I can hardly believe it’s time to think about the next school year, but it is. In fact, it’s actually approaching the time when it’s late to be thinking about the next school year. Many public and private preschool application deadlines are fast approaching, and if you have a child who will be entering kindergarten in the fall, it’s time to contact your district and send in your child’s kindergarten registration forms. With full day kindergarten becoming the norm in Connecticut and changes to the academic curriculum, many parents I know are panicked about ensuring their children are ready for kindergarten.
Parents: fear not. There are essentially two pieces to being “ready for kindergarten”. The first piece is social and emotional readiness. This is, effectively, being “old enough” developmentally. Like any other kind of growth children experience, it happens within a window of time, earlier for some and later for others. It’s more a reflection of how your child is wired than your parenting. This includes things like being able to state his or her needs clearly, share stories and experiences with peers, separate comfortably from caregivers for the duration of the school day, and have the stamina for a full day of school without a nap. Most of these things come with time and maturity.
The second piece of kindergarten readiness refers to so-called “academic” readiness. This is where there seems to be much confusion among parents. It seems as though each year, the panic over what children need to know and the list of academic skills parents think their children need grows. But truth be told, you don’t need to drill your child with flash cards or workbooks to prepare him or her for kindergarten. Below are some activities that will help your child develop the reading, writing, and math skills necessary for kindergarten success. For more information on kindergarten readiness in Connecticut, I highly suggest downloading the pamphlet “Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten” from the CT Department of Education.
- Help your child learn to love books. Take her to the library to check out a variety of fiction and non-fiction books on topics that interest her.
- If your child pretends to “read” a familiar story back to you, encourage him. Avoid saying “You just memorized that” or “Your aren’t really reading that.” Show interest and ask questions. This is an important pre-reading skill.
- Encourage your child to write notes, lists, signs…anything! Writing shouldn’t be a chore for your preschool or kindergarten child. Instead, show her how writing can be useful by pointing out all the print around her.
- Allow and encourage all stages of writing, from pre-writing scribbles to shaky upper case letters to fluent upper and lower case letters. Writing development happens over a span of time and isn’t the same for every child.
- Count objects with him whenever possible. Rote counting, in other words, counting out loud from memory, is a different skill than counting sets of objects. This skill, called “one-to-one correspondence”, shows understanding that each object in a set is counted once. It’s an often overlooked but very important piece of math readiness. Ask him to hand you four forks for diner, or tell him he can choose ten pretzels for his snack.
- Practice name recognition often. Contrary to what you may have heard, your child doesn’t need to read at the start of kindergarten. However, it’s very helpful if she consistently recognizes her name, especially when mixed up with other names.