Yet another milestone. It probably seems like yesterday that your baby struggled to get out their first word, or tumbled time and time again before succeeding in taking their first step. In a few months, you will pack their oversized backpack with notebooks and crayons and a pencil pouch detailed with their favorite characters from their favorite show release them to start a 13 year journey, in which they will learn and laugh and make some of the best friends of their lives. Before they take a step out of your front door, however, they need to be prepared for the new world that is kindergarten.
To be fully prepared for the first year of grade school, your child should have a multitude of skills including; social-emotional skills, oral language skills, fine and gross motor skills, and math and literacy skills. This may seem like a lot, but the chances are, your child is already proficient in most of these areas.
Social-emotional skills mainly have to do with your child’s ability to operate semi-independently from adults. These skills include things like simple problem solving, starting and staying focused on a new task, or even using the bathroom by themselves. One way to help nurture and develop some of these skills would be to give the child a special space to store things. Allow them to decorate it anyway they want, while also allowing them to be in charge of basic cleanliness.
Other skills that are vital to social-emotional development are ones that involve your child interacting with others. If they can name a friend, or simply share well with others, they are on the right track to being able to succeed in a kindergarten setting.
Oral Language Skills
Your child’s ability to communicate verbally is perhaps the most essential skill to hone when preparing for kindergarten. Without the ability to speak in full sentences, they can’t participate in some learning activities and may not have the linguistic skills to ask for help. They should at least be able to say their name properly.
A couple bits of information that they can practice learning to say out loud would be their home phone number(more likely your cell number) and address. This is not only an important oral skill, but also a serious safety matter.
Fine and Gross Motor Skills
Play time, or the part of kindergarten that your child will actually enjoy, is also very important to their development. Multiple articles of research have been published about the importance of play in the early years of a child's life. The effects of participating in play can echo throughout your child’s life into adulthood and shape the way they move, interact, and create.
By kindergarten, they should have some experience in activities such as building a block tower, using scissors, and bouncing a ball. On the more creative side, they can also play with playdough, or simply draw a picture and tell you about what they were going for.
Math and Literacy Skills
Now on to what may seem like the most difficult skills to build up: Math and Literacy. We can break down math to its most basic elements, whereas literacy takes a little more practice.
Being able to count to ten, or even touching a set of objects and counting them to five will suffice. Being able to recognize and name some of the more basic colors is also something that a child should be able to do before kindergarten.
By reading your child stories and going over the elements of said stories afterwards, will help their literary skills blossom. If you do this enough times and ensure that they are attentive and listening closely, they should eventually be able to retell the story on their own and recognize letters and the sounds they make.
Having a child properly prepared for kindergarten can go a long way in terms of their development as students and as a contributing member of society. Here is a link to the full checklist Smart Beginnings offers to ensure your child is ready for their first year of school. If you’re looking for more ways to get your child active in any way you can also check out our table of corresponding activities.