Kindergarten is a special year as it is the first in a child’s formal education. Yes, Kindergarten is a time to learn academic skills in the classroom, but there is also a great deal of learning to do in terms of how to behave in a classroom setting, how to contribute to the group, and how to come to school each day ready to learn. Preschool is helpful in that it establishes school-day routines, but having your child in preschool is not a requirement for success in kindergarten.
There are many things you can do at home to help your child’s transition into kindergarten. Academically, reading to and with your child is one of the best things you can do. Exposing your child to letters, numbers, and colors is also helpful so that they are familiar with these going into kindergarten. Most important, however, is getting your child socially and emotionally ready to begin school.
1. Help them learn to listen.
Being able to listen and follow directions is one of the most important skills in the classroom. In order to learn effectively, a student must be able to listen to the teacher and do what he or she says. To support this skill at home:
• Give your child a direction and ask him or her to look at you and repeat the direction back to you.
• Emphasize the importance of following your directions the first time you ask.
• Model being a good listener by looking at your child when he or she is speaking and not interrupting.
• Build on this skill by asking your child to follow multiple directions, i.e., “Please get your shoes, put on your coat, and sit by the door. Can you tell me what I asked you to do?”
2. Teach them to do things for themselves.
Parents who do everything for their children are doing them no favors. We realize (and understand!) that many times it is easier and faster to do things yourself rather than have your child do them, but being self-sufficient is very important for success in kindergarten. Some age-appropriate tasks that kindergarteners can practice include:
• Brushing their teeth
• Putting on their shoes
• Put toys away
• Opening the containers that are used in their lunchboxes
• Set the table for family meals
• Laying out clothes the night before (you will need to guide them at first, but getting into this routine is great practice for learning to plan ahead)
• Getting their backpack ready the night before (you can model this behavior by getting your work bag ready too – everyone wins!)
3. Encourage them to contribute.
We tell our students that just as a family needs to work as a team, with everyone pitching in, the same is true for a school and a classroom. Giving your child chores teaches responsibility and how to be a contributing part of a team and a community. Children like knowing that what they do matters, and they take pride in being able to help. Kindergarten-age children can:
• Bring their dishes to the sink
• Feed the pet
• Make up their bed (don’t worry about how it looks!)
4. Have them participate.
• Sign your child up for an activity or two. Not only will they have fun, they will learn important skills like making new friends, listening to adults other than you (a coach, the leader of the activity, etc.), and following others’ rules.
• Schedule playdates so that your child will encounter situations where they will need to share and take turns.
• Play board games as a family. This is a wonderful way to teach children how to win and lose gracefully.
5. Teach patience and support intrinsic motivation.
• Take your child window shopping or fishing to build patience.
• Help them save money for something special.
• Give sincere compliments.
• Model examples of dedication and talk to your child about how hard work gives a feeling of accomplishment.
6. Help them be resilient.
This may seem like a huge undertaking, but starting these lessons at a young age will be extremely helpful to your child – not only in kindergarten, but also in life.
• Try not using the word “can’t” at home. At Mason Prep, we like to use the word “yet” as in, “I don’t know how to read YET.” This reinforces the idea that all skills need to be learned and practiced.
• Explain to your children that learning some things can be difficult. They need to understand that not everything comes easily, and that’s normal.
• Tell (and show) your child that it is OK to make mistakes. This is another great behavior to model. When either of you make a mistake, talk with your child about what can be done next time to learn from it.
When children have developed strong social and emotional skills, they feel confident and empowered. They will come to class ready to contribute and to be positive and active members of the classroom – and that is when learning occurs.