Back to school means important milestones, and none may be more significant than the first day of kindergarten! While that day may be full of excitement and maybe tears, a lot goes into making sure your child is ready for the big day (and year). A number of important markers academically and socially are vital to ensuring your soon-to-be kindergartner is ready for school.
“Because typical development varies among children entering kindergarten, I think it’s important to remember that kindergarten readiness is not necessarily a single goal, but a process that develops over time,” said Karen Burdge, Preschool Department Leader at Sunny’s Preschool.
Academically, children entering kindergarten should have a basic knowledge of the alphabet and familiarity with writing letters, recommends Education.com. A great way to practice is by writing their first name. Make it fun by using shaving cream in the bath or finger paints to practice. Practicing the sounds that the letters make helps prepare for independent reading.
Children should be aware of numbers and the concept of amounts of objects. Start counting the number of things you see, like birds in the yard or cars in the street. Pair counting with recognizing colors to double up essential skills. “Let’s count how many red cars are on the road!”
Fine Motor Skills
Practice fine motor skills such as appropriately grasping pencils and paint brushes. Working on proper scissor usage and dressing skills such as buttoning and zipping will help develop coordination and skill.
Beyond academics, kindergarten is also where children learn how to behave socially, both interacting with classmates and following rules and structure of the classroom. Before kindergarten, Education.com recommends giving your children opportunities to interact with other children at playdates or other types of settings and teaching them how to express their feelings in a constructive way.
“We talk about our emotions and how to manage our emotions properly. Once a child can name and manage their own emotions, they are better prepared to empathize with the emotions of others,” Burdge said.
Many local preschools help develop these types of social and academic skills. Florida has a voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) program available for 4-year-olds which helps prepare them for kindergarten. It is free for families as long as they register with a VPK certified program.
There are so many things parents can do at home to help reinforce learning, Burdge said.
“Read, read, read—anything your child is interested in. While reading, ask questions such as, ‘What do you think will happen next?’; ‘Can you tell how he is feeling by looking at his face?’; ‘How would you feel if this happened to you?’ Burdge recommends. “Look for opportunities to spark curiosity, even in everyday tasks. Some examples might be to count as you are climbing stairs together or name colors of fruits and vegetables as you walk through the grocery store.”
Finally, don’t forget to practice independence with your child whenever possible.
“Provide lots of opportunities for your child to practice how to put on their own socks and shoes, zip their own jacket and open their own food containers. These little things will help make the job of kindergarten teachers much easier, as well as build the confidence of your child,” Burdge said.
For more information, visit Florida’s VPK Program.