4 Ways to Get Your Child Ready for Kindergarten

Every parent wants their child to succeed, and every parent wants to know how to help their little one get as ready for their first day of kindergarten as possible. Unfortunately, there is no simple to-do list which will definitely ensure that your child will have all the skills he needs for kindergarten. Kindergarten readiness involves developing many different skills in many different areas, such as academic skills, social skills, and physical skills. Some of these skills can be taught; others can only be gained when your child has reached a certain stage of his natural development.

Regardless, there are several things you CAN do which will certainly give your child a significant advantage as he prepares for the transition to kindergarten.

1. Explore Written Language with Your Child

By the time your child is ready to start kindergarten, you've probably already spent a great deal of time reading him books. Now, it's time to start deepening his sense of written language. This involves not only reading the books to him, but helping him understand how books are conceived, composed, and created. Let him hold the book for himself, teach him the correct way to hold a book, to identify where the front is and where the back is, and how to correctly turn the pages left to right.

When you read to him, follow the written text with your finger as you read it. This will help him understand that the text and the pictures are actually different parts of the idea, and that the little symbols on the page represent the sounds and ideas that are coming out of your mouth. Once he's comfortable with this idea, take the concept a little deeper. Help him understand that the text is made of small parts (words) that are, themselves, made of smaller parts (letters). By exploring written language in this way, your child will develop literacy skills and phonemic awareness at a much quicker pace than if you were to simply read out loud to him.

2. Explore Spoken Language with Your Child

Children's brains are wired to receive and absorb spoken language, and simply conversing with him regularly will help him develop conversational language skills. However, by the time your child is preparing for kindergarten, you can take the process a little further. Try to avoid speaking down to him, or speaking in a baby voice--this will only encourage him to do so for much longer than is appropriate and helpful. Talk to him about your schedule, your thoughts, and ask him what he's thinking about and experiencing. Expose him to new vocabulary words, new ideas, and new concepts as often as possible, but be mindful when he feels overwhelmed.

Another helpful exercise: ask your child to perform a task, and to talk his way through the task as he performs it. This will accomplish a number of things. It will help him develop the language skills to explain his movements and actions, it will clarify his thought process, and it will reveal to you what problem-solving strategies he's using to perform the task. Knowing your child's individual problem-solving style will be very valuable, especially when he comes home from school needing help with an assignment.

3. Help Your Child Develop His Fine Motor Skills

At kindergarten, your child will be expected to write with pencils, pens, crayons, and markers, and will need to cut out simple shapes with scissors on a regular basis. Many parents are too afraid to give their children scissors before they go off to kindergarten, but it really is a disservice to them if you don't give them a chance to practice. Buy a pair of child-safe scissors (the kind you find in a typical kindergarten classroom), some crayons, pens, and markers, and a pad of paper. Make sure you teach him how to hold these tools correctly! Sure, you'll likely end up with an enormous mess of paper shreds, but your child will develop crucial skills for his upcoming kindergarten transition in the process.

4. Help Your Child Get Used to Being Away from You

One of the biggest obstacles children face during their transition to kindergarten is separation anxiety. Chances are, they've never needed to spend much time away from Mom and Dad (or their caregivers), and suddenly they're expected to go to school, by themselves, for hours at a time! This anxiety can seriously impede your child's progress, if it prevents him from participating in class activities, trying new things, or interacting with his classmates. Luckily, you can smooth this transition by getting him used to being independent before his first day of kindergarten arrives.

Playdates are a great way to do this. You can take him to his best friend's house and simply drop him off instead of staying nearby. You can also take some time for yourself, and leave him with a babysitter a little more frequently than before. Additionally, there are many community activities which allow parents to drop their children off for a period of time. Lowe's Build and Grow Workshops, as well as Home Depot Kid's Workshops are great examples of these activities. By helping your child develop his own sense of independence, you'll be setting him up to succeed in kindergarten.

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