Parents, a simple Google search will yield a myriad of ways to get your child ready for kindergarten, but most of those articles have to do with making sure your child knows what he or she needs to know before they start learning from their teacher. Before you sit your child down with letter and sight word flashcards, or start playing the alphabet song on a loop in their room while they’re sleeping, take solace from the fact that you have probably already been laying the groundwork for kindergarten and you didn’t even know it.
“Most parents worry that they are not doing enough to get their child ready for kindergarten,” states Jennifer Gibson, a Children’s Associate with the Norfolk Public Library system in Norfolk Virginia. “A common question asked by the parents of the kids that I work with is, ‘Do you think my child is ready for kindergarten?’ My point to them is that if they are asking, then he or she most likely is.”
Gibson’s reasoning is that if a parent is focused on whether or not their child is ready, they are probably already working with them to get them ready. See, most people think that getting a child ready for kindergarten is making sure they know all their letters and sounds, and can count to 20. While those are most definitely important to know, teaching a child their letters and sounds does not necessarily get them ready to learn.
Here are some ways to get your child ready to learn, and in turn get them ready for kindergarten.
- Interact with your kids meaningfully and let them play with others
Gibson feels that most parents can best ready their kids for kindergarten by playing with them and giving them opportunities to play with others. And in the midst of playing, information is learned and skills are developed.
“Most people play board games with their kids, count with their kids during an activity, read to them or discover letter sounds at the grocery store,” states Gibson. “Most people do these types of things with their children and they do not even realize they are doing them, because it is what you naturally do with children.”
According to Gibson, when parents meaningfully interact with their children, they are getting them ready to learn from their teacher. Additionally, when parents allow their kids to play with other children, it promotes imagination and creativity as well as heightens a child’s motor and fine motor skills, and develops a child’s much needed relational skills.
Tessa Moberg, director of Wolf Pup preschool and daycare in Watford City agrees, stating, “It is good developmentally for kids to be around other kids, and not just kids they know.”
Allowing children to play with others, especially kids they do not know, teaches them how to share, how to communicate, how to build relationships and how to deal with not getting what they want.
- Expose children to different types of learning opportunities.
“Children are little sponges,” states Moberg, “And they all learn at different paces and in different ways.”
For this reason, employ the flashcards, but don’t beat them over the head with them. Let children sit down and watch some TV and listen to music. Do a workbook with them, but follow it up with a letter sound hunt or something fun that drives the lesson home. Also reading with or to a child is an incredibly beneficial learning opportunity that most kids are excited about.
Preschool is also a beneficial learning opportunity for most children. It fosters many of the skills children will need to learn in kindergarten, and lays down an educational groundwork.
“Preschool is good at getting kids ready for kindergarten,” states Moberg. “It is a good start for them, but it is not a necessary start. Most kids will do fine in kindergarten even if they did not start out in a preschool.”
- Get into a routine
School is nothing if not routine. It starts and ends the same time everyday, and a consistent pattern follows throughout the school day, until the end of the school year. This is one of the reasons that Moberg decided to make her preschool program half-day, five days a week.
“Preschool exposes kids to a routine. Kids know what happens each day, and they come to expect it,” states Moberg.
Moberg recommends preparing a child for the routine of school by implementing routines and patterns into their summer. Have them go to bed at the same time every night, have a routine when going to bed – pajamas, brush teeth, read, bed. If bedtime does not work, start a morning routine, or do whatever will work.
- Communicate with children about what to expect
Local mother Dawn Maki is in the position of getting her son ready for kindergarten.
“I am trying to enjoy the summer and not worry too much about what he does or doesn’t remember from preschool,” states Maki, “But I’ll talk with him now and then about kindergarten and what will happen when he is there.”
Maki says that she tries to gently stress that kindergarten will be longer than preschool, and he will have music and physical education classes. She talks with her son about eating lunch at the school, and bringing a backpack everyday, all to paint a picture of what is coming and that it will be different.
On a final note, know that the transition to kindergarten is difficult for most children. Today most students are doing in kindergarten what their parents were doing in first grade.
“When I was in kindergarten it was half day and a lot of playtime,” states Moberg. “Now what we do in our preschool is a lot of what I used to do in kindergarten as a child.”
On top of increased educational benchmarks, the kindergarten of today is an all-day program. Moberg says that even for kids who attended the Wolf Pup program, which is five days a week, half-day, the transition is difficult. So it will likely be even more difficult for children that were not immersed in a preschool routine.
Get yourself ready!
However, on top of being hard for the child, kindergarten can also be hard on some parents.
A study entitled Getting Parents “Ready” for Kindergarten by the Global Family Research Project observed that most parents experience a wide range of emotions when their child is getting ready to enter kindergarten. Those emotions can be summarized into three main feelings: happiness, sadness and worry.
Generally speaking, the study states that parents are happy for their child, but sad for the loss of time with their child. There is also a worry that their child will encounter something unpleasant, whether it be a classmate or teacher.
Whatever the emotion, know that change is emotional and sending a child off to kindergarten is no different.
Remember you are the parent and your child’s teacher is their teacher. It is their job to teach your child and your job to get them ready. If you’re being meaningful and intentional in your interactions, you are more than likely doing your job.