By Chris Sayers, Lower School Director
As nervous and excited parents begin exploring options for kindergarten, they often ask what they can do to help their child get ready to start school. There are some fun things you can do to help your child develop the academic, social and emotional, and fine and gross motor skills they’ll need for a happy start to kindergarten.
While we have some ideas to share below, the first piece of advice is: relax! Kindergarten is a time of transition for students and their families, and we don’t want any child or parent to feel pressure. Kids develop at their own pace, and we love having classrooms full of students with unique personalities, interests and skill levels.
Read to your child every day. Children should love books, and parents should know that even if their child is reading, they are still important models. Adults can make the dialogue between characters fun, build suspense, laugh when funny things are written, and explore the illustrations. Making connections between what is happening in the story and things in their own lives is important. These are all foundation builders for developing reading skills.
Play games with your child, and don’t always let them win. Certain games can help build academic foundations - Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish!, Memory, and Checkers, for example. Many games help young children build math skills such as counting one to one, learning shapes and colors, sorting by color or size, and recognizing numbers. Playing games also allows children the opportunity to practice turn-taking, sharing and learning how to win and lose comfortably. When parents allow their children to win every time, they are missing an opportunity to help them get over sad or angry feelings with someone who can support them.
Give your child fine motor experiences. Putting down any marks on paper (scribbles, squiggles, letters, numbers, drawing) and working in a controlled fashion with writing tools and cutting tools is a good goal. You can also have them practice buttoning buttons, tying shoes, sorting beads, or using safe kitchen utensils like tongs.
Give your child group experiences and let them learn to separate from parents. Some children are part of full-day childcare or preschool programs, but there are many other groups to consider - dance, gymnastics, listening to stories at the library, music classes, or mother's day out mornings. It is very helpful to the child if they have been asked to follow directions from an adult other than their parent. These settings also help them to meet and socialize with children their age. They make friends and have fun. They also learn how to wait patiently for a turn and raise their hand. And, if children are not used to separating from parents for short periods of the day, these activities will help them build stamina for watching parents leave and return.
Children don't have to do all these things. If they would rather draw or play outside than look at books, that is okay. If they interrupt friends and adults or cry when they lose a game, know that behavior is completely normal.
Finally, don’t worry about your child being “ahead” of or “behind” other students. We can engage and support all of the students who join our classrooms. Our goal in kindergarten is to have fun and help our students develop a love of learning that will last a lifetime.