Q: What can I do to get my child ready for kindergarten?
Answer: This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions on kindergarten registration day, but it's not always an easy question to answer. Kindergarten readiness isn't a matter of having one specific skill set, it's a combination of many different skills in many domains, including physical, academic and social/emotional. While many of these skills are acquired as a child is developmentally ready to achieve them, you can boost the skills he already has. By exploring your everyday activities more in-depth and from a different perspective you can help get your child ready for kindergarten.
1. Explore books with your child. One of the most important early literacy skills your child can have is something known as "Concepts About Print." You probably already read books to her, but now's the time to really start looking in-depth at books and giving her some idea of how the books are composed. Let her handle the book so that she can learn the front from the back, the correct way to hold the book and discover that the pages turn left to right.
As you read, use your finger to point to the words to give her a way to differentiate between the pictures and the text. Once your child seems to have mastered these concepts you can move on to more complex ideas such as recognizing that the text is made up of small pieces (words) and those small pieces are made up of smaller pieces (letters).
2. Explore language with your child. Certainly talking to your child is going to expose him to language and conversational skills, but it's time to step it up a notch. Talk to him about your thoughts, your schedule and what's going on in his world as you go through your day. Exposing him to new ideas will provide him with new vocabulary that he can then use to speak to you about his own ideas and how he sees the world.
Begin asking your child to talk his way through a task, not only to see if he's able to explain what he's doing, but also to get a sense of what strategies he is using to problem-solve. It's helpful information once he begins school, especially if he seems to come at problems from a different angle than most kids.
3. Explore your child's fine motor skills. About six months before my daughter went to kindergarten, I realized she'd never held a pair of scissors. I'd just never thought to give them to her! As scary as it may seem to give your child sharp implements, she really needs to learn how to use them. The same goes for items like pens, pencils, crayons and markers, preferably of a variety of different thicknesses.
Children who are entering kindergarten need to have had enough exposure to these tools to have already begun to hold them correctly. So, invest in a pad of drawing paper for your child's masterpieces, provide her with old newspapers and magazines to cut and be prepared to have a houseful of confetti!
4. Explore your child's independence. Whether he'll be going to full-day or half-day kindergarten, your child will be expected not only to spend time away from you, but also to make decisions and complete tasks without your input. For many children this is a monumental change and even the most independent of children can find this a bit daunting. You can ease this transition by beginning to step back a little and let your child take on a little more responsibility.
This can be done as simply as setting up playdates at which you drop him off instead of sticking around or leaving him with a babysitter a little more frequently. A great way to have your child explore what he's able to do on his own is to take advantage of activities like Home Depot Kid's Workshops and Lowe's Build and Grow Workshops.