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What if your child doesn’t “tick all the boxes” for Kindergarten?

First of all, as parents of “pandemic babies,” there must be a recognition that those “boxes” were created for a pandemic-free environment. You have been parenting babies and toddlers in a situation that is unprecedented and educators are aware that there will be deficits in some areas of development.

So, before you completely panic that your child isn’t ready, please remember that letters, numbers, and literacy skills are taught in Kindergarten. There is so much more than ABCs and 123s in Kindergarten readiness. If your child cannot print their name, it is not the end of the world! If your child cannot recite the alphabet or count to ten yet, please stop worrying about this.

Here are my own “boxes” that your child should “tick”:

  1. Can they dress themselves including shoes and packing a backpack?
  2. Can they open containers for snacks independently?
  3. Do they know their full name yet (first/middle/last)? 
  4. Can they cut shapes? Circle (tricky), straight line, triangle, square.
  5. Can they draw diagonal, circle, perpendicular lines yet?
  6. Can they follow three oral directions yet?
  7. Can they cope with disappointment/transitions/conflict over toys independently?
  8. Can they separate from you for a length of time yet?
  9. Can they confidently speak up to ask to use the washroom or ask for assistance with a difficulty?
  10. Are they aware of others and beginning to develop empathy?
  11. Are they familiar with and enjoying books?

Now, what if your child isn’t dressing independently yet? It’s time to work on this skill. If your child is genuinely having difficulty with achieving this skill, it might be worth mentioning to your family doctor or pediatrician. Otherwise, leave yourself and your child time to work on dressing skills. Two minutes before going out the door is not going to work for you or your child.

Snack time is an important break, and your child needs to be able to open container lids independently. This strengthens their hands and is exactly the exercise needed to hold pencils for printing. Allow them to struggle, but not too long or it just frustrates everyone. Practice this skill all summer. Have them pack their own snack bag and zip it up independently.

Scissor skills require a lot of different muscle groups, from the shoulder on down. Have your child cut up scrap paper often and for short periods of time. As their hands strengthen, cutting will become easier.

Listening and comprehension skills can be easily fit in throughout the day. Yes, their listening skills will vary depending on their level of interest for sure. But your child should be able to listen to three oral instructions and carry them out. For example, play a silly game with three silly instructions such as put the spoon under the chair, the plate on the chair, and the glass in the fridge. You can start with two instructions and work your way up if your child isn’t ready for three instructions.

Your child needs to be able to confidently approach an adult (teacher, summer camp leader, etc.) if they are needing assistance, whether it is locating belongings or needing to use the bathroom. Your child needs to know that they can always tell a supervising adult that they have a problem or need to use the bathroom. If your child is too shy to ask, work on solutions together or practice asking questions together.

Social skills are critical for success in school. Work on kindness and caring about others. This does not mean that your child should be somebody’s doormat. It means playing and working in a group. This involves compromise and cooperation. It can be a skill acquired at home in daily activities. If your child is a “my way only” kind of child, it can be a sign that they are highly intelligent, but they are needing some work on the rules of society. If your bright little five-year-old has great social skills, all the rest will happen in Kindergarten.

Separation is a huge issue right now. Kindergarten teachers are aware of this, and no doubt will have suggestions on making the transition easier. They know that these “pandemic babies” have been at home for two and a half years with very little contact with outside situations. It is time to get them used to group situations.

If your child is able and your finances permit, check out unparented activities or preschool classes this summer. In the meantime, try to socialize as much as possible at the playground and check out the amazing variety of summer camps for five-year-olds.

If possible for your family, this is a great time for three- to five-year-olds to return to preschools once again where most of these skills can be easily taught in preparation for kindergarten. 

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