The new year has just begun, but parents of preschoolers might already be getting notices from their local schools about kindergarten registration. While the big day may still be months away, it’s not too early to start preparing for that first day of kindergarten.
Today’s schools expect 5-year-olds to arrive with basic academic and social skills so they are ready on day one to start learning to read, write and do basic math. You can help your child develop the skills they’ll need with some fun, easy, everyday activities:
- Make reading part of your daily routine. Read with your child at least 20 minutes per day. Try books that repeat words and involve activities like counting, identifying colors, objects or letters. Look for books about things your child likes, and ask questions about the story like, “What do you think happens next?”
- Get them talking. Back-and-forth conversations help kids develop language skills and vocabulary. The more the better, so talk and sing with your child everywhere – at home, in the car, at the store. Make up stories or songs about your outings.
- Writing begins with scribbling. Give your child safe writing tools to play with – like crayons, chalk or markers and blank paper – and let them create. They’re developing the muscles and skills they’ll need to be able to write. And ask your child to tell you about their drawings. (Another opportunity for conversation, right?) You can also use salt or coffee grounds as a tactile way to practice writing alphabet letters.
- “Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.” Help your child get used to putting their toys and things back where they found them. Habits developed at home will carry over to kindergarten. And work on sharing with others, too. Social skills are a big part of being ready to learn and succeed in school.
- Stay on schedule. Having regular, daily routines at home will help your child get used to the structure of the school day. Set and keep a schedule for waking up and dressing, meal times, and bath and bed times.
- Practice good hygiene. Teach your child how to use the bathroom by themselves, to wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before eating, to blow their nose and sneeze into their elbow. Developing good habits now will help keep them healthy once they start school, and that means less missed school days.
Even if you don’t have a new kindergartener this year, it’s never too soon to start helping kids learn and grow. Children who have positive experiences from birth to age 5 are more likely to be prepared when they start kindergarten and to do well in school. By turning everyday moments into learning moments, you can help children develop the skills and a love of learning that will help them succeed in school and in life.
Ofelia Gonzalez is public information officer at First Things First.