When my first son started school 2 years ago I was a nervous wreck, concerned that he wouldn’t have all the skills needed to be successful once he started school. Naturally I reached out to some of my friends that are teachers and other parents whose children had already started school for advice. Like they say “It takes a Villiage”.
With my middle son starting Kindergarten in the fall this has been a hot topic in our house, with it only being a short 4 months to make sure he is ready. We recently attended Ready, Set, Learn at the school to meet the teachers and to get some ideas of what we need to work on to make sure he is ready.
I thought this would be a good time to share with you what I have found valuable in preparing my boys for starting Kindergarten.
1.Write name using upper and lower case letters: By the time Kindergarten rolls around your child should be able to write their first name. Teachers will ask that they know how to write their name using the proper upper and lower case letters.
2. Develop fine motor skills: Practice those fine motor skills like coloring, cutting with scissors, proper pencil grip, use of playdough and building lego to help build the muscle needed in their little hands. Encourage your child to play on their hands and knees as they are using and building their shoulder muscles. Cook or bake with your child, teach them to roll, stir, use cookie cutters. Fill a cookie sheet with sand and have your child make shapes or letters in the sand with their fingers.
3. Using the bathroom independently: This one may seem like common sense but does your child know how to wipe their own bottom if they need to go number two at school? Your child should know how to pull up and down their pants, use zippers or buttons, how to wipe their bottom and proper hand washing procedure. The teacher will not be supervising them when they use the restroom at school so these will be important skills to master.
4. Changing shoes and jacket independently: This is an important one as your child will be changing their shoes and jacket multiple times per day. When it comes to shoes do not rush them into laces, most Kindergarten teachers will ask you to keep your child in velcro shoes. With jackets take the time to teach your child how to reverse the sleeves and how to use the zipper or buttons on their own. The teacher will have 18-22 students to get out the door multiple times per day and it will take up valuable time if they have to assist each child.
5. Number recognition and concept: Most kids learn better with hands, like counting stones at the beach or apples at a grocery store, than by using flash cards. Start by bringing numbers into your everyday life. Help them learn to count with concrete objects like marbles, rocks, cars, beans, pasta. Buy some magnetic numbers and use a baking sheet to show your child numbers and place them in order. Play card games like “Go Fish” to learn numbers or even roll a simple dice.
6. Letter recognition and sounds: Words are everywhere, point to them and slowly sound words you see while you are out and about in the world. Use labels items around the house, like toys bins or dresser drawers. Buy magnetic letters and use them on the fridge of baking sheet and talk about the sounds that the letter can make. Encourage your child by teaching them how to trace over letters, you could use chalk, paint, bingo dabbers, this will also help develop fine motor skills.
7. Memorize their personal info: By the time Kindergarten rolls around your child should know their personal info (ie full name, phone number, home address). If they don’t, it is time to start. They should know their full name, they don’t need to know how to spell it. They should at least know they are Nathan B. and not be confused by Nathan A. or Nathan W. This is also good for your child to know in case they get lost.
8. Self-feeding: Go over using a lunch box with your child. I know this might seem silly but your child will only have 20 minutes to eat their lunch and if they spend 15 minutes of that time trying to figure out what they should eat they will be very hungry for the rest of the day. What I did for my son the first few weeks of Kindergarten was label the items in his lunch box either with an S (for snack time) or L (for lunch time). Then I would show him each morning and explain what he was supposed to do.
9. Reading, reading, reading: Take the time to read to your child every day, but read for fun, not to “teach”. It is important to show your child how to hold books and how to turn pages carefully. Talk about pictures in order, reading left to right and from the beginning of the book to the end. When you are reading to your child pause to look at pictures and ask your child questions about the story so far or what they think might happen. Visit your local Public Library and choose a variety of books that interest your child, teach them that reading is fun by getting their own library card.
10. Follow 2 – 3 step instructions: When your child starts school a big part of their day is going to be following instructions. You want to do what you can to build these skills by starting at home and try to keep it simple, “Please go to the bathroom, wash your hands, and come have lunch”, “Please go pick up your shoes, and put them away”.
11. Manners: Instill the use of regular manners such as “please” and “thank you” and teach them to listen to others without interrupting. It would also be a good idea to talk to your child about waiting their turn and raising their hand to talk to the teacher before they speak out.
12. Social skills: Plan playdates, go to parks, get your child interacting with others. This is helpful to instill taking turns, communication and problem solve problem-solving skills.
13. Help Your child take responsibility: Talk to your child about taking responsibility by cleaning up their toys, putting away their own clothes, shoes, jackets, and bags. Once your child is in school they will be held responsible for their own belongings, so save yourself the dive into the lost and found bin.
14. Eye exam: This is one of those things that most people will overlook when it comes to getting ready to start school. Did you know your child should be having regular eye exams from the time they are six months old? 80% of learning for most children is visual. Before starting school make the time to have your child’s vision checked, this can help prevent learning difficulties once school starts.
15. Booster shots: Between the ages of 4-6 years old it is recommended that children receive a booster shot on their vaccinations. Whereas some people prefer to wait until their child is closer to 6 years of age to receive the booster shot, some schools will require that your child is up to date before the start of the school year. I suggest that you check with your child’s school or district to see what their policy is.