Kindergarten has evolved over the last several years. Half days and naptime are essentially a thing of the past. With these changes, many parents are concerned about how to prepare their child for the first day of Kindergarten and the academic challenges ahead. Keep in mind that many of your child’s prerequisite skills have already been developed through play, nursery school and an enriched home environment.
Here are some additional steps you can take to further develop those skills and to make sure that your child’s first big step will be a successful one.
Building your child’s hand strength is an important step to prepare them for writing, cutting and pasting activities.
- When your child is engaged in a writing/coloring activity, always provide different size pencils, markers and crayons. Try to encourage an age appropriate tripod (3 finger) grip. This allows the child to write more efficiently and will increase their endurance.
- Have manipulatives like Play-Doh and kinetic sand available for them to manipulate and build hand strength.
- Have them string large and small beads and build with different Lego shapes and sizes. Encourage them to follow patterns and sequences. This will help build eye hand coordination as well.
- Let your child use scissors to cut along lines on paper, cardboard and even chunks of play-doh. It may be surprising, but cutting is a skill they are expected to have already acquired upon entering Kindergarten.
- Have your child identify all 26 letters of the alphabet in both upper and lower case forms. Place magnets on the fridge in random order. See if your child can point to the letters as you name them and then ask your child to name the letters as you point to them. Have him/her organize the letters alphabetically. See if they can separate vowels from consonants. Have them find the letters to spell their own name.
- Make them aware of letters and words all around them by playing “I spy”. Today we are searching for the letter ‘S’. Let’s see if we can find 10 words that have an ‘S’ in them during our trip today.
- Most of us exposed our children to reading when they were infants. We understood that literacy skills start early, as a young child is able to identify the front cover of a book, as well as the back cover and the pages. Now it’s time to familiarize your child with the authors and illustrators of their favorite books, explaining what those words mean.
- When you read to your child, provide a model by pointing to the words so your child will learn to read from the left to the right and from the top to the bottom.
- Nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss books are especially wonderful because they teach rhyming in a fun way. Rhyming is an essential skill for reading, spelling and writing in later grades. You can make reading an interactive activity by leaving out words and letting your child fill in the rhyming words or phrases. They feel like they are already reading along with you. They may even like to “read” to a younger sibling
- Have your child practice writing his/her name by copying your model. Then remove the model and have your child write his/her name independently. Begin with all uppercase letters and then move to the initial uppercase, followed by lowercase.
- Practice writing letters of the alphabet, again presenting a model and then removing the model when your child is ready. Keep in mind, it is best to teach your child the proper letter formation right from the beginning!
- Use different textures to make the writing experience multi-sensory and more fun! Write with shaving cream, use sandpaper or little carpet scraps. A white board and dry erase markers help pass the time on a long car ride. A sponge square and a chalkboard is also a fun way to practice letter formation.
- Practice counting aloud with your child as you go about your day. Count the number of plates you need to set the table. How many cheerios are left on his/her plate? Use math words like “more” and “less” or “most” and “least” when you are making comparisons. During screen time use some hands on math apps.
- Look for numbers in your daily life – what number is your house? Can you find the number 7 in the grocery store? Let’s count out 4 apples. Use the numbers all around us so to teach counting and number recognition.
- Don’t forget to work on shapes, colors and size too. Most children already recognize shapes, colors and sizes independently, but help them generalize those skills by finding different shapes embedded in other objects. Reinforce colors by asking your child to be specific in a request, “would you like the little blue ball or the big red ball?”
Classroom Behavior: Becoming a member of the classroom community is not always an easy step for children. According to kindergarten teacher, Julie Cappuccilli, it is important that “students be able to take turns, share, and work in a cooperative environment”. Here are some additional steps you can take to help make the kindergarten transition easier.
- Practice building reading stamina and attention to task by reading longer stories and eventually increasing to chapter books. Some suggested titles can be found here: http://www.daddyread.com/earlyElem.html
- Increase the number of multi-step directions you expect your child to follow through games such as ‘Simon Says’ and by performing multi-step tasks around your house. This will also facilitate independence e.g., “After you eat breakfast, please bring your plate to the sink, and wipe your face and hands.”
- Provide your child with social opportunities with peers. Take your child to playgrounds, play-groups or classes. Use real life situations to discuss problem solving strategies, to find ways to deal with frustrations and to learn what it means to compromise. Help them to find the words to let a peer know that they hurt their feelings.
Remember, every child is different and every child develops at their own pace. Your child’s Kindergarten teacher understands that not every child will enter their classroom with the same set of skills. If your child does not have all of the skills outlined above, before he/she walks through the school doors, do not fret! With the guidance from their teachers and your continued support, these skills will emerge in their own time. Remember that your child is a butterfly. She/he will develop at his/her own time with his/her own special qualities and strengths and you will always be there to guide them along their journey.
- Danielle Meyer, Founder DEM Tutoring