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Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten

   freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

Many parents ask how to prepare their child for kindergarten.  The answer to that question is not a simple to do list.  It is not a quick preparation, but a life long learning process.  What your children learn from birth will prepare them for all the new adventures that life will offer.

Newborn babies are totally dependent on caregivers to take care of their basic needs.  A caregiver must feed babies regularly, nurture them, talk to them, bath and dress them in order for the baby to grow and survive.  Babies learn to cry as a way to communicate with the caregivers and soon realize how to get reactions from others by smiling and making sounds. They will learn to trust that needs are being met as caregivers respond to them. Babies soon begin to develop skills that will help them survive as they get older and begin to feed themselves, crawl, walk and move around by themselves.  They begin to explore their environment and discover how things are manipulated with their hands, feet and mouth.

As young children begin to develop language, they discover new communication skills that help them get what they need, (or want).  Children need to be talked to and read to often to help them develop language.  They will hear the words and try to imitate them.  Social situations are very important in fostering language and communication skills.  Children learn by examples of what is shown and taught to them.  Ask them questions so they can learn how to listen and respond.

Young child with book.

Young child with book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Self -help skills are extremely important to attain independence.  They must know how to feed themselves, take care of bathroom needs, wash their hands and dress themselves.  Children must learn how to interact and socialize with people around them, through actions and conversations.  Playing with other children can help with concepts of sharing, taking turns, and making friends.  (see my blog posted previously about social skills). Children that have learned the alphabet, and numbers have a head start when they are to begin kindergarten.  How to hold a pencil, use scissors and how to write their name gives them a great advantage too.  They need to know how to problem solve, follow directions and finish a task.

Children must be able experience new environments such as; the park, grocery store, zoo, other people’s home or daycare centers, to be able to see other people to gain knowledge.  They need to ask questions to understand situations unfamiliar to them.  This will help them adjust to new opportunities.  They need to be able to be comfortable in new places as well as emotionally strong enough, brave enough, to be away from caretakers.

So, how to prepare children for kindergarten starts from birth.  Children must learn to be able to communicate with adults and other children.  They must have self-help skills, be physically, emotionally and cognitively mature enough to be able to be on their own.  This is what they have learned from the moment they are born.

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The Different Stages of Play and Social Development

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When I observe the children at the childcare center, I see many different types of play going on.  These are the stages all children go through as they grow from infancy on. Although some children at any age may watch and play by themselves, the children usually follow these steps of development as they learn social skills and how to interact with other children.

ONLOOKER OR OBSERVANT PLAY

In the infant room, the babies crawl around, find a toy and put it in their mouths.  Then they may sit up and just look around at the other babies but not interact with each other, although one baby may try to take a toy from another.  This is the first stage of play.  The babies are beginning to notice what is around them, as they explore their environment.

 

courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

SOLITARY PLAY

As babies grow and begin to walk, they continue to explore their environment and start to experiment with items they can control with their hands.  (This is the time to child proof your house!)  They learn cause and effect as they dump out a box of toys to see how they spill all over the floor, push a ball to see it roll, or press buttons on a toy to hear it play music or other sounds. Young toddlers tend to play by themselves, even if they are in a room with others.

PARALLEL PLAY

As the children grow and start to become more observant of others around them, they often are seen sitting or running around together but not really directly interacting with each other.  They may sit side-by-side doing a puzzle, push trains or cars on the floor, look at books independently or build with blocks without involving each other in their play.

ASSOCIATIVE PLAY

This is seen in most preschool classrooms or playground.  Children begin to interact with each other while they play in the dramatic play area pretending to make a meal and serve it to each other, they may look at a book together and talk about the pictures or play in the sandbox together.  This is the age that the children learn to socialize, share and develop friendships.  They communicate about what they are doing and invite others to join them.

 

photo from c. andrews

photo from c. andrews

COOPERATIVE PLAY

I see this going on everyday with the older children at the center who are going to kindergarten in the fall. During the outside time they create some very structured, organized play.  They create racecar games, become transformers, or super heroes. It is interesting to see who the leaders are.  The leader will tell the others the idea he or she has planned and tells the others what their part of the plan will be.  This stage the children work together as they plan their play or build a grand city using blocks and other props.

If you get a chance to observe children, watch and listen to the way they interact with each other.  It is fascinating to see the exchange of ideas as they learn to cooperate and socialize with each other.  Children need a chance to play with other children around their same age to develop the skills necessary to be able to communicate well with others as they grow.

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How to Ease Children into School With Books

In my experiences with young children, I found they really enjoy being read to. I created this story (“Molly Goes to Preschool”) as entertainment as well as something preschool children can relate to in their lives. Many children are afraid of new experiences, new places, being away from their mommy, and new people. I know that if children are well prepared for changes they can accept them with less anxieties (I am sure you’ve heard of stranger anxieties and separation anxieties!).

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How to Ease Children into School through Books

With a story like “Molly Goes to Preschool,” a child just starting preschool can get a better understanding of how other children deal with fears they may have. By having examples of what they will experience, as well as reactions to these experiences, a child has something to relate to or recall when they are put in a similar situation. When a child learns trust and that mommy comes back they will feel less fearful about the new situation.

playground

I have over twenty years of experience working with child development and education. The situations and environments the children face and are exposed to in “Molly Goes to Preschool” are based off of my experiences. While no situation can be predicted perfectly, above all it is most important to simply talk to your child, reassure your child and be present for your child.

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