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Ann Barbour, author of Learning at Home, PreK-3: Homework Activities That Engage Children and Families, is a professor of early childhood education, with extensive experience teaching preschool and elementary levels. Read more »
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I remember well the mixed feelings I had as kindergarten approached for my sons. They looked forward to kindergarten with excitement. Going to school meant joining the big kids. Shopping for school supplies was right up there with getting a new pair of shoes. Being able to ride the school bus was a rite of passage. Naturally, I shared their excitement, but I also felt equal measures of anxiety, worry, and hope. I wanted them to be prepared to meet the challenges they were going to encounter, both academically and socially. I worried how they would adjust to a new routine, new faces and new expectations. I deeply hoped they would like school and do well.
If you are like I was, you're probably wondering what you can do during the summer - besides buying your child new shoes and a backpack - to help prepare him for kindergarten. What skills will he need? Or, how can you help him adjust to this new chapter in his life?
It's true that most kindergartens have become more academically rigorous than they were a generation ago. But that doesn't necessarily mean your child should enter kindergarten with a different set of skills than were needed in the past. When kindergarten teachers are asked what abilities they hope incoming students will have, they say social and emotional skills are equally, if not more important, than knowing letters, numbers and shapes.
There are many components of kindergarten readiness, most of which are not generally considered to be "academic"; even though they directly influence how children learn. These include:
Given these skills, you'll be supporting your child's readiness when you:
You can also help your child prepare for the actual transition to kindergarten by talking about what will happen. What will his new routine be like? What friends will also be there? Reading library books about starting kindergarten can start conversations about this step in your child's life. Encourage his questions and expressions of feelings, but be careful not to transmit any anxieties you may have. Children easily "catch" adults' emotional responses.
Travel the route she'll take to and from school, and arrange a visit. Most schools encourage this. Many hold orientations or open houses to help children and families feel comfortable with school and classroom surroundings and to meet the teacher. Take your child to play on the playground. If possible, arrange play dates with other children who will be in her class. Knowing what to expect eases anxiety and will help her (and you) feel more secure.
Even as you anticipate the start of kindergarten together, take time to enjoy your child. Play together. Go places together. Read and talk together. In the process, you'll be encouraging his enthusiasm for learning and helping him get off to a great start!
Sorry, Ann Barbour is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.