A child’s experiences in kindergarten tend to “set the stage” for future social and academic success. Children who struggle to get along with others during this important formative year may become withdrawn and less communicative, making it harder for them to form peer relationships in the years that follow. Just as crucially, a child who experiences failures when learning basic language and math skills may leave kindergarten not only with a damaged sense of self-esteem, but also with a negative impression of school itself.
It’s therefore critical for parents to do all they can to prepare their child to thrive during kindergarten.
Getting ready for kindergarten: social development
Young children are more comfortable in familiar surroundings. One of the best ways to prepare children, therefore, is to talk with them, explaining what kindergarten will be like. Parents can check with their local school to learn about basic kindergarten procedures; in some districts, parents typically attend for the full length of the first day while in others, they are expected to leave within the first few minutes.
Children who know what to expect will be less likely to react with distress or feelings of abandonment.
It’s also a good idea to stress the fun aspects of kindergarten. Parents can explain what recess is and make sure children know that the kindergarten classroom will have all sorts of new toys to explore.
Social play is an essential part of kindergarten. Parents can prepare their children for interpersonal success by encouraging them to play with other children. Attending pre-school will give children experience with social relationships, as will participation in a play group or sports league targeted at toddlers. Less formal settings can also work well; just taking children to the playground on a regular basis will give them practice dealing with others their age.
Academic development is just as important
Children who start kindergarten with a solid age-appropriate knowledge base find it easier to adjust to the academic demands school will place on them. Parents can help children develop a wide vocabulary by reading to them regularly and talking to them as much as possible. Good word sets to explicitly focus on include colors, body parts, and animals.
Online learning games and activities are particularly useful because they are often programmed to repeat targeted skills and concepts until a child can demonstrate mastery. Using an online learning game can be the equivalent of a personal tutor – but one that will never lose patience with a learner who needs one more round of practice. Online learning is also helpful because parents these days have limited free time to serve as tutors themselves. While a child stays happy and busy playing a learning game, the parents can be cooking dinner or balancing the checkbook.
The importance of early education
Early education can make a lifetime of difference to a young child. Success in kindergarten makes it easier to flourish in the grades that follow, ultimately leading to enrolling in the challenging high school courses that qualify a child for college.
The key is for parents themselves to be well-informed about the years of education ahead. Only then can they provide the best preparation. An excellent way to get started is to learn more about the math common core state standards – a curriculum that has now been adopted by the vast majority of states.