Are some of your preschoolers going to kindergarten at the start of the new school year? Make sure children are getting the support they need at home and answer any questions parents may have with these tips on helping parents prepare their children (and themselves) for kindergarten.
What Is School Readiness?
There are many components to school readiness, but it essentially means that preschoolers have the social, emotional, and early academic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Head Start specifically lists the definition of school readiness as “…children possessing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for success in school and for later learning and life.” Both teachers and parents play a role in helping children develop the necessary skills needed for school success, but parents often have a difficult time understanding what they can do to help their child, which is why it’s important for educators to provide parents of preschoolers with helpful tips and information they can use at home.
What Can Parents Do to Help Their Children Prepare for Kindergarten?
Parents can help their children meet school readiness goals by simply involving them in what they’re doing and being aware of opportunities for learning. Here are a few engaging tips you can pass along to parents to help them prepare their soon-to-be kindergarteners for the start of school.
Four Parent-Friendly Strategies to Encourage School Readiness
1. Take advantage of organic opportunities to evoke learning.
Learning should happen naturally, which is why it’s important for parents to utilize everyday tasks as organic learning opportunities. Something as simple as taking their child with them to the grocery store or help them cook a meal provides a variety of opportunities for organic learning. Children can learn to count, take turns, and more without even realizing they’re learning. Check out this list of organic learning ideas for parents to utilize at home. You can easily share this list with children’s parents by downloading our FREE printable.
2. Allow children to practice their own independence.
Allowing children to practice their independence will ultimately help children have a smoother transition to kindergarten because children will not feel as dependent on their parents and they will have more confidence in their own abilities. Parents should at least let children try completing tasks on their own. Even if their socks are inside out and their shoes are on the wrong feet, giving them the opportunity to dress themselves helps them build their self-confidence and helps them become more independent.
3. Don’t force children to learn.
Learning should not be scheduled or forced. If a child doesn’t like to garden, don’t make him or her work in one in order to learn about plants and nutrition. Instead, parents need to find an activity their children are interested in and incorporate learning into that activity. It’s also imperative that parents provide as many hands-on experiences as possible. For example, a family trip to a pumpkin patch (or bringing home a few pumpkins for children to explore) will be much more memorable than learning about pumpkins through flash cards or a worksheet.
4. Remember that school readiness involves more than academic skills.
If you look at a school readiness checklist, you’ll probably find a variety of early academic skills listed. However, academic skills are only one component of school readiness. It’s important that both parents and educators also focus on helping children develop social and emotional skills. Playing well with others, following directions, and knowing how to communicate with others are just a few of the social and emotional skills children need to have when they start kindergarten. Be sure to check out “Preparing Preschoolers for the Transition to Kindergarten” and “Helping Kids Transition to Kindergarten” in the School Readiness category of our Insights and Inspirations for additional tips and information on building children’s social and emotional skills.
How Do You Know If Your Child Is Ready for Kindergarten?
The above question is a common one you’ll hear from parents. There are a variety of indicators and school readiness checklists available, but they often don’t paint the whole picture.
Self-Help and Conversation Skills
Basic self-help skills (washing hands and going to the bathroom on their own, being able to kind of stand in a line, etc.) and basic conversation skills (being able to answer questions, having the ability to ask for something they need, etc.) are two skill areas that many kindergarten teachers identify when asked what children need to know for kindergarten. Encourage parents to help children develop their self-help skills and conversation skills at home, so children will go into kindergarten ready to learn.
Kindergarten Registration and Screening
One of the best tips you can give parents about school readiness is to make sure that they register their children for kindergarten in advance, so their children will be able to go through any kindergarten screening the school district has in place. The kindergarten screening will identify children’s strengths, allowing the teacher and school to prepare and plan to meet the child’s needs and abilities.
Establishing a School Routine at Home
Working on establishing a predictable school routine that includes bathroom breaks and snack and lunch times can also help ensure that children are ready for kindergarten. Kindergarten is more structured, so anything parents can do to go ahead and establish a routine at home will help make the transition to kindergarten easier. It’s also important for parents to establish a morning and night routine for children a few weeks out from the start of the school year. Have children wake up at the time they’ll need to for school, give them a healthy and hearty breakfast, and make sure they go to bed at a decent hour.
Being Positive About Kindergarten
As the start of kindergarten gets closer, it’s imperative for parents to speak positively about school. For example, instead of the parent focusing on how much they will miss their child during the day, encourage parents to express their sense of pride in their child’s growth and abilities. Parents should make an effort to talk about what children will be learning, the new friends they’ll make, how they can’t wait to hear about their day, etc.
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