Is your child ready for Kindergarten?

As a retired Preschool Teacher for 30+ years, it was my job to get little ones ready for kindergarten. I would like to tell you that I taught them everything they needed to know. But that’s not possible. I did however give them a strong foundation on which to build on. I introduced them to many concepts, skills, and experiences with the time I had with my students. This way they would at least have had some knowledge that they could draw on. 

My goal as a Preschool Teacher was to make my students CONFIDENT learners. I wanted them to be able to walk into a Kindergarten classroom saying, “I got this!”.  Below are what I find to be the most important skills a child can have going into Kindergarten.

1. Dressing Independently and Handling Any Bathroom Issues-

It is important going into kindergarten that your little one learns to dress themselves, especially during cold weather. As well as go to the bathroom by themselves. If your little one has a pair of pants that they find hard to snap or zip up maybe wait for them to wear them until you have practiced with them and they are able to take care of it themselves. It is important that we allow our little ones to master these skills and become independent so they can feel successful. Practice how-to put-on shoes, coat, snow pants, mittens, etc. 

I know that it can be so easy to want to help our kids but in the long run, it is not helping them to become independent. So, take the time to talk to your child about how to get ready and what you do that may work for them. Purchase clothes and shoes that are easy for your child to put on to help ease some of their frustration.

2. Learn to Ask for Help

Talk to your little one and let them know it’s ok to ask for help. Talk to them about who they can ask for help like the teacher, lunch lady, or playground attendant. Asking for help when they don’t understand, are hurt, or have a situation they don’t know how to handle. 

It is important to speak up for your little one when needed. It is equally important to teach them to speak up for themselves. Use situations as learning experiences as often as you can. Talking about a situation or role-playing can be a great way to give your little ones the confidence they need to be able to handle what comes up in their day-to-day.

3. Sharing and Taking Turns-

This is an important part of socialization and learning to get along with others. When I taught preschool, we role-played a lot. We often dealt with kids walking up to other kids and taking away toys because they wanted them. So, we would have them switch roles, we asked the one who originally took the toy but was now having the toy taken away, asking them how it felt. They usually said sad, mad, or both. Both kids ended up agreeing that’s how they both felt. Then we would role-play and have one child ask the other if they could have the toy. If the answer was “NO” then the next step was to ask if they could have it when they were done. Make sure the answer is “Yes” on this one. Nine times out of ten, within a few minutes they are done and everyone is happy.  Make sure each child is allowed to play both roles.   This way the child will learn how to handle both roles and it won’t single out the child who took the toy away in the first place. Be patient as this takes a while for kids to develop this skill. Don’t forget when they use this newfound skill that you praise them. It’s important to be a “Good Friend”.

4. Following Multi-Stepped Directions-

This is something that can easily be practiced at home. Teaching your child multi-step directions can be frustrating, just keep working with your child. Good examples of this would be “Get dressed and come sit at the table for breakfast”, “Put your shoes on and grab your backpack” or “Get your pjs on and pick out 2 books to read”. All of these are great examples to start with because the activities are part of their routine.  As they master these skills add harder ones like “Can you clean up the dinner table and put the dishes in the dishwasher”. Of course, make the steps age-appropriate. 

If your child struggles with this be patient, they will get it. Repetition plays a vital role in learning.

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5. Holding Pencil and scissors properly-

This seems like a simple skill and yet it can be the hardest to teach and the most frustrating for the child.

It is so important for your child to hold their pencil and scissors the right way. Throughout elementary school, your child will be doing a lot of writing, cutting, drawing, etc. If a child holds a pencil in such a way their hand gets tired after a short period of time, they will become frustrated. They may begin to look at writing as hard and overtime not want to do their work because it takes a lot of effort on their part. I had special pencils that I liked to use for the younger writers. The Ticonderoga “My First” tri-write pencil worked best.  It was thicker and the little ones could hold on to it better.

 I had a 4-year-old girl transfer to my preschool. She was left-handed and even though she excelled at everything else she struggled with writing.  We worked on her pencil grip over a period of a couple of weeks. All of a sudden, she was writing everything, everyone’s names, words she knew, the grocery list. The mom asked me what I did. I told her she was struggling with holding her pencil,  she was becoming frustrated and her hand tired. She said she had been in other preschools and no one had brought that to her attention. She didn’t even know that it could be a problem. I am happy to report that this little girl is doing great in school and loves to write now. 

Scissors are no different. Little ones will become frustrated when their hands become tired.  This can lead to the child seeing cutting as a frustrating task. Teaching a child can be time-consuming so be patient. Believe me when I tell you they will eventually get it. Once they can hold the scissors properly you will notice their cutting is more precise and the frustration should lessen, if not gone altogether. 

6. Writing Their Name-

Learning to write their first name is so important. They will be writing it often on their worksheets, crafts, coloring sheets, etc. When teaching your child make sure only the first letter is Uppercase and the rest is lowercase. An example of this is: Willa. This is important because your child’s teacher will most likely change it to this if they write their name in all uppercase.

Practice writing their name as often as possible. Make the letters in their name the first letters they learn to write.  Write in the sand, with chalk, in shaving cream, on a dry erase board. Make their name with play-dough, pipe cleaners, blocks, or Legos. Get creative, make it fun. 

One thing I found was that most preschoolers knew the letters in their name but couldn’t always put them in the correct order. So, I would save milk caps and write the letter of each child’s name (making the first letter uppercase of course) and put them in a baggie so they could get them out and practice until it was easy for them to put them in order themselves. Then I sent it home so they could show their parents and keep working on it.  If they were really good or had an easy name, like Eve, then you can add their last name too. 

This is a perfect way to have your child practice writing his or her first and last name.

Remember, it is never too early or too late to learn..

Have your child learn to write their first and last name.

7. Counting to 10-

Learning to count to 10 is important. The challenge comes when items are put in a group to count.  If I had a group of matchbox cars I wanted one of the kids to count, I would teach them to put them in a row. As they counted, they were to touch each car.  In the beginning, I asked them to count slowly. It’s easy for kids to skip over the cars and not count one or two.  As they practiced, they became faster and more accurate. Eventually, if there were only a few, they could look at them and tell you how many were there. Once they can count you will find them counting everything.

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8. Recognizing the Upper and Lowercase Letters and the Sounds They Make-

Your child does not have to know all their uppercase and lowercase letters and the sounds they make. Yet, the more they know the further ahead they would be.  

Knowing all their uppercase and lowercase, as well as phonics gives them a great foundation for reading.  

Start with the letters in their name, as well as those of their siblings, pets, mom, and dad. Add their friends, extended family, and even their last name. 

Here are some examples of things we did to start with learning letters.

L is for Lydia E is for Evie

H is for Hunny M is for Mom

P is for Papa D is for Dad

We would learn how to practice writing the beginning letters. Then when the child says the letter, they would recognize the letter. My granddaughter Willa calls me Hunny. She learned how to write an H before the W in her name. 

I also always talked in terms of uppercase and lowercase letters.  My students learned there were two Ee’s etc.   For example when we would talk about names I would refer to the letters as Eli has an uppercase “E” in his name but Brett has a lowercase “e”. We talked a lot about letters and the sounds they made.  It was fun to go through all the letters and the kids would come up with more words that began with that letter.

These are the skills that we worked on in my preschool.  Many of my kids were successful in kindergarten because of all the practicing we did.  When my younger learners at age 2 started school, they would watch the older kids as they participated.  Over the next two years those younger learners knew their letters and phonics. Each day we would review the calendar and practice the days of the week and the months of the year. Because of the repetitiveness the   2-3 year old’s were able to repeat the days and the months.

So, repeat often, practice patience and your child will retain what they have learned. It just may take a little time.

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