Kindergarten Registration began on April 11th in Virginia. Maybe you’re a parent in shock that you just registered your baby to start school or maybe you’re eager to kick start your child’s education. Either way, preparing your child for kindergarten is an important task for all parents and starts as soon as your child is born.
While kindergarten readiness is usually thought to include basics such as letter and number recognition or reading skills, it also includes a range of social emotional skills. To be school-ready, children need to begin developing thinking skills, self-control, self-confidence, language and literacy skills. Here are a few skills you can encourage and build with your child leading up to that first day of kindergarten.
Build thinking skills by encouraging children to explore. Parents can use everyday moments and simple interactions as teaching opportunities. Babies will touch, bang on things, shake, and roll as they learn how things work. As they grow, allow your toddler to take the lead. Children this age learn by exploring and experiencing the world around them. Follow your child’s lead. Children benefit from repeated actions, as this strengthens connections in the brain. Encourage this by providing activities such as building with blocks, solving puzzles, or water and sand play.
Teach self-control by setting consistent limits. If you have a rule that there’s no screen time until after dinner, be sure to stick to it. A child who has crayons taken away when he or she uses them on the walls will know not to continue that behavior. By setting limits, your child knows what to expect and what is expected of them.
It is also important to label and acknowledge your child’s feelings when they begin to lose control. This lets them know they are heard and understood. This doesn’t mean giving in to their demands, but letting them know that you understand their feelings will help your child to regain control and calm down. If your child is upset, say to them “I can see that you are angry right now, but the way you are acting is not ok. How can we let your anger out?”, then give some ideas. Providing an alternative gives them some control and an avenue to express themselves appropriately.
Self-Confidence Show your child the support they need without fixing every problem they run into. Allow them the chance to work through problems on their own. Overcoming challenges not only builds their problem-solving skills, but it also builds their confidence. As your child develops, begin to give them tasks and responsibilities. Allow them to set the table, clean up, or help you in the kitchen. They will feel proud of a job well done! But remember to be patient. They are learning and it is okay if it takes a little longer or is not done perfectly. It takes time to learn a new skill and they need guidance from you while they master new tasks.
Build language and literacy skills by talking together. It seems simple, but talk to your child all day long. When they are young, narrate what you’re doing and point things out to them. As they begin to develop communication skills, continue by asking them questions and engaging in back and forth conversation. Reading is also critical to building language and literacy skills. Read to and with your child from birth. Fifteen minutes a day can result in lifelong benefits for your child. Don’t worry if they can’t sit to finish the book. That is not as important as the time you spend together. And don’t forget, reading the same books over and over again builds connections in the brain.
Each child is unique, with their own set of strengths and challenges. If your child has a hard time in one area, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t ready for school. They may just need more support in that area. Your child may catch on to reading very quickly but struggle with holding a pencil or using scissors. Maybe your child has excellent social skills but needs more support to build math skills. Pay attention as your child grows and develops so that you can encourage the areas that they excel in, while also strengthening the areas they need to grow.