Education Matters: Five tips to get your children ready for kindergarten
With summer in full swing, many families are focused on seasonal activities and vacations. But for the parents of children who will be starting school for the first time in the fall, the longer days of summer provide a great opportunity to prepare them for the upcoming changes.
While many people associate a child's school readiness with his knowledge of the alphabet and ability to count, early childhood teachers agree that socio-emotional development and self-care skills are essential if children are to begin school ready to achieve academically.
Success in academics is much easier when children know how to share and take turns, can control their emotions and can operate independently in the bathroom and lunchroom.
As a former kindergarten teacher, there are five areas in which I encourage parents to concentrate their efforts this summer.
First, teach your child to enjoy story time. Many, if not most, lessons in an early childhood classroom begin with the teacher reading a picture book to the class. Take your child to the library for story time.
Beforehand, talk to him about sitting quietly, listening during the story and raising his hand to answer the teacher's questions afterward. Praise him for meeting your expectations.
Second, teach your child to use the restroom independently. While most children entering pre-kindergarten and kindergarten are toilet-trained, many require help with buttons and zippers, forget to flush and must be reminded to wash their hands. Use the summer to teach self-help skills and ingrain hygiene habits.
Third, teach your child his full name and how to write his first name. Parents often worry about their child being left on the bus or getting into the wrong class's lunch line.
Making sure he can identify himself is the first step in getting him back to where he should be. Likewise, making sure he can label his own work and belongings will ensure their return if they are misplaced.
Fourth, practice lunchroom procedures with your child. Can your child open a milk carton and poke a straw into a juice box? Is he comfortable speaking to a stranger to indicate what he wants on his lunch tray? Does he know how to sit at a table to eat and clean up his place when finished?
And finally, teach your child to deal with conflict with other children. Though we all want our children to grow up to be positively assertive and to stand up for themselves, young children are not able to tell the difference between intentional and accidental hurts.
They need a caring adult to listen to both sides, help the children see each other's viewpoints and talk about ways to resolve the problem. Teach your child to involve the teacher rather than strike back.
Starting school is a significant milestone for both you and your child. Independence and positive social skills will be the foundation on which strong academic abilities will be built in the years to come.
Jill Fox is a professor of early childhood education in the University of Houston-Victoria School of Education & Human Development and director of assessment in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Her research interests are art and learning for young children.