How to Prep Your Child for Kindergarten
Sending your child off to kindergarten can be an emotional experience for parents and children alike. It marks the end of an era; like it or not, your sweet baby is growing up right before your eyes!
Technically, in the state of Kansas, the only requirement for children to start kindergarten is that they are five years old on or before August 31 of their kindergarten year.
However, overwhelming evidence shows that kids who enter kindergarten behind their peers are likely to remain behind throughout their educational careers and beyond.
So, what can you do to help prepare your child for a successful academic career, starting with prepping for kindergarten?
One sure-fire way to get your child on track for kindergarten success – and beyond – is to enroll them in an early childhood education program. Here at Kiddi Kollege, we are extremely proud of our graduates’ proven track record for achieving kindergarten readiness goals, and we strive every day to continue this tradition of excellence!
However, kindergarten readiness involves much more than just memorizing numbers and letters. While these concepts are an important piece of the puzzle, social skills and other competencies come into play as well.
The best recipe for success begins with cultivating a loving home environment, rich with quality, well-rounded and diverse early learning experiences. The First Five Years Fund suggests that caretakers focus on the following areas of development, beginning at birth:
- Physical well-being and motor development
- Social and emotional development
- Cognitive skills
- The ability to concentrate and follow directions
Let’s explore these developmental areas below.
Physical Well-being and Motor Development
First, we must keep in mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: a child’s physiological needs are of the utmost importance. Basic needs must be met before we can even consider moving forward to educational concepts. Chances are though, if you are reading this right now, you clearly care very much about your child and are already succeeding in this area. Well done, Mom/Dad! Please proceed.
As for motor development, Leap Frog suggests the following as a skills checklist for kindergarten-age kids:
- Puts simple puzzles together.
- Cuts with scissors.
- Holds and uses crayons, markers, pens, and pencils correctly.
- Builds using blocks.
- Tries to tie shoes. *
- Bounces, kicks, throws, and catches a ball.
- Rides a tricycle.
- Enjoys outdoor activities, like running, jumping, swinging, and climbing.
*Tying shoelaces takes practice and can be frustrating for kids. If your child is not able to tie their shoes independently, send them to school in Velcro shoes instead, at least for the first few weeks until they get used to the new routine. In the meantime, make it a point to practice shoe-tying shoes every day using actual shoes or get a board book or puzzle to help facilitate learning. Make it a game; have fun with it!
Sleep Schedule, Bathroom Basics, and Lunch Logistics
In addition to the above skills, your child’s sleep schedule and nap routine must be considered. Does your child require a midday nap? Are you enrolling your child in full-day or half-day kindergarten classes, and is a nap part of the schedule? Be sure to ask these questions and be willing to adjust accordingly.
It’s essential that your child is toilet-trained and able to feed themselves prior to kindergarten. While accidents do happen, your child should be fully capable of using the restroom on their own.
Be sure your child:
- Knows to close the bathroom door for privacy.
- Can manage adjusting their clothing before and after using the restroom.
- Can properly wipe themselves.
- Knows how to wash their hands thoroughly.
When lunch time rolls around, it’s important that your child can open his or her lunch box and all related containers by themselves. While teachers should be available, it will be much more efficient if your child is able to do it on their own. This also helps them feel empowered and self-assured, too! As for the food itself, be sure to pack items are familiar to your child. Remember that they’re already going through many changes at this time, so meals should be a time of comfort, not an additional stressor.
How and When Can You Practice?
Pro tip – plan a few family outings in which your child has real-life opportunities to practice these skills! A few trips to the zoo or a local museum provide practice for your kiddo to use an unfamiliar bathroom on their own, and you can break in their new lunch box during a picnic, too!
This gives you an opportunity to access your child’s ability to do these important skills on their own, but while you’re present and available to help. If or when they struggle with something, resist the urge to do it for them. Instead, show them how to do it so they can be independently successful at school and beyond.
Be sure to communicate and encourage your child all the way through this process. Point out that they’ll need to do these skills on their own in kindergarten, and that they’re getting more and more ready each and every day! Hype them up; they’ve got this!
Social and Emotional Development
Depending on your family size, frequency of playdates, your child’s personality, and other factors, the social aspect of school life could be a huge adjustment, or hardly a change at all, from your child’s perspective. Education Corner suggests the following social skills be finetuned prior to kindergarten:
- Understanding the difference between right and wrong, and understanding that there are consequences for their actions.
- Using words to express their needs and feelings, and understanding that others have feelings, too.
- Sharing, taking turns, and using nice words when playing with other children.
- Playing alone or with other children, without needing constant supervision.
- Making decisions independently and taking risks, while remaining safe.
- Separate from a parent or caregiver without getting overly upset.
- Participate in clean-up and room organization.
One of the best ways to ensure your child has adequate opportunities to practice these skills is to enroll them in a preschool program. In addition to the skills above, here at Kiddi Kollege, we also place a heavy focus on self-esteem and positive self-image, as well as self-control, self-direction, and independence.
Cognitive Skills, Language, and Developing Literacy
When your child arrives in their kindergarten classroom, it’s likely their teacher will already have their name written in a few different places – their desk, cubby, and the door. It will help if your child can do the following:
- Recognize their name in print and the letters within their name.
- State their age, first and last name when asked.
- Repeat address and birthday (and, if possible, a home or emergency phone number as well).
- Use words like please, thank you, and excuse me.
- Identify basic colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, brown, pink).
- Recite the alphabet and recognize most of the letters and their sounds.
- Count numbers 1-20; can identify 1-10 in a random order when written.
- Match a number to a group of five or fewer items (“I see four dogs”).
- Draw a picture to help express an idea.
- Identify basic shapes such as a circle, square, triangle, star, and heart.
- Make comparisons between objects like big/little, under/over, and first/last.
- Recognize when two words rhyme (like hat and cat).
- Retell a simple story in a sequence.
- Speak in complete sentences and be understood by others most of the time.
- Navigate a book (knows which is the first page and how to turn pages).
- Make simple predictions and comments about a story being read to them.
Read to Your Child Daily
The most effective way for children to learn the majority of the skills already listed is to actively participate in reading books with their parents and caregivers.
“Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.” – Reading Rockets
Reading also helps your child mentally prepare for a variety of real-life scenarios and helps them think through what they would do in similar situations.
And yes, there are plenty of books geared towards helping kids get ready for kindergarten! Read Brightly suggests the following:
- How to Be Kind in Kindergarten, by D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by Ruth Hammond
- Sorry, Grown-Ups, You Can’t Go to School!, by Christina Geist, illustrated by Tim Bower
- Kindergarten, Here I Come!, By D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by Mark Chambers
- Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
Here in the southern part of the Kansas City metro, there is an amazing library community with multiple convenient locations. Each building in the Johnson County Library system is filled wall-to-wall with books, but also hosts numerous events, including online story time. With a free library membership, you and your family can enjoy up to 150 books for three weeks at a time!
The Ability to Concentrate and Follow Directions
Another challenge for kindergarteners is adjusting to the new ratio of children to adults. The idea of raising their hand to speak or sitting quietly in a group while listening can be foreign concepts to kids if they have not been involved in group learning and play scenarios on a regular basis.
Model the Routine with Your Child: “Play School”!
In kindergarten, your child will likely be asked to sit in a specific seat in a desk, and a particular spot on a brightly colored floor rug. One way you can practice with your child is to “play school”. Sit in a chair in front of your child, with them seated “criss-cross applesauce” on the floor in front of you, perhaps with tape marking the carpet for their spot. Read a story aloud to your child and ask questions throughout, such as, “How many cars do you see on this page?” or, “What do you think will happen next?” Have them practice raising their hand and being called on – just like they’ll do at school!
When you’re done with the story, tell your child it’s their turn to be the teacher! Let them take over as the teacher while you sit on the marked spot on the floor. Let them “read” a book to you, even if they’re just making it up as they go or retelling the story from memory. Model good student behavior by raising your hand to speak. Once they get the hang of it, feel free to get silly and model what not to do, and ask your “teacher” to help correct your behavior.
Not only will this activity help you bond and make memories, but you’re also mentally preparing your child for what to expect during their first few days of kindergarten! It won’t be perfect or completely accurate of course, but it will help alleviate some anxiety by conquering some of the unknowns and making the new routines less foreign.
Play Games to Practice Concentration, Patience, and Focus
There are many games and activities that can help your child practice not only concentration, patience, and focus, but also the ability to follow directions and play fairly, too! Grade Power Learning suggests the following activities:
- Memory games like matching cards are a popular concentration game for kids. These activities rely on a child’s ability to focus and memorize words, visuals, or signals. This builds concentration in a way that’s fun and easy to practice.
- Puzzles are concentration exercises that work for all ages. Students quickly become committed to solving the problem or finding a solution, leading to greatly improved focus and concentration skills.
- Timed games and activities encourage students to focus on a specific task during a set time frame. By creating time limits, children can practice keeping their attention focused and parents can monitor and can steadily increase the limit, thus developing attention span. These activities are particularly helpful for determining if your child’s focus is improving and at what rate.
- Cooking is a great activity that encourages children to focus, follow instructions, and successfully complete a recipe from start to finish.
- Whether it’s building a house of cards or crafting skyscrapers from glue and sticks, building activities help children focus and work individually to create something that satisfies them.
Kiddi Kollege Is Here to Help!
As an active parent trying everything to give your child the best start to school, look beyond fancy toys, vacations, and expensive learning equipment; remember that what your child needs most is YOU. Kids spell “love” a little differently: “T-I-M-E”. So, if you’re reading this and realizing you have a long way to go before your child is “ready” for kindergarten, just know that this is merely a guideline.
No matter if your child starts kindergarten tomorrow or in a few years, there’s still time to make a positive impact on their education. Start small and help them build new skills every day.
Schedule a Tour with Kiddi Kollege
Whether you have an infant, preschooler, or are looking for afterschool care – we’d love for you to be a part of the Kiddi Kollege family! Schedule a tour today!