How to Prep Your Child for Kindergarten – Painlessly!
Don’t panic — there’s still plenty of summer left, on the calendar at least. But we know it will only be a few short weeks before the back-to-school marketing blitz sweeps through.
For those of us with preschoolers who are beginning their very first year of formal school, this can be an especially nerve-wracking time.
Preschool’s main function is to let kids learn through play, and to help them build social skills. It lays the foundation for successful formal schooling. But Kindergarten is a whole other bag of gummy worms. Kids begin to learn to read and write, and they learn basic numeracy and foundational math, along with a host of other skills.
Is there a way to bridge the gap between preschool and Kindergarten? Can these hot summer days be put to use in getting kids ready to plunge into the big pool we call school — a pool they’ll be splashing around in for at least the next 13 years?
Of course they can!
Here are a few pointers for preparing kids for the start of Kindergarten:
Tips for the Big Plunge into Kindergarten
1. Kids are going to be nervous. Kindergarten is a big unknown for them. Somehow the pressure is higher and kids are very perceptive to this. But summertime is the perfect time to head off any serious jitters. How? It can be as simple as taking children past the school they’ll be attending and showing them. Role-playing the commute to school and explaining exactly what will be happening once they go is another way. The key is exposure and familiarity. If kids have an idea of what they’re getting themselves into, they’re much less likely to be nervous about it. Maybe your child has already had an introductory visit or two, but it never hurts to give a little positive reinforcement.
2. Establishing a set routine. For the rest of their school careers, kids are going to be following class schedules, lunch and recess breaks, and extracurricular activities. Having a well-established routine is one of the best ways of coping with big sources of stress like school. (It’s like in the workplace, we look forward to the approach of every Friday, and every Friday arrives like clockwork.) The weeks before a child starts Kindergarten can be great for establishing this routine. Try enforcing a bedtime and a wake up time at consistent times. Same with mealtimes (within reason) and quiet time. Schools thrive on routines, and so do people. It’s a great idea to start early!
3. Start getting them used to time away from their caregivers. Part of the plunge into Kindergarten involves spending extended portions of the day away from kids’ primary caregivers. In order to cushion this experience and head off separation anxiety, a great idea is to have your child visit friends for play dates of a couple hours in duration – and leave them. Be sure to reciprocate. It will help the other kids, and their parents will appreciate the break! This time away from parents and caregivers is fun-filled, meaning they’ll develop a positive association with these types of experiences.
4. Take your child shopping for school supplies. You don’t have to go overboard. If your school has supplied a list, use that. If not – check with your local office supply or box store as they often have lists from every local school – or check the school’s website. If you can’t find the list for your child’s specific school and grade, just buy a couple of basics at a dollar store. You can be sure there’ll be a list coming home with your child, and it may specify brands and quantities! We know it’s easier to buy these things without kids in tow, but it’s a really good idea to involve them in the process.
5. The same goes for buying school clothes – whether there’s a mandatory school uniform or just everyday clothing, actively involve your child. It doesn’t matter if you’re ordering a full wardrobe online or picking up a few things at the local thrift store – just make sure you read the school’s dress code first. You should be able to find it on the website.
What about the actual learning stuff? Can kids prepare for Kindergarten material?
Once again, of course they can. Preschool is a good foundation, but not every child attends preschool, and not every preschool covers academics. But mandatory Kindergarten is almost universal. Kindergarten will address social development, but it also encourages creativity, literacy, and numeracy.
Since we’re in the Kindergarten numeracy business, we thought we’d share a little cheat sheet on how to get kids ready for the type of math they’ll be exposed to once they start Kindergarten.
And the Kindergarten math curriculum is no joke. Seriously — the Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten math list dozens of math skills a Kindergarten student should know when they leave school next June.
A little helping hand before classes start can help ensure success as kids tackle the foundational levels of what will be, for many, their most consistently intimidating and challenging subject — math.
Here are a few ways to get started:
1. Practice classifying objects: A big part of mathematical thinking comes from the same type of thinking we use to sort objects by category (e.g., color, shape, and size). Getting kids thinking about these basic classifications is as simple as having them choose different colored crayons from a box, or playing I Spy, or building structures out of wooden blocks. We sort our whole world into categories; and the sooner kids start to do this, the more intuitive math will be when they start school.
2. Exposing children to numerals is very important: These abstract representations of quantity will be required for virtually all the mathematical operations kids undertake in their schooling. Merely having children rattle off a string of numbers that they’ve committed to memory is not the same as knowing the numbers, so it helps to show them concrete examples of numbers as well. Numbers 1 through 10 are the ones to practice at this stage.
3. Make it fun: One of the keys to creating a lifelong learner is to associate learning with fun as early as possible. School and learning doesn’t need to be a boring slog. Take your kids on a scavenger hunt for objects of different shapes. Play with blocks. Have an iPad? Why not try out some of the educational apps available? (We know of one or two good ones, winky face.) The point is, creating a positive association with learning is the absolute key. If learning is fun, learning doesn’t feel like an unconquerable challenge.
Beginning Kindergarten is truly an exciting milestone in a child’s life. School occupies a significant amount of childhood and adolescence, and even adulthood. And Kindergarten is the first real step on this long journey. The summer months before this milestone are a wonderful opportunity to prepare your child for this adventure.
Do you have any additional tips for parents who are sending their kids off to Kindergarten for the first time? Share them in the comments below!