By: Liz German, Director of Child Care, YWCA McLean County
Once you have decided that your child is ready for Kindergarten, it is important to prepare them for the transition. Gone are the days where Kindergarten is a loosely structured play and nap time routine. It once was enough to count to 100 and be able to write your name. Now, with the emergence of ever rising state and federal standards and the prevalence of child care options, children are being asked to do much more at a younger and younger age. Most young children are used to group settings, but neither children nor parents are used to the formality that Kindergarten has become.
Preparing for Kindergarten is much more than buying a new backpack and school supplies. It is important to change or tweak what is being done at home to better prepare your child for a formal classroom setting. Here are some tips to help your child prepare in this manner.
Encourage your child to label his/her feelings. Behavior problems are the number one issue for classroom teachers.
- When your child is upset or acts out, encourage him/her to put it into words or explain why and what they felt. This builds your child’s vocabulary, self awareness, and accountability for his/her words and actions.
- Children can more clearly identify problems when they have the language to do so and have practiced these types of conversations. Give them these tools. If he/she cannot verbalize anger or sadness, a disagreement can quickly become a tantrum or possibly aggressive behavior.
- Repeat back to your child what you think he/she said. This models active listening. Encourage your child to do the same when listening to you. This shows your child that you listened and understood what they said. In essence, you are teaching your child empathy. Children will learn more in a group setting when they can take turns and listen to others.
- If children are struggling with how to express themselves, give them the materials to draw a picture and explain it. Sometimes it is hard to get the ball rolling and it will flow more naturally through art or play.
Give your child clear expectations and chances to practice responsibility at home. Sometimes individual choices are possible at school and sometimes they are not. This is a new concept for many children. It is also helpful when children understand that there is a routine and schedule. This gives them consistency and stability.
- Set times at home that are for free play and times for following instructions. A structured meal and bed time routine helps your child remember and follow through with rules and schedules. Remind your child that this will take place at school too.
- Practice giving children two or three step directions. This can become fun with games like Simon Says or having him/her help with a cooking project that has a few steps.
Give your child a chance to move each day after school and be physically active as much as possible. Not only is it good for them, but children learn through play. Be active with your children and you will see them work out conflicts through play. Following rules and playing games give children a chance to work out conflicts and problem solve. All children are unique and some simply need more activity in order to maintain their composure at school. If you know that your child is high energy, give him/her those opportunities to release energy in a positive way so he can be successful in school.
New environments are nerve wracking for any 5 or 6 year old. Add to this the pressure of learning so many new skills in a large group and children can easily develop fears or doubts about themselves. Be supportive and encouraging, but remind yourself that each child learns and develops at his/her own pace and in his or her own way. The skills and learning will come when a child is curious, confident, able to self regulate, and express themselves in a positive way. Education is not a race or competition, it is a process, and a very rewarding journey for both parent and child!
For more information, please contact Liz German at (309) 662-0461 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit YWCA’s website at www.ywcamclean.org to learn more about Kindergarten readiness in YWCA child care programs.