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Kindergarten: Is Your Child Ready?

Every September, a new class of kindergarten students open the doors to classrooms that will start them on their journey of learning. These children are both excited at what lies ahead, and fearful about leaving parents for hours each day. Another emotion that touches the families of these young students is concern. Before most parents wave good-bye to the big yellow school bus, they question whether their children are truly ready to enter the world of academics.

Today’s kindergarten curriculum is significantly different than when Friedrich Froebel developed the idea in the 1830s. The original purpose was to socialize children. Since most children attend daycare or preschool prior to their first day of kindergarten, the socialization aspect is no longer as important. Emphasis is placed on academics and cognitive learning skills.

Prior to entering kindergarten, a child must show a degree of readiness. The home environment is perfect for developing the skills that will be used in a kindergarten curriculum. There are many ways to get a child ready for the first day of school, and they can be divided into a few key areas.

Academic and Cognitive Skills

A great way to prepare children for kindergarten is to read to them. The local library has shelves of picture books that introduce children to words and ideas. Let the child follow along as you read, using your finger to trace the sentences and read in an animated and engaging manner. When you finish the story, ask your child questions about it, encouraging responses that deal with both the plot and her emotional reaction to the book.

Focus on one letter of the alphabet each day. Look for things that start with that letter. Have a snack featuring the letter of the day. Play “I Spy” and search for items that start with the day’s letter. Have a scavenger hunt or make up a silly song.

Since writing and reading are related, trace the letters on sentence strips or with sidewalk chalk. Concentrate on having the child spell his name. Use a variety of writing implements, like crayons, paint or glitter markers. The ability to write their name is a huge milestone for children. In addition, some children are ready to be introduced to sight words.

Throughout the day, ask your child questions about what is going on around them. Why is milk kept in the refrigerator? How should you cross a street? What’s your favorite game and why? The list is endless, but the idea is to allow your child moments to understand both ‘how’ and ‘why’ things are done in certain ways.

Another terrific activity is sorting. Put blocks, buttons or coins in a pile and sort them according to size, color or denomination.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Make play dough or buy it from a craft store, and have the child roll and mold it into various shapes. String Cheerios or Fruit Loops and make delicious jewelry. Buy safety scissors and ask the child to cut pictures from a magazine to make a collage. Coloring books are a traditional favorite; encourage the child to draw within the lines. Using chalk, have your child outline your body and then draw your face.

Go for a walk in the park and have your child alternate from walking to hoping to jumping to skipping. Another fun activity is to play kickball (our family favorite).

Social and Self help skills

Your child will be expected to follow directions, complete tasks and work independently. In addition, make sure your child can use the bathroom without assistance and wash and dry her hands. Your child will also need to be able to put on his shoes and tie them (or Velcro in our case), button their coat and zip their pants.

Every parent can prepare their child for kindergarten in a way that is entertaining and engaging. View daily activities as fun learning experiences that will make the first day of school a step into a lifetime of academic success.

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