Kindergarten teacher at Thomas Edison Charter School and mother of five
Kindergarten readiness starts well before the first time your little one walks through those giant school doors with a brand new pair of sneakers and a hesitant look on his face. It is true that you can never be completely sure whether you’ve prepared your child for every “first” in life, but there are many concepts you can and should teach your child in preparation for one of the most important steps he will ever take outside the home.
Much has probably changed from your own kindergarten days compared to what your child’s experience will be. Before I started teaching kindergarten, I often thought of it as a time for playing house, taking naps, learning shapes and colors, and so forth. However, with the cultural influx in our society of preschool learning from ages 2 to 5, the standards of kindergarten have been raised, curriculum has become more challenging and our children are ready for it. I have seen five year olds come into my classroom knowing only the alphabet and a few numbers and leave writing paragraphs and doing addition and subtraction.
In addition to the run-of-the-mill suggestions like being able to cut with scissors and put on her own jacket, here are my top four tips for preparing your child for her first day:
- Read with your child. One of the most important activities you can do with your child is to read aloud. This helps him understand the rhythm, rhyme and flow of words on a page and introduces him to the concept of print. I can often tell when a child has been read to for a significant portion of his life because he has an easier time predicting what will happen in a story, picking out rhyming words and often desires to read sooner because he has been read to for so long.
- Practice Phonemic Awareness activities. Phonemic awareness is a big term that basically means your child’s ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. Being able to rhyme is a great indicator that your child is ready to read, so read lots of rhyming books to him or play games in the car that require him to produce rhyming words.
- Count with your child. Number sense is a great skill for every child to have. If your child can count to 20 without mistakes, she is well on her way to success with numbers. By the end of kindergarten your child should be able to count to 100 on her own. Usually the transition numbers are the most difficult for children to master, such as 29 to 30 or 89 to 90. Using a simple 100 number chart is a great way to help her visualize the sequence and pattern of numbers and also gives her a concrete representation of what the numbers look like.
- Encourage your child to have meaningful conversation with you every day. With children (and adults) spending more and more time in front of an electronic screen than ever, often the ability and skill of human interaction is not taught by example as much as it should and could be. Take time to unplug and listen to your child as he formulates sentences about anything that interests him. Have him sit still while he converses with you and help him to make consistent eye contact. Listen with your EYES and ears, smile and give praise to him for sharing with you.