4 Ways to Prepare Your Kiddo for Kindergarten
Ready or not....KG is coming!
Registering your child for kindergarten this fall? This can be an exciting or nerve-wracking time, especially if it's your first child going off to school. One of the most important things you can do for your child is make sure they are ready for the academic learning that lies ahead. According to recent studies, 40% of kids show up to the first day of kindergarten already considered behind, with the majority of those being children of color. These kids often never catch up, which can lead to a significant educational gap down the road. The results from various research are consistent: school readiness is pivotal to later success, both inside and outside the classroom. In this blog post, we will discuss 4 ways you can help prepare your kid for kindergarten and ensure they are ready to learn and thrive on their first day and beyond!
What is Kindergarten Readiness a.k.a. School Readiness?
Kindergarten readiness, or school readiness, is the measure of how prepared a child is for kindergarten in terms of both their social and academic skills. While kindergarten readiness looks different for every child, there are general skills and abilities that all kindergarten-ready children should mostly have. These skills can be divided into three buckets: social/emotional, cognitive (thinking/learning), and physical. Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas.
Social & Emotional Development
One of the most important aspects of kindergarten readiness is social and emotional development. A child who is emotionally ready for kindergarten is able to express their feelings in an appropriate way, follow directions, take turns, and share with others. They also can begin to understand and manage their own emotions as well as the emotions of others.
Kindergarten-ready children should have some basic physical skills. This includes the ability to hold a pencil, use scissors, and cut with them. Kindergarteners should also be able to trace lines, circles, and simple shapes. Additionally, they should be able to hop on one foot and stand on their tiptoes.
Finally, kindergarten-ready children should also have some basic cognitive skills. This includes the ability to recognize some letters of the alphabet, know basic colors and shapes, and understand simple numbers. Additionally, kindergarteners should be able to pay attention for short periods of time and remember simple instructions.
The Kindergarten Readiness Gap
As mentioned earlier, kindergarten readiness is a key predictor of later success, both inside and outside the classroom. Studies have shown that children who are not kindergarten-ready are more likely to struggle in school and are less likely to graduate from high school. Surprisingly, it is not uncommon to see a 5-year range of academic skills in children as early as kindergarten. For example, some five-year-old children start their first day of kindergarten with the skills of a 3-year old, while some can already read like an 8-year old. On average, when Black and Latinx children enter school, their academic skills lag behind their white counterparts in areas such as vocabulary, reading, and math. But what are the factors that contribute to this school-readiness gap?
Factors Affecting KG-Readiness
There are several factors that contribute to how prepared a child is to begin their very first day of formal schooling. Often times, socio-economics play a role because children from low-income households are less likely to have access to high-quality preschool programs, which gives them a head start on their education. Additionally, they are also more likely to live in neighborhoods with fewer resources and higher levels of stress, which can have a negative impact on brain development and learning. One of the single most important contributors to school readiness though, is parenting. Parents and primary caregivers play a significant role in preparing their children to thrive in a school setting.
For years, tests have regularly reported substantial racial and ethnic gaps that already exist by the time children enter kindergarten. When looking at differences in parenting behaviors, there are striking differences when it comes to skills such as language use. Studies show that Black and Latinx caregivers are less likely to read to their children daily and also talk less with young children than white mothers do. Black and Latinx families also have fewer books and learning materials in their homes.
By concentrating on key aspects of early childhood development, caregivers can ultimately close ethnic and racial gaps in educational outcomes. To put it more clearly, caregivers can influence how ready their children are for school irrespective of economic and racial factors. With this influence, they can give their kids the leverage they need to succeed. As parents and primary caregivers, what you do to support your child’s early learning really does matter!
It is important to remember that learning starts from birth and not from preschool or kindergarten. This is why you should be intentional about helping your child foster early learning skills. But what skills your child should have before starting their first day of kindergarten? Below you will find a FREE Kindergarten Readiness Checklist to guide you.
How To Help Your Child Get Ready for Kindergarten
Now that we’ve talked about what kindergarten readiness looks like and why it’s so important, here are 4 ways you can help your child get ready for kindergarten.
1. Read, Read, READ!
One of the best things you can do to prepare your child for kindergarten is to read with them every day. This helps with letter recognition, attention span, and vocabulary development. Not only will this help them develop their literacy skills, but it will also help foster a love for learning. As you read, make sure that they understand that that words are read from left to right, and have them practice turning the pages of the book in the proper direction.
As your read, make sure to ask your child simple questions about the story to work on their comprehension and deepen their understanding of the text. When reading fiction books, or made-up stories, ask your child questions such as who are the characters, where did the story take place, what was the problem in the story, and afterwards, have them retell you the story, explaining what happened by using the pictures as a guide. When reading nonfiction, or factual text, be sure to use our free Nonfiction Discussion Questions PDF download - full of questions you can use before, during, or after reading to help deepen your child's understanding of any nonfiction text.
2. Develop Early Math Skills
Work on counting and shapes. A big part of kindergarten is learning numbers and basic math concepts. You can help prepare your child by working on counting with them at home. You can also start teaching them basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. Make sure to point out colors, shapes, and numbers when you’re out and about or doing everyday activities at home. And lastly, engage in simple learning games and activities with your child that focus on matching, sorting, and counting.
3. Practice Their Name
Make sure your child can recognize their own name. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many kids show up to kindergarten without being able to recognize their own name. Practice writing and saying your child's name with them often so they are comfortable with it.
4. Get Them Familiar With the Alphabet
One of the first things kids learn in kindergarten is the alphabet. You can help your child get a head start by familiarizing them with the letters of the alphabet. Remember, letters do not have to be taught in order! Start with the letters in their name and then move on to other letters, focusing on a couple at a time. It may also help to begin with capital/uppercase letters first as children often find them easier to visually distinguish than lowercase letters, but they will eventually need to know both upper and lowercase forms when they learn to read in kindergarten. You can also sing songs or read books that focus on the alphabet.
It’s important to know that your child is not expected to be reading before they get to kindergarten (most kids don’t), but reading to them often and working on pre-reading skills such as letter and sound knowledge will make it easier for your child when they are ready to do so. Also, don’t put too much pressure on your child – or on yourself! Please keep in mind that these skills and the free Kindergarten Skills Checklist simply include guidelines that will help ensure that your child is ready with the necessary learning skills to thrive on the first day; although the exact expectations may vary from program to program.
Also keep in mind that kids learn in different ways and at different speeds. The last thing you want is for your child to have negative feelings about school. These skills are best taught in small doses with repetition over time, so just don’t try to do it all at once! All of these skills will also be reviewed in kindergarten, so if your child isn't proficient by their first day, don't panic! Equipping your child with a strong foundation in early reading and math skills will only help to ensure that your child enters school ready to learn.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE….
A Free Gift from Us - Our Kindergarten Readiness Checklist!
By taking some time to focus on kindergarten readiness, you can help your child start kindergarten on the right foot and set them up for success in school and in life. To help, we have created a free Kindergarten Readiness Checklist to ensure that your child is prepared with the necessary learning skills so they can begin kindergarten ready to learn!
Want to help your child learn the alphabet?
Check out our Alphabet Matching Puzzles! Teach your child the letters and sounds of the alphabet with our NEW Alphabet Matching Puzzles! But these aren't your typical “A is for apple” puzzles….
Our unique learning puzzles use words related to Black culture or feature Black characters in the images. Created by a teacher, the Alphabet Matching Puzzles were specifically designed to help all children develop essential pre-reading skills, and help Black children connect to early learning like never before!