So, you went school shopping for your toddler. You bought glue sticks, plastic scissors with the blunt edges, a ridiculously fat pencil, and primary paper with writing lines spaced so far apart you could drive a Pontiac Bonneville between them. But checklists, school supplies and marking the calendar doesn’t signal that your child is prepared for a school setting.
Preparing for success and achievement can’t be purchased from a store. Your child’s readiness for kindergarten must be learned.
“Parents are a child’s first teachers, and have a significant impact on every aspect of a child’s development, including language development, early learning concepts, fine motor skills, social skills, and emotional development,” said Southeast Psych’s resident child psychology expert, Jennifer McConnell. “All of these play a role in a successful transition into a school setting in kindergarten, yet there is no ‘test’ or master list of concepts to teach before your child starts school.”
The key ingredient to school readiness is socialization. Simply, does your child play well with others? Children who attend preschool get plenty of practice interacting with other children. Most likely, learning to share and take turns isn’t new. And children with brothers or sisters have a strong foundation for socialization. Parents who only have one child can help this process by scheduling frequent play dates — especially if the child will bypass preschool for early admission into kindergarten. Reading, writing and arithmetic are still the basics, but few things are more important to development respect, responsibility and resourcefulness.
“Focus on your child’s social development, cooperative play, and listening skills,” Jennifer said. “It is also helpful for your child to understand what to expect in kindergarten, so read a book with them about possible worries, provide a consistent routine, and encourage responsibility and independence. Most of all, it is important to make early learning experiences fun, including playing games, reading together, and providing enriched experiences. If you approach the beginning of school with excitement and enthusiasm, your child will likely follow your lead.”
Scholastic prescribes taking strolls with your child — especially when they’re old enough to pose endless questions. Use surroundings to spark curiosity. Encourage and reward fascination. Children who are thrilled about education will not only tackle their ABCs but the myriad learning opportunities that await.
Also, before entering kindergarten, children should be able to complete manual tasks like cutting out shapes and tracing pictures. This requires development in fine motor skills. Learning to tie shoes and button shirts will improve basic or “gross” motor skills. Lack of development of these skills would be more detrimental to a child upon early entry into a school setting. Even advanced learners who can recite the alphabet may suffer from learning and achievement insecurities if they’re unable to complete manual exercises that classmates accomplish with ease.
How is your child’s readiness for kindergarten? How do you reward your child’s strengths and address weaknesses? Do you wonder whether your child should start kindergarten early, late, or on time? Southeast Psych and Jennifer McConnell are ready to answer your questions.