Transitioning to Kindergarten

Mixed race mother reading with daughter
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Remember a year or two (or even three!) ago when you were trying to find just the right preschool for your child? Now that your child has preschool down pat and is (hopefully) thriving, it's time to turn your attention to the next step in your child's academic journey—kindergarten.

Helping your little one prepare for kindergarten isn't like shopping for back to school supplies, or checking checks off a checklist. Rather it is a longer, gradual process that requires time and patience.

Sure, it is helpful if your child knows some basics before entering kindergarten—the numbers from one to ten, the alphabet, shapes, colors, etc., but it's likely that a kindergarten teacher will tell you that their most successful students are not necessarily the ones who know a lot. They may do well, but it is the children who are socially ready and are enthusiastic about learning that find success. These are the kids who know how to get along well with others, can wait their turn, and can easily transition from one activity to the next.

So how do you help your little one get ready for kindergarten? Just follow these steps.

Answer Your Preschooler's Questions

You know how your preschooler likes to ask questions. Endless amounts of why and how and how come all day long? Do your best to answer them. Use each query as an opportunity to not only teach your little one something she wants to learn about but to get them excited about learning and finding out facts.

You can even do a little questioning of your own, asking your preschooler why she thinks something is the way it is — "Why do you think flowers grow so well outside?" — and helping her discover the answer.

If your preschooler stumps you with something that you just can't figure out, don't be afraid to say so and then look it up together.

Read to Your Child

Read, read, read. Reading out loud to your child offers a host of benefits including:

  • Help develop listening skills
  • Expands vocabulary
  • Helps kids learn the correct pronunciation of words
  • Exposes kids to situations they might not have encountered yet and teaches them how to handle it
  • Gives you some quality bonding time
  • Demonstrates proper grammar and sentence structure
  • Stimulates the imagination and creative muscles
  • Encourages a lifelong love of reading
  • Builds attention spans

Be sure to read to your child every day. And when you read, try enriching the process even further by asking your child what he thinks about the book or what he would have done in a certain situation. Questions like these help hone critical thinking skills and are great for building reading comprehension.

For more fun, try reading using funny voices, or if you are reading a rhyming book, for example, encouraging children to come up with their own silly rhymes or to act out what is going on in the story.

Encourage Independence

When you see your preschooler struggling with a certain task — pulling up their pants after using the bathroom, or even trying to open their own juice box — it is easy to swoop in and fix the situation. But by doing the action for your little one you aren't teaching her anything except to come to you when she doesn't feel like doing something herself. (And with 20 children in the classroom, it will be very hard for the kindergarten teacher to help everyone after the bathroom!)

The next time you see your child struggling with a self-care task, give it a minute or two. If your child is still having trouble, help her, but don't do it. The best thing you can do for your child is to give her the tools she needs to do something.

Play (Well) With Your Child

You probably know by now that you are your child's best teacher and greatest influence. Help your child hone their social skills (like taking turns, sharing, and other social niceties) by modeling for your child how to act. For example, if you are playing a game together, you can point out what a good job your child is doing waiting for his turn to go (or gently correcting him if he has trouble with this behavior)

When your child is playing with other children, don't necessarily intercede, but keep an ear out on what they are saying to each other and how they interact. Later, point out how he did a good job playing with his friend and how you were proud of a particular behavior.

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