Preparing your child for kindergarten doesn't have to be stressful. Here are several things you can do at home to help your child start off the year strong! As a kindergarten teacher, I know I will have students with all skill levels enter my classroom on the first day of school. Don’t stress over what your child doesn’t know. What they don’t know, they will learn.
Things You Can Do To Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten
Let your child explore. Give them paper and crayons or watercolors and let them color and paint. These are super important for building fine motor skills. I am always amazed how many children come to school and have never held a pencil, colored with crayons or cut with scissors. Yes, I said cut with scissors. I know that can be scary, but it’s important that they are given the opportunity. Create a cutting tub where you have tissue paper inside and they are only allowed to cut the tissue paper. Make sure they are cutting with children’s scissors that are created to fit their tiny hands. By doing these things, their hand muscles get stronger and because of this, they will be better writers.
Provide your child with a problem and allow them to come up with a solution. If you have multiple children this is probably done daily as they fight over the same toy. Teach them to use their words to say “I don’t like it when you…”or “It makes me feel…”. This helps them to be their own problem solver. Putting together puzzles is another great way of problem solving. Teach them that they don’t have to finish right away. It’s okay to work on it and come back later. Frustration is a feeling that children struggle with just like adults. It’s something they will encounter more when they are in a classroom with 20+ other children. Help them to learn to calm themselves when they get frustrated and talk about how they feel.
Play with play dough. Again, another great tool to build fine motor skills. Building up those little hand muscles is so important. Let them roll it, cut it, and even make their name out of it. Look up a recipe online and let them make it with you. Now there’s a great memory!
Teach them to play games such as Go Fish. Games are a great way to teach children to take turns and learn that it’s okay not to win every time. Unfortunately, we have become a society where it doesn’t matter what effort you give, everyone gets a cookie. That is not realistic though. Children need to learn how to handle failure and that it’s okay to not always win. Instill in them that it’s important that they try their best and have fun. Children today are so consumed with technology. Board games are a nice change and challenge them to think. I am always amazed how many children have never played Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land. Give it a try. You loved it. They will too!
Give your child responsibility. They can handle it, I promise! It always makes me giggle when I tell parents at Meet the Teacher that in our classroom everyone works and everyone cleans. There are always parents who tell me good luck with that but I have never met a child who refused to do their part in taking care of our classroom. Picking up their toys, setting the table, bringing laundry into the laundry room are all things they are capable of doing.
Practice counting. Count chairs at the table, doors on the car, really anything and everything. Don’t make it hard on yourself or stressful. Everything you do in your everyday life can be a lesson.
Practice multi step directions. Ex. Go to your room and get your teddy bear. Listening is something that needs to be practiced just like anything else.
Talk to your child about everything. Discuss the names of items, what color it is, what sound it starts with. There are so many things children can learn in short conversations.
Show them the letters in their name. Tell them the names of the letters and let them try to write them. You can do this in fun ways. For example, spray shaving cream on your kitchen counter and practice writing their name in the shaving cream. Kids love that!
Allow your child to play with blocks and legos. Building things takes skill. They have to think, problem solve, and it builds fine motor skills.
Let them play outside. Running, jumping on the trampoline, playing tag, running through the sprinkler, these are all great ways to build gross motor skills. It always makes me sad when we go to recess and a child doesn’t know how to play outside. If I were to give them an iPad, they could tell me how to work everything on it, but they have no idea how to play. Children are losing their ability to participate in imaginary play because they are constantly participating in a virtual world. I remember when I was little, my sister and I would leave when the sun came up and come back when the sun went down with nothing but the clothes on our backs. We would play outside all day long and we loved it! Let them play with other children too. This is such an important part of social development.
These last things really go without saying, but…
PLEASE teach them to tie their shoes. It’s so hard to get through teaching a lesson to a room full of five-year-old's when you are constantly tying shoes.
Teach your child important things like their first and last name, your name, your address and phone number. When my children were little, they did this at school. Honestly, we don’t have time to do this anymore. Kindergarten is the old first grade. We have to stick to our learning objectives each day and those do not include things like phone number and address.
Lastly, if you haven't cracked a book, now is a great time to start. Sit and read to your child as often as possible. Just like adults, children have to build stamina for everything. It takes practice for children to be able to sit through listening to a story. Ask them questions about the story. Who was the book about? What happened in the story? This is also a great way to spend quality time with your child. Check out this great article about the benefits of reading with your child here.
It doesn’t matter if you conquer one thing on this list or the entire thing, your child will do GREAT when they come to kindergarten. If you are worried, don’t let them know. Children share our stress and if you are fearful, they will be too. Share with them how exciting it is to go to school, meet new friends, and learn new things. Whatever they don’t know, they will learn. Every child is different and they each learn at their own pace. Follow your child and give them time to grow into what they know. That doesn’t mean baby them, they can open their own drink once you have showed them a few times. They will never learn if you don’t let them try. You will be surprised how much a five year old is able to do on their own once the correct behavior has been modeled to them and they have been given the opportunity to practice.
You just wait, they are going to knock your socks off and before you know it, they are off to first grade!