Parent Savvy, Parenting

Is my child ready for Kindergarten?

This blog post was written as an “Ask the Expert” for Parent Savvy:  Ready for Kindergarten?

One thing these questions all have in common is that parents are trying to figure out if their children will be comfortable in a Kindergarten classroom, and how to help their child settle in successfully and thrive. In a child’s early years, a few months can make a huge difference developmentally. While it is natural to compare a child to his peers, it is important to refocus on understanding each child’s unique developmental profile.

The first step I recommend to parents is to get in touch with their local school district or Educational Service Unit to find out about Kindergarten Screening opportunities. Five year old children are big kids compared to those tiny infants we remember cradling in our arms, but they are still quite young. There is a lot of variability among children this age with regard to social, emotional, cognitive, language, and physical development. By taking your child for a Kindergarten Screening, you will be able to take a big picture look at all of the different skills and abilities that your child will need to be successful in Kindergarten, and talk to her new school about strategies to make the transition easier for their unique developmental profile.

What is a Kindergarten Screening?

A Kindergarten Screening is like a check-up in the pediatrician’s office, with more of a focus on the social, emotional, cognitive, language, and motor skills your child needs to be successful in school. In a Kindergarten Screening, you will answer a questionnaire about your child’s developmental milestones. Your child may be asked to play some fun games, talk with a Kindergarten teacher, or demonstrate their physical abilities by skipping, hopping, or walking on a balance beam. You will have an opportunity to talk with the Kindergarten teachers and school district staff about whether your child is ready to make the big leap to elementary school.

The screening tool that school districts use provides a helpful guide for looking at your child holistically, so you can work together to make the decision about whether your child is ready to transition to Kindergarten, needs more time in a preschool classroom, or would fit in best with a group of first grade children.

Relationally Ready for Kindergarten?

Finding the right fit for your child involves more than whether your child knows letters and numbers. Working and playing with peers is a huge part of the learning that happens in Kindergarten and provides a foundation for children as they progress through their schooling.

The Screening can provide another bonus for children who are worried about the new school building, new friends, and new teachers. Going to a kindergarten round up event or a visit to the Kindergarten classroom your child will enter can help her become more familiar with the place and people. This can alleviate her anxiety about the transition.

Children build on the foundation of their earlier relationships to build new friendships and attachments to their teachers in Kindergarten. You and your child care provider can talk about going to Kindergarten as an exciting new adventure and send a positive message to your child about this next step. Sharing stories of other friends that have made the transition to Kindergarten can help your child realize that this a natural next step in growing up.

There are also many great stories about getting ready for Kindergarten that might be fun to read. Some stories I enjoy are Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate, My Kindergarten and Yoko by Rosemary Wells, and Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London. Visit your local library and ask the librarians for their favorite recommendations, too.

Good luck with the leap to Kindergarten!

Parent Savvy, Parenting

Activities to Help me Grow

Every day errands and chores are a great time to involve your child and help him or her learn and grow. Parents and caregivers often think they need to use computer software, videos, or workbooks for “learning” but actually, young children learn from every day experiences and learn best when they are involved in hands-on activities. Plus, they love to help and be part of what you are doing. Here are some ideas to help you get started with suggestions for different ages of children.

1. Talk about what you are doing.

It may feel funny at first, especially with a small infant or toddler who cannot talk back to you or ask questions. Try to pretend you are on a cooking or “do it yourself” show while your infant or toddler is watching you or playing by your side. You can describe the actions you are doing while cooking or working in the garden. Describe what you see around you as you are driving in the car or at the grocery store. Your child is learning new words and concepts just by hearing you talk.

2. Read signs and words around you.

Children learn that printed words carry a message from the signs and words that are in their world. Try pointing out the signs of familiar stores, traffic signs, and signs with information. You might be surprised at how quickly your child learns to point out “S-T-O-P Stop!” Through these experiences, children learn that letters come together to form words and these words carry a message…key things for readers to know!

3. Laundry time is math time?

Even toddlers can sort out all of the socks from a basket of laundry. Preschoolers may be able to match the socks into pairs. Young children can fold simple things like pillow cases, washcloths, and towels. Try giving your child their own little basket and asking them to sort or fold a certain type of laundry. They are learning early math skills of classification, shapes, fractions, (learning to fold in halves and quarters) and building their sense of competence as they help you.

4. Dusting, picking up, and direction following?

Try giving your child a damp rag and asking them to dust certain surfaces. Make it a game by giving interesting directions… “Can you dust three things that are green? Can you pick up all of the purple blocks and put them in the basket?” Then encourage your child to look for furniture or the toys that you have described. Being able to follow directions and use clues are both important early learning skills. Children may be motivated when you make a job a game.

5. Let’s watch things grow together!

Your child will enjoy working by your side in the garden. They may enjoy planting seedlings or flowers with you. They can learn important science skills about their natural world when working by your side. A small child sized rake can be fun to use in the fall. Children can help bag leaves, pickup sticks, and dig up weeds in the garden if you show them how to identify plants that are weeds.

Work and play side by side with your child and they will be learning every day!

Written for Parent Savvy:  Activities to Help Me Grow

and also posted on the Learning Child Blog: