Get Your Kid Ready For Kindergarten
Walking away from your child on the first day of full-day kindergarten is tough. Even if children have been in preschool or mother’s day out, most of us consider kindergarten the beginning of “real school.” Are they ready to be away from you for the day? How will they behave? Will they sit still, play with other children and listen to the teacher? And this is the time of year that many parents and preschool teachers are deciding whether or not a child is ready for kindergarden.
For children to have success in kindergarten, they should exhibit certain social, academic and fine motor skills. From following directions to counting to cutting with scissors, children will be expected to participate in daily classroom activities. And teachers know that children will vary in their level of these skills.
Tulsa Educare, Inc. Executive Director Caren Calhoun said, “Ideally, to be socially successful in kindergarten, a child should be able to speak clearly, listen and follow simple directions, interact well with other children and adults, think logically, control responses and problem solve.”
A kindergartener’s social skills are influenced by the child’s family life, sibling relationships and preschool or playgroup interactions. “Family life plays an important role in the social behavior of a child. Children have success in the classroom if they develop in an environment of relationships, which start in the home and extend into the school and community,” she said.
A child’s ability to handle his or her emotions and verbalize needs is vital for social success in kindergarten. Children should be able to calm down from disappointment and have the vocabulary to identify and verbalize their emotional state.
“It is important that kindergarten-age children develop strategies to regulate emotions and have the ability to delay gratification,” Calhoun said. “They should be able to separate and be independent from their parents, be aware of the feelings of others and understand rules and boundaries.”
Kindergarten-age children will vary in their academic skills. One child may excel in a certain area while another may struggle with the same concept. Developmentally, at age five, said Calhoun, most children should show some ability to recognize and name colors, letters, shapes and numbers and be able to count.
Reading skills in beginning kindergarteners will also vary. Children exhibit reading readiness if they express an excitement for books and a love of being read to by a parent or teacher.
“Children who experience reading on a regular basis have an academic advantage over those who do not,” Calhoun said. “Children should have a basic foundation of reading, which includes how to care for a book, the recognizing of pictures/objects and naming of letters and being able to re-tell a story that has repeatedly been read to them.”
Kindergarteners will need fine motor skills for holding a pencil, coloring and using scissors. Preschool-age children should be encouraged to use their hands by scribbling, coloring and playing with sand and water. This type of play builds strength in a child’s hands.
Once parents select the kindergarten their child will attend, it is important for the parents and child to become familiar with the new environment before the first day of class. Many schools allow parents to observe a kindergarten class in action and have opportunities for incoming kindergarteners to meet their teacher.
“In an ideal situation, the child would meet the new teacher and talk about his experience with his parent,” Calhoun said. “The partnership between the parent and the teacher is central to the child developing secure relationships so the cognitive and language development can continue to occur along with the social-emotional development.”
Calhoun stresses that schools must provide quality teachers in order for a child to have success in their early years of school. “People talk about children being ready for schools but as a community we need to ensure that we have schools that are ready for children. Quality teachers meet each child where he or she is and individualize learning so that the child can continue to develop and grow to his or her fullest potential.”
In Oklahoma a child must reach the age of 5 by September 1 in order to attend kindergarten. Calhoun is optimistic that children are ready to dive in to kindergarten at the age of five. “The best research on this topic indicates that children should enter school when age eligible and that the school needs to be ready to individualize for each child to support continued growth and development.”
The National Center for Education Statistics (nces.ed.gov) surveyed public school kindergarten teachers on what they consider to be essential to school readiness for kindergarten. The top three qualities that the teachers consider essential are that the child be physically healthy, rested and well-nourished; be able to communicate needs, wants, and thoughts verbally; and be enthusiastic and curious in approaching new activities.
For more about kindergarten classrooms and early childhood learning, go to www.naeyc.org.