While many of us are taking a deep breath and still enjoying a much-needed summer break, some of us might have lingering thoughts about our little one’s upcoming transition to kindergarten, leading to feelings of anxiety, excitement, fear, and worry. Let’s be honest, whether you feel ready or not, the shift to school will be an adjustment for everyone in the family. Luckily, there are some simple ways you can help prepare your child for kindergarten now. Believe it or not, most of these readiness skills do not fall into the realm of academia. Rather, they focus on the social/emotional skills that will set your child up for a successful start to schooling.
Here are some suggestions on how you can help get your child ready for kindergarten:
Spend quality time together. Be present. Play. Go on family adventures and hikes (build that physical stamina!). Read books together (daily!). Play sports and games where your child experiences both winning and losing. Go for ice cream, bake, or have a campfire in the backyard. Curl up on the couch, cuddle, watch movies, and do what you love doing together. Make every moment count because this is your time. And like it or not, there will be less of it in the coming months.
Know how to pack personal belongings. The more independence a kindergartener has with daily routines when they enter the classroom, the better. Being able to pack their personal belongings is one of these skills. Many kinder teachers have looked at their students and said, “Time to grab your snack,” only to get a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look from half of the class. Purposefully show your child their school backpack and lunch kit. Have them practice putting their water bottle, snacks, sneakers, sunscreen, and other belongings in their backpack. Let them play with their lunch bag, opening and closing it, and inserting any containers that need to be organized inside. A family picnic is the perfect opportunity for your child to practice these routines.
Stop dressing your child. Can I put on my teacher hat for a moment? I get it, life can be rushed, but it is so helpful when school-aged kids can dress themselves because it minimizes transition time and allows for more time spent on the good stuff (learning)! Lay clothes out for your child the night before but give them independence in putting them on. Have them practice doing up zippers and buttons, putting on toques and mittens. And for the love of every kinder teacher out there: please, no laces! It’s developmentally inappropriate to expect a five-year-old to tie their shoes. Do your child (and their teacher) a solid and buy Velcro. How does my family practice their dressing skills? The kids love playing with dolls and getting imaginative with the dress-up bin. We also love the Latches Board from Melissa & Doug and the Quiet Books from @myeducatingamy!
Be bathroom-ready. This one is tricky - have no fear if your child still has the occasional accident, we Early Childhood Educators are ready. But for the most part, children coming to kindergarten should be bathroom-ready: ready to go, ready to wipe, and ready to wash. Your child’s bathroom routine will likely need guidance from you. Show your child how to wipe from front to back (come on, no one said parenting was glamorous) and what a clean piece of toilet paper looks like (the end goal!). Talk to your child about the water tap and temperature control and practice handwashing while singing a favorite song or using a timer. I love setting up a handwashing sensory play bin for my kids, so they can practice pumping the soap and practice cleaning all of the nooks and crannies of their hands. Mostly, children need experience with this to learn, so have them go to the bathroom independently whenever possible and monitor the best you can.
Let’s talk about academics but keep it super basic because guess what? The role of the child is not to memorize numbers, shapes, and colors and then be deemed ‘prepared.’ There are many skills (like executive functioning, self-regulation, and problem-solving) that developmentally outweigh academics because without them, learning skills like numeracy and literacy are almost impossible. Some of these academic skills have a huge impact on daily functioning in the classroom and, in the grand scheme of things, are social emotional skills that will help your child function in the world.
Here are two examples:
It is extremely helpful for kindergarten students to know and recognize their first and last name before coming to school. Knowing their identity both orally and in written print helps students navigate their space and belongings: find coat hooks, lunch kits, journals, and other items that might be labelled. Taking attendance is about safety, and knowing their name helps with that, too. You can help your child learn to recognize their name by labelling their items at home, creating sensory bins where they have to dig for their name, or using a letter name puzzle. Some children may be ready to write their name, and that’s great, too!
Fine motor skills are another academic domain you can help in by providing your child with opportunities to draw, write, and create. Activities that require holding a marker, using scissors or a glue stick will go a long way in preparing them for kindergarten activities. My family loves using recycled cardboard to create all sorts of shapes, animals, and 3D objects, as well as following directed drawings on YouTube (Art for Kids Hub has an excellent preschool section). Another fun cutting activity is tying animal or dinosaur toys up with string and having your preschooler practice setting them free.
Remember, every child is unique and enters kindergarten with their own personality, interests, abilities, and needs. As educators, our job is to meet the child where they are developmentally and scaffold them to get to that next milestone. Deep breaths, future kinder families. You’ve got this! For more information on kindergarten-readiness activities, visit my Instagram.
Ashley Frampton is a mom of three, Early Childhood Educator, and Elementary Teacher. She has a Master’s Degree (Instructional Leadership) from the University of Calgary and loves inspiring families, educators, and caregivers to help their children learn at home and at school. For more ideas, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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