My son is starting school this year (where has the time gone!?) I am really excited about him starting a new chapter in his life but I am also a little bit nervous. I know that elementary school is a whole new ball game for kids – There are larger classes and less one-on-one time. So, I want to be sure that my son is really well prepared.
I went to the first person I always go to when I need any advice that is early childhood related – my twin sister Christina!
Preparing Your Kids for Kindergarten
One major philosophy I have is: never wait for anyone to teach your child anything. This goes back to the saying “you are your child’s first and most important teacher!” I always try and expose my kids to all of the learning opportunities found in our daily life.
Here are some simple activities that will help your child get ready for Kindergarten! (Please remember each child is unique and an individual and some activities may need to be adjusted depending on your child’s learning style or stage of development).
It is important not only for your child to be able to rote count (count from 1 – 10) but also exposing them to identifying what the numbers look like is important as well. Numbers are found everywhere from grocery boxes, books to houses on your walk to the park. Also, teaching number concepts is also important for your child to get ready for Kindergarten (what does 3 look like when counting objects). Practice by counting toys, or food at mealtimes; “how many peas are on your plate?” (if you’re lucky enough to have a child who eats peas!) Expose them to more and less as well by asking them questions like “which pile of blocks has more?” will also help with this understanding.
Fine motor Skills
Providing activities to help strengthen muscles in your child’s hands goes a long way. Playdough (I’ve provided a recipe below) is a cheap and easy way for your child to create masterpieces and build these muscles. Offer scissors, rolling pins and cookie cutters and you’ll be amazed at what they will create!
At the beginning of every school year, I always notice how many parents are scared of scissors (for obvious reasons). A lot of people don’t realize how cutting with scissors and printing go hand-in-hand. Children who learn how to cut will have an easier time printing. Invest in a child-friendly pair of scissors (don’t worry, these only cut paper!), give them an old newspaper, magazine or paper and let them try! They may need you to show them the proper grip in the beginning but they will get the hang of it in no time! This is a great activity while you are making dinner, and keeps them busy for a while. Once they master this skill, challenge them by drawing lines across paper (wavy, zig zag and straight) and tell them to cut on the line. This will help them fully master this skill.
Teaching your child how to print their name is not always easy. Children do not have to be printing to enter kindergarten, but they will be one step ahead if they can. Start by having them trace their name. You can easily print practice sheets online or a simpler way is write their name in a yellow highlighter and have them trace it with a pencil. Some children have no interest in printing, just follow their lead and give them a break when they need it. Continue to challenge them by showing them how to print other letters as well. Lastly, it is important that your child can not only print their name, but that they can recognize it as well.
Teaching your child to hold a pencil is an important skill that will help your child when they start Kindergarten. In my classroom, we use the pinch and flip method. Lay the pencil down on a table with the pointed side facing their dominant hand. Once they pinch the pencil, they flip it holding it with the proper grip (diagram below).
Some children need some extra support with this. Another fantastic trick that I find very helpful is using a cotton ball to help them with their grip. When they hold a cotton ball with their pinky and ring finger, it helps them stay out of the way of properly gripping the pencil (see diagram below). Practice makes perfect!
Every child is different, some need a little bit of extra practice but they will get there!
My biggest recommendation (if you haven’t started already) is read to your child every day. If English isn’t your first language, then read in your first language, it doesn’t matter! This is key in expanding language, learning new things and a beautiful way to spend time with your kids.
Your child should be able to identify some (if not all) letters before they enter kindergarten. Back in the day, parents thought if their children knew the “ABC” song that they were good to go! Obviously this is not the case. With regards to pre-reading skills, it is beneficial that your child can identify their letters, and as many sounds as they can learn before kindergarten. Remember, the order of the letters makes no difference in their pre-reading skills. A great movie that my son loves is letter factory by leapfrog. It is a very engaging movie that teaches the letter sounds, kids love it! (Who has time so sit there and teach letter by letter!) Once they learn more and more sounds, use your environment to apply it; look that’s a cow, what letter makes the sound “c”? My son loves to play “I Spy” using letter sounds as well, “I spy something that starts with the sound “mmmm”. It will melt your heart to see how much they love to learn! They will be so proud of themselves as well.
It is only natural that we want to help our kids, it’s our born instinct! As they grow up though, it is crucial that we help them gain their independence. When they enter kindergarten, they will not have you to help them put on their coat, shoes, and take them to the bathroom. Enforcing this as early as possible will result in a smoother transition into kindergarten. I am guilty of helping my son put his shoes on, especially when you’re in a rush!
Try your best to plan ahead and leave a little bit of extra time so that they can dress themselves. Trust me, they will be a lot less frustrated when they have to do it on their own in school! (Don’t worry, there is always someone to help if they’re stuck, but the more practice they get, the more time they will be having fun!)
Here are some tricks to help your child dress themselves independently. Put 2 small dots on the inside of their shoes. Teach them when the dots match up, that’s the right way (and remember, Velcro is always best!) Putting on their coat is not always the easiest, but try the “flip trick” (Diagram below). This will allow them to do it with ease! Have them put the collar of their coat to their toes, have them bend down and put their hands in the sleeves. They will then swing their arms around over their head and jacket will be on! They may need to practice a few times before they get it.
Exposing your child to different social situations (in different environments) will allow for a smoother transition into school while giving them opportunities to develop their social skills. Daycare is financially not always an option, but there are plenty of free programs which will provide great social play. The Ontario Early Years Centers are free drop-in centers which provide fun programs for you and your child to experience together! These programs are geared from babies to children up to 6 years old. It is also a great place to receive information on your child’s development as well. Here is a link to get some more information on what the programs offer http://www.oeyc.edu.gov.on.ca/questions/index.aspx. A lot of research has proven that play is the best way to stimulate early learning (which has inspired the play-based approach for the full day kindergarten program). Every play opportunity for your child will provide them time to socialize, learn, role play and use all of their skills.
Remember: Don’t worry so much. Parents spend a lot of time comparing their child to others of the same age. Every child is unique and different. Consult further resources if you’re concerned of how your child is developing and eventually, children will reach goals at their own pace. Here is a general guideline of what to expect at 3-4 years old: http://tvo.org/article/what-expect-3-4-years http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/checklists/checklists_4yr.pdf.
Don’t forget to always communicate any concerns with your pediatricians or health professional and seek extra help when needed.
Lastly, try and take your child to their new school if possible before the first day so that they will get more comfortable to the new surroundings. I wish the best of luck to all of your little ones as they enter this new and exciting chapter in their lives!
No cook playdough recipe
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of salt
2 tbs of cream of tartar
1 tbs of oil
1 cup of boiling water
Mix all ingredients except the boiling water together into a large mixing bowl
Add the boiling water and mix well (Note, the food colouring will mix in better if added to the boiling water) Please take care when using boiling water around children.
Stir well until the mixture is well combined
Roll it out on a flat surface and you are ready for some playdough FUN!