Watch out Kindergarten, Here I Come

Kindergarten is changing and parents are feeling pressure to prepare their children for their first school experience. While some may fret that reading and doing addition are prerequisites for kindergarten these days, your child likely possesses many of the skills he or she needs to be successful as they begins school.

As a Kindergarten teacher for over 20 years, I can tell you exactly what teachers really want your child to know on the first day of Kindergarten.  

The following list is intended to help prepare your child in a variety of developmental areas to make the transition into kindergarten as smooth as possible. Believe it or not, just 15-20 minutes of playing and learning with your child can make a world of difference!

Social/Emotional Development

Encourage your child to persist in tasks when encountering a problem by giving him tasks slightly above his current ability level. When your child cannot find a solution on his own, encourage him to calmly ask for help.

Play board games to practice taking turns.

Set up several play dates with friends of various ages.

Allow your child to stay with other trusted adults for a few hours at a time prior to kindergarten (especially if she has rarely been in the care of someone other than mom and dad).

Create and follow routines in your home so your child understands structure and can predict what will happen next (preparing for bed, meals, church, or trips).

Tell your child you expect her to clean up after play. You could implement an activity set to music or play a game to clean up their toys.  

Language Development

Verbally give your child specific one-step and two-step directions and encourage him to follow through.

Read to your child for a combined total of at least 20 minutes each day.

While reading, point out how to hold a book (right-side up with the spine on the left) and the orientation in which we read the words and look at the pictures (left to right).

After reading, ask your child what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Ask them to make predictions throughout the story.  

Give your child plenty of opportunities to draw (without coloring books). Ask her to draw the things she sees around her.

Teach your child the uppercase and lowercase letters and, most importantly, the sounds each letter makes through play and games.  

Cognitive Development

Have your child help you sort items according to color, size, and shape (laundry, blocks, silverware, toys, and other household items work well).

Teach your child to make various patterns (red, blue, red, blue). Garage sale dot stickers or craft pom-poms are great for this purpose.

Practice counting aloud to 20 while driving in the car.

Teach your child numerals 1-10. There are tons of videos or apps that teach them proper formation of both letters and numbers that have songs and /or rhymes to accompany them. Check out this video or this one

Count objects in your home. Have your child point to each object as she counts.

Go on a shape hunt. Point out circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles to your child while you are taking or walk or grocery shopping.

Talk about positional and directional concepts like up/down, over/under, in/out, behind/in front of, top/bottom, beside/between, off/on, stop/go.

Talk about opposite words (big/little, empty/full, slow/fast).

Physical Development (Gross & Fine Motor)

Give your child plenty of opportunities for outdoor play: running, jumping, and climbing.

Play catch on a regular basis.

Practice skipping.

Stack blocks together.

Let your child use child-safe scissors to cut out a variety of shapes and use glue to glue them on paper.  You could have them cut out pictures in advertisements too.

Teach your child to write his name (capital for the first letter and lowercase for the remaining letters). To start, write his name using a highlighter and encourage him to trace over it. Be sure that he forms the letters from the top to the bottom.

Ensure your child is holding her pencil correctly:

Play with playdough regularly. Roll, squish, stamp, and even cut it!

String large beads to make a necklace.

Play with an interlocking puzzles.

Creative Arts

Always encourage pretend play…occasionally join your child in his fantasy world.

Teach your child to recognize the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, brown, and pink.

Use a variety of materials to let your child paint, draw and explore.

Talk about kindergarten

Build excitement and lessen anxiety by explaining what your child’s routine might be like in kindergarten. Many schools offer an open house before the school year starts. Make it a priority to attend with your child and show your enthusiasm.

A child’s first school experience can influence the way he or she relates to others for the rest of their life. For example, success or failure at this stage can affect a child’s well-being, self-esteem and motivation. As a result, it’s important to make sure that when your child begins school he or she is developmentally ready to learn and participate in classroom activities.

The early years of a child’s life are crucial in creating a foundation for life-long learning and success.  But the most important factor that helps a child successfully and confidently embark on their formal school journey is to have a responsive, nurturing relationship with someone who loves them dearly, someone who will listen and talk to them about interesting things and who believes that they have the potential to learn and be successful in school.

Jill Steenken, Leader, 1st grade Teacher, Taylor Mill Elementary


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