Is your child ready for kindergarten? It’s the first rung on the academic ladder, and sometimes parents wonder whether their children are primed for the academics or the social interactions in a kindergarten classroom. At this stage, the two are woven so closely together, said Jack McCarthy, managing director of AppleTree Institute for Education. “It’s like saying, ‘What’s more important, hydrogen or oxygen?’ ” McCarthy said.
We talked to a few educators and experts in the field about areas parents can work on this summer to help prepare kids. We picked eight of them to share with you. Some may surprise you.• Citizenship. Teachers want students to be aware of their community and be willing to be a part of it. They want children to understand they are an important part of a larger group. Give your kids simple jobs around the house that help the household. Explain why it is an important job. Examples include making their bed, clearing their dishes from the table and cleaning up toys.
• Empathy. Understanding others’ feelings is an important part of forming and sustaining friendships. Kids who are aware of others’ emotions are able to play more fluidly. Talk to your children about their own emotions and help them identify them. Also talk about others’ emotions.
• Science. Have conversations with kids about vegetables, herbs, fruits and grains. Explain which foods are more healthful than others and why. Take a trip to the grocery store to explore various foods. If you are able, plant a food you can grow and enjoy together.
• Math. A kindergarteners should have a basic understanding of numbers. When you walk up stairs, count with them. When you give him crackers or berries, count with him. Add a few and take a few away and count with him.
• Books. Reading is a sensitive topic in kindergarten. You can help your children by making sure they love books (read to them!) — and that they understand books. They should know what an author and an illustrator are, they should understand the dedication page and they should know that they read from the left to the right and the top to the bottom. They should also have phonological awareness of letters and rhyming words.
• Following directions. Your children should be able to follow two-step directions such as “take off your shoes and come sit at the table.” In school, they will be asked to complete many tasks on their own and regulate their emotions. Be sure they are able to take their shoes and coats on and off and zip their backpacks without help. They also need to know how to take turns with friends.
• Fine motor skills. Teachers say some kids’ fine motor skills aren’t as strong because they spend so much time with screens. Some kids learn their letters and numbers from a computer or tablet and are not given as many opportunities to write and draw. Give your children crayons and paper often. Let them write letters, draw sunsets, make self-portraits and sometimes just scribble.
• Gross motor skills. Give them plenty of unstructured outdoor play. Let them run and jump and imagine and create outside. When kids are able to run and play on their own they get to know their own bodies and limitations, practice balance and gain strength. Oh, and when they exercise a lot, they sleep much better — something both kids and parents will appreciate.