Kindergarten brings big changes for kids. For some, it’s their first time in a structured school setting. For others, it’s going from a small classroom in preschool to a big room with lots of kids. Kids all respond differently, too. Some are excited by new experiences and can’t wait. Some have a tough time with change and are nervous. Kids may even react differently once they walk in the classroom door. The summer is the perfect time to help prepare your child for the transition to kindergarten. Here are some things you can do at home to get them ready.
1. Be Chatty
Parents who regularly interact with their children build their children’s word bank. Whether at the grocery store, the park, or on a walk, those back-and-forth conversations are so important. Keep them up. The more words your child knows, the better she’ll do academically.
2. Read Aloud
Reading with your child will teach him/her many things that we adults take for granted. Kids learn basics such as how to hold a book, left to right reading, wondering what will happen next, and discovering new words. Read aloud every day. It’s the easiest way to get your child ready for school.
3. Practice Independent Tasks
When your child is at school without you, he needs to be able to do the following things independently:
- going to the bathroom (unbuttoning and fastening pants)
- dressing (changing clothes, zipping coats, and fastening shoes)
- eating lunch (opening juice boxes)
- separating from parents
- knowing his full name and phone number
- following two-step directions
4. Do Dress Rehearsals
Prepare your child for what to expect in kindergarten. Have play dates with classmates. Tour the school. Talk about what to expect during a school day. Play “kindergarten” at home. Have your child practice asking for help, and explain that is okay to ask for help when needed. Think of a fun way to say good-bye and hello, maybe a secret handshake to do when you drop off and pick up. Above all, be enthusiastic about the upcoming school year.
5. Play and Learn
Children will learn many skill through play. When your child plays, you can weave in learning by introducing new words and concepts, and helping her stretch her thinking. Here are some examples of what you could say if your child is playing with cars.
- “Did you know that a someone who fixes cars is called a mechanic? Want to pretend to be mechanics?”
- “Let’s see if we can draw a car.”
- “Let’s build our own car.”
- “How many cars do you have?”
- “How many of the cars are green?”
- “What other words rhyme with car? How about star?”
- “What letter sound does car start with?”
6. Introduction to Facts and Figures
Children starting Kindergarten are not required to have any skills to start the year. However, parents often wonder what can I do to help with readiness. Here are some skills to consider introducing before your child enters school. Can your child count to ten? How about recognize any numbers when written? Work on these skills as well as identifying basic shapes, colors, and sorting for numeracy readiness. For literacy readiness, expose your child to the alphabet with game and hands on activities. Practice saying the alphabet, not just singing it, so your child hears the letters l,m,n,o,p. You could practice how to write their own name with only a capital letter for the first letter and the rest all lowercase. Rhyming and practicing letter sounds will help develop phonemic awareness .
7. Take Field Trips
Studies that children with a wealth of background knowledge have better vocabularies and more advanced reading skills. So believe it or not, even trips to the zoo, shopping at the farmers market, or adventures at the beach count as kindergarten prep. They’re building your child’s background knowledge!
8. Focus On Big and Small Movements
Fine motor skills and gross motor skills take intention and repetition. Practice cutting and drawing lines — both squiggly and straight — to build those fine motor skills. For gross motor skills, help your child hop, jump, run, kick a ball, and catch a ball. Watch his balance and coordination improve as you practice these skills.
9. Emphasize Socialization
Keep up those play dates with other kids. It’s important your child know how to take turns, share, listen, and cooperate with others. If he lacks in any area, give him opportunities to practice. Continue to help your child learn about feelings and what is acceptable behavior.
10. Don’t Forget About Sleep
About a month before kindergarten starts, sync bedtime and wake-up times to the upcoming school schedule. Children who are well rested will be ready to learn. Check with your teacher to find out if nap time or a rest time will be happening in their classroom and how long that will continue throughout the year.