is also a huge time of transition and anxiety for kids (and parents!) Here are six practical things you and your child can work on now to help them feel confident and ready to learn on their first day of kindergarten:
1. writing their names
Over the school year, your child will bring home what feels like a million drawings, paintings, “stories” and unidentifiable blobs. What will every one of these things have in common? They will all contain your child’s name – written by your child. Yes, they will be expected to write their names on EVERYTHING they create, from day one. Practice this before school starts and imagine the confidence they feel when they realize they have already mastered this key skill.
2. Learn their full name, address and phone number
This is just good safety sense. If your child gets lost, or thinks they might get lost, they’ll need this information. Most children starting kindergarten express worries like: “what if I can’t find my classroom?” or “what if I miss the bus?” and knowing that they can confidently tell a trusted grown-up who they are and how to reach you in an emergency will go a long way in easing those fears. Set your address and phone number to the tune of a song to help make it stick.
3. Practice self-advocacy
Some kids have NO trouble telling a grown-up what they need. And in preschool, with a teacher for every few children, there is usually an adult to help anticipate needs and head off problems. Kindergarten is a whole new world, however, and kids need to be able to tell a teacher when they need to use the restroom or when they’re having trouble understanding a lesson. Teachers can also help negotiate tricky friend situations, which your child may not be ready to manage on his own. Help your child develop a vocabulary to communicate what they need, and assure them that teachers are there to help.
4. Hone social skills
Taking turns. Listening without interrupting. Making eye contact. These are just a few of the social skills that are critical to success throughout life, and they are especially important in kindergarten. Give kids a head start by practicing every day. Model empathy and help your child solve problems cooperatively. Conduct a staring contest while having a conversation to practice maintaining eye contact. Read a story and talk about it afterward – Why did the main character get angry? What kinds of things make you get angry? What do you do to calm down? We all want our children to succeed in the social world–to learn how to cooperate, make friends, and negotiate conflicts. It’s never too soon to help them develop strong interpersonal skills. Here are some more ways to practice.
5. Learn about letters and numbers
Most kids will know their ABC’s when they start kindergarten, but the tricky part is learning the sounds each letter makes. This is an important step in literacy, and getting a head start will make learning to read much easier. Practice with games like grocery store or backyard bingo – finding something that starts with each letter of the alphabet and practicing the sounds the letters make. Find more ideas from Brain Building in Process: Recognizing Words and Letters.
Building number sense starts early, and accelerates when school begins, so it’s never too early to expose kids to math concepts. Think of a number between one and ten and tell them “higher” or “lower” when they try to guess. Count how many steps it takes to get from home to school. Explain how houses are numbered on your street. Infuse everyday situations with math concepts to build a solid foundation for the more complex lessons to follow. More number games.
Learn the “kindergarten flip”
Kids quickly learn that the longer it takes to get their coats on, the less time they’ll have at recess, and no one wants to be the one holding everyone up. In kindergarten, kids are expected to manage this without help. Here’s a fun and easy way to teach your child to put on their coats quickly:
- Place the coat on the floor with the inside facing up.
- Stand facing the coat with your feet at the top. (Where the collar or hood are.)
- Bend down and slip your arms into the sleeves.
- Flip the coat over your head as you stand up.
Here’s a video that illustrates the technique: https://youtu.be/9cH8BiuaJ4c Once they’ve mastered the flip, move on to tying shoes, zipping zippers, and buttoning buttons. Their teachers will thank you.
For more great ideas to help ease the transition to Kindergarten, see the Kindergarten Readiness Activity Book. Good luck!