Kindergarten Readinessby Becton Loveless
It used to be that kindergarten was a youngster's first introduction to reading, writing, arithmatic and interpersonal communication. Well, not any more. These days, most children entering kindergarten already know their ABCs, basic sounds, shapes, numbers, and colors. However, most teachers are even more concerned that children have important physical, social and cognitive skills that set the stage for growth and development. A child can learn to count from 1 to 10 in just a few days, but helping a child develop the ability to follow directions or interact appropriately with others can take much longer, if not already learned.
A recent study suggests that about half of five year olds entering kindergarten aren't adequately prepared.
Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?
It's quite common to wonder whether or not your child is ready for kindergarten. There are a lot of factors involved, and it's not always easy to know what the best choice for your child's well-being is.
Common Reasons for Waiting to Begin Kindergarten
Many parents choose to hold their kids back from kindergarten, for a number of reasons. One of the most common reasons is simply that their child has a late birthday, and the parents must choose whether their child will be the youngest in the class or the oldest. Similarly, the child may have been a premature infant, and is actually younger, physically, than her age suggests.
Parents commonly wait to enroll their child in kindergarten if the child has a developmental delay of some sort, or if he or she struggles with behavior problems. The child may have problems related to their speech and language development, or a physical disability. Any of these might be a good reason to wait before having your child start kindergarten, but you should do your research before making a final decision.
Before You Decide...
This is an important decision, one you don't want to make too hastily. Before you decide one way or the other, you should meet with your child's current teacher (his or her preschool teacher), and ask some questions:
How is your child doing when compared with his peers? Is he struggling in only one certain area, or is he falling behind across the board? If he is falling behind, what interventions has the teacher tried, and how well did they work? Can your child attend a summer program to catch up? If your child does stay behind, what will the teacher do to help him improve? Does the teacher suspect a learning disability of some sort, and should your child be referred for testing?
Additionally, you should also talk to your child's potential kindergarten teacher. Ask what the teacher will do to help students who are falling behind, and what resources are available to support your child's development.
How to Tell that Your Child is Ready for Kindergarten
Again, this issue of deciding whether your child is ready for kindergarten is influenced by a huge number of variables, and there is no one right answer for everyone. However, children who thrive in kindergarten tend to share some common traits, which you can watch for in your child. If your child displays some or most of these traits, chances are he'll do just fine in kindergarten. Children who are ready for kindergarten are:
- Making measurable progress in preschool
- Developmentally on target, when compared to their peers
- Able to adapt to difficult tasks
- Able to use the bathroom, wash their hands, and dress themselves independently (or with little assistance)
- Able to use scissors correctly, and can cut out simple shapes and figures
- Able to listen and attend for as long as twenty minutes
- Able to speak in short sentences (which include a verb and a noun)
- Able to follow simple directions
- Able to understand common household words
- Able to understand and follow stories
- Able to draw common items and objects, and can trace at a simple, beginner level
- Able to follow routines
In the end, only you can decide whether your child is ready for kindergarten or not. Even if you think your child is not ready yet to move on, make sure you speak with his teachers (both his current teacher and his kindergarten teacher) to discern what level he's actually at, and whether he could succeed with some assistance. If waiting turns out to be the best choice, find out what additional help your child needs, and make sure he gets it. Holding your child back now, very early in his educational career, is typically much easier, emotionally, than holding him back further down the road.
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.
Kindergarten Readiness Checklist
It's common for parents of kindergarten-aged children to feel some anxiety before their little one takes that first step into the kindergarten classroom. After all, kindergarten is a big step forward, and children are expected to develop certain skills by the time they take that step. This guide is designed to help you assess where your child stands in terms of skills and general kindergarten-readiness, and to clarify where he or she may need a little extra help before the first day arrives.
Don't worry; it's perfectly fine if your child hasn't mastered every skill outlined here. This is simply a broad overview, to help your child become as prepared as possible.
Self Help Skills
By kindergarten, children should be fully potty-trained, and should be able to independently complete the associated bathroom hygiene tasks. They should be able to independently dress themselves, including zippers, buttons, and snaps. They should also be able to say their full name and their age.
Language skills apply both to expressive language (speaking) and to receptive language (listening and understanding). Kindergarten children should have fairly developed skills in both areas.
In terms of expressive language, kindergarten-aged children are generally able to speak in complete sentences (typically 5 or 6 words long), and to declare their wants and needs verbally. Adults should be able to understand what they say the majority of the time. Additionally, these children should use words (rather than physical movements and actions) to express anger, frustration, and other emotions.
In terms of receptive language, kindergarten-aged children should be able to understand and follow two-step directions. They should also understand prepositions and words that describe positions in space (under, above, between, etc.).
Emotional and Social Skills
By kindergarten, children should be able to separate from their parents/caregivers without becoming terribly upset. They should have some empathic awareness (the ability to recognize what other people are feeling, and to respond appropriately). They should know basic manners (such as saying "please" and "thank you") and should use them consistently. Kindergarten-aged children should be able to wait their turn and share with other children. They should also be able to stay focused on an adult-directed task for 5 minutes or more.
Read also: 5 Social Skills That Are Important for Kindergarten
Gross Motor Skills
Kindergarten-aged children are typically able to run, skip, jump (with feet together), and hop on one foot. They should be able to walk up stairs while alternating feet, and should be able to walk backwards. Additionally, they should be able to bounce a kickball, and attempt to catch it with both hands.
Fine Motor Skills
By kindergarten, children are expected to know how to correctly hold a pencil or crayon (not in a fist). Similarly, they should be able to use scissors in a decently controlled and intentional way, and should know how to carry them safely. They should be able to trace dotted lines and simple shapes, and should also be able to draw some basic shapes and figures (such as squares, triangles, or straight lines) without a guide.
Read also: 5 Physical Skills That Are Important for Kindergarten
Literacy and Phonemic Awareness
"Literacy" refers to an ability to understand written language; "phonemic awareness" is the ability to distinguish the individual sounds that letters represent.
In terms of literacy, kindergarten-aged children should be able to recognize printed words in their environment (such as the word "stop" on a stop sign, a familiar corporate logo, and other common words). They should be able to recite the alphabet, and should know how to correctly hold a book (knowing if the book is upside down, for instance, and where the book begins). By kindergarten, children should be able to recognize their own name when written down, and can attempt to write their own name (and other ideas) using letters and symbols. They should also be able to express an idea by drawing a picture. Furthermore, most kindergarten-aged children enjoy listening to stories, and being read to.
In terms of phonemic awareness, kindergarten-aged children should be able to identify some letters and some of the sounds they make (most kindergarten-aged children are not able to do this for the entire alphabet, especially for multiple vowel sounds). This skill may be demonstrated either from sound to letter, or vice verse. They should understand the basic concept of rhyming, and should be able to tell if two words rhyme or not.
Read also: 5 Cognitive Skills That Are Important for Kindergarten
Kindergarten-aged children are typically able to count to 10. They should be able to recognize and identify basic shapes and figures (square, circle, triangle, etc.), and should be able to sort items based on one or more factors. They should also know all the colors in an 8-count box of crayons, and should be able to identify them (either by pointing to them or verbally).
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