With a record number of preschoolers kept at home during the pandemic, it is hard to determine the impact of readiness for children who will begin kindergarten in the fall.
But experts agree that across the board, incoming kindergartners will likely be behind not only academically, but also in social-emotional skills.
“What’s most important for parents to do, in terms of readying their children for kindergarten, has to do with how the routines of school differ from those of home,” says Marie Donovan, associate professor of Teacher Education and program director of Early Childhood Education at DePaul University. “Parents can do a lot to start pointing out those differences over the summer, so children won’t feel blindsided or shocked when they physically arrive in school. They’ll also have the language and social interaction skills they’ll need to be active citizens of their classroom communities.”
Here are ways parents can prepare their kids for kindergarten.
Use lots of language.
Research shows that it’s not just about knowing words, but how to use them in conversation that elevates children’s reading and learning to read. Talk to them about anything and everything. Answer their why questions (why is the sky blue? why do I have to go to bed so early?) and take every opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your child.
Read bedtime stories.
Reading aloud to children promotes healthy brain development and promotes literacy. Plus, it is a beautiful way to bond with your child daily.
Ask your child to set the table and get four plates; take them grocery shopping with you and have them put two apples in the cart; play hide-and-seek with them and count out loud.
Let them learn through play.
Puzzles and blocks help build thinking and problem-solving skills. They are also tactile and great for spacial awareness.
Help them re-learn how to engage with others.
Kids entering kindergarten might not remember life pre-pandemic. Because of our abundance of caution, parents should reacclimate kids with being social with others. This is also an opportunity to explain healthy (3 feet or more) boundaries to kids.
Give them opportunity for leadership.
Leadership gives children the opportunity to develop responsibility. Whether it is selecting chores off a chore chart or letting a child hand money to a cashier at a store, provide children with small opportunities to take charge of a situation.
Develop and follow routines.
Set up and follow routines that will transfer into a school setting, like getting dressed, having breakfast and packing lunch.
Focus on self-care skills.
Work with your child to ensure they can wipe and wash their hands (and their butts) after using the restroom. Teach them proper cough and sneeze etiquette (using their elbow). They should also know how to put on and zip their coat and at least be working on tying their own shoes.
Help them follow directions.
Learning to follow directions is an important life skill and is vital for school success. Playing Simon Says is a great way to teach this skill in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
Strengthen fine motor skills.
Whether it is making cards or drawing pictures, give children the opportunity to create various art projects using pencils, scissors and crayons.
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