Parents are their children’s first and most loved teachers. They begin setting the stage for their children’s school success far earlier than they may realize. Positive experiences and language rich environments where young children can explore, play, and learn lay the early groundwork that gives children the best odds of becoming diligent and engaged learners.
“Kindergarten readiness” refers to a child’s overall readiness to function socially, emotionally, physically, cognitively and academically in school.
“How well a child does in kindergarten depends heavily on how prepared they are when they arrive, and today’s kindergarten classroom is far more structured and academic than what most parents or primary caregivers might remember,” said Jennifer Snider, school readiness coordinator for First 5 Shasta. “Kindergarten sets the path for a child’s remaining 12 years of public education. Children who do well in kindergarten usually do well through the years, while those who struggle in kindergarten are less likely to do well through the years.”
And preparing a child for kindergarten doesn’t require fancy toys or a lot of money. “Because children are born learning, it can be relatively simple for parents to use every day experiences to build the skills children need to be successful in kindergarten,” Snider says. “Some of the best ways to prepare a child for kindergarten are to talk with them, sing with them, or get on the floor and play with them. Each of these activities doesn’t take anything more than a parent’s time.”
A child’s skills for kindergarten are built over time. The important thing is to choose experiences, activities, and play things just right for the child’s age and developmental level. As the child gets older, or masters an activity or behavior, parents can introduce more complex games, play, or experiences.
|Infants (0-2)||Toddler (2-3)||Preschool aged Children (3-5)|
|Respond quickly to the cues and behaviors of your infant to establish a loving and safe relationship that will set the stage for future relationships and learning.Talk about the world around you, sing nursery rhymes and songs, or count objects as you pick them up to expose your child to the sounds of language and build early literacy and numeracy skills.||Teach your child how to take turns: first you, then me, then you. Provide opportunities for him to socialize with other children.Talk about categories with your child: like “toys” or “clothes” to help her learn things can be grouped. Later, you can give her sorting activities like “red and blue” items .||Point out your child’s name when you see it written to teach him to recognize his name and distinguish it from other words. Help or ask him to find his name in other places on the paper.Allow your child to draw, color, and, later, cut with child-safe scissors to build fine motor skills and to learn and practice the kinds of activities she’ll be doing in kindergarten.|
No matter what the age of the child, one of the best ways to prepare him for kindergarten is to read with him for at least 20 minutes every day. It doesn’t have to be all at once, and parents of very young children may need to build up to it, but the simple act of sharing stories – reading, talking about them, and pointing to pictures and words on the page – builds the early language and literacy skills they’ll not only need for kindergarten, but for the rest of their life as well.
Kathy Thompson is the Assistant Superintendent of Early Childhood Services for the Shasta County Office of Education. She is currently working in coordination with the Shasta Early Literacy Project and Reach Higher Shasta to address early literacy in Shasta County.