14
Jun

Preparing for the First Day of Preschool

So, you’re all enrolled, you’ve been practicing some independence skills with your little one, and you feel like he’s going to do a great job. Now it’s only a matter of ensuring that you have everything he needs for a successful first day at preschool. Here are a few items to check off your list before the big day actually arrives:

School Supplies

Here are some helpful items you’ll want to send along with your child:

A Backpack Tag: This will help your child’s teacher immensely as she tries to learn whose backpack is whose. Don’t hang the tag on the outside of the pack! Fasten it on the inside, so it’s visible when you open the zipper. Make sure your child’s name and phone number are written clearly on the tag, as well as your child’s teacher, room number, and school phone number.

A Picture or Lovey from Home: It’s pretty common for preschool-aged children to get anxious and homesick when they first begin school. Send a photo or a small item from home in your child’s backpack, so that he can look at it if he starts feeling scared or sad. It’s a good idea to check with your teacher before you do this. Generally, it’s not encouraged for children to bring toys from home, but for the first days of transitioning to preschool, teachers will usually be pretty accommodating.

Supplies Requested by the Teacher: You’ll probably receive a list of these things before school starts. The list will likely include (washable!) art supplies, pencils, etc. A folder is a good idea, even if your teacher didn’t specifically request it; your child will likely be coming home with notes, art projects, and other papers on a daily basis, and you’ll want a place to put them.

Extra Clothes: Preschool is a pretty messy place, by nature. Children fingerpaint, play with clay, eat snacks, and so on. Not only that, accidents are pretty common for preschool kids, even if they’ve been potty-trained for a long time. A change of clothes can be a lifesaver for the teacher, and will save your child a lot of embarrassment.

Wet Wipes or Tissues: These are in constant demand in a preschool classroom. Your teacher will be most appreciative if you send some in!

What NOT to Bring

Homemade Snacks, Particularly Those with Nuts: Food allergies are becoming more prevalent in children across the nation, and it’s hard to overstate the potential health risks some foods may pose. This is why many schools have banned any snacks or treats that aren’t store-bought and individually wrapped. This goes double for anything with nuts! In general, let the school handle snack-time.

Hand Sanitizer: Although it may seem counter-intuitive, hand sanitizers can cause big problems in preschool classrooms. Once again, allergies play a part in this. What’s more, many children have tried to drink it and have gotten sick, and teachers have a particularly hard time monitoring its proper use. It’s best just to leave it at home. Rather, teach your child good hand-washing skills, so he can use the warm water and soap provided by the school.

Toys: Above, we recommended you send in a picture or lovey from home to ward off homesickness. That’s probably okay, but you don’t want to send in your child’s favorite action figure or toy car. Toys such as these can cause problems in the classroom: your child may become too fixated on it to follow directions, for instance, or it may cause jealousy and fighting with other children. Also, it’s easy to lose a toy in a preschool classroom, because there are so many toys there to begin with. Unless your teacher specifically requests it, it’s better to leave the toys at home.

Backpacks with Wheels: While these seem like a great idea, they usually don’t work so well in a preschool setting. Your child generally shouldn’t need to carry too much home from preschool, and rolling backpacks are often too big to fit in preschool cubbies. They also present a tripping hazard for other kids, when the class is walking in a line. When choosing a backpack, avoid rolling backpacks.

Any Shoes Other Than Sneakers: Your child’s shoes should fit well, and should allow him to run and play on the playground and in the gym. Tiny sandals, Crocs, or high-heels may look great, but they’re not so functional in a preschool. In fact, many schools have made wearing sneakers a matter of policy, and have banned any other type of shoe.

Read Children’s Books About Starting Preschool

Books are a great way to teach children what to expect from their first day at preschool. There are a number of titles available on the subject. Some of the most popular titles include Preschool Day Hooray! by Linda Leopold Strauss, Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London, Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins, and Going to School by Anne Civardi. With a quick online search, you’ll be able to order these and many more titles, or you can take a trip to the library with your child and find a number of great options there.

The Evening Before

Every child reacts differently to the idea of going to school for the first time. Some are giddy and excited, others are anxious and afraid. Talk to your child to get a sense of how he’s feeling about the big day ahead. Make the conversation light-hearted and carefree–you certainly don’t want to add any stress or tension. You may also want to tell a story or two about your own experience of going to school for the first time. Help your little one feel as comfortable and excited as possible.

Also, ask your child what he expects will happen at school. Does he know you aren’t going to stay there with him? Who does he want to drop him off at school? If you discuss these things ahead of time, you can avoid a lot of uncomfortable surprises, which could result in problems, resistance, and even full-blown meltdowns.

Make sure his backpack is put together with all the things he’ll need for the day. If you do this the evening before, you’ll save yourself and your child a lot of stress and hurry the next morning.

Plan your morning routine, and make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to accomplish all the things you need to do. Discuss this routine with your child the evening before, so he feels comfortable and isn’t caught off guard by too much to do in too little time.

Bedtime

Of course, many children put up quite a fuss when it’s time to go to bed, especially when the next day holds the promise of a big, exciting change. Hopefully, you’ve established a bedtime routine before the night before preschool. It’s important that both you and your child get a good night’s rest before the big day.

Give your child some advance warning before bedtime; usually, a 10-minute warning works great. The whole bedtime process typically lasts an hour, so plan accordingly. During this hour, your child can choose what bedtime activities he wants to do: read a story, for example, or play a quiet game. Letting him choose will help bedtime become a harmonious, happy time together, rather than a power struggle. Of course, some things–such as brushing his teeth–are not optional. If you’d like, and if your child responds well to rewards, you can create a bedtime chart with all the important items listed, and you can place stickers next to each item once they’re completed.

Once he’s tucked in and you’ve said your goodnights, promise that you’ll be back shortly to see if he’s asleep. You want him to be able to fall asleep without your constantly being present, but he also needs to know that he’s safe and you’re nearby. Keep your promise, and come back a few minutes later.

Establishing a bedtime routine will help you and your child get the rest you need, and it will take away the stress and conflict of going to sleep.

The Big Day

When the big day finally arrives, you’ll probably encounter an obstacle that most parents encounter: the crying game. Your child may be just fine until the moment you try to leave, and then, panic! The sobbing starts, and before you know it your child is clinging to your leg in total terror. This is perfectly normal and understandable. Preschool is a big, new, unfamiliar place for them, and they may not be used to the idea of being apart from you. Even children who have spent lots of time at daycares and other such activities may experience this sudden anxiety when dropped off at school for the first time.

Your own attitude is crucial here. Children are finely tuned antennas which pick up on your emotions with surprising accuracy. If you’re anxious or sad or scared, your child probably will be too. Do your best to keep an upbeat, positive attitude about the day. Help your child feel optimistic and excited, and you’ll have much less to worry about.

It’s also very important to trust your preschool teacher. Children crying on the first day is nothing new to them. They’ve surely had lots of practice helping children work through this difficult transition, and at some point you’ll need to make your exit and trust in the teacher’s experience, knowing they’ll work to make your child’s experience a positive one.

Whatever you do, don’t remove the child from the classroom. This reinforces the behavior in exactly the wrong way, basically teaching them that if they cry, they don’t have to go to school. If you take them out of the room, it can be incredibly difficult to get them back in.

Also, don’t sneak out if your child becomes momentarily distracted. This can make your little one feel abandoned and alone, and exacerbate the problems. It may be difficult, but it will be much better in the long run to confidently say goodbye to your child’s face. You’d be surprised: teachers are often so skilled at handling this situation that children stop crying moments later. You may return a few hours later to find your child happy and content, and excited to see you.

Unfortunately, the crying game may not fully end after the first day. In fact, it can sometimes take weeks for children to become comfortable with being dropped off at school. Don’t give up, though. Be kind and firm, explaining that this is all part of getting bigger and smarter. With time, your child will be happy and thriving in his new school.

14
Jun

Head Start

Head Start provides a range of services to children between the ages of 3 and 5. These services include preschool education, medical assistance, and nutrition services. The program is funded by the federal government, and operates under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the Administration for Children and Families. It was founded in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, and subsequently signed into law as a component of the Economic Opportunity Act.

One of Head Start’s primary goals is to involve parents in their children’s growth and development through various educational, nutritional, social, and medical services. Particular focus is devoted towards involving parents in local Head Start programs and forming a supportive community.

A complementary program, Early Head Start, was founded in 1995. While Head Start serves children aged 3-5, Early Head Start serves children from birth until age 3.

Head Start programs are free to develop their own curriculum, or adopt curriculum from educational publishers or state agencies. As such, the specifics of Head Start programs vary greatly across different locations. Regardless of the chosen curriculum, all Head Start programs seek primarily to support children’s cognitive and linguistic development, particularly in the area of literacy.

Many people confuse Head Start with the state-funded Universal Pre-K programs. Universal Pre-K differs in that it does not determine eligibility for services based on economic need.

Head Start and Early Head Start are need-based programs: children from birth through age 5, whose families fall below the poverty line, are eligible to receive services. For more information, or to enroll your child in the program, call 866-763-6481.

14
Jun

Preschool Accreditation and Licensing

Accreditation is a process by which schools are evaluated and shown to meet high standards of quality. In other words, if a school is accredited by a reputable accrediting agency, it has proven itself to be a high quality institution. Accreditation is more common in colleges, universities, and junior and senior high schools, but it is becoming more popular in the world of early childhood education.

The typical accreditation process involves three steps. First, the school undergoes a self-assessment and reports its findings to the accrediting agency. Second, the accrediting agency (an external, third-party entity) performs an assessment. Third, the school is approved for accredited status, or must go back to an earlier stage of the process. The accrediting agency, throughout the course of the assessment, sends representatives to visit the school, conducts interviews with the teachers, students, and administration.

Accreditation can be a lengthy and involved process, often taking several years. This is why only 10% of the nation’s early childhood education organizations are accredited.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the nation’s largest accrediting agency for preschools.

“Accredited” is not a synonym for “licensed.” Licensure is a prerequisite for accreditation. All accredited programs are licensed, therefore, but not all licensed programs are accredited.

Licensing

Preschools are licensed by the state, county, or city government. Licenses are given to schools which meet minimum health, safety, and teacher training requirements set by the appropriate governing body. These requirements vary by locality; in some areas, a license merely proves that a preschool is a registered business.

As you research potential schools, ask the school’s administration to see the school’s license to ensure it’s valid and current. Licenses can also be verified by contacting your state social services department.

Licenses do not automatically guarantee a top-notch education, but they do guarantee adherence to basic standards of quality and safety. Accredited institutions are held to even higher standards. If a school is not licensed, don’t enroll your child there.

14
Jun

Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Child

Choosing a preschool can seem like an intimidating and overwhelming process. Of course you want to set your child up to succeed, and you want his preschool experience to be the foundation for a successful academic career, but with so many choices out there it can be hard to know where to start.

The best way to begin is to carefully consider what you want from a preschool program, and what style of education you believe to be best for your child. Here are a few areas to consider when making your decision:

When To Begin:

A good rule of thumb: start researching and visiting schools the September before you expect your child to attend (typically when he’s 2 years old). Schools commonly begin accepting application in January, and may offer open houses even earlier, but the dates vary with each school. Remember: some schools require their new students to be at least 3 years old, and may require them to be fully potty trained as well. Check with the schools beforehand to make sure you know all the relevant requirements.

What Do You Consider Important in a Preschool Program?

Some preschools offer programs which are more academic, others offer programs which are more social. Different schools will have different approaches to teaching and discipline, which you’ll want to research before making any decisions. Think about your child’s personality and learning style. Does he thrive around others? Is she eager to learn and read? Make your choice based on what’s best for your child’s unique needs and preferences.

What Are Your Options?

Most communities have a wealth of preschools available, and you may need to sift through a number of them before finding the most appealing options. Ask any friends, neighbors, or family members who have kids and have already gone through the preschool process. They’ll be able to give you some positive recommendations, or steer you clear of any sub-par schools. If your child has any medical issues of any kind, talk to your pediatrician to see if he or she can offer any recommendations. Compile a list of these recommendations, and proceed to narrow this list down to your top choices.

Educational Philosophy

Different schools ascribe to different educational philosophies, and it’s important for you to understand the differences between them. Montessori schools, for instance, focus on cultivating independence in children, while Waldorf schools prioritize creativity. Bank Street schools employ child-centered learning, the High/Scope method sets goals for children, and the Reggio Emilia approach bases its programs on a child’s natural development. Beyond these general philosophies, the individual schools and programs will vary a lot in terms of methodology, style, and tone.

There are other options: many churches and temples offer religious preschool programs, and community organizations such as the YMCA offer preschool for local residents or low-income families, not to mention the many programs offered by private companies or daycares. Reflect on the these different approaches and philosophies, and choose one which resonates with your family’s values and your child’s unique learning style.

Student-Teacher Ratios and Program Facilities

Regardless of which style of school you choose, you’ll want to make sure they have a student-teacher ratio low enough to meet your child’s needs. Here’s a helpful guide to help you decide: for 2 1/2 – 3 year olds, there should be a maximum of 14 students in the class, and at least two adults; for 3 to 5 year olds, there should be a maximum of 20 students in the class, with at least two adults. If the ratio is higher than this, your child won’t be able to get the individual attention he needs.

Make sure, also, that the school is equipped with the facilities necessary for a safe and positive learning experience. There should be plenty of clean, safe toys easily accessible for the children, and any outdoor play areas should be fenced in and free of potentially dangerous objects. Double-check that the teachers are trained in first aid as well.

Transportation

Of course, knowing how your child will get to school and back each day is very important. Find out whether your school offers a bus service, or if you’ll be responsible for dropping him off and picking him up each day. In general, schools which are closer to home offer more advantages to your family. The travel time is shorter, the transportation logistics are simpler, and your child will be more likely to make friends in the neighborhood.

Length of the School Day

Usually, preschools serve to ease children into the idea of formal schooling–they’ll certainly be spending plenty of time there down the road. Young children don’t typically thrive with long work hours, so preschool days are most often only a few hours long. The length of the school day is an important factor to consider when choosing a school. You don’t want to overburden your child with extended hours, but a school day that’s too short may be difficult to manage with your own work schedule. Research your options and consider what will work best for your child and for your family.

Visit Your Top Choices

Once you’ve narrowed your list of choices down, you’ll want to go and visit the schools. Make sure to schedule an appointment; if you just drop in, the teachers and administration may be too busy to answer your questions. When you do visit the school, make sure you tour the facilities, talk with the principle and the teachers, and, if possible, observe a class. When observing a class, don’t interfere with the natural operations of the room. Keep your distance from the students and the teacher, so you can see how things run when you’re not around.

Once you’ve visited the school by yourself, try to arrange another visit so you can bring your child along with you. Most preschools will be happy to accommodate you, and will be excited to meet a potential student. Having your child visit the school ahead of time will also greatly ease the stress and anxiety of the first day of school.

Above all, make your child’s happiness the most important factor when choosing a preschool. There will be plenty of time for academics later on. Preschool should be a time for fun, where your child can learn to feel more comfortable and more independent, and cultivate a personal love of school and of learning.

14
Jun

Is Your Child Ready to Start Preschool?

Sending your child off to preschool is a big transition, and it can be tricky to tell whether or not he’s ready. When deciding if it’s time to send your little guy off to the classroom for the first time, there are a few important factors you should consider. Even though it’s a big decision, don’t stress yourself out too much. If your child isn’t quite ready yet, it’s okay to wait until the next semester or the next school year.

Age Requirements

Preschool is typically defined as the two years before kindergarten. Do some research, and find out if your preschool has a minimum age requirement for their students. Some schools accept children as young as two, others require children to be at least three years old by the December of the school year. If your child’s birthday falls late in the year (September 1st or later), you may want to either wait a year to enroll him in preschool, or enroll him in an extra year of preschool.

Potty Training

Many preschools require students to be potty trained (or close, at least) before enrolling. Basic self-care skills are also very important for preschoolers–hand-washing, putting on and taking off shoes, zipping up his own pants, and so on. Assess where your child stands in terms of these skills before making the decision to enroll him in preschool.

Following Directions

Preschool offers your child a chance to get used to being in a classroom without the pressure of strict rules and expectations. However, he will be expected to follow simple directions. These might include cleaning up after playtime, walking in line with his classmates, following simple rules during snack time, and performing daily class jobs. If your child struggles with following directions, start giving him easy tasks that he can do on a daily basis–bringing in the mail, for instance, or setting the plates out for dinner. Getting him used to helping out and following directions will make preschool a much happier and more productive experience.

Communication Skills

Of course, your preschooler won’t be expected to enunciate perfectly at age three, but they should be understandable (at least generally). They should also be able to understand you when you’re speaking. Typically, preschoolers are able to speak in simple, 3 to 5-word sentences, and can tell basic stories about things that happened to them. If your child is unable to do this, there may be a speech-related issue. If you think this may be the case, consult with your pediatrician. You’ll be referred to a speech therapist who specializes in working with preschool-aged children.

Transitioning

Transitioning is an important skill in preschool. Your child will most likely be expected to follow a set class schedule, with only brief breaks to move from one activity to the other. If he struggles with transitioning, you’ll want to consciously work on this at home. Giving your child some advance notice before switching gears (5 more minutes, we’re going to turn the TV off at the end of this episode, after we finish reading this book we’ll have a snack, etc.) will greatly improve his transitioning skills.

Time Away from You

Some children have never really been apart from Mom or Dad for more than a moment or two. These children tend to struggle considerably when dropped off at preschool for the first time. Others have spent time at daycare, and there isn’t a problem at all. If your child isn’t used to being away from you, start getting him used to the idea. Start with brief periods of time–a quick trip to the grocery store, or a quick jog around the neighborhood. Of course, make sure he’s not left unattended. Leave him with grandma, or a neighbor. This will help him make the transition to preschool.

Playing Well with Others

It will be very important for your child to interact well with other children when he goes off to preschool. If your child is used to being around other kids (including siblings and relatives), then there probably won’t be a problem. Regardless, it’s a good idea to get your child some practice. Set up a playdate with a neighborhood friend, go to the library and take a class, or sign up for a local playgroup. By the time he sets foot in that preschool classroom, he’ll be ready.

14
Jun

Today’s Kindergarteners are Playing Less, Studying More

There have been some big changes made to the curriculum of many kindergartens, and these changes have many parents and educators very concerned. In the past, kindergarten placed a good deal of its focus on developing social and emotional skills, and allowed its students a good deal of playtime throughout the school day. Now, many kindergartens are pushing students to work on math, reading, and writing, and are assigning homework, and are significantly reducing (even eliminating) the amount of playtime. In other words, many modern kindergarten classrooms are teaching what is essentially a first-grade curriculum.

Is it a Good Idea to Reduce Kindergarten Playtime?

Proponents of this playtime reduction claim that less play will help kindergarteners prepare for standardized tests. Many parents and educators are critical of this viewpoint, and claim that it works against the best interests of the students.

The fact is, standardized tests are not effective for children this young. According to a report made by the Alliance for Childhood (a research/advocacy group focused on promoting effective education and healthy development for children), standardized tests do not reliably predict a child’s future academic achievement, and they do not help children succeed in their current grade.

The report also claims that standardized testing of children below the age of 8 produces skewed results. This is due to a number of reasons, most notably that young children struggle to sit still for prolonged periods (such as those required for a standardized test). Other reasons for these skewed results include anxiety, hunger, and fatigue.

The Alliance for Childhood goes on to claim that the ratio between academic work and playtime have become unacceptable in many kindergartens. It has become quite common for kindergarteners to spend up to 3 hours a day on academics such as math and writing, and are given only 30 minutes a day for play. In fact, many kindergartens have eliminated play altogether.

Why Play is Important

The misconception is that playtime is wasted time. This is untrue. Unstructured play is tremendously important for a child’s healthy social, emotional, and physical development. Unstructured play allows children to exercise their imaginations, to learn important social skills such as sharing, turn-taking, and cooperation, to develop empathy and compassion, and to learn restraint and appropriate expression of emotions.

Not only is playtime valuable in itself, it’s been shown (by several studies) to actually enhance children’s learning in the classroom. One such study, conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, linked positive classroom behavior with adequate amounts of unstructured playtime. Without playtime, children become more frustrated, fatigued, and unhappy, and their learning suffers greatly as a result.

Playtime is More Important Today Than Ever

The movement to reduce playtime in schools is particularly frustrating because, nowadays, children are getting less exercise and have fewer opportunities to use their imaginations than ever before. This is due to the increasing popularity of video games, television, computers, Internet, and other sedentary activities, which more and more children are choosing to spend their time doing. Unstructured playtime is a priceless opportunity for these children to get outside and develop their skills of imagination.

Playtime as Stress Relief

School is a stressful place, especially with the increased focus on standardized tests and academic performance. Playtime is an important and effective source of stress relief for children, and without it, many kids may experience significant adverse effects to their physical, mental, and emotional health.

If you’re concerned that your child is becoming excessively stressed during their time at kindergarten, you’d be wise to meet with the teacher of the class, to discuss possible solutions for your child’s stress. Additionally, make sure your child understands that the standardized tests are not a measure of how good a person he is, and ensure he gets plenty of rest and healthy, nutritious food.

Coordinating with other parents and educators is an important way to initiate positive change on this issue. Meet with other parents and find out how their children are holding up with the new focus on academics. Research the scientific literature, so you can have a productive, educated discussion with proponents of standardized testing. You can also join up with organized groups such as the PTA or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), to participate in the ongoing discussions and to get information and support regarding this important issue.

14
Jun

Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?

It’s quite common to wonder whether or not your child is ready for kindergarten. There are a lot of factors involved, and it’s not always easy to know what the best choice for your child’s well-being is.

Common Reasons for Waiting to Begin Kindergarten

Many parents choose to hold their kids back from kindergarten, for a number of reasons. One of the most common reasons is simply that their child has a late birthday, and the parents must choose whether their child will be the youngest in the class or the oldest. Similarly, the child may have been a premature infant, and is actually younger, physically, than her age suggests.

Parents commonly wait to enroll their child in kindergarten if the child has a developmental delay of some sort, or if he or she struggles with behavior problems. The child may have problems related to their speech and language development, or a physical disability. Any of these might be a good reason to wait before having your child start kindergarten, but you should do your research before making a final decision.

Before You Decide…

This is an important decision, one you don’t want to make too hastily. Before you decide one way or the other, you should meet with your child’s current teacher (his or her preschool teacher), and ask some questions:

How is your child doing when compared with his peers? Is he struggling in only one certain area, or is he falling behind across the board? If he is falling behind, what interventions has the teacher tried, and how well did they work? Can your child attend a summer program to catch up? If your child does stay behind, what will the teacher do to help him improve? Does the teacher suspect a learning disability of some sort, and should your child be referred for testing?

Additionally, you should also talk to your child’s potential kindergarten teacher. Ask what the teacher will do to help students who are falling behind, and what resources are available to support your child’s development.

How to Tell that Your Child is Ready for Kindergarten

Again, this issue of deciding whether your child is ready for kindergarten is influenced by a huge number of variables, and there is no one right answer for everyone. However, children who thrive in kindergarten tend to share some common traits, which you can watch for in your child. If your child displays some or most of these traits, chances are he’ll do just fine in kindergarten. Children who are ready for kindergarten are:

    • Making measurable progress in preschool
    • Developmentally on target, when compared to their peers
    • Able to adapt to difficult tasks
    • Able to use the bathroom, wash their hands, and dress themselves independently (or with little assistance)
    • Able to use scissors correctly, and can cut out simple shapes and figures
    • Able to listen and attend for as long as twenty minutes
    • Able to speak in short sentences (which include a verb and a noun)
    • Able to follow simple directions
    • Able to understand common household words
    • Able to understand and follow stories
    • Able to draw common items and objects, and can trace at a simple, beginner level
    • Able to follow routines

In Summary

In the end, only you can decide whether your child is ready for kindergarten or not. Even if you think your child is not ready yet to move on, make sure you speak with his teachers (both his current teacher and his kindergarten teacher) to discern what level he’s actually at, and whether he could succeed with some assistance. If waiting turns out to be the best choice, find out what additional help your child needs, and make sure he gets it. Holding your child back now, very early in his educational career, is typically much easier, emotionally, than holding him back further down the road.

14
Jun

5 Social Skills That Are Important for Kindergarten

Social and emotional development is just as important for a successful school experience as cognitive development. This development begins before the child ever sets foot in a classroom, and continues unabated throughout her entire academic career. Kindergarten is a particularly important period for this area of development; it’s where the foundational skills for appropriate social behavior are learned and embedded. There are a few social skills that are particularly important for a successful transition to kindergarten.

The 5 Most Important Social Skills for Kindergarten-Aged Children

1) Understanding the difference between right and wrong, and understanding that there are consequences for their actions.

School can come as quite a shock to some children. Quite suddenly, they’re placed in an environment where teams of strange adults can inflict consequences on them for breaking any one of a long list of rules. This can be an especially difficult transition if the child has never needed to recognize any authority other than their parents (or caregivers).

This transition can go very smoothly, on the other hand, provided that the children understand the difference between right and wrong. This involves respecting the feelings and rights of others, and recognizing and respecting the authority figures responsible for enforcing the rules.

2) Using words to express their needs and feelings, and understanding that others have feelings too.

Learning to express feelings in a socially appropriate way is vital to a successful academic career. By kindergarten, children should be able to use their words to express how they feel. If they can’t do this, and instead choose to hit, scream, or throw things, they’ll experience a tremendous amount of difficulty in the classroom. Not only will they be less likely to have their needs and wants met, they’ll probably experience social difficulties with their peers as well. It’s important for them to learn more constructive ways of expressing their emotions, and to respect the feelings and needs of others as well.

3) Sharing, taking turns, and using nice words when playing with other children.

This is one of the most important skills tackled during kindergarten, and one that will significantly affect the rest of your child’s academic career. It’s incredibly rare to find a kindergarten classroom with one of everything for every student in the class, and as such it will simply be necessary for your child to learn to share toys, supplies, materials, and attention.

Do be patient as you monitor your child’s progress with this skill. Kindergarten children are just beginning to learn how to share politely, and it often takes several years for children to learn how to do it consistently.

4) Playing alone or with other children, without needing constant supervision.

As children become older and enter higher levels of learning, they’re expected to exhibit more independence and require less and less direct supervision. This is often a matter of necessity; it simply isn’t possible for a teacher to individually supervise every one of the twenty or more students in her class. In kindergarten, your child should be able to attend to a task without constant reminders of what to be doing. This will prepare him for future grades, and will help build a sense of independence and personal accomplishment.

5) Making decisions independently and taking risks, while remaining safe.

For many children, kindergarten is a scary new place which provokes a great deal of anxiety. These children may struggle in school, because their anxiety prevents them from exploring new places, considering new ideas, and trying new things. For children who are curious and are willing to risk making mistakes, kindergarten is a wonderful place, filled with opportunities to learn, to play, and to participate in interesting new activities. To whatever extent is possible, help your child foster a healthy sense of curiosity and willingness to explore new things. This will help him a great deal as he transitions to kindergarten. Of course, this curiosity should be balanced with an awareness of safety, both for himself and for others.

14
Jun

5 Physical Skills That Are Important for Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a time of drastic change for children. They’re developing a wide range of new skills at a rapid rate. They’re learning new things and embracing new ideas, and they’re learning how to behave themselves appropriately and to effectively communicate their needs and feelings. Every bit as important, they’re developing new physical skills, and can use their own bodies with a degree of mastery and control beyond what they’ve experienced before. There are a few physical skills that are particularly important for a successful year in kindergarten.

The 5 Most Important Physical Skills for Kindergarten-Aged Children

1) Establishing either right- or left-dominance.

In other words, your child should be showing a clear preference for using either the right side or the left side of his body. Distinguishing hand dominance is the first step towards writing correctly and legibly, as well as performing other fine motor tasks such as using scissors or small manipulatives. It will also help him with P.E. and playtime activities, such as throwing, catching, and kicking.

2) Controlling breathing.

To be able to control your own breathing means you can, at will, choose to take a slow, deep breath or a fast, shallow breath, or even hold your breath for a time. This requires a degree of muscle strength, coordination, and presence of mind. This skill is important because, as your child experiences the many challenges and stresses of school life, being able to control his own breathing will allow him to calm himself down and relax during periods of tension and frustration.

3) Flexibility, dexterity, and strength in fine motor muscles.

The fine motor muscles are small muscle groups in the hands and fingers. Developing flexibility, dexterity, and strength in these muscles will allow your child to take care of himself in a number of important ways, such as using the bathroom and buttoning up his own pants. He’ll also be able to tie his own shoes, zip up his coat, and other such self-help skills. This skill is the precursor for total self-help and independence.

4) Climbing stairs using alternating feet, hopping on one foot, skipping, and jumping.

These skills are all components of developing core strength and balance. Core strength and balance are important because they give children the ability to sit in a chair for long periods of time without distress. Furthermore, core strength will help your child succeed in physical education class, as well as on the playground at recess.

5) Moving in many different ways, and mimicking motions.

By kindergarten, your child will be expected to move in a variety of patterns and directions (such as walking backwards, sideways, and in a zig-zag pattern) during physical education class and in other situations. It is very common for kindergarten teachers to use songs, dances, and skits as teaching tools. Being able to mimic the movements of these activities will help your child thrive and progress throughout their year in kindergarten.

14
Jun

5 Cognitive Skills That Are Important for Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a period of tremendous cognitive growth. Children this age are undergoing a large amount of change very quickly, and are learning to see the world in many new and interesting ways. Of all the new abilities and skills that your child is acquiring during this period, there are a handful that are especially important for their sustained progress and well-being.

The 5 Most Important Skills for Kindergarten-Aged Children

1) Speaking in short sentences (5 to 6 words long), and speaking them clearly enough to be understood most of the time.

This skill is absolutely crucial. It will allow your child to become an independent student, who can express their needs, ask and answer questions, and communicate effectively with their classmates and teachers.

2) Telling a story in sequential order.

This skill is a precursor to being able to read and write. Once a child can relate an event in the correct sequence, they will understand the structure of stories more easily, and, as a result, strengthen their ability to communicate more sophisticated ideas and concepts.

3) Counting from 1 to 10, correctly and consistently.

This skill is the foundation of all math, and will come in very handy as your child’s kindergarten class begins writing numbers, learning simple addition, understanding the concepts of “more” and “less”, and sorting groups of items.

4) Distinguishing between a story and a fact.

Kindergarten students spend a lot of time working with stories. They listen to stories, write their own stories, and read simple stories. Of course, many will be works of fiction, and it will very important for them to understand that not all stories are true. It’s important for them to understand and appreciate that factual events are not in the same category as fictional events.

5) Understanding and following multi-step directions.

A typical day at school is full of multi-step directions, and the number of steps will only increase as students grow and progress. In kindergarten, most directions come in a series of two or three steps, and your child will need to be able to understand and follow these directions without too much confusion, and without consistently asking for the directions to be repeated.