Kids & Parenting

How to get a jumpstart on kindergarten

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tying shoes
Fine motor skills, such as tying one's own shoes, may be required in a kindergarten classroom.
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Tips, Tools and Resources for Parents to Help Prepare Children for Kindergarten

Wondering how to get a jumpstart on kindergarten? Every parent wants to help prepare their child with a kindergarten jumpstart. Regardless of whether you are a parent, grandparent, babysitter, friend or relative, there are a wide variety of ways to help a child prepare for his or her first school experience. Here are some great tips and resources:

Parents:  Tips and Tools to Prepare Your Child with a Kindergarten Jumpstart

Reading and Literacy:

Simple activities, such as reading a nightly bedtime story, visiting the library with your child and allowing them to pick out books, can profoundly impact literacy and reading comprehension levels. Sing the alphabet with your child, and take the time to practice drawing the letters, and saying the names of each letter aloud. This will help your child to recognize letters and sounds.  

Place magnetic letters on the refrigerator or on a black board or other magnetic surface, at the childrens' eye level. Encourage them to manipulate the letters to form their name, group like letters together, etc.

Flashcards, or worksheets that involve tracing letters or coloring in letters are fun and educational tools that can help to provide your child with a kindergarten jumpstart.

Social and Emotional Readiness:

Children who have not been exposed to group settings, structured routines or group play environments may feel frightened or overwhelmed by a kindergarten classroom.  

Parents and caregivers can prepare children by exposing them early to programs such as playgroups, preschool or nursery school environments, library story times, music classes, gymboree programs, or any other wide variety of early learning resources for groups. These group settings help children learn to share, communicate with others, empathize with others, and follow instructions.

Active Play, Coordination and Physical Development:

Children love to run, jump, skip and burn off energy!  Most kindergartners are competent with physical and developmental tasks such as running, hopping on one foot, climbing stairs without assistance, jumping rope, properly holding a pen, pencil or marker to draw, using child-proof scissors to cut, using the bathroom without assistance and carrying or balancing a cup of water or plate of food.  Some kindergartens expect students to be able to tie their own shoes.  

If you question whether your child has hit these milestones, then he or she may not be ready for kindergarten just yet.You can give your child a kindergarten jumpstart by encouraging them in active play.  Spend time at the playground, practice balancing, jumping, running, hopping, and playing games such as “Red Light, Green Light”, tag, or hide and seek.

Involve them in hands-on tasks and activities that require coordination and fine motor skills such as building with blocks, Legos, or tinker toys, playing in the sandbox, working to complete puzzles or playing with products such as play dough or string beads.

Math and Other Cognitive Skills:

Counting and identifying numbers are equal in importance to reciting the alphabet and identifying letters. Encourage your child's counting skills by incorporating counting into daily activities. Count the stairs as you climb. Count the number of strawberries for breakfast. Count the number of paws on the cat or fingers on a hand. Practice drawing and reciting the names of the numbers and incorporate flash cards or number games.  

Helping your child to understand the days of the week, hours of the day, and months of the year is another great way to teach valuable lessons about numbers and counting. Display a large, child-friendly calendar and involve your child in discussing daily and weekly plans and events.

Shapes, and colors are also an important knowledge base for kindergartners to have in place.  Games such as “I Spy” (such as “I spy” or “I spy something shaped like a circle”) can be intellectually stimulating for young children. Memory games such as go fish, or matching games such as apples to oranges are wonderful educational tools. Important lessons can also be gleaned by talking to child about home activities such as putting toys away, folding or sorting laundry, etc.

Ask in Advance: Understand the Kindergarten Curriculum:

Ultimately, the best way to prepare a child with a kindergarten jumpstart is to know in advance what a particular school or kindergarten program requires. Contact the school in advance, ask if they have a checklist or reference sheet for parents of kindergartners. Or, speak directly with a teacher to obtain a better understanding of what may be required of your new kindergartner. 

Helping your child to prepare for kindergarten can lesson anxiety in the Fall, and help ensure a successful start to the many years of education to come.

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