• Donae

Getting your child ready for kindergarten

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Kindergarten is already approaching around the corner for your 5-year-old, or soon to be 5 years old before September of the current year.


Where did the time go? It was not so long ago that you were probably like myself oohing and aahing … and wiping their little snotty noses with such joy. But now, you have to get them ready for kindergarten.


As the time approaches, however, for some parents it's a withdrawal nightmare while for others, they are bursting with excitement and can't wait to send them packing. I think for most of us as moms our biggest worry is if they will be ready for this big step into the regular rhythm of school.


Maybe you have already gotten your child familiar with leaving home by attending a daycare, or other school arrangements. For others, however (especially kids that stayed at home), that might not be the case. Whatever the situation is for each parent, the question is still the same. Is my child ready for kindergarten and should I be worried?


I have experienced both worlds and I am here to provide you with as much information as I can to help you with the transition. My eldest is already in kindergarten and my youngest has one more year to go.


My first experience with kindergarten started with e-learning as a result of covid-19. I was present virtually online with my son and his class for an entire semester (parents had to be present in the room... yikes!). We decided, however, for the second semester to send our son back to school (brick and mortar), just so that he would be ready to transition to1st grade, should they request that all students return to the classroom setting.


I completely understand that most parents are of course initially worried about academics, as I was myself. Is he going to understand? Does he know enough letters and numbers? Interestingly enough and to be honest with you, kindergarten is not only about academics. That is only one part of the readiness approach. There is so much more.


We have to as parents approach kindergarten readiness on 3 levels, academics, self-care, and social-emotional skills, based on my initial experience that I will mention in more detail below.


Do you currently have a kindergartener or are you getting your child ready for this milestone? Let me know. Please feel free to share your own experiences or ask your questions or concerns in our FORUM section. I will be happy to help you!


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“Kindergarten readiness can be assessed on 3 levels, academic, self care and social-emotional skills."

ACADEMIC SKILLS

These are the skills that I was able to identify while my eldest started kindergarten. Just an FYI, I am not a kindergarten teacher, just an observant parent. Be reminded that each child is unique and will react differently to this new experience. Taking the time needed, however, to help your child get ready for each milestone is important in every aspect of their developmental growth.


Identify letters and letter sounds

It is easier when your child is able to identify all the letters of the alphabet and not just to sing the alphabet song. Recognizing each letter individually and being able to say what it is verbally when asked is a good starting point. Also Identifying the letters in their first and last name especially is really important as well.


Another skill that is encouraged by kindergarten teachers is to get your child to become familiar with letter sounds. There are videos online on youtube (my favorite is Jack Hartmann) which can really help with this. My youngest was able to learn really quickly his letter sounds by listening to repetitive songs about the alphabet.


It is also a bonus to teach your child how to identify the first letter and their corresponding sound in each word. This is done frequently throughout kindergarten and can really help your child to progress a lot easier when it comes to reading readiness.


Identify numbers 1-10

Recognizing the numbers, 1-10 can definitely help your child to get started in kindergarten. While it is not expected that they know beyond the number 10 before kindergarten, it is ok to start getting them familiar at their level of comfort with numbers beyond 10 up to 20. Playing number games or you-tube videos can help with this.


Holding a pencil, marker, or crayon correctly

My son struggled with this, while he was in pre-k. He held the pencil with a grip for a long time. Eventually, with much practice, he was able to get comfortable with holding a pencil. There are techniques that can be used to help children to start practicing holding a pencil and getting comfortable with doing so.


A trick that I used with my child (a recommendation from a pre-k teacher), was to have them hold a cotton ball with a grip in the palm of their hand while holding the pencil with the thumb and pointer finger. Have them practice this way until they feel comfortable enough holding it with two fingers on their own.


Handwriting

The first step in handwriting is knowing how to write their own names (I recommend knowing, saying, and writing their first and last name prior to kindergarten). At the beginning of kindergarten, each child is expected to be able to write their names on all paperwork independently. What I did with my kids was to have them practice writing their names repeatedly on handwriting sheets or journals.


Another skill is to have them write the alphabet in both uppercase and lowercase letters for easier recognition. This can be something that you can have them do on a daily basis, just to get familiar with the process. You can use a stage-3 journal, a small whiteboard with a marker (dollar store), handwriting sheets, and writing books. I also suggest doing different activities to encourage fun while your child learns to write. I suggest a few below that you can easily find in stores or on Amazon.com.


Reading from left to right (directionality)

Being aware of what a book is and how to read it correctly, is so important. We may not have thought about this, but observing it for myself made it easier to understand. There is sudden independence that is expected when kids get to kindergarten and that involves knowing how to hold a book and read a book the correct way from left to right. Also knowing how to flip the pages in a book independently is key. Kids start using books a lot more to do school work and assignments that they may not have had much exposure to from before. If you haven't done this so far, then I suggest having your child independently hold a book, turn the pages and get comfortable with doing so the correct way.


Phonics

In kindergarten kids begin learning sight words. They start with simple words and then advance with more words as they progress throughout kindergarten. Now I do not expect you to go off on a tantrum and start teaching your kids the top 200 site words! I do however suggest that you start to help your kids to recognize frequently used words to prepare them for reading readiness. The best way I have found to do this is to read with my child for at least 20 minutes each day. When I do see familiar words, I can help them to start recognizing words by reading them slowly and repeating them frequently.


Another major help with kindergarten success is to start introducing rhyming words to your kids, e.g. red and bed, sit and hit, etc. It is according to kindergarten teachers, a great way to start introducing early reading literacy. They are able to connect words that are similar together when trying to read or write.


Storytelling

Storytelling is done more often in kindergarten, so activities like this can definitely build confidence in understanding and answering questions as they progress. Getting your child ready involves helping them to understand and to recall parts of a story when read. While reading with your child, ask questions that allow them to interact with the story as well. My favorite questions to ask are... What do you think will happen next? or Who is the main character? What would you do? etc. This is an excellent way for you to understand your child's learning ability better and to also identify any learning curves.


Shapes, Colors, and patterns

Learning shapes, colors, and patterns as well is vital when getting ready for kindergarten. The ability to start identifying colors and recognizing their words can really help. Also knowing and identifying different shapes and patterns is also key in getting familiar with kindergarten work. I suggest using books, videos, printables, etc. that can help with the recognition of shapes, colors, and patterns. I recommend this preschool book that you can find on amazon. It covers much of the framework for kindergarten.

Drawing

Drawing is done frequently in kindergarten. The ability to draw different objects, characters, etc was the expectation. It was another challenging transition for my child. He was just getting comfortable with using the pencil correctly and drawing what he liked. In the classroom setting, however, he had to draw pictures that were related to what he was writing about. What I found to be helpful was allowing him to watch "How to Draw" videos on you-tube. He loved doing that, and it really helped him tremendously to improve his drawing skills and also to draw related pictures.


Cutting with scissors and applying glue

This is a major one, and something we may often overlook while getting our kids prepared. The use of scissors is actually done a lot in kindergarten. They are always doing projects, art, and craft, painting, etc. I therefore highly recommend having your child practice using scissors. I like to get old magazines and have them practice cutting things out and then gluing them on craft paper.

SELF-CARE

Self-care is another overlooked area that we don't really think about but need to be aware of. Kindergarten is the beginning of independence.


Go to the restroom independently

With that being said, many times they are required to go to the bathroom on their own and also wash their hands and dry them independently. As moms, we may sometimes do this a lot for our kids not realizing their need to practice doing it on their own.


Based on my observations, kindergarten teachers are pretty busy teaching and cannot facilitate bringing each child to the bathroom at every moment, especially with some teachers having to teach both e-learners and brick and mortars students together.


I strongly suggest if your child is not already independent to start prepping them and teaching them bathroom readiness.


Change their clothes independently

In addition to that we very aware that accidents can happen and children may need to change their clothes while at school (Don't forget to send extra clothes with your child to school). I strongly also recommend that you teach your child how to dress and undress himself independently. Practice this at home with your child until they are comfortable. Buttons, zippers, and laces are harder to do but they will eventually learn that later on as they grow.


Have their own lunch or go to the cafeteria for lunch independently

Maybe I was of the perception that they would have their teacher chaperone the lunchtime routine, just like in a daycare setting. This was not the case in kindergarten. Lunchtime also calls for independence. Removing and eating your packed lunch in a set period of time for a break or going to the cafeteria for lunch independently was expected of them. It was a challenge at first for my son, but thanks to his super helpful classmates, he was able to do this on his own, when he got back to school.


SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL

This is another area that is often overlooked by parents as well. I am guilty of that. We don't really think about our child having to independently move to a new environment and becoming comfortable with a sudden change in routine.


Withdrawal anxiety

Expect some emotion to happen initially especially in children who may not have been exposed to going to a daycare setting prior to kindergarten.


The best way if no daycare exposure is to have your child interact more with a group of kids in any setting for example at church, in your community, local mom meeting groups, or local educational programs, etc.


Also, try to start teaching your child what being away from mom and dad may look like and about being ok with doing so. It will really help with the transition to kindergarten.


Depending on what resources are available in your neighborhood, research to see if there are any programs available in your city or state. For example, my state in the U.S. offers free VPK programs to help get kids ready for kindergarten. It is offered for free either during the summer before kindergarten or during the school year. The program is really helpful as it prepares children for the transition to kindergarten.


Another option, if it's affordable, is to enroll your child into daycare for maybe once to twice or three times a week in order to help them to learn how to listen to their teachers and also interact with other children.


Paying attention for longer periods of time

Paying attention for at least a minimum of 30-minute intervals is expected in kindergarten. I observed in my son's class that the expectation was that he would sit for longer periods of time and actually pay attention to what the teacher is saying or doing.


This was a major transition especially during the e-learning period, where he was expected to be in class sessions for longer periods of time throughout the day. It was a struggle initially, but then as he progressed, he became more comfortable.


In pre-school settings this is sometimes practiced with children in the form of circle time etc. therefore, some children do get some exposure to sitting for long periods of time. If that may not be the case for you, then I would suggest finding a local group or school environment that can help with practicing to sit and listen for longer periods of time.


LOOK FOR RESOURCES TO HELP YOU

Look for resources that may be available to help your children along the way. I suggest checking with any children's board that is in your city or country. Also asking questions from kindergarten teachers or teachers from your child's pre-kindergarten for helpful tips and questions that you may have.


These were my observations thus far. I will however provide more feedback as my son continues to progress through kindergarten. I do hope that this information was helpful and that it will help with an easier transition for kindergarten. If you haven't started preparing your child for kindergarten enrollment in the fall, now is the time to implement a few of these skills as the time approaches.


If you plan to do e-learning for kindergarten I suggest checking out my blog post on How to survive e-learning in the 3 to 5-year-old category.


Did you find the strategies listed in this article helpful? What were some of your favorite tips? How have they worked for you? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know what you think.


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