After many years of both dreaming about and dreading this day (most days you probably find yourself quickly oscillating between the two) you suddenly find yourself registering your child for kindergarten. Where has the time gone? Will your child be ready? Will you be?
As an educator specializing in early literacy development, I know there are few things more important than having a child who feels confident and ready to learn when they enter the classroom for the first time. Fortunately, there are so many great and easily accessible resources available, at little to no cost, which will ensure your child is prepared and ready to go!
One of the most powerfully simple things a parent or caregiver can do is to expose their child to language as often and in as many ways possible. This can include songs, fingerplays and of course, and more importantly, books. Children need to be exposed to the rhythm, rhyme and repetition of the English language so that they themselves can become readers one day. Books that introduce the alphabet in a fun and rhythmic way like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or almost anything by Dr. Seuss are a great way to get your soon to be student learning the letters of the alphabet and the sounds of the English language. Learning the sounds the letters make is one of the most important components of learning to read.
Other important ‘get ready for school’ activities include teaching your child to hold pencils and crayons. You can easily and affordably purchase colouring books and crayons at your local dollar store or even download them for free. Even in today’s technologically advanced classrooms, children still are learning to write by hand and their fine motor skills need to be ready to go. The little muscles in their fingers can also be readied by fun activities like playing with playdough, stringing beads and learning to use scissors.
Another great skill for getting ready for kindergarten is to help your child learn to recognize and print their own name and to learn some basic numeracy skills. Recognizing their own name helps your child know where their cubby is and gives a sense of belonging in the classroom community. It also allows them to be more independent by placing their own name on their work. Basic numeracy skills, being able to count to 10 or 20, will lay the foundation for beginning math skills. These skills can easily be practiced in the context of everyday activities. You can count the stairs to your second floor or counting out five strawberries, placing them on their plate as you get ready for lunch or snack time, will help your child begin to understand the relationship between the concept of the number and its quantity.
Finally, a big part of being a member of a class is mastering all the social skills that will be required of them as a member of a group. For children with daycare experience, they have already been exposed to listening to instructions, using their manners to share and take turns and being age appropriately independent with skills like using the bathroom on their own and getting themselves dressed to go outside. However, if these are not skills your child has had the chance to practice, there are great resources available. Many communitities have some type of Early Years programming for families. For example in Ontario families have access to a local Ontario Early Years Centre. These centres, provide various structured programs and free play times. Local libraries also offer story times and pre-school programming. Becoming a member of a local play group or starting one with some local families can also be a way for your child to practice their newly emerging social skills and to let them experience the fun of being a part of a group.
With a little creativity and not a lot of time or money, there are many ways you can help get your little ones ready for the exciting adventure of kindergarten.
Jennifer Anstiss holds a Masters of Education in Literacy from Mount Saint Vincent University, specializing in the Early Intervention and Prevention of Learning Disabilites. You can learn more at jenniferanstiss.com.