You blink your eyes and like that it’s time for kindergarten. It happens so fast. I cannot believe in two years my little guy will be going to kindergarten. A real school. We pretend and build towers in the living room, hang out downtown at the “beach”, play in the dirt and talk while eating ice cream. He has to be learning something new every day because the questions are non-stop. His inquisitive mind wants to know about sounds, cars, food, animals to name a few. Some answers I know, some have us searching on Google.
Despite our efforts, I still wonder if we are doing enough to get him ready for school. I reached out to a few Kindergarten teachers and moms of kindergartens to get answers to the tough questions. I want to make sure my family is approaching kindergarten well-informed. In doing so, I promised myself that I wouldn’t get anxious! I was just seeking to educate myself for what’s coming ahead in my parenting life. After all, this is kindergarten, not college.
The New First Grade
One teacher explained it best, “Kindergarten is the new first grade.” Most classes still do the activities we know and love. They are coloring and creating “beautiful” crafts for your home and getting outside for recess. Reviewing letters, reciting the alphabet, and learning to count is key. What seems to have changed is the depth of material kids are expected to learn and master by the end of the year.
Children completing kindergarten are expected to be able to read, write sentences, and add two-digit numbers. I was surprised to find out some schools even do standardized testing at the beginning and the end of the school year. Sounds like a lot of pressure? Well, it can be. However, many creative teachers will still find a way to use movement, art, and music to teach the core concepts.
Preparation is Key!
When preparing your child for kindergarten today here is a list of skills you can work on beforehand:
Skills/Behavior: Teach your child how to tie their shoes- this helps with focus and fine motor skills. Gripping a pencil also helps with fine motor skills. Raising your hand if you have a question. Preparing to separate from parents with fewer tears will help your child transition to the classroom.
Math: Teach your child how to count to 20 and identify numbers. Work on grouping objects and then counting the objects in the groups. Understand simple addition using objects.
Language: Teach your child how to identify upper and lower-case letters and the sounds each makes. Work with them on describing objects: big versus little, shapes, colors and textures. They should be practicing writing their name with upper and lower-case letters.
There are many ways to prepare for kindergarten. Most importantly – the teachers all agreed! – make learning fun. Play-based learning is a great way to turn “play time” into actual “learning time.” Incorporate learning into daily life – from grocery shopping to taking walks. Technology will be introduced to them through computers. Our kids’ brains are sponges and pick up from simple conversations.
Finally, read. Then read some more!
Language is all about repetition. Reading introduces new words. It also provides a platform for more questions. You can travel the world right from their bed simply by reading.
A lot of moms and parents wonder about behavior. From what I’ve learned, exposing your child to a structured classroom setting before kindergarten is very helpful. Even if it’s only one or two days a week. Kids who get some preschool exposure are more likely to understand classroom decorum like sitting quietly at story time, lining up quietly and raising their hand if they have questions.
Overall, my teacher and parent friends agreed that the key is understanding the expectations as your child enters, or prepares to enter kindergarten. How you and your child prepare is up to you. Learning doesn’t have to be a chore. Additionally, there may be some topics that are harder than others but the important piece is to work together. Having fun and building a foundation that prepares your child for the love of learning.
Are you ready? Get set! Kindergarten, here they come!
Special thanks to teachers: Nikki Mayo, Katie Bernacki Lampman, L’Juana Jones and Carol Cross
Parents: Dana Bartell and Lynell Doyle